Last Thursday, our principal migration agent had the honour of being invited onto SBS Vietnamese Radio. A former-case officer himself, Tony shared rare insight into how Immigration case officers process visa applications.
The interview has since gained more than 11k views and we don't want our English-speaking customers to miss out! Being able to put yourself in the visa case officer's shoes and know what they are looking for is key to maximising the chance of your visa application being successful. So Rachel has worked tirelessly to help translate all the content into English for you.
In the first part of this video, Tony addresses key topics like: factors Immigration considers when assessing applications, how case officers assess visa applications, what is considered a strong vs weak application etc.
Int he second part of this video, Tony answers 26 questions from the audience ranging from visitor visa refusals, partner visas, 189 independent skilled visas, parent visas and many more.
We hope this insightful video will help everyone increase their chances of success!
Kim Anh: When considering the visa application, what factors does the Department of Home Affairs consider? (Common and basic elements)?
Tony: The 1st factor that the case officer will typically consider is the application's profile. These include passport, the type of visas, occupation, field of study and, if they are applying for a partner visa, the main factor will be the relationship. This is because this information is easy for visa processing officers to assess. This helps gives them make an overall assessment of whether or not your application is likely to be approved or rejected.
The 2nd factor would have to be based on the documents which have been provided, how genuine does the application look/is it likely to be a strong application? The officer can make this assessment in a very short time.
They may also look at other factors like: Whether the migration agent has a history of lodging fraudulent applications, whether the application will comply with immigration laws...For example, if an applicant applies for a Student Visa, the case officer will consider if he or she genuinely wants to study or if they just want to work. If they only want to work, they need to apply for a different visa type.
Kim Anh: Since you used to work for the Department of Immigration, can you please let us know the procedure and steps for document review?
Tony: I'd like to first paint a picture of a case officer's daily work.
Case officers work in Departments specializing in one visa type at a time. At the start of the day, the manager would assign them a number of cases to the visa processing officers. These cases only belong to a specific type of visa such as student visa, working visa. The number of cases that are assigned is based on a daily working target. Usually the manager will assign to the officer about 20-25 applications. The department dealing with Student Visa would usually need to process 20-25 applications within a day.
After receiving the assigned cases, the visa processing officer would open the system to display the client’s profile. They would first look at the name, age, country of passport, and especially visa history of the applicant.
This part is really important as the officer always look at your visa history first.
If the applicant has many previous visa refusals, this will immediately affect the opinion of the case officer and create prejudice. On the screen, it would display all the types of visas which had been applied for and which applications were granted and which application were refused.
Then, they would open up your current application. Before the visa processing officer looks at the current application, they would already have an overall idea about the applicant based on the previous step. Then, case officers would look at either the form or the documents first – this depends on the individiual case officer.
As for myself, I used to look at the provided documents first because I found that the documents would be more precise than the application itself, which has only basic information. When looking at the documents, I could guage the applicant's intention and get an impression of whether this is a strong application or not. I would then decide what to do with this application. If this was a strong application, I would usually approve it. If it was a weak application, I'd need to then find the document that supports the reason for the refusal.
After visa processing officer get an idea of what the application is about, then they'll focus on the details. They have a checklist of key criteria against which the application will be assessed. For example: 'Is the passport within the expiry date?' or 'Is the applicant currently enrolled in a course?'. They'll then check the details to see if you meet all specific requirements.
This applies usually for visa types which have many criteria that are black and white. However, for certain visa types, the criteria is more vague with more discretionary requirements, especially for partner visas for example. In these cases, it will depend on the "feeling" of the case officer to see if you meet the specific requirements. So this means they judge an application based on the impression given off by the documents. This way is more difficult. Let’s say with the age criterion, if the requirement is for the applicantto be is under 45 years old, then the applicant clearly knows if they meet the requirement or not. However, with the genuine relationship criterion, how can you know whether the relationship is genuine? It depends on the judgement of the individual officer. If the visa type belongs to the category with less specific criteria, the case officer would need to go through all documents and make the decision of whether to granting or rejecting the visa application.
If the decision is to grant, it is easy. They just need to press the button and the visa is automatically printed out and updated in the migration system. If it is to refuse, they are required to write a letter indicating the reasons for which they are refusing this visa.
Kim Anh: So you are saying that on a daily basis, case officers will be assigned 20-25 visa applications?
Tony: It depend on the visa type. For example, for Student visas, the number of cases assigned might be around 20-25. Whereas if it was for Partner visas, it might only be 3-4 cases.
Kim Anh: So how long will it take an officer to decide for a visa application?
Tony: Within 1 day. If the manager assigned the cases to you for that day, you'd have to complete them all on that day.
Kim Anh: I know that there are many types of visas with different visa processing times. For example, a parent visa application can take 3-4 years to process. But you you say that the officer takes only 1 day to approve them?
Tony: We have to wait for a long time because of the high number of applications in the system and the quota set by the Australian government.
Kim Anh: What are the three biggest psychological factors that affect the immigration process?
Tony: Firstly, as we discussed earlier, the time for processing a visa application is actually very short.
Case officers can form an overall idea of the case in less than a minute.
This is important for them because they have strict targets, e.g. processing 20 applications within 1 day, which means they may not have the luxury to form an opinion only after looking at all the documents. This means they judge an application based on the "feelings" given off by the documents, particularly for visa types that rely heavily on discretionary criteria like Partner visas.
If the officer feels that this is a strong application, with a strong profile and good circumstances, then the officer may not look into details as much and would only do a high-level assessment to see if the applicant meets all the requirements, and then would grant the visa. This way, they will have more time to spend on other applications. In contrast, if they feel that it is a weak application, then, psychologically knowing that they don't have enough time to comb through the application, they would have to arrive at a quick conclusion about the application.
The second pyschological factor is that, in some cases, if a certain condition exists in an application which makes the application appear weak or not genuine, the officer would automatically flag that application and change the way they process that application.
They will check the application carefully and cautiously to find if there is strong reason to refuse this application.
Thirdly, it is how the documents are organized. If all documents required have been provided, it makes it easier for them to grant. Providing thorough documentation is a good way to encourage the officer to grant because they just need to click one button, whereas they would have to write up a whole letter to explain the reason for refusal decision if they want to refuse the application. Therefore, as long as they have sufficient reasons to grant the visa, they would typically rather grant the visa than refuse it.
Unfortunately, in some cases, the case officers like to refuse the application as they want to feel more powerful over the applicant. It is unfortunate that we have to come across these types of case officers.
Kim Anh: Can you please explain the difference between strong and weak application?
Tony: The case officers are looking for different types of documents depending on the type of visa application.
A strong application is one that is close to the standard, as it will be similar to other applications that the case officer has previously granted.
For example, for partner visas, there are certain documents that are considered to be standard, such as lease agreements. If the couple lives at their parents' homes, it is more difficult to prove that they live together. Whereas, if they rent together themselves, they will have a joint lease agreement. This way, because they can provide another independent third party signed document to prove they live together, the application will be stronger. It doesn't mean that just because you live with parents your application will be not successful, but it does makes your application weaker versus what the case officer is looking for.
Next week we'll share the translations for part 2 of Tony's interview where he answers questions from the audience, some of which could be the exact questions you have!
Have questions? Need help getting your Australian visa or permanent residency?
Book in for a free consultation to speak 1-to-1 with our migration experts today!