MRT caseload surge and delays, in the making


The review of student visa refusals takes up most of the MRTs time and has reportedly been the source of caseload backlogs in the recent past. The reported surge in student visa applications must surely now be a source of concern.

The MRT is established under the Migration Act 1958 (the Act) to review DIBP decisions and make the correct or preferable decision. The MRT is required to be ‘fair, just, economical, informal and quick’ (ss. 353(1).

Recent statistics from the Migration Review Tribunal (MRT) indicate that the MRT is generally taking less time for a decision as it edges closer to the time standards it has set for decisions. For refusals review, the MRT decided matters within 398 days on average, which is just under 2 months from the target time standard. Cancellation reviews however took twice the time standard of 150 days.

Student Visa refusals remain the largest part of the MRT caseload followed by partner visa refusals.

As at 31 December 2013, some 15,888 cases were on hand at the MRT, representing about a 10 percent fall over a 6-month period although the caseloads remain large.

The largest case types on hand were:

• Student visa refusals – 3,465 cases (22 percent of load)

• Partner visa refusals – 2,818 cases (18 percent of load)

The MRTs increased caseloads in recent years resulted in an increasing backlog and increasing delays according to a Report by Prof Mi. Lavarch who undertook a review of the MRT and RRT caseloads in 2012.

“The increasing delays result in uncertainty and distress for genuine applicants and provide an incentive for others to misuse the review process to extend their stay in Australia,” noted the report.

Whilst MRT has been making more decisions over recent years, however the rate of increase in lodgements still exceeds the MRT’s rate of increase in deciding cases.

With the recent surge in student visa applications, it can no doubt be expected that caseloads may again surge.