It is currently taking 3 weeks to process applications for trusted partners and 13 weeks for standard applications. My Department is continuing to take steps to improve these processing times. The main reason for the delays is the current high level of demand for employment permits, due to our economic success, growing labour market and reduced labour surplus.
During 2018 some 16,800 applications were received which were approx. 30% higher than 2017. This strong demand has continued into 2019 with an 18% increase in applications received to date (2,530 applications received at end of February).
During 2018 some 13,400 permits were granted representing an almost 20% increase over last year. Quarter 4 in 2018 saw the highest number of permits issued in any quarter in the previous 10 years. The high levels of permits being issued has continued into 2019 with a 42% increase in permits issued (2,760 permits issued at end of February).
There are currently approximately 1,930 permit applications in the processing queue down from a peak of 3,230 in September 2018. Through a combination of increased resources, staff working overtime and ICT and operational improvements, processing times are reducing with further improvements anticipated for standard applications in the coming weeks.
As well as the short-term measures introduced to date, the development of a new IT system is being explored which will take advantage of all the new technologies available, including full digitisation. In parallel with this new development, my Department is determined to continue to reduce processing times and is engaging extensively with stakeholders to ensure that they are fully aware of the situation.