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People may have to wait longer for visas or Australian citizenship to be granted because of cutbacks at the Immigration Department. Department secretary Mike Pezzullo told Senate Estimates he would give no guarantee that waiting times would not increase for citizenship, refugee or permanent migration visas. He indicated some visa applicants might have to wait longer but he took an aggregated view. Mr Pezzullo said it would be of more concern to him if foreign fighters returned or counter-terrorism units were not properly equipped. "If people died as a result of a terrorist attack and there was an issue around our borders, I'd be deeply concerned about that," he said. "At a human level, you don't want anyone to wait for a government decision any longer than is absolutely necessary. If some folks have to wait a little bit longer then so be it." The department has revealed 355 staff have gone from the visa and citizenship section since the beginning of the financial year. Mr Pezzullo defended the cuts saying that area of the department's work was most suited to automation. "In a circumstances of constrained resources which applies to all government departments — because the Government's got a strategy around deficit and debt reduction — all agencies have to then make choices about potentially growing some areas and then cutting other areas," he said. He said rapid growth in all categories of visa applications had a bigger impact on waiting times than staff cuts. Mr Pezzullo earlier told the estimates committee his department would need to make nearly $1 billion dollars in savings over the next four years.