Australians’ partners are forced to spend thousands of dollars on flights abroad and back during the pandemic due to bureaucratic Australian visa regulation called “ridiculous and idiotic.”
Under Australian migration law, people applying for a partner visa abroad must leave Australia for their visa to be granted.
Similarly, people who applied for a partner visa while in Australia must be in the country before their visa can be approved.
The regulation has meant that during the pandemic the Department of the Interior has been prioritizing cases of applicants on the ground who do not need to leave the country.
Amelia Elliott, a Melbourne woman, said her Filipino husband Bowie Domingo’s overseas partner visa application was one of many that had been delayed by the pandemic.
Domingo has been living in Melbourne on a visitor visa that does not allow him to work in Australia.
The couple say they were forced to take drastic action after waiting more than two years for Domingo’s partner visa to be approved.
Last week, he flew to Singapore for the sole purpose of getting his partner visa approved.
Ms. Elliott told nine.com.au that her husband was in the air less than 40 minutes before her immigration agent received an email from the Department of the Interior notifying them that the visa had been granted.
“When I found out that it was a mixture of relief and happiness, but also frustration at how arbitrary the process is. Bowie was still in the air, I felt like saying, ‘Could you go around the plane now?’
Since then, Domingo has flown from Singapore to Perth, where he will spend two weeks in quarantine before catching another plane back home to Melbourne.
The total cost of the whirlwind trip amounted to more than $ 6,000, Ms. Elliott said.
Ms Elliott, who earlier this year collected 9,000 signatures for a parliamentary petition calling for Australia’s partner visa system to be reformed, said she knew many young couples and families whose lives were being changed by regulation on land. and abroad.
“It’s ridiculous and it’s pure bureaucracy. It doesn’t take into account what you’re putting Australians through during the pandemic,” he said.
“This not only costs an exorbitant amount of money, it exposes my husband to a COVID-19 risk and takes an airplane seat and quarantine from a stranded Australian who wishes to return home.”
Ms Elliott said that before booking flights to Singapore, she desperately thought of chartering a yacht to sail international waters as a way to transport her husband “out to sea.”
“There are so many couples in the same situation and we were all so desperate. I spoke to the Australian Border Force, I was on calls with yacht charter and processing partners.
“It took us more than a month of investigation to obtain the final answer that no, it was not possible. There is a provision in the Migration Law that means that you can only do it if you sail to another country.”
Ms. Elliott said the regulation forcing her husband to fly abroad was the final sting in a long and arduous process that had left them financially crippled.
Ms. Elliot sold her Croydon apartment to fund her husband’s visa trip and estimated that they had spent around $ 30,000 on visa fees and immigration agents.
“When Bowie comes back, we will not only start from scratch, but with many lines of credit, from the bottom of the ladder,” he said.
Queensland mother Ella Hayes is also faced with the possibility that her English partner Dale Fletcher will have to travel abroad to obtain her visa.
The couple, who have a 10-month-old son, have been waiting nearly 18 months for a decision on Fletcher’s visa after paying $ 12,000 in immigration agent and application fees.
“It’s all crazy. Dale is already here in the country, but then they go and put additional financial pressure on families like ours, not to mention the emotional and health risks, plus you lock someone in a room for 14 days. “. quarantine, “he said.
“I think given the pandemic and the fact that the world has changed, they should take that into account.”
A spokesperson for the Department of the Interior said: “The Department is aware of this issue and is considering options to further support visa holders affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including potential applicants for marriage and partner visas.” .
“The Department continues to advance visa applications during the pandemic,” the spokesperson added.
“Partner visa applicants on land may be eligible for a bridging visa, allowing them to stay in Australia with their partners while they await the completion of their partner visa application.”
Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge declined nine.com.au’s request for comment.
Work to propose a change to visa regulation
On Monday, Victoria Labor MP Julian Hill will introduce a bill for private members that aims to address the problem of visa regulation on land and abroad.
The bill proposes an amendment to the Migration Act that would allow provisional couple visas to be granted whether the applicant is within or outside of Australia.
The changes would remain in effect until December 2021.
“We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the only thing my bill does is allow people who are already here in Australia to stay with their partner and be granted a visa in Australia instead of making them go on an expensive trip and risky abroad, “Mr. Hill told nine.com.au.
“The impact on couples is bad enough, but this utter idiocy of requiring people who are already here in a global pandemic to fly abroad and come back and waste a quarantine place, while we have 35,000 Australians desperate to go home. , is a government negligence crime.
Hill said Tudge already had the power to change visa regulations if he wanted to.
“The government does not have to vote on this bill. They could fix it tomorrow. The minister has the power to amend the regulation at a stroke and he should.”
The rule on land and abroad was just one of many problems with Australia’s current partner visa system, which has seen the number of people awaiting a determination on their visa application rise to 100,000, Hill said. .
“The mess the government has made with the partner visa system is simply horrendous … it is literally destroying the love and relationships of tens of thousands of Australians.”
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]