When Alec and Margaret Vella received the final bill of $ 87,000 for their visa application last month, it seemed like their wait to become permanent residents was almost over.
The elderly South African couple, aged 78 and 72, had applied for one of Australia’s most expensive visas in 2016: the contributory parent visa.
The visa would allow them to spend their last years in Perth with their four children and eight grandchildren.
Despite the staggering price tag of $ 46,300 each, Mr. and Mrs. Vella applied for the type of visa specifically because it had a relatively short wait time, their son Daniel Vella told nine.com.au.
“They were desperate to get out and be with their family. They told us at the time it would be about 18 months, but it has been dragging on and now it has been more than four and a half years.” he said.
Working within 18 months, Mr. and Mrs. Vella sold their home in South Africa, packed up their lives, and moved to Perth in 2017. As the wait continued, the couple needed to fly out of Australia every three months. to renew your visitor visas.
Since the pandemic broke out, they have stayed in the country on bridge visas that expire in February.
So when they got the notice from the Department of Internal Affairs in November telling them they had to pay the $ 87,000 in 28 days, the family took it as a sign that parental visas were finally in sight.
But along with the bill came one last tail prick.
Mr. and Mrs. Vella were also told to provide “proof of departure” from the country “within a reasonable time.”
Setting aside the international travel ban and the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. and Ms. Vella must leave the country for their visas to be approved.
This is because under Australian migration law, individuals who submit a parent visa application abroad must be abroad to be granted their visa.
Yesterday, in an email from the Department of Internal Affairs, the couple were told that if they did not fly abroad in three months, their visa application could be rejected.
Vella said he was surprised that his elderly parents were told to fly abroad during the pandemic.
“It is ridiculous. Here we have a government that says not to travel, there is an international travel ban, but my parents are 78 and 72 years old and they tell them that they must leave the country,” Vella said.
The partners were forced to take risky and expensive flights during a pandemic, as well as taking a place in a hotel quarantine, just to get their visas approved, Labor MP Julian Hill said.
However, the grants do not cover the parents’ visas, a Tudge spokesperson confirmed, as the parents “are not considered members of the immediate family.”
Vella said he was concerned for his parents’ safety if they had to fly during the pandemic.
“Where can they go? They can get stuck in a foreign country for months, as we have seen with many Australians stranded abroad,” he said.
“What if they contracted COVID-19 abroad and ended up in the hospital or God forbid they end up dying?
“There is also the enormous additional cost of having to self-quarantine in a hotel if they could actually go back to Perth.”
Vella said that in addition to the $ 87,000 visa fee, her parents had also posted a $ 14,000 bond through Centrelink earlier this year to cover any future medical claims they might make.
“We have also signed guarantees that they will never become a burden to the state and that we will take care of them,” he said.
Altogether, Vella said she estimated the total cost of her parents’ visas to be about $ 140,000.
While they entered knowing how much the visas would cost, they expected a much easier process, he said.
“I would describe it as really horrible,” Vella said.
“There is no compassion … my parents do not have a home to return to in South Africa. They have almost become stateless at this point.
“And now asking them to leave the country during the pandemic. It is just the final nail in what has been a long and terribly stressful process.”
Visa shifts ‘piecemeal approach’, says Labor
Hill said Tudge’s temporary grants for couple visas should have been extended to parental visas as well.
“They fixed the partner visa problem, but it is a piecemeal approach. They are still excluding thousands of parents, saying they should fly overseas amid the global pandemic, it’s crazy,” Hill said.
Hill said he believes the government was quick to make the changes in response to negative media attention and also ahead of a private member’s bill on the issue that it submitted to parliament yesterday.
While yesterday’s private member bill only addressed partner visas, Hill said he was willing to introduce another bill calling for amendments to the Migration Act for parent visas, if the government doesn’t intervene. .
“The people of Australia have asked me to present a similar bill to solve the problem of the contributory parent visa, which I will do if the minister does not act this week.”
A spokesperson for Tudge said: “The announcement of the temporary onshore concession is for immediate family members who are in Australia and are unable to travel abroad to obtain the visa due to COVID-19 related border closures.”
“The parent cohort has not been included in this award as applicants are not considered members of the immediate family.
“The Department of Home Affairs takes into account the disruptions arising from the pandemic when considering visa applications and visa applicants will have additional time to complete the necessary requirements.”
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]