When Kawaljit applied for his permanent residency he thought he had finally made it. Life felt good not only because he successfully finished his course of study but also he was looking forward to his new life in Australia.
Little did he realise that the government was going to treat in such a discriminatory offhanded and callous manner that would send him to the depths of depression.
Recently Kawaljit lost his two jobs thanks to the Immigration Department, DIAC. He believed he was treated in a very different manner than other international students he had known.
After lodging his PR GSM 885 visa application, Kawaljit approached DIAC in Sydney to tell them that he would not be continuing the Bachelor Degree course on which his student visa was based as he already applied for permanent residency. Worried that his visa did not expire for some time and not wanting to get into any trouble, Kawaljit thought it would be best to have it cancelled.
At the Sydney Lee street office he was told that he did not need to have his visa cancelled as this was not necessary. To be sure of this advice he even approached them again a few weeks later and was told the same answer.
Thinking everything was fine Kawaljit he travelled home to India. Upon his returned he was questioned at the airport by DIAC regarding his studies. A few days later the mail from DIAC advised him to attend the Lee Street office for an interview regarding the cancellation of his old student visa. No problems he thought, "that's what I wanted in the first place anyway" Kawaljit remarks.
On the 31st August Kawaljit saw the case officer at the Compliance and his old student visa was quickly cancelled. A decision record was handed to him with no explanation of its contents. Kawaljit read the page and was surprised it had NO WORK written on it.
"I was so shocked when I read this and I asked him why was this written, did it mean he could not work? He then just told me, if I wanted to work I had to apply for it." The problem was that Kawaljit wasn't sure how to apply but eventually he found the right form and applied on the 5th September. "The case officer before indicated there should be no problems but I was worried that I had lost my permission to work on Wednesday and I applied on the next Monday but I did not know how long they would take" Kawaljit recalls.
Then after more than 10 days Kawaljit received another shock in the mail, the application he made for permission to work was refused by the case officer. This person was different from the first one. "I called her straight way and asked why I'd been refused and she said, ""well your parents can support you"" Kawaljit recalls. However when you read the refusal letter it gives no explanation.
"I felt really stunned by this remark for she didn't even ask me anything about my parents or family , or if they were in a position to support me. It made me feel depressed". To make matters worse Kawaljit received a called by his employer, Coles Supermarkets, informing him that he had been sacked because his visa had been cancelled and he had no permission to work. "I felt devastated Kawaljit reflects, "like being kicked in the guts".
Next was the department of transport NSW who called him to inform his Taxi license was cancelled. By this stage Kawaljit felt overwhelmed, "I owed more than $10,000 on my credit card and had rent and food to buy. I felt like they were trying to starve me out of Australia or make sure I would end up on the street so I would have to leave".
It is worth observing that even the refugees who come by boat get treated better than this. They are at least entitled to food and shelter. Kawaljit was treated as if he was some form of infestation that would be eradicated by ensuring he would loose his income and be forced to leave.
It appears the two compliance section case officers gave no attention to the DIAC Procedural Advice Manual (PAM) which states;
"If the student does not attempt principal course, but lodges a GSM application after completing a preliminary course only:
if student does not continue studies student visa should be cancelled as the student no longer continues to be a person who would satisfy the grant of a student visa (condition 8516). In this instance, student and dependents can apply for a BVE.
It is at the officer's discretion as to whether a work condition is imposed on the BVE for either the primary applicant or their dependents. There is no legal requirement for the applicant to demonstrate a compelling need to work to be given unlimited work rights. While the grant of work rights remains up to the discretion of the officer, the policy intention is that work rights should be granted while the skilled migration application is being processed"
It seems the two separate case officers chose to ignore this policy intention, and created their own version that would ensure Kawaljit would loose his jobs.
We suggest all DIAC case officers should experience this for themselves. See how they would cope being told by the government, "you can't come to work today as we have cancelled your work rights". See how much fun it is to find a new employer and try to explain to them how you lost your previous job.
This should be a standard training session for all the DIAC case officers at the compliance center and perhaps then we would get a department which was more conscious of the harm they can afflict by treating people as less than human beings.
When Kawaljit first walked into my office he was very depressed and considering to return home. We quickly applied for work permission again along with a formal complaint. The next day it was granted. Amazingly though the case officer called first and asked why was the processing taking so long for the GSM visa and could a call be made to them to ask for special treatment?
Difficult to believe considering the delay to GSM applicants has been going on for years now and there are strict Ministerial Instructions about priority processing, but that lack of knowledge summed surely up the standard at the DIAC Lee Street office in Sydney.