Tanaya Das Reports
Tania Ahmed came to Australia from Dhaka, Bangladesh in February 2007 as a ambitious young mother in search of a better future for her young family and herself. She decided to study commercial cookery, a profession that was listed as "in demand" at the time and expected to be on the fast track to Permanent Residency after finishing her course. Two years later having spent $32,000 in course fees alone she discovered that the rules had changed and her profession was suddenly not in demand anymore.
It wasn't as if she had to pack up and leave immediately, there was one pathway open to her; Skilled - Sponsored (Residence) visa (subclass 886). This visa allows overseas students who have completed their course studies in Australia and holders of certain temporary visas to apply for permanent residency. This visa uses a points test to select visa applicants with the skills and attributes needed in the Australian labour market.
One must be sponsored by an eligible relative living in Australia or obtain nomination from a participating state or territory government agency. Armed with this information Tania applied for her Residency in early 2009 listing her husband and children as her dependents. Little did she know that instead of that being the
Tania has been now more than 4 years for her visa application to begin processing
final step to realizing her dream of being an Australian Permanent Resident it was the start of a long and painful wait that still shows no signs of being over.
She says "I left my two daughters when they were 5 and 11, thinking I was going to be able to give them a better life if I could steel myself for two years, the two years turned into six and my elder one is an adult now, she spent her entire teen years without her mother by her side"
As she looks into the distance she says softly "I want nothing more than to be a contributing member to this society, I want to open my own business and give back to the country I want to call my home, but I don't understand why I am made to feel like I don't deserve to stay here"
Tania's story isn't an isolated one. Bhavin* came to Sydney from India in 2004 to study a degree in business "My brother was a citizen here and I thought Australia had better prospects for a driven person like me" Its been almost a decade that he's been here and he is stuck in a limbo of not knowing when or if ever his dream of being an Australian Permanent Resident will be fulfilled.
Anticipating an end to his unbearable wait he got married in February 2012 and although his wife visited him on a tourist visa they haven't been able to live together for over a year. He says "I spent $50,000 on education alone and now after waiting in a queue for years I am unable to get on with my life or plan for the future"
All that applicants like Tania and Bhavin have are automated emails from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that acknowledge that their applications were received. They keep waiting for a reply while life passes them by without their spouses to keep them company.
Bhavin says "Give me some indication you know, either yes or no, I own and manage a business, I am not someone forcing my way into this country"
Australia's migration system no longer works on the first come first served basis but there are various priority levels attached to the permanent visas. For example a candidate sponsored by an employer would get their visa processed first, much before a person acting independently. There are vague indications on the Department's websites barely specifying an end date to the applications stuck in the pipeline and since the introduction of priority processing in 2009 thousands of hopefuls have joined the queue waiting to start their life in Australia.
While people wait to have their visas granted applicants like Tania who hasn't seen her children in years thinks wistfully of the Australian Universities that she would like her elder daughter to attend.
*Name changed on request
The author of this story Tanaya Das is a former international student who did her post graduate studies in journalism from UTS. She has written many stories in the past for Immigration News covering the collapse of some of Australia's notorious business colleges. She has also worked as a researcher for programs aired on ABC and SBS and as an Online content Editor for Thomson Reuters.