On her way back from holidays in March, Hema was asked to provide documentary evidence of her visa while leaving from India.
DIAC advises everyone that you don't need a visa label to enter Australia. Unfortunately in many countries that isn't enough to convince the airlines enough to board a plane to Australia.
The airline demanded proof of Hema's student visa so she called her long term partner of seven years in Sydney to find the visa grant letter in her room or on her computer email inbox.
Hema had never read the grant letter from DIAC before as her friend had organized her student visa application through an Education Agency.
To the couple's horror they discovered someone else had declared himself dependent on her student visa application and worse still, had supplied a marriage certificate from the NSW Birth Death and Marriage (BDM) office to support such a claim.
She says "I spent days in shock not being able to function because I didn't know how or what had happened and suddenly to discover I was registered as married without my own knowledge or consent made me just want to believe this could not happen".
She refutes any prior knowledge of the existence of this document and says that the person listed as her husband was only an acquaintance who became her friend because he used to help her with technical things. In her own words "I am not good at computers, didn't have an email account till I moved to Sydney and just got a facebook account just few months ago."
It was easy for someone who knew how trusting she was to deceive her; she was honest about the fact that she needed help with even basic computer related things. Her friend offered to help organize her documents and apply for her onshore student visa and while she thought he was being generous with his time, he was actually adding himself as her dependent on her documents.
Her eyes well up with tears as she says "I know that people steal other people's identities but I never thought that someone I considered a friend, who was so helpful and always on hand when I needed something would go ahead and use the information I trusted him with."
She has no knowledge of how it came about that this person could get a valid marriage certificate without Hema attending any ceremony, meeting the celebrant listed on the certificate or even knowing the witnesses.
Hema and her partner checked with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Sydney to confirm that the certificate is not a forgery and she is really registered as married in Australia.
Hema doesn't even begin to know where to start but as far as DIAC and the NSW government is concerned, she is legally married.
At this point she is scared and afraid to be out in public, confrontations with the person who did this have resulted in a confession and assurance that he will put things right but hasn't taken any steps to rectify the situation.
Hema says "He's got a wife in India who has recently moved to be with him in Sydney and I can't even begin to understand his reasons for this large scale deception. I can't let my family or anyone know that this has happened. Being married is a big deal in India and we get married for life, I simply can't be married, just can't, I am not!"
Australian Immigration Law Services is assisting Hema to discover how she could be considered married without her consent. The BDM office has been asked to provide an explanation how this is possible.
Stay tuned for their answer in Part 2 of this story