As we slowly manoeuvre out from the depths of the pandemic, we asked some of our team members what the last two years has taught them…
What is the “New Normal”?
The Federal Government’s announcement of the removal of the international travel ban for fully-vaccinated travellers was the first collective sigh of relief I think we’ve had since the inception of the ban in March 2020.
In my role as an immigration lawyer, I get the opportunity to speak and engage with a very diverse group of people from many walks of life, they all have different experiences in life and business and always have a lot to share – it’s one of the reasons I love my job. Through my interactions with the many amazing people I get to work with I’ve noticed an emerging common thread. Everyone wants to talk about “going back to normal”.
Navigating the tectonic shifts of all of the State and Federal policy changes over the last two years which have forced us to rethink the global mobility space. I for one think that this is the new normal – we need to accept that all of the changes brought about by Government policy on COVID have had a permanent effect on the way we approach global mobility and the wider workforce in general. We have to constantly readjust to our surroundings – here are 3 things I’ve learned from this pandemic and the experiences which led to them:
1. There are a lot of moving parts and overlapping jurisdictional issues which arise with different agencies and State and Federal governments trying to apply their own policy which leads to confusion on the ground.
The Gilton Valeo team was busy at work for some of our sports clients in order to bring over athletes to perform at various PPV boxing events which were being hosted in Australia. We were able to quickly develop our own robust processes for obtaining the relevant visas and travel exemptions. Once we were informed that our boxers had boarded their flights to Australia and were holding all of the documents required by policy, you might think that everything would be all clear right? Unfortunately not, once the team had landed in Australia they ran into quite a few issues actually moving through immigration clearance. This boiled down to a lot of confusion in the process between the airline, state health bodies, police officials and ABF officials. Thankfully for our boxers, we were able to facilitate our contacts within the State Government to verify that the boxers did in fact meet all of the regulatory requirements to enter Australia and they were allowed to enter and compete (got to attend the fight as well which was a bonus!).
2. The importance of being proactive in our approach to everything we do.
As a result of the severe skill shortage in Australia in many of our Government identified critical sectors, many of our clients have looked to us to assist them in their ability to attract and maintain critically skilled talent. I could see that all of these businesses weren’t looking for quick fixes or the stock standard transactional visa work which is conducted by many large commercial providers. They wanted to engage us to formulate bespoke solutions which focussed on the issues that they were facing in relation to talent acquisition and maintenance. In order to show our value to our clients in this position it required us to analyse our client’s pain points through their eyes and this would extend to further past immigration into concepts such as long-term workforce planning and employment law – similar to the role of an in-house counsel. This holistic approach to providing service to our clients and using our vast experiences across a range of industries to foresee issues coming down the pipeline before they arrive is exactly what we need to be doing to provide value. I’m excited that I work at one of the few firms which recognised this early during the pandemic and have invested heavily into it.
3. We’re much more resilient than we ever thought we were.
It’s no secret that there has been a huge physical and emotional toll on everyone over the course of this pandemic. We have all had to face some really difficult situations. I hear it from my friends, my family and from our clients as well – many of the clients which I work with particularly in the service and hospitality industry have confided in me the struggles they have been facing with all of the disruptions to their regular work and their inability and uncertainty around international travel and the adverse impact this has had on their livelihood and families. I feel really invested in their situation and want to make sure that I’m doing everything I can to create positive outcomes for them and their families. They’ve been through a lot over the past two years and I am excited to continue delivering results for them which can improve their lives and hopefully make things a little bit better for them. We all withstood a lot of tough situations throughout the pandemic and managed to keep pushing through – we should give ourselves a lot more credit for that than we do.
I’m glad to report that I’ve learned a lot about myself and the life-changing area of immigration law over the last two years. Here’s to continually adjusting to all of the changes that life will keep throwing at us and to everyone at Gilton Valeo Lawyers for their support on my journey so far.
When COVID spread like wildfire and borders started closing in an attempt to protect itself from the virus, my only concern was the closure of the childcare centres in the city. Who will look after my child while I work? When I think about it now, I could only laugh at my naivety.
Although staffing was lean at the time, Gilton Valeo Lawyers treaded through the new immigration processes brought by the pandemic. The team remained hopeful and enthusiastic despite countless emails from our anxious clients expressing their concerns as restrictions were implemented on international and interstate travels, limiting the movement of people to within a few kilometres of their homes.
Is the whole coronavirus fiasco only going to cause a short delay? An indefinite pause? Perhaps a full stop? No one knew for sure.
For one of our client’s employees, it almost became a full stop after a short holiday trip to the Philippines became a 21-month struggle to bring him back to Australia.
Gilton Valeo Lawyers, with our co-counsel, and the client’s global mobility team were engaged. The firm submitted 6 travel exemption requests in the course of one and a half years, attaching more supporting documents with every submission.
I’d like to think that everyone remained hopeful and calm, but kind of accepted that we might have to look for alternatives as the Philippine government started to question the employee’s requests for further stay in the country. The global mobility team considered relocating the employee to Singapore, but travel restrictions were also tight and difficult to obtain. The employee was running out of time and options as he risks overstaying in the Philippines and being deported back to his home country which will further complicate the situation. The employee applied for a Canadian visa as his last resort.
After almost two years, our client finally arrived in Sydney on 15 December of 2021, when Australia opened its borders to fully vaccinated Subclass 482 visa holders.
The Department refused all 6 travel exemption requests.
It’s unfortunate that we did not get a travel exemption approval for the employee but what amazed me is everyone’s attitude during the whole process – calm even when pushed against the wall, collaborative, respectful, dedicated and not afraid to step back to gain a new perspective on how to approach the situation.
Going back to the question of what I learnt from the pandemic, my answer is Bruce Lee’s “be like water”.
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
The employee adapted to his temporary home, probably even made friends with the locals and enjoyed a bite or two of “ginabot”, while patiently waiting for his indefinite pause to end.
Gilton Valeo Lawyers saw the opportunities and thrived in the immigration industry amidst the pandemic which was evident when Fiona became a finalist in the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards 2021 and Troy was recognised by Who’s Who Legal as a Global Leader in Corporate Immigration.
With the world constantly changing and mother nature reminding us that anything can be taken away at any time, I aspire to be a person who is resilient, adaptable to these changes and see the silver lining in every difficult situation.
It’s a bit ironic to hear this from someone who is not fond of beaches (or any body of water) but…
Be like water, my friend.