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…

Expect the Unexpected

Immigration plays a vital role in society.  It is essential for economic development, social and cultural diversity, and population growth. It also became the key to controlling the spread of Covid-19 and the pandemic, thus the drastic border closure globally.  This inevitably caused a chain of events, as well for me on a personal level.

In 2020, my husband was travelling for a month’s vacation from Dubai to the Philippines.  We had been travelling back and forth pre-pandemic, so we were pretty confident with the process and flow.  Finally, the travel ban in the Philippines was lifted (which eventually would be imposed again shortly).  We secured all the needed documents for his travel which we had a challenging time acquiring.

Whilst thinking that we made it through already, it became evident that going back to Dubai posed a bigger challenge.

Now let me set the scene: we were bidding farewell to each other saying our goodbyes and feeling sentimental.  Documents are already at hand.  When on the immigration screening, he was stopped and asked for a return resident permit which came as a complete surprise.  The counter staff could not elaborate since the new documentation was implemented only a couple of days earlier.  We were told to wait and anxiously did so, for long excruciating hours until the plane departed.  Lots of passengers including my husband who were supposed to be on that flight were left hanging at the airport, feeling helpless about what to do and with no one to ask for assistance with this predicament.

This, however, is not an isolated incident given the current situation. I know lots of similar stories like this, of passengers getting stuck and being declined in their port of entry because of certain covid related documentation issues.  There was even an instance where the whole flight was refused to take entry because of the sudden change in the travel restriction policy of their country of destination while they were on the route. Imagine the anxiety those people must have felt, suddenly faced with this kind of dilemma.

At present, working in Gilton Valeo has taught me a few things.

The first is reading and research.  Do your assignment and always be informed.  With these unpredictable times, especially because of the pandemic we should equip ourselves with up-to-date knowledge and information.  Most airline companies, government agencies and immigration firms are posting updated travel information guidelines that can help us in travelling.  Don’t be complacent and rely on previous experiences only.

The second is to seek help from the right person.  People who are more knowledgeable in this field are available to help.  Working in an immigration firm, I take pride in the fact that we have assisted clients from various walks of life to make their travel processing and documentation free from hassles and more efficient.  Outbound and Inbound travel exemptions request documentation became a significant part of going in and out of Australia when strict border control was implemented.

The third is always be ready for any possibilities.  Have an open mind that anything can happen and there are things that are beyond our control, however, this we can avoid.  We should be adaptable albeit the given circumstance and with the right information and connection of people, travelling should be convenient and comfortable.

With the current development amidst the pandemic, we see things are getting better and hope that this is the light at the end of the tunnel. With the opening of borders and easing of travel restrictions, we are optimistic that soon things will go back to normal or as they say the ‘new normal in terms of immigration.  In Gilton Valeo, we are always ready and eager to push through the limits and conquer borders to accomplish our goal of changing others’ lives.

Australia is Home to Temporary Residents Too!

The Covid-19 Pandemic started hitting our news feed during Australia’s peak travel period – the school summer holidays.  As the uncertainty of the virus grew, so did our confidence in travel.  The Australian Government, like many across the world, started restricting travel from countries that were hard it: Mainland China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.  Eventually, on 20 March 2020, Australia closed its borders to all non-residents and non-citizens.

This meant temporary residents living in Australia who were overseas at the time could not re-enter.

One of my clients spent the end of year holidays in India with his extended family.  He returned to Australia on his temporary skilled visa in early 2020, leaving his wife and children behind to spend a bit more time in India before starting the school year.  However, once the Australian borders closed, his family was stuck.

After multiple failed travel exemptions requests for his family to return and India’s subsequent total travel ban, which also restricted Indian nationals from entering the country, my client slumped into complete depression.  The only strategy for us to reunite him with his family was by applying for permanent residence – as residents, his family were no longer caught in Australia’s travel ban.

Even with a supportive employer, who sponsored the application, the journey to obtain permanent residence was riddled with obstacles.  Covid-19 did not just affect immigration by closing the borders, it also changed many of the processes required to obtain a visa.  What used to be a simple step-by-step list of instructions for English and health examinations became a minefield due to different State and Territory restrictions.

With hard lockdowns closing all English examination centres, my client had to wait months before he could sit the test and obtain the required result for lodgement.  Once we finally lodged the application, Victoria’s second wave and ultimate lockdown hit.  Medical visa testing centres were closed across the state, which meant he was unable to complete the health examinations required for visa approval.

I had weekly calls with my client, reassuring him every time that we were doing everything we could to reunite him with his family.  Every week I advised him on the ever-changing policy on travel ban exemption requests; telling him it was getting harder and harder for foreigners to enter Australia.  Realistically, there was nothing much we could do but wait – wait for the shift in travel exemption policy, wait for the testing centres to open, wait for the application to be processed.  But when you’re separated from your wife and children for what seems like indefinitely, waiting is the last thing you can do.

Growing up as an ex-pat in the APAC region, home has never been a physical location to me.  It wasn’t the house I grew up in, because I had multiple.  It wasn’t the city I was born in, because I no longer knew anyone there.  And it wasn’t my parent’s home country, because that was just a holiday destination.  To me, home has always been where my family is.

With this in mind and slight frustration over the weekly update call of “no updates”, I asked him if it would just be worth going back home to India and being with his family while his visa was processing.  Without hesitation, he said, “Australia is home”.

I have always viewed my role in permanent residence applications as helping applicants make Australia home.  But with the international borders closing and hundreds of families being stuck in limbo, I’ve learnt that even temporary residents consider it home.

We had an almost Draconian closure of our international border for 703 days.  While yes, it helped stop the spread of Covid-19, it was at the expense of countless families who have the right to call Australia home too.