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…

Immigration is about people!

On the first day I worked at Gilton Valeo, I was a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of immigration. There were just so much knowledge and information to absorb and understand.  One day is not enough to fully grasp the essence of it.  In addition to the internal training, I had to take initiative to do my own research and study if I don’t want to sound like a robot with nothing to answer but only what was input within me (given that I’ve never worked in an immigration law firm before).

I was conscious of making mistakes.  Working with intelligent and successful professionals in an area I have no experience in.  It became both an inspiration to do better each day and pressure to perform.  For the first month, I doubted if I can make it through more months.

Fast forward, I have been working at Gilton Valeo for over 4 years and I’m enjoying every day of it. Immigration remains complex and a wide-ranging field. Knowledge to take in are still massive and dynamic, but I’ve come to embrace it.  Do you know what made me embrace it?  The hard work and genuine concern Lawyers put in for companies and individual clients; the roller coaster journey of some clients to obtain temporary or permanent residency in Australia which I get to assist and witness, and the grateful and joyful emails we receive when visa grants are sent.

Immigration is not only about laws and policies but about people.

One of which is the change in immigration caused by COVID-19.  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia closed its borders on 20 March 2020.  Citizens and permanent residents who wished to leave the country and temporary visa holders who wished to enter the country needed to file a travel exemption application.  This was new. And adding up to the composite nature of immigration!

As someone who works behind the camera if I may say, I’ve seen all the efforts and teamwork the Partners, Lawyers and Legal Support Team had to bring to the table to navigate this new and complex challenge.  A lot of research, calls, email correspondence and discussions were undertaken behind the scenes and I see this as the beauty of immigration.  Immigration affects people and people affect immigration.

I remember one of our clients who submitted a travel exemption on their own and it was declined.  They reached out to Gilton Valeo and asked for assistance.  You can tell from their email that they’re worried if it would ever be approved.  The team assisted them in every way, prepared all the necessary documents and made a strong reason for the travel exemption to be approved.  And yes, it was approved!

The changes that the pandemic brought to immigration somehow proved my theory.  The case officer’s decisions rest on the information and documents provided.  It leans on reason and logic and at times, immigration is insensitive.  On the other hand, individuals invest in their emotions.  Both are distinct but parallel to one another, while the Gilton Valeo team give importance to both.

How to be nimble!

From an immigration perspective, the pandemic was an uncertain and everchanging period.  Logging on every week with new policy, guidelines, and announcements from government ministers classed it as a long period of learning and self-improvement to ensure that we could be prepared for our clients’ every question.

The constant updates of policy and process left the public in an awkward scenario.  To someone not working in the immigration space, there was almost an overwhelming amount of information to consume, and we saw a significant number of individuals contact our office to confirm eligibility for travel exemptions, or visa holders questioning whether they could safely leave and return to Australia.

The pandemic also highlighted the inherent issues of the travel exemption system, with refusals having no available method of review, and a distinct lack of reasoning given for the decisions being made.  Thankfully, these issues were improved upon towards the end of 2021, but with the opening of the borders to eligible visa holders without the need to apply for travel exemptions on 01 December 2021, it seemed as if the improvements were introduced at a time when the travel exemption program was being made redundant for many travellers.

These sorts of issues ultimately highlight how the pandemic taught me to be nimble and adaptive in how I think about problems, knowing that my prior knowledge bank would need to be changed at the snap of a finger to keep up with the latest policy and regulations.