A large number of temporary and temporary visa holders will be isolated from their families at Christmas despite a planned easing of border restrictions, causing more suffering and uncertainty for those stranded in Australia.
Restrictions are set to mitigate for Some temporary visa holders Just in time for Christmas, including for those on international skilled, student, humanitarian, business holiday and temporary family visas. This will allow them to leave and re-enter Australia without exceptions from December 15.
But for holders of other types of temporary visas, there is still an end in sight.
This has left people like Italian national Giorgia Di Girolamo, who holds a temporary visa while applying for a Super Talent visa, effectively stranded in Australia.
The Bridging visa or the Super Talent visa is not included in the Travel Without Exemption List as of mid-December.
Di Girolamo has not seen her family, including her dying grandfather, in more than two years.
Without exception, who has been advised she is unlikely to get it, she has no idea when she might be able to return to Australia if she chooses to leave.
This will force her to quit her job and give up the life she’s built in Australia since 2017.
“It got to the point where I was really angry and was thinking, ‘Oh, I could give up everything just because I want to see my family,'” she said. But of course it doesn’t make sense and I want to stay here. My job is here and my life is here. I don’t want… to lose everything.”
Di Girolamo said she was very disappointed and could not understand why some temporary visa holders would benefit from the December 15 change, but not others.
Joanne Davis, British Citizen. In a similar situation. She has been in Australia since 2019, first arrived on a working holiday visa, and now holds a temporary visa.
It’s been three years since she’s seen her family. Her father suffers from acute glaucoma and is blind.
“They’re devastating, frankly,” Davis said. “The other day, I made an emotional call to my mother and she said, ‘Look, I’m really starting to lose hope when I’ll see you again.'”
Davis I recently started a petition On behalf of temporary visa holders, wondering why they were not granted exemption-free travel. It now has nearly 9,000 signatures.
“We pay our taxes, provide basic skills, receive double vaccinations and contribute to the economy,” the petition read. “It is discriminatory to prevent us from visiting our friends and family when others can.”
Davis, like Di Girolamo, has been told that her chances of getting a humanitarian travel exemption are very low.
She is now giving up on whether to leave Australia and giving up on returning.
“It’s tough, it’s really a 50:50 situation. Even my employer really sympathizes with the fact that I can’t go home, which makes it even more difficult,” she said.
“Because I absolutely love my job and have a great employer, so for me, it’s really hard to just let that go, leave everything I built and my friends here.”
In response to questions about the inconsistent treatment of temporary visa holders, the Department of Home Affairs referred the Guardian to comments by Secretary Karen Andrews and the Minister of Health, Greg Hunt, Tuesday.
Andrews said the decision to delay easing border restrictions for some temporary visa holders until December 15 was based on medical advice and uncertainty about the Omicron variant.
“Australia’s response is well suited to the risks of the Omicron variant,” she said. “So for skilled workers, and international students in particular, who have been looking to enter Australia after 1 December, I want to say very clearly that Australia is definitely a destination to look forward to.
This government has done a tremendous amount of work to reopen our international borders. We did not take a step back in this delay. We’re actually keeping the settings we’ve already announced.”