When I first met Andrea, he struck me as one of those people who are always happy, and even when they aren’t, they don’t like to burden you with their issues. We were working at a restaurant, and I can gladly say I learnt a lot from him. Seeing it was an Italian restaurant, his thick accent, combined with a smile from ear to ear, made him an instant favourite among customers. But there is more to this lovely gentleman, as I would come to understand, than meets the eye.
Andrea first arrived in Australia in 2009, with a working holiday visa. He came with a young heart that was thriving for a new adventure, and when in that same year he met the love of his life, a lovely Chilean woman by the name of Karola, that’s exactly what he found. She was here with a student visa. Both of them have had a multitude of visas in Australia over the years, from Working Holidays, to Student visas, with a few tourist ones in the middle.
The twist in the plot happens in 2013, with the fruit of their love resulting in Karola’s pregnancy. It came as a surprise to me to learn that even though the child was conceived in Australia, the couple wouldn’t be covered by Medicare, so off to Italy they shipped the lovely pregnant Chilean. Every time I visit their house in Fremantle, it warms my heart to play with young Dante as it reminds me of my young sisters back home.
A year went past, and now with a new member in the family to make things more difficult, Andrea applied for a sponsorship (457 visa) at that same restaurant I met him in. When I asked him what went wrong, he told me that the immigration agent mixed things up, and that when they finally got the papers in order, the restaurant was filling for bankruptcy.
The interesting thing to note in this case is how much this family has invested so far. All these migration agents cost thousands of dollars, and clearly some of them aren’t doing their job properly. With a kid to raise, the couple not only has to worry about their visa situation, but also their studies (to keep their visas going), their jobs, seeing that young Dante pays the double in childcare that an Australian child would, and every other single factor that a normal family struggles with.
To make it all worse, when the family tried once again to get their permanent residencies through a different venue with new 457’s, several changes came into legislation, bringing their process to a halt. To put it broadly, 457 was the most common visa for skilled overseas employees, and is currently in the process of being abolished by the federal government led by Malcolm Turnbull. I have heard arguments in defence of this move that went something like ‘(…) migrants are stealing jobs from Australian people’. But to be honest, what Australian wants to work in an Italian restaurant? And who better than a true Italian to do that for you?
The sad truth is that this is an undergoing process that brings uncertainty to thousands of migrants. When asking Kate Jeong, 457 visa holder, about her situation, she claimed: ‘It worries me to the death that the recent changes in the 457 have left so many like me wondering what “grandfathering arrangement” they are YET to reveal!’. Another sad example is the Lee family, who after 9 years in Australia were facing deportation to South Korea after poor legal advice and an immigration agent robbing them for more than 100 thousand dollars.
Back to Andrea and his beautiful family, they have now decided to try their luck in Tasmania, this time with a 187 Regional visa. They are indeed, despite everything, very happy, and can’t wait to embrace this new challenge that Tassie gifts them with.
Writing all this, I feel blessed to say I have my permanent residency sorted. But believe it or not, it feels more and more like a curse, seeing that literally dozens of good friends of mine had to set sail, either to remote parts of this great country or back to their homelands. Is this really the way that Australia wants to pave its future? At the end of the day, aren’t we all migrants here, apart from the rightful owners of the land? And how many ‘true-blue ozzies’ would pass the IELTS and citizenship tests all us migrants are required to do? That, I will leave it up to you to decide.