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Couple on temporary visa who went to India to attend funeral gets exemption from Australia’s travel ban

Ramu Gajjelli and Anitha Gajjelli Source: Supplied

Currently stranded in India, the Gajjellis, who have been living in Mackay on the eastern coast of Queensland since 2009, have received an exemption to travel to Australia on 'compassionate and compelling' grounds last week.

The past few months have been fraught with traumatic setbacks for Ramu Gajjelli who lost two members of his immediate family in a span of three weeks in India.

Mr Gajjelli travelled to Hyderabad in southern India, along with his wife Anitha, after learning of his older brother’s death from cancer on March 14, just a week before the Australian borders were closed to foreign nationals.

“I went straight to the cremation grounds upon landing in India to bid goodbye to my elder brother who is survived by a wife and three children,” he says.


  • Indian couple on temporary visa get an exemption from Australia's travel ban on compassionate grounds
  • Ramu Gajjelli lost his brother and mother in a span of three weeks in India
  • The 36-year-old skilled visa holder works at a supermarket in Queensland

The 36-year-old skilled migrant (subclass 489) who works at a supermarket in Mackay says life took a turn for the worse when his mother, who was already recovering from a fire incident, stopped eating and went into acute depression following his brother’s death.

“Her health started to deteriorate, and we could not even transfer her to a hospital because of the increasing contagion risk and lockdown situation in India.”

Temp visa holder
Ramu Gajjelli with his wife Anitha Gajjelli, (R) snapshot of his approval for exemption

Nearly a week after his brother’s death, woes started to pile up for Mr Gajjelli when officials from the Telangana government came calling at their home and put him and his wife in a two-week mandatory quarantine as per the state’s new measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

By the time he returned home after completing his quarantine his mother had also passed away, leaving him with a trail of setbacks and no family to care for.

“I had no choice but to return to Australia and a few days later we applied for an exemption on compassionate grounds. We were approved after two attempts, but only after we uploaded complete documents that could corroborate the tragedies that have ripped my life and brought it to a halt,” says Mr Gajjelli.

Australian visas
Australian visas

But his problems are far from over. While the Gajjellis have been exempted from the travel ban and have also received a pre-grant for permanent residency in Australia, their provisional visa in the meantime has expired.

“I will have to apply for a visitor visa on the basis of the pre-grant and the travel exemption to be able to return to Australia and to be eligible for a permanent residency and there is also a question of return flights which are few and far between,” he added.

How are decisions made?

The Department of Home Affairs has granted exemptions to 10,350 foreign nationals seeking to enter Australia between 20 March and 30 June 2020.

A spokesperson for the Department told SBS Punjabi that each case is unique and is considered on its own merits based on the information provided in the application.

“Decisions by the ABF Commissioner to grant exemptions for travel for compassionate and compelling circumstances must be balanced against the Government’s intent for imposing the travel ban and the health risks posed to the Australian community by international travellers,” said the spokesperson.

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