Visitor visa holder Jasnoor Kaur has reunited with her husband in Melbourne after the newly-married couple was separated by coronavirus-induced border closure just days after their wedding.
Ms Kaur, who is an Indian national, had to apply for a travel exemption three times before it was approved so she could join her husband who is a permanent resident in Australia.
Describing her “ordeal,” the 26-year-old says while the Australian government never closed its borders to the immediate family members of citizens and residents, “getting an exemption nevertheless was a Herculean task.”
- Indian woman reunites with husband after being separated for three months
- Ms Kaur was allowed to travel to Australia after she received an exemption after two failed attempts
- Immediate family members of Australian citizens and residents intending to travel have to apply for an exemption
“It took us nearly three months, several documents and two rejections to get an exemption. I am quite sure that couples like us who have been separated from their partners are also going through a similar ordeal,” says Ms Kaur who landed in Australia last week.
‘Separated by COVID-19, united by quarantine’
Her Melbourne-based husband Jasjeet Kukreja who could not spend another day without his wife has been given “special permission” to live in a hotel with Ms Kaur while she completes her mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“We were separated by the pandemic just 13 days after our wedding and now I have been allowed to quarantine with her. I am grateful and overwhelmed,” says Mr Kukreja.
Looking back on their days of separation, the 29-year-old who works as a superintendent in the maritime industry says collecting relevant documents at a time when both countries had imposed strict lockdowns was perhaps the “biggest hurdle” they faced during the process.
“Government offices in India were mostly shut down and the ones that were open weren’t operating at their full capacity, which meant that we had to wait longer even to get basic documents,” he says.
Mr Kukreja says “insufficient evidence” resulted in the first two rejections in their case.
“As per the Department of Home Affairs’ website, applicants have to provide evidence of marriage, proof of relationship, personal statements and other supporting documents with their application for exemption. We could not succeed in the first two attempts because we could not convince the department of our relationship,” he adds.
Who is currently allowed to travel to Australia?
Currently, all Australian citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family members or guardians can enter the country.
While there are no restrictions on citizens and residents, immediate family members or guardians intending to travel have to request an exemption.
Canberra-based migration lawyer Ben Watt says the basis to apply for special permission under this category is not the visa status of the applicant, but it’s their relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident that may make them eligible.
“Anyone can apply for an exemption, but they need to be the immediate family member or guardian of an Australian citizen or a resident,” says Mr Watt.
“For example, student visa holders or visitor visa holders married to Australian citizens or residents who are currently offshore can apply for the exemption within the family status,” he adds.
Partner (subclasses 100, 309, 801, 820) and Child (subclasses 101, 102, 445) visa holders can also come to Australia, without the need to request for an exemption.
All other inbound travellers including international students, visa holders and tourists whose immediate family members are not Australian citizens or residents can apply for an exemption on compassionate or humanitarian grounds.
According to this provision, travellers who believe they have a “compassionate or compelling” reason to travel “urgently” will need to have an exemption from the ABF Commissioner, who will then determine if an applicant is eligible to travel.
Between 2 February and 6 May, the Border Force says it has allowed 801 people to enter the country on compassionate grounds.
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