Adelaide-based skilled regional visa holder Ugandar Babu could not believe his luck when he received an email from the Australian Border Force notifying him that his request for travel exemption on behalf of his wife and one-year-old son has been approved.
Mr Babu had a well-thought-out plan when he touched down in Australia in February earlier this year.
The 38-year-old IT professional says: “I got my grant in December 2019 and travelled to Australia for the first time in February 2020. I thought I would first secure a job and then make arrangements to bring my wife and son to live with me in Adelaide.”
But then all his plans fell through due to the coronavirus outbreak which forced the federal government to close its borders to all temporary visa holders in March, leaving his family in the lurch in Chennai in south India.
- Adelaide-based temporary visa holder's family gets exemption from Australia's travel ban
- Ugandar Babu is a skilled regional visa holder who arrived in Australia in February 2020
- Another doctor from India has received an exemption to return to Australia
With no other recourse available, Mr Babu started frantically applying for travel exemption requests for his wife and young child in the hope that his request would be considered, and he would be allowed to reunite with his family.
“I applied for exemption four times but each time the application was rejected. The whole experience was extremely painful as my wife had to handle everything alone in India and we started to get a feeling that my son was slowly forgetting my face as he last saw me nearly five months ago,” he says.
Mr Babu, who is currently working multiple casual jobs as a delivery driver to sustain himself while he manages to secure a job in the IT sector, says he attached every possible document he could to strengthen his application when he applied for his family's exemption for the fifth time earlier this month.
“I attached every single detail about our life circumstances, the fact that my son had started to forget me, and that wife was under a lot of stress including copies of utility bills, insurance and age proofs, doctor’s prescriptions, lease, etc,” he says.
And to his utmost surprise, Mr Babu received approval for both his wife, Pammi Malleeshwariah and son Bavishnu Danta last week.
“When I received a response, I thought it was yet another rejection. But I could not believe my eyes when I read the content of the mail realising that their exemption had been approved. I was so ecstatic that I was shouting on the roads,” says Mr Babu.
But the Babu family’s struggle is far from over as the lack of international flights from India has left them with no way of returning to Australia.
“My wife and son now have permission to travel but the next hurdle is that there are no flights from India and the Australian government’s recent decision to cap international arrivals has further increased our woes,” he says.
‘It’s given us hope’
Work visa holder, Kavish Chopra who remains stranded in New Delhi along with his family has been trying to get an exemption to the travel ban but with no luck.
The 30-year-old IT engineer who has called Melbourne home for the past five years says Babu family’s case has reignited his hope of returning to Australia.
“I think it’s a good sign that for a temporary visa holder’s family has been granted an exemption. If you look at the previous cases where people have received approvals, most of them were either immediate family members of Australian citizens and residents or there were work visa holders who had critical skills in the field of medicine and research,” he says.
Mr Chopra adds that he believes that the Australian government’s decision to charge all returning international travellers for quarantine would make it relatively easier for temporary visa holders seeking entry into Australia to secure exemptions.
“The fact that everyone has to pay for their quarantine arrangements upon returning means that now we are all equal in the eyes of the government.
“We as temporary migrants are no longer a liability on the government, as we like everyone else would be paying for the two-weeks in hotel quarantine, which I believe would allow more work visa holders to return to their lives in Australia,” he adds.
Another doctor from India has received an exemption under the critical skills category adding to the steadily growing pool of temporary visa holders who have been allowed to return to Australia despite a travel ban.
The Department of Home Affairs has revealed that it has allowed over a thousand non-citizens to enter the country during the period 20 March to 18 June 2020, of which a significant number were allowed in on compassionate grounds.
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