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An Indian man who repeatedly lied on various visa and citizenship applications was caught and his citizenship was revoked by the then-Minister of Immigration Peter Dutton.
Now, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia (AAT) has set aside Dutton’s decision and said that the man is entitled to have the revocation of his Australian citizenship reversed.
Randeep Singh Waraich, who lives with his wife and two children and runs his own business in Melbourne, first arrived in Australia on a student visa in 1998.
He called himself Amardeep Singh then. Four years later in 2002 he left Australia as an unlawful non-citizen after overstaying his bridging visa.
In India, he changed his name to Randeep Singh after consulting an astrologer who advised him to change his name to one starting with the letter 'R' for better luck.
He also married Preet Waraich and when the couple decided to come to Australia, he applied as a dependent on his wife’s student visa without revealing his past in Australia.
From Amardeep Singh to Randeep Singh, and a new life in Australia
He came back to Australia in 2004 as Randeep Singh.
Two years later, in 2006, he was granted a permanent visa in his wife’s skilled migration application as a dependent.
In March 2009, he changed his name as Randeep Singh Waraich and in November of the same year became an Australian citizen by conferral.
Mr Singh did not declare his previous name or immigration history when he started his new life in Australia as Randeep and went on to become an Australian citizen.
In 2012 VicRoads discovered that photos on licenses for Amardeep Singh and Randeep Singh Waraich were of the same person and they referred the matter to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Mr Singh accepted his wrongdoing before the Immigration Department, pleaded guilty and was convicted on charges relating to his having knowingly made false statements on a citizenship application and producing an official document containing false or misleading statements.
He said he had not declared his previous name or prior immigration history because he feared that the visa would not be granted.
He was convicted, fined and had his citizenship revoked, but the entire matter took nearly four years, resulting in great anxiety and stress for Singh's whole family.
'My world has fallen apart'
Psychologists testifying before a tribunal said that Mr Singh had scored in the 'extremely severe' category on an anxiety scale and in the 'severe' category on depression and stress scales. His daughter also showed symptoms of anxiety, including tearfulness and reduced appetite, after she had learned that her father’s citizenship may be cancelled and he may be deported to India.
His wife, Preet, told the Tribunal, her world had fallen apart in the intervening years, and that her professional capacity as an artist had been reduced due to stress.
“The stress from the ongoing uncertainty and my fears for my family’s future has affected my creativity," she said.
She also added, "it has affected my ability to care for my children and concentrate on their development... I feel like my world has fallen apart.”
Mr Singh said he regretted his actions.
“I regret my actions that lead to these convictions, and the consequences that my actions have had on my wife and children," he said.
“I wish I could take back my decisions and I am ashamed of my decisions and I sincerely apologise for my actions.”
'I accept that his remorse and regret are genuine and deeply felt'
The Senior Member of the AAT, Dr Damien Cremean said that the seriousness of the offences cannot be understated.
“It simply cannot be allowed to be the case that persons should enter Australia and then become Australian citizens by false pretences,” he stated.
But he also considered the impact on the household, including Singh's children.
“I accept the Applicant’s various statements of remorse and regret, which I regard as genuine, and I am quite satisfied that the Applicant will not re-offend.
“I have no doubt, having heard and seen them give evidence, that over this lengthy period of time both the Applicant and his wife have indeed suffered considerable stress and anxiety and that as a result the household itself, with the children, has been adversely affected.”
The AAT also found Mr Singh has been otherwise law-abiding as would be expected by the Australian community.
It also considered that letting Mr Singh remain on his current ex-citizen visa would let him remain, live and work in Australia but would not allow him to travel outside Australia and return.
“Should the family leave Australia, they will be able to return home, but not him.”
In the end, the judge weighed all aspects and chose to set aside the Immigration Minister’s decision.
“I accept that his remorse and regret are genuine and deeply felt.”
“My analysis leads me inevitably to the conclusion that the decision under review must be set aside.
“Accordingly, I set aside the decision under review and substitute a decision that the Applicant is entitled to have the revocation of his Australian citizenship reversed,” Dr Cremean said.