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Nikita’s arrival in Australia was not the pleasant experience she had expected. She had to deal with Australian Border Force officials on arrival at Melbourne airport after a jar of chicken pickle was discovered in her baggage.
She arrived in Australia last week on a student visa and before landing, the flight crew asked all passengers to fill in the customs declaration form. She says the form left her confused as she did not know what to declare and what not.
“I was not even aware of everything I had," she told SBS Hindi. "My mother had packed some things. When I reached the immigration checkpoint, some officers were checking the luggage and declaration forms. They opened my bag and found the chicken pickle. They were not sure if it was biosecure,” she said.
Nikita was cleared to go after a biosecurity scan.
However, from 17 April 2019, her ‘unawareness’ could cost visitors their visa.
The Migration Amendment (Biosecurity Contraventions and Importation of Objectionable Goods) Regulations 2019 gives decision-makers the power to shorten or cancel the visitor visa.
“Australia has strict rules on what can and cannot be imported into the country. These rules minimise the biosecurity risk to Australia’s unique environment and agricultural industries,” an ABF spokesperson told SBS Hindi in a statement.
"To enforce these rules, a new cancellation ground has been created that gives decision-makers the discretion to cancel a visitor visa in immigration clearance, where there has been an attempt to deceive, or a failure to comply with lawful directions of, a biosecurity officer," the statement read.
To enforce these rules, a new cancellation ground has been created that gives decision-makers the discretion to cancel a visitor visa in immigration clearance, where there has been an attempt to deceive, or a failure to comply with lawful directions of, a biosecurity officer.
Nikita was not carrying anything objectionable however she says she was not completely aware of these rules.
“I might have brought something as I did not know what was objectionable. Some of my co-passengers were stopped too. Even they didn't know the rules in entirety,” Nikita told SBS Hindi.
However, the onus is on the visitor not to have anything that cannot be imported into Australia. So the experts warn to take extreme care visiting Australia as a small mistake could cost them the visa.
“It’s imperative that visitors understand their visa conditions and comply with them. The documents they fill and sign are legal documents, and any inconsistencies can lead to cancellation of a visa,” says Chaman Preet of Migration and Education Expert.
The new rules state that if a visitor fails to declare anything that cannot be imported, the officers at immigration clearance points might shorten or cancel his visa.
Australian Border Force says the people found guilty of not following these rules may be prevented from returning to Australia for three years.
“Persons whose visas are canceled under these circumstances may be turned around and returned and will be prevented from being granted a visa to return to Australia for three years except under compelling or compassionate circumstances,” ABF spokesperson told SBS Hindi.