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Ten-year-old Harmanpreet Singh wanted to see Sea Life Aquarium and visit Eureka Tower with his father during his planned holiday in Australia. His school had already approved a leave of 32 days; however, he won't be able to travel to Australia as his visa application has been refused for the fourth time in a little over a year.
Its been nearly three years that Harmanpreet and his father, Harinder Singh, were together in Melbourne.
Harmanpreet’s mother died in a road crash in India in 2012. He and his father moved to Melbourne in 2015 on a 457 dependent visa after Mr Singh remarried here.
Though his visa was valid for another 12 months, Harmanpreet returned to India after spending six weeks in Australia in order to continue his schooling. He is currently in the full-time care of his grandmother.
Mr Singh and his wife subsequently went on bridging visas after their bid for permanent residency did not succeed - Mrs Singh’s application for a student visa was also refused.
Mr Singh says it’s difficult for him to travel to India to meet his son because of the nature of his casual work.
With the latest visa application, Mr Singh said he supplied the evidence of property ownership in India, an affidavit from his mother, besides other documents, and even offered to pay a bond.
In refusing Harmanpreet’s visa application submitted on 2nd August, the Department of Home Affairs last week said it wasn’t satisfied that he would return to India after his visit.
“You have not provided sufficient evidence of your circumstances to demonstrate strong personal or financial incentives to return to your home country after your intended visit with your application,” a department official wrote.
His last three visas applications have been refused on similar grounds, saying he did not demonstrate “strong financial, personal, employment or other commitments”.
However this time the word 'employment' was omitted from the emailed decision.
“No kid can overcome this clause. He’s not going to work if immigration wants to see his job commitments; he is even not entitled to work. It’s like supporting a child labour," says Mr Singh.
Immigration lawyer Michael Arch says it’s “ridiculous” to ask a child to demonstrate financial commitments.
“[It’s] ridiculous, not to mention heartless, for the Department to make a decision that would prevent a young child from visiting his father.
The Department of Home Affairs says it takes into account the relevant circumstances of an applicant in deciding visa applications.
“As part of assessing whether an applicant genuinely intends to stay temporarily in Australia, decision-makers must consider their circumstances, including any personal, employment, financial or other circumstances that would serve as incentives to return to their home country,” a department spokesperson told SBS News last month.
Mr Arch says the case is one more example in which the Department has failed to exercise its review powers in a “thoughtful and humane manner”.
He says the prospects of Harmanpreet getting a visa seem poor since decisions of applications made from offshore cannot be appealed in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
“Since the Department has refused this application several times already, it appears that it is extremely unlikely that the Department will reverse this decision unless there is a strong public pressure that it do so,” says Mr Arch.
Mr Singh says he has been left “heartbroken” and doesn’t know what to do.
“I am his only living parent and all I want is just some time together,” he says.
“We didn’t know that government and the system could be so harsh that they would split a family like that.”
“My house, it’s full of his toys, and games. I bought all these toys and games for him so that when he comes we will have.. we were looking forward to happy times.”