The Australian Greens have introduced a bill in the Senate to extend visas of temporary visa holders stuck overseas due to the pandemic.
The proposed bill seeks to automatically credit a temporary visa holder’s visa with the number of days Australia’s international border was closed, or with the time lost due to the international border closure.
The bill was formally introduced the bill to the upper house on Wednesday afternoon by Greens immigration spokesperson Nick McKim.
“Tens of thousands of temporary visa holders, including people with established homes, jobs and in some cases partners in Australia, were overseas when Australia’s international borders closed due to Covid-19,” Senator McKim said.
“Many more had spent thousands of dollars on their visas, had packed up their homes, quit their jobs and were about to move to Australia when the borders closed.”
“Despite their best efforts to return, many have been left languishing overseas watching their visas run down and expire through no fault of their own.”
“The pain and trauma this situation has caused is immeasurable, and there is still no end in sight after more than 18 months.”
Senator McKim criticised the Government for failing to address the pain that the border closure has caused to temporary visa holders stranded overseas.
“They have no plan, no timetable and no pathway for how people on temporary visas will be able to return to their homes, jobs, lives and partners in Australia.”, he said.
“The Greens Legislation provides this pathway, by extending visas by the amount of time people have been stranded overseas or reinstate visas that have expired while a person was stranded overseas.”
If approved, the legislation will apply to all temporary visa classes that have been affected by the international border closure.
Since Australia shut its international borders in March 2020, migration has dropped to negative levels for the first time since World War II.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said, “We need to see families reunited in Australia as a matter of urgency.”
“The trauma of separation over the last eighteen months should not be compounded by unfair visa rules. The government needs to extend visas as necessary to help repair the damage caused by the pandemic so that we can recover together,” Mr Shoebridge told NRI Affairs.