Everything happened at the 11th hour. Although Jaswant Kaur had reached Delhi’s International Airport on time to catch her Australia-bound flight, she was not allowed to board.
“They say the flight would land in Australia two and half hours after the time limit set for the border closure,” recalls Jaswant, who has not been able to return to Australia since March 2020 when Australia decided to close the borders due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“I had come for two weeks only. My mother was sick, and I came to see her on 12 March. My return ticket was also booked. But, when they announced border closure, I immediately changed my booking, but it was all in vain,” Jaswant told NRI Affairs.
She was on a student visa in Australia. However, her visa has already expired, and the Department of Home Affairs has refused her a new visa.
“They say I would not return to India after studies,” claims Jaswant Kaur adding, “Nothing has changed as far as my circumstances are concerned. They told me that my sister is a permanent resident of Australia, so I would not return to India. She was a permanent resident when I was granted the visa for the first time. So what has changed?”
Jaswant Kaur is one of thousands of temporary visa holders who could not return to Australia before the border closure and now remain unsure about their future.
Melbourne-based migration expert Chaman Preet says many such students or temporary visa holders have lost all hope.
“Many applicants are in similar situations where the visa expired and have been refused a new visa. So they have no hope now,” says Chaman Preet, the Migration and Education Experts director.
Australia has announced that the borders will reopen within weeks. However, only permanent residents and citizens will be allowed to travel.
According to the plan, Australians who want to travel overseas once restrictions are removed will be able to access an internationally recognised proof of vaccination document in the coming weeks to prove their vaccination status abroad. That proof of vaccination for international travel will include a QR code that is readable globally; it works with worldwide systems.
The plan does not say anything about temporary visa holders. However, many of them have lost hope. For example, Jaswant’s husband has decided to return to India after her visa refusal.
“My son has not seen his father for almost two years now. They have refused my visa. Now my husband has decided to return too. I don’t know if we have any other option,” Jaswant told NRI Affairs.