It took a decade for Australian immigration authorities to process visa applications for Wendy Van Breda and her daughter Paige.
Paige was 15 when the couple arrived in Australia in 2011. She is now 25.
Last March, Wendy and Paige finally got an answer from the Home Office, but it wasn’t what they expected.
The couple were told that because Paige had now grown up and was not considered her mother’s dependent, both of their visa applications had been rejected.
“We were so shocked. It was kind of like our whole world was falling apart,” Paige said of the decision.
Both Wendy and Paige were born in Zimbabwe, but political and economic turmoil in the African country forced most of their family to move overseas, first to the UK and then to Australia.
The couple applied for a relative remaining visa, open to immigrants whose immediate family members all live in Australia.
The Remaining Relative Visa has the longest processing time of all Australian visas.
When Wendy and Paige applied for the visa in 2011, the wait time was 10 years.
It has since swelled to 50.
Wendy and Paige have been living in Australia on temporary bridging visas for a decade.
After appealing the department’s decision to reject their visas last year, they are still here on a bridging visa, but face being sent back to the UK if their appeal is unsuccessful.
“We just want to be with our family, that’s all we want. It will destroy us if we have to leave. I don’t know what we will do,” Wendy said.
Wendy said she and Paige have spent the last decade building their lives in Australia and now call it home.
She and her daughter had voluntarily made sacrifices to stay in Australia in hopes of obtaining permanent residency, Wendy said.
Their bridging visas allowed them to work and study, but still come with restrictions.
“It was very difficult because, with Paige, we had to pay international tuition – it cost $13,000 a year for her to go to a public high school,” Wendy said.
“Paige always dreamed of being a teacher, but she can’t go to college here because she’d have to pay all the fees and she can’t get a student loan or anything like that.”
After graduating from high school, Paige went to TAFE to get an Early Childhood Diploma and now works at a daycare.
“It was the closest option I could have to become a teacher. It was hard to have some options taken away, but I’m grateful to have been able to live here with my family,” Paige said.
Wendy said she still expected their visas to be approved eventually and was stunned when they received their denial notice in March last year.
“We always had in mind to wait for the visa, but we weren’t that worried and never thought it would actually be denied,” Wendy said.
“Our immigration officer was shocked too.”
In its denial notification to Wendy and Paige, seen by 9news.com.au, the Home Office said that because Paige was no longer dependent on Wendy, they both had a close relative who did not. was neither an Australian citizen nor a permanent resident – each other.
“It’s just crazy, we have to be with our family,” Wendy said.
“Also, if the department hadn’t taken so long (to process our visa application), this never would have happened.”
Waiting times for visas “a matter of urgency”
While the Remaining Relative visa has the longest wait time, at 50, processing times for many other visas have also skyrocketed over the past decade.
According to the Home Office, parent visas now take around 30 years to process, orphan visas 6.3 years and carer visas 4.5 years.
Long wait times for family and partner visas were the subject of a Senate investigation last year.
The final report of the inquiry, published in April this year, recommended that the Home Office develop a “long-term strategy to update its visa processing system” as an “urgent matter”.
While Labor Immigration Minister Andrew Giles declined to comment to 9news.com.au on the relative wait times remaining for visas, he said that solving the visa backlog left by the government coalition was an urgent priority.
“In terms of the extraordinary delays we have seen in visa processing, this is a real priority for me and for an Albanian Labor government,” Giles said.
“Whether it’s humanitarian visas, family reunification or qualified visas, we need to do much better.”
Nicola Clements has been waiting eight years for her remaining relative visa to be processed, having applied in 2014 after leaving the UK.
“It was the only visa I could apply for as I was not eligible for the qualified visa,” she said.
When Nicola first applied for the visa, he was told the wait would be 16 years. She said she was appalled when told a few years ago that the wait was now 50 years.
“I’m 53. If I have to wait 50 years for my visa to be processed, I’ll be dead by then.”
Nicola has since become carer for her 84-year-old mother, with whom she lives in Bunbury.
She said she had considered applying for a caregiver visa, but that would involve going through the visa process again and waiting the 4.5 years it takes, on average, to get a caregiver visa.
Nicola, who works in the health sector, said living on a bridging visa meant she was unable to buy her own house, despite having a down payment ready to go. do it.
“My immediate problem is housing, as I can’t get a long-term rental,” she said.
“Every year or two my mum and I have to move house. My mum is 84 and it’s a lot for her to keep moving.
“She keeps asking me, ‘When do you think we’re going to have to move again?'”
Nicola said living on a temporary visa was stressful and weighed on her mind.
“If they canceled my visa I would have to go back to the UK and leave mum, she would be drunk,” she said.
“I also wouldn’t have a job, a home, a family. I kind of lost touch with everyone there.
“I try not to push it away and not think about it because I get so depressed thinking about it.”
Contract journalist Emily McPherson at [email protected]