• Already 11,200 people have signed a petition calling for a one-off migration policy for temporary visa holders
  • New Zealand and Canada created pathways to residency for thousands who lived there during the pandemic
  • A parliamentary committee has recommended some temporary visa holders be given clearer pathways to permanent residency 

Annie Cao knows a bit about COVID-19 — she’s had 13 tests for the virus and spent multiple stints in self-isolation.

The 24-year-old nurse has been working on the frontline in a Victorian hospital since the pandemic started.

From taking care of suspected COVID-19 cases in the emergency department to helping control an outbreak at a recovery centre, the former international student has been fighting fear and fatigue in an overwhelming working environment.

Not to mention dealing with her own, long-term back injury.

But one thing has been hanging over her head for nearly two years that has been more testing than almost everything else: She has to leave Australia in 2023 when her temporary graduate visa expires.

“Every now and then I am dealing with anxiety. Sometimes you just can’t help crying at night,” Ms Cao told the ABC.

“The clock is ticking. You feel helpless at night because there is no way to plan your own life and future. And a huge concern is always there.”

Ms Cao was born in Shanghai and grew up in Taiwan and Macau. She said Melbourne was her “second home” because she had lived in the city for more than eight years. Ms Cao is one of 11,200 people who signed a petition this month, calling on the federal government to introduce a one-off migration policy for temporary visa holders in Australia, especially those who have contributed throughout the pandemic. The petition says many temporary residents working in hospitals, aged-care centres, childcare centres and supermarkets are losing hope that they will be able to stay in Australia as the expiration of their visas loom. “Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Australian government have recently acknowledged that migration is crucial to economic recovery after the pandemic,” the petition said.


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