permanent residents

Unable to see their families for years, and with no end in sight, many are considering leaving Australia for good

Skilled migrants and graduates still trapped by border restrictions for bridging visa holders have condemned their “brutally unfair” treatment by the Australian government, saying it will drive away workers at a time of dire labour shortages.

The federal government has announced eased travel restrictions for the vast majority of temporary visa holders, allowing them to leave and enter Australia after being trapped amid the pandemic.

But travel restrictions remain for those who hold bridging visa B (BVB), which usually allows holders to live in Australia and travel abroad while they await government decisions on more permanent visas.

BVB holders have found themselves stuck in Australia due to a combination of blowouts in visa processing times and the border restrictions, which make it near impossible for them to enter the country or to re-enter after leaving.

That has left many, including skilled migrants waiting for permanent residency, in despair. Unable to see their families for years, and with no end in sight, many are considering leaving Australia permanently.

Muhammad, who was raised in the United Arab Emirates, was invited to Australia on the promise of a regional work visa as an engineer in the construction sector.

But he has been unable to leave Australia since the pandemic began, initially because he was on a temporary visa, and now because he is on a bridging visa, still awaiting the government’s final decision on his status.

Muhammad has not seen his family for three-and-a-half years, and was meant to get married abroad this year, but has been separated from his fiancee by the border restrictions.

His skills are crucial to a booming sector already short of skilled workers. But Muhammad said his mental health was seriously suffering and he was considering leaving the country for good.

“The very first reason why my parents moved to Australia … is they were moving to a better place for their family,” he said. “But it’s not a better place if you are not even getting your basic rights to see your family.”

Morrison announced this week the government was making it easier for working holidaymakers and students to come to Australia, in an effort to relieve workforce shortages caused by the pandemic.

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