COVID-19 will have an irreversible effect on our lives. Numerous businesses have been shuttered or are on the verge of being shuttered. The economy has sustained irreversible damage. Our lives have shifted dramatically. “Lockdown” is a term that has been coined. International travel restrictions on an unprecedented scale took effect. Between all these worst-case scenarios, however, the temporary visa (485 Visa) holders were stranded overseas when the borders were closed. For them, all their Australian dreams and years of hard work spent completing their studies in Australia have been crushed.
International students spend over $20,000 per year on living expenses in addition to their high tuition fees, and upon graduation, they qualify for the 485 visa, also known as the Temporary Graduate Visa (TGV). The visa is valid for 18 months to four years, while residents of Hong Kong have a five-year stay. The 485 visa is critical for international students because it enables them to gain valuable work experience in Australia on an equal footing. The Temporary Graduate Visa, which can be applied for only once in a lifetime, is also a possible path to permanent residency.
At this point, over 9,000 temporary graduate visa holders are stranded overseas, uncertain of their future ability to live and work in Australia. Currently, those living offshore on 485 visas cannot extend, freeze, or reapply for the visa. The government has allowed international students to apply for TGVs while offshore due to COVID-19, but this does not help the thousands of people who already have a TGV but are stuck overseas as their visas expire.
From August 1, 2020, approximately 9,900 people on TGVs applied for a travel exemption to enter Australia, but only 344 were approved. Over 9,200 applications were denied. Even though many 485 visa holders meet the criteria, they are not good enough to qualify for the exemption.
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Alex Hawke told the ABC: “The impact of the pandemic on the migration program is the subject of the ongoing review. Any future changes will be announced in due course.”
According to an ABC report, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Alex Hawke stated: “The pandemic’s impact on the migration programme is currently being assessed. Any future changes will be communicated in a timely manner.”
It is not their fault that they were outside the country when the borders closed, and the government should automatically extend 485 visas to holders who are stranded abroad. Some of the 485 stranded visa holders have formed a social media group to bring people together and raise their voices. Furthermore, the complainants created the hashtag #visa485livesmatter. Numerous people are losing hope daily; they continue to attempt to rally them and keep hope alive.
Equality affirms that all humans are born free and equal. Equality presupposes that all individuals have equal rights and are deserving of equal respect. Every individual has the right to be treated equally. This means that laws, policies, and programmes should not be discriminatory and that public authorities should not apply or enforce laws, policies, and programmes in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner. However, in the context of 485 visa holders stranded overseas due to a pandemic and border closures, the government is violating all fundamental human rights and refusing to provide a fair chance. We pray for them and demand of the Australian government that 485 visa holders who were stranded abroad due to travel restrictions be given a fair opportunity to return to Australia and resume their lives as they left them prior to COVID-19.
– Kanwaljeet Singh