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Aussies Stuck Abroad

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Erin (USA to NSW)

I was booked to renew my visa in Sydney in March, as well as attend my best friend's wedding. ScoMo made the announcement that anyone returning to Aus from overseas would have to quarantine in 8 hours from the announcement.

My flight was 12 hours later. That means I would have missed my visa appointment (which was cancelled in any case, and the wedding as well). After spending EIGHT hours on the phone to Qantas, they agreed to give me a voucher for my flights to be used before August, but only flights which exceeded this value (flights were about a quarter of the price).

I booked again, for the end of June (only JUST making it in time for my visa to not expire) and had to spend an extra 3 grand on return business class tickets to satisfy visa conditions. This flight (all Qantas flights) from the USA to Aus were then cancelled.

Meanwhile, my visa expired.

My lease is only for the term of my visa, so that also expired. My company were great in retaining good immigration attorneys, so I'm in a 240 day “in-country” visa renewal period, where I can't sign a new lease or leave the country until I'm either granted or denied a new visa. Next, Qantas took 3 months to refund me for my flights (up to almost $5,000 USD out of pocket), and would only issue to an international bank account I no longer had immediate access to, and then had to pay to transfer back out of.

My Nanna in Australia is not well, and we have always done Christmas BIG, and very traditionally. More than anything, now I'm just trying to get home for her, and have my eyes on flights home to spend Christmas with her, US visa and Australian flight cap dependent, of course.

All I keep thinking is, what if I didn't have a partner? I would be homeless. What if work wasn't helping out with immigration attorneys? I would be burning through my savings I may need for business class flights and quarantine expenses paying for them to process my visa (along with being homeless).

What happens if my visa is denied, but I can't get into Australia because of the flight caps? Will I be held in detention? There are definitely in a better position than alot of people, but I've been away from home for 6 years now and am really struggling with the thought that I don't know when I'll see my family again more than anything else (on top of the aforementioned practical difficulties in getting home).

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Naomi (United States to Queensland)

We came to the USA in mid-2018 to undertake medical treatment for our two sons. My husband also needs medication that is not on the PBS in Australia which costs 20K AUD per year – registration on the PBS is expected to begin late 2020.

We’ve been finishing up our medical treatments and waiting for the PBS listing..

Our older son is also due to start high school in early 2020, and financially we need to move back to Australia to move forward in our lives after a costly, medical-based relocation.

Naomi (Spain to NSW)

I am homeless and jobless and trying to finish a uni degree in Australian time zones – 3am, 4am classes.

Brenda F (Ireland to Victoria)

I am a dual citizen of Ireland and Australia. I left Australia on 10th July as my mama who lives in Ireland had a cardiac arrest, she then passed away on the 12th July. I was welcomed into my home country with no issues.

I had flights booked to return to Melbourne in September, where I work (as an essential worker) and study, and have done for the last 12 years. My flights were changed and then cancelled.

I have been rebooked for October into Sydney.

I hope to get back on this flight as like many other Australians stranded overseas the Australian government are placing vulnerable citizens under financial burden and emotional distress. We are seen as a threat.

There has been a lack of compassion, support and empathy for stranded Australians.

Tracy (Germany to Western Australia)

We wanted to go home early this year. So my bf quit his job as he has to give 3 months notice. When I went to the doctor to ask how to fly safer as I had asthma, he said I should not fly as I have asthma and a high bmi.

So we decided not to leave in April and wait to see if my asthma got better. My bfs company would not take back his resignation and he had to lose his job. He found a new job in Perth and so now I have decided to quit my job and fly back in October. Because he already was without one and the job in Perth said they wouldn’t wait. So we have booked business class as that’s what the airline said to do. 15k I. Flights.

We were saving this for a house deposit. Not we might not even be able to fly back and I had to also give notice at my job as we have booked flights. We are lucky that we have families that if we loose my job and the flight is canceled can help us out. It’s just the unknown. If I knew the flight I going to be canceled I’d keep my job but you can’t know and I have to quit. So here is hoping we get home! Thanks for reading all this!!

Sarah (United States to New South Wales)

“We were in the US on my E3 visa – we have been there for over two years. My partner is on an E3D visa. We were renewing my E3 visa in March in the UK and became stuck due to Covid.

We had to make it back to the US as soon as possible as my husband’s EAD was due to expire in September. We were able to get back at the end of May and applied for the EAD immediately upon entering the country.
A couple of weeks later Trump announced the ban of many international visas which resulted in furloughs at USCIS and increased processing times.

We were told that we might have to wait up to a year for my husband’s EAD to be approved.

At this point I’d also found out I was pregnant. My husband’s work said he would lose his job if the EAD hadn’t arrived by November but that was also the time I was no longer able to fly. We would also lose our health insurance.

It was too much of a risk to stay in the country as potentially my husband wouldn’t be able to work for 12 months and I don’t get paid maternity leave.

My husband’s work agreed to let him work from Australia (as we are both citizens) and we decided to come back as it really felt like the only option.

We were planning on remaining in the US for at least three more years but due to the issues with the USCIS we had to give up on that dream.

We were so lucky our flight wasn’t cancelled and we have been placed in the Hilton which has great rooms and amazing food. We are happy to be back but it feels very bitter sweet.”

Keera S (United States to Victoria)

I have lived the US for 10 years. I recently got a divorce so I decided to move home. I had flights booked through Fiji but I noticed that my layover in lax was changed from 5 hours to 1 month.

A few days later my travel agency informed me they had canceled all their flights. I booked tickets through Qatar. this last Friday my travel agents called to confirm my flight for Thursday and they were told it had been cancelled.

They did not notify us of the cancelation at all. I now have tickets booked through delta to get to Sydney on Friday.

All my tickets have been business class as I have heard its the only way to get back in the country. i just want to get home so I can be with family. I'm alone here with no support.

I'm hoping i can get there.

Chipangamate (Zimbabwe to South Australia)

We booked our flights in March for travel on the 31st 2020. The flights were cancelled due to Covid and we are still waiting for a refund

We rebooked in June when Qatar resumed Harare Addis Doha then Melbourne.The initial flight before the cap was cancelled by Qatar and the international caps were introduced.We have been bumped off flights endless times .Its even worse that my wife and Twitter kids are in Australia and l am in Zimbabwe with the other two kids aged 13 and 18 now .My family is being torn apart with the separation and the financial burden of rebooking flights that never materialised.

My 8year old son had a breakdown at school assembly in Adelaide when he was reading a Father’s Day message.He told the teachers that he is very upset that his Daddy can’t get home for Fathers Day .I have the video and it broke my heart.We urge the government to have mercy on families that have been separated for too long .My family is traumatised by the separation.My wife is the only breadwinner and can not afford business class for the three of us .Hoping that the PM will have mercy on us and especially our 8 year old son who is now breaking down over the separation.

Gosia (Poland to Victoria)

Came to Poland as a family of 4 with intent of staying a year, getting work experience and teach my kids second language from the country O was born in. Had flights booked in May 20 for September 20 travel when borders in Poland opened and situation back in Australia was stable.

With introduction of flight caps, our flights in September have been cancelled and rescheduled 3 times now with the 4th option to travel in end October 2020. We have a mortgaged poroperty in Melbourne where we lived for 11 years up until 2019 and we need to return to get work and continue repay the home loan. We are loosing tenants in September 2020 when we were due to come back. We have made another booking with Premier Economy 4x the normal cost for my husband to return on 6th September alone and take care of the bills. Up to today 2nd September, we dont know if he gets to fly and doesnt get bumped off his flight.

Any refund from the cancelled flight will take up to 10 weeks and there are no seats until November 2020 now. He still doesnt have a visa to work in Poland and no rights. I already moved out from our rental property and living with relatives thinking it will only be for few weeks before our flight. Now we are stuck for at least few months.

Australia has to remove the caps and allow Australians to self isolate at home. All other countries have done that and it worked.

I am disappointed to be Australian now.

Anonymous (USA to Victoria)

Earlier this year I started seriously looking into moving back to Australia – after 9 years in NYC. Aging parents, tiring of being an expat, wanting to feel more anchored etc. As covid hit and Scott Morrison made announcements about returning ASAP, I wondered whether that was my trigger to move.

But – I'd just signed a new lease, was due to deliver two 12 month projects I'd been leading within a few months, and my travel agent advised me that I'd probably need to book a flight within a few a days. I simply couldn't wrap all of that in such a short time, logistically or emotionally.

As the covid months have passed I've been thinking more and more about returning, but at the same time it's become more and more restrictive to return. I'm now feeling really stressed by not seeing my family for Christmas (I can't spend 2 weeks of PTO in a hotel room then turn around and fly back), plus the sheer, impossible price of flights now plus quarantine hotel fees. I have a Qantas return flight from my last Christmas trip to Australia, but it looks like that will be useless now.

I can't really do any legwork to explore jobs back in Australia because I can't tell anyone when I'll be able to come back. Knowing that there's already a huge backlog of Australians trying to get back with truly urgent reasons is also a cause for huge concern.

I feel trapped here, like I can't move ahead with my life – when by law, I should be able to return to the country I was born in and have a passport for.

Keren N (United Kingdom to Victoria)

Getting to the point of flying was traumatic to say the least. It would take an entire essay to explain every component. We found out our visa exemption status would not be supported past 31st July right as Boris Johnson told the UK to stay home, save lives. Scott Morrison (despite lying recently and saying he told all Australians to return immediately in March) also told expat Aussies to stay put if it was safe to do so, so we did.

It also takes several months to pack up an entire life, including 4 teenagers in school. I gave notice to resign at the end of June for my job. My eldest son gave notice for his job. We began sourcing shipping companies, etc. Our puppy had to be rehomed after failing to meet Australian immigration standards with her rabies vaccine. My kids had to break off relationships with their partners.

One child is leaving aged 18 with no qualification to get into university as he had to leave without having sat the exams. I had a cancer scare in amongst the whole process. My daughter had to postpone three operations that will eventually enable to her to walk unaided for the rest of her life, as her surgeons weren’t allowed to practice anything other than covd related medicine.

We packed up our home and moved out, and the flight bumping began. We were homeless for a period, moving three times in 5 days at one point. We had flight bookings deleted. We had flight bookings cancelled. And then we had the flights we were kicked off due to prioritising business passengers (and yes, we were told this repeatedly by Qatar staff until the messaging changed and they weren’t allowed to admit that anymore). We began to despair after the 4th time we were bumped, and Scott Morrison announced the caps would stay in place until the 24th October.

Shame on him.

We have never before felt so abandoned, so baseless and so rejected.

Our visa exemption had long expired, but the UK government kindly granted us month to month temporary permission to stay. We began to look for temporary accommodation that we could live in for the foreseeable future. My husband decided to reach out to as many contacts as he could, and we began fighting for 6 seats on a plane. I hated that we did that.

By nature we are kind and empathetic people who try and out others needs first. Yet here we were, fighting for something we knew others desperately needed and wanted as well. After shaking a lot of ground, and attaching supporting documents to the airline, we were offered 6 economy seats for the 14th august. We packed and went to the airport, having been told we may still get bumped at Check-in. We checked in. I sobbed tears of relief. We rang family back home, and they sobbed with us. We are now in quarantine, on day 11.

We are grateful and so happy to be back, yet still so broken that this has happened and is continuing to happen. As we were waiting to be escorted into our hotel in Sydney, a group of young men passed by us and booed, shouting and flipping the middle finger.

Thanks Mr Morrison for completely choosing not to acknowledge what so many of your citizens are experiencing right now, for failing to lead when we desperately need a strong advocate and for allowing the media to portray us as disease-carrying parasites who didn’t do what we were told. Circumstances change. Peoples lives change. Ours did.

I will continue to be a proud Australian, showing the rest of the world the best of who Aussies are and can be, and raise my kids to be honest, hard working citizens who also represent the best of Australia. That is the Australian way. Camaraderie. Mateship. True blue Aussie kindness from strangers. Not this. Never this. Change the story Mr. Prime Minister. There’s always time to right a wrong.

Bella (Saudi Arabia to Queensland)

Traveling with 3 kids on my own. My husband is trying to get a job but we have 60 days to leave the country as Saudi laws. My dog can’t come with is as it supposed to stay here for 5 months more to be allowed to travel to Australia. No school since March 9th. Embassy give information only through Facebook page. Not help at all from anyone

We need help.

Josh Pugh

Josh Pugh

Josh is a business founding, digital marketing focused, charity driving, community builder from South Australia, living in New York City. After moving in 2017, Josh realized that there was an opportunity to curate and help the community of expats who moved to the United States – and launched America Josh. Josh is also the President of Variety – the Children's Charity of New York, Secretary at The Mateship Foundation, and Founder & CEO at Fortnight Digital.View Author posts

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