Most of us will never have heard of section 128 of the Migration Act 1958. This piece of Australian legislation allows the Immigration Minister to cancel your visa without notice while you are outside of the country. The Minister can do this once satisfied there is a reasonable ground for the cancellation. Unfortunately, this fate has befallen over 3000 temporary graduate visa holders who remain stranded in India.
One unlucky graduate is Akshdeep Singh, who travelled back to India to visit his family in Punjab, just days after receiving a two-year Australian Skilled Graduate Visa. The graduate visa system allows international students to live, work, and study further after completing a degree in Australia. However, on 20th March 2020, Australia closed its international borders. This has prevented all but Australian citizens and permanent residents from returning, including Akshdeep. Earlier this year, he wrote emails to Alex Hawke (Immigration Minister) and Karen Andrews (Home Affairs Minister) seeking an extension of his visa. Unfortunately, the responses were not positive; they informed him they were not considering a visa extension for him and almost 500 others in the same situation.
Their position is that all non-citizens who wish to enter or remain in Australia must satisfy the requirements of the Migration Act and the Migration Regulations. These include verifying identity, health, character, and other various security requirements. However, for Akshdeep and others stuck in India, this would mean giving up on all they have achieved so far. Frustrated with the department’s response, Akashdeep wrote an email venting out, which sarcastically stated that they might as well cancel his visa if they were not going to grant him an extension. Notably, there is a voluntary provision to sacrifice your visa by writing to the Minister. His request was considered in all seriousness by the Immigration department, and Akashdeep’s visa was cancelled. This came as quite a jolt to Akashdeep, who then requested to reverse this decision; however, he was unsuccessful in his plea.
With the current impasse and border restrictions, those affected will have to wait and see how Australian visa rules play out. One thing is for sure; one must never write sarcastic emails to the Immigration department lest they are prepared for the consequences.