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Perth teen facing 50-year wait for permanent visa calls for change

Source: 9 News, 12/10/2020

By that time, Ms Passarini, 18, will be in her 60s. Her mother, Helen Johnson, who is also waiting on the outcome of the pair`s visa application, will be more than 100 years old.
When Ms Johnson applied for a remaining relative visa for her and her daughter in 2012, the processing time was about 10 years.
Since then, the waiting time has ballooned out to five times as long.
The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed to nine.com.au the current processing time for remaining relative visas is about 50 years.
Fleeing a volatile and dangerous family situation, Ms Passarini and her mother moved from Milan to Perth when she was nine-years-old.
`It happened very suddenly. My mum told me we were going about an hour before we left for the airport and I had to leave everything I had known behind,` Ms Passarini told nine.com.au.
The pair joined Ms Johnson`s mother and three siblings, as well as seven nieces and nephews.
Once in Australia, Ms Johnson enrolled to study and swapped from a visitor to a student visa, with the intention of qualifying for a permanent skilled visa once her studies were complete.
However, Ms Johnson`s deteriorating mental health meant she had to stop studying.
`This meant my mum had to apply for a different visa, and the only one left we were eligible for was the remaining relative visa,` Ms Passarini said.
The pair has lived in Australia on bridging visas ever since.
Ms Passarini finished high school last year and now hopes to go to university, but to do so would cost her about $90,000 in international student fees. (Supplied: Sara Passarini)
Despite not being a permanent resident, Ms Passarini, who finished Year 12 last year at High School, said she adapted to life in Perth quickly and soon came to call Australia home.
`Australia is definitely my home. I speak English now better than I speak Italian,` she said.
`I`ve done the majority of my schooling here. I`ve got all of my friends here. I don`t see myself living anywhere else.`
Applicants for the remaining relative visa are eligible for Medicare and can in some cases work, however usually with strict limitations.
The family had endured severe financial hardship over the years because of their visa status, Ms Passarini said.
Ms Passarini is classed as an international student and the family needed to pay high fees for her to attend her public primary school and high school.
`We`ve had a lot of financial struggles. It was about $63,000 for me to get through school here. My family in Italy helped because I had to finish high school, I had to get that qualification,` she said.
Ms Passarini is now working two casual jobs as a delivery driver, but said she desperately hoped to go to university next year.
However, as an international student, the fees for a degree would cost about $90,000.
`I want to go to university and have a career. But I will have to pay triple the amount of university fees as my friends, and I`ll have to pay it upfront because I`m not entitled to a HECS loan,` she said.
Ms Passarini said she felt trapped by her visa situation.
`I feel like I`m being pushed into a mould that isn`t who I am, all because of decisions adults made for me when I was a kid,` she said.
`But I don`t hold any grudges I just want to be able to study and be free to make a future for myself.`
Ms Passarini has started a petition appealing for her to be granted permanent residency. (Supplied: Sara Passarini)
Ms Passarini has started an online petition calling on Home Affairs to grant her permanent residency.
`To have to wait for 50 years is just not fair. They may as well not offer the visa at all, it just gives people false hope. I think something definitely needs to change, not just for me but for others in my situation,` she said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs declined to comment on Ms Passarini`s case, saying: `The Department does not comment on individual cases.`
Why is the wait for a remaining relative visa so long?
The remaining relative visa belongs to the `other family visa` category, along with the aged dependent relative visas, which also have a 50-year waiting period.
Under the Department of Home Affairs` migration planning levels for the 2019-2020 financial year, other family visas were capped at 500 places, down from 900 the year before.
The low numbers of visas granted in the category look unlikely to change for the current financial year.
While last weeks`s budget announced a large increase in the number of partner visas accommodated in this year`s migration planning levels, once they are taken out of the equation, the number of visas in the family stream appear to have decreased.
The Department of Home Affairs declined to answer nine.com.au`s questions about how many people are currently waiting for a remaining relative visa application to be processed.
However, a spokesperson for the department said: `The number of applications received each year for Remaining Relative visas outstrip the number of places available for each migration program year.`
Sanjay Deshwal has been a migration agent based in Sydney since 1996.
Mr Deshwal said in the past 25 years he had seen the waiting times increase exponentially for remaining relative visas.
`I have a case where we put in a remaining relative visa application in 2012. At that time it was showing eight to 10 years wait before the visa would be granted,` he said.
The case involved a Sri Lankan woman whose mother, brother and sister were all Australian citizens, he said.
`She was left in Sri Lanka with one 25-year-old son. Unfortunately, her son died in a car accident last year. She is the only one there and now it is showing up to 50 years wait,` Mr Deshwal said.
`So it is very cruel. It`s cruel for people to wait for so long.`
Mr Deshwal said he had noticed that over the years the number of visas allocated to the other family visa category under the government`s planning levels had reduced while some categories, which charged higher application fees, had grown.
For example, the number of places for the contributory parent visa, which comes with a $50,000 application fee, had increased, he said.
`The government seems to be focussed on getting money. On one side, we cannot blame the government because the economic situation is so hard, and a large number of people want to come, but definitely it puts a lot of pressure on people waiting for years and years.`

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