Occasionally here at Visa Solutions Australia, we meet people who are in desperate situations and in urgent need of help and facing the threat of deportation. This happened recently with Conway Dean - a 58 year-old welder from Bindoon in Western Australia.
Conway put out an appeal on a '457 support group' on Facebook after a long-running battle and protracted problems with immigration officials. He has been in Australia for over ten years and had spent some of his childhood here, but despite this, he believes an administration error nearly cost him his right to stay in this country.
Dan Engles, the Managing Director of Visa Solutions Australia saw the post and offered his help. "It was a complicated and protracted situation, but when I saw Conway's please on the Facebook page, I knew we could be of assistance."
Making the decision to emigrate to Australia
Conway Dean arrived in Western Australia in 2006 with his wife Tracy and daughter Bethan from England. His brother was already here and as a family, following several enjoyable holidays, they decided to emigrate.
"I'd come over with my parents as a ten-pound Pom, I spent five years here and then my parents moved back to England. I had always been lured by Australia, it draws you in, the people are friendly, it's a beautiful place."
He was granted a 457 visa and managed to find work immediately as a welder/fabricator with an industrial shed company. After two years he applied for permanent residency.
Permanent residency refused
Conway's company said that it would sponsor him for permanent residency. The paperwork went in and the Department of Immigration and Border Control cashed the $3,000 cheque. But after a few months, Conway was told that because he had just turned 50 and he had no qualifications in welding, they couldn't process the application and he was advised to apply for a 457 visa instead.
So, with this advice, he applied for a further 457 visa and was granted one. He moved jobs, and his new employer, an electrical company, was happy to take on his sponsorship. When it was time for his 457 to be renewed once more, he went to his HR department. The necessary paperwork was lodged but immigration officials informed the company that Conway had got his dates wrong and his current 457 ran out in October 2015, not May 2015. This mean the application was put on hold and not submitted.
His wife denied entry when arriving back in Australia
That winter, his Father-in-law fell ill with cancer and his wife made a mercy trip back to England. On her way back, she was stopped by immigration officials and was told her visa had run out. It appear that immigration officials had misinformed his employer about the correct expiry date.
Conway, his wife and their teenage daughter were in Australia illegally. Conway went to the immigration department to sort it out and said he was treated like a criminal.
"I had so many questions I wanted to ask them, but they told me I was in the country illegally and that if I didn't cooperate I could face a holding cell and ultimately deportation," said Conway. "I had to stop working and while I was trying to sort everything out I survived on holiday leave pay. I was put on a bridging visa, it was an anxious worrying time. After six weeks, immigration officers told me that I could go back to work."
Lodging an appeal
Conway couldn't remain on the bridging visa. He had to appeal against the decision not to grant him a 457 visa. He lodged an appeal and in January this year his case was assessed. He was told that he had defaulted, because he had not reviewed his 457 in time. However, he was thrown a lifeline and offered a fortnight's grace to seek specialist help
Visa Solutions Australia gets involved with Conway's case
With so much to lose, Conway went public with his situation on the '457 Facebook page'.
"It was the weekend and I wasn't expecting a response from Dan but VSA contacted me by phone. On the Monday, we met in person and we started putting the wheels in motion to move things forward. I am now on a tourist visa for three months and am still able to work, which means I still have an income."
"You can imagine how much money I have spent on visa fees to the Australian Immigration Department over the years. My current employer has said that it will sponsor me for another 457 visa, but it will be backdated to 2015 when my last visa ran out, so it will only take me to 2019."
"I want to thank Dan and his team, as they really pulled out all the stops to help me. It's not resolved yet but the future looks a lot rosier than it did a month ago. I have every confidence I will be successful."
"I've left family behind, I believe Australia offers a better future for us all and whatever it takes I am determined to stay here."
P.S. Conway has been granted a substantive visa by the Minister of Immigration and he will be moving forward with his 457 visa application.