Zanda Akhvlediani at her home. Photo: Mona Chatskin
A Georgian immigrant is restricted from returning home to visit her dying husband, as she patiently awaits her Permanent Residency visa.
Two weeks ago Zanda Akhvlediani’s husband was diagnosed with liver cancer, she cannot visit him due to being unable to leave the country on a Bridging visa.
Mrs Akhvlediani, from Tbilisi, Georgia, immigrated to Australia three years ago on a Business visa.
During her time in Australia, Mrs Akhvlediani has been working and contributing towards Australian society. She sends almost all the money she makes back to her family in Tbilisi, where her two sons and husband live.
This is one of many circumstances which highlights the exceedingly slow immigration process.
Case Officer, Partner Migration Second stage, Valerie Korn from the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship attests that there is nothing Mrs Akhvlediani can do except apply for an alternative visa.
“The department doesn’t change its rules for special circumstances,” Mrs Korn said.
While there is nothing that can be done for Mrs Akhvlediani, future circumstances can be prevented if the visa application process is hastened.
When asked if there is anything the Australian government can do, Mrs Korn said, “Obviously they (government) can do something. To start with, they can employ more people who process visas. But they are currently cutting jobs at the Department of Immigration, like everywhere else in Australia.”
Cutting jobs prophesises an even slower process of approving visas.
Approximately 190,000 visas are distributed each year, with 27,000 alone being designated to Partner Migration visas.
“The Australian government’s view is that they want more young and skilled migrants in Australia. That way they can have more people that can contribute to society by working and paying taxes,” Mrs Korn said.
The Migration Programme statistics report found that 68 per cent of migrants are skilled migrants, and 32 per cent are from family visa streams.
For Mrs Korn’s auntie, who is on the waiting list for a Remaining Relative visa, the official waiting period is 56 years. Thus further epitomising the laborious immigration process.
The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship aims “to welcome and integrate successfully millions of people from many ethnic groups and cultural traditions”.
Despite the hardship Mrs Akhvlediani is faced with, she still says “people dream of this country…I don’t think there is any country like this”.
Mrs Akhvlediani’s immigration story exemplifies the extreme lengths foreigners take to come to Australia.
“I had to ‘toe the line’ and pay someone money in Georgia to speed up the application process for a visa,” Mrs Akhvlediani said.
Mrs Akhvlediani “wanted a new start for myself and my family”, and chose for that start to begin in Australia.
The ‘Life in Australia’ handbook published by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, boasts Australia’s “compassion for those in need” and “a strong tradition of ‘mateship’”. These are essential notions of support for individuals like Mrs Akhvlediani.
“Here you feel like a person…You feel free,” Mrs Akhvlediani said.