Adnan’s Story: Waiting a decade for family reunion

At IARC, a large part of what we do is centered around family reunion in Australia. Unfortunately, we’ve seen in our work that the immigration system can often be complex, expensive and slow, and the legal path to family reunion can cross through many different areas of immigration law. As the only immigration legal centre in New South Wales that can assist with all areas of immigration law, we’re uniquely able to support people experiencing vulnerability to reunite their families in Australia.

Adnan* has been a client with IARC for nearly a decade. His long story highlights many of the issues with Australia’s immigration system, particularly for people already experiencing vulnerability. Adnan was first brought to Australia in 2011 to give evidence in a criminal case. When it became unsafe for him to return to his country of origin, Adnan was forced to apply for a protection visa to stay in Australia. The wait was intensely distressing, stretching from months to years. Following a mental health crisis, Adnan was first brought in contact with IARC in 2014.

Adnan was first brought in contact with IARC in 2014.

Our solicitors were able to assist Adnan in furthering his application, consulting with him to understand the unique sensitivities of his situation. After several years of waiting, Adnan was finally granted permanent protection to remain in Australia. But though Adnan had been granted permanent residency, he was unable to return to his home country to visit his family, due to his fears of persecution. He worried about the safety of his family and hoped to be reunited with them.

In 2016, IARC assisted Adnan in applying for a partner visa to bring his wife Amani and their son Ibrahim to Australia. Yet, there were more barriers to overcome for Amani to be approved for a partner visa. Years prior, Amani was involved in a car accident that left her paraplegic. On the grounds of her disability and care needs, Amani did not meet the health criteria for a partner visa.

IARC fought for a waiver of the health criteria for Amani, given the compelling and compassionate circumstances of the case. Thankfully, we were successful in this application, and at last Adnan and his wife were reunited in Australia in 2018.

Adnan and his wife were reunited in Australia in 2018.

Despite this incredible result, their son Ibrahim was not deemed to be dependent on his parents and was therefore not granted a visa as part of his application. Although IARC went to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to fight for Ibrahim to be granted the partner visa as a dependent family member, the appeal was unsuccessful.

Adnan’s family’s options to be reunited were dwindling. To contest the Tribunal’s findings at the Federal Court would be too costly for Adnan, and the wait time of three years to have the matter heard was significant. For far too many people navigating Australia’s immigration system, this represents the end of the road for family reunion.

Soon after arriving in Australia, Amani suffered a stroke.

But the family’s troubles were not over. Soon after arriving in Australia, Amani suffered a stroke that permanently impacted her health, meaning that she would require 24-hour care. Ibrahim’s need to reunite with his family had become even more pressing; while Adnan started to care for his wife full-time, his age and own health issues meant that he urgently needed additional support so that his wife could access the proper care that she needed and deserved. As such, IARC assisted Amani to sponsor Ibrahim for a carer visa in 2018, to assist in managing her substantial care needs in Australia.

At the time, the wait time for a carer visa was around five years, so IARC helped Ibrahim to apply for a visitor visa to visit his parents while he waited for a decision to be made on his carer visa application. Given his mother’s significant health issues and disability, Ibrahim travelling to Australia would be the only way the family could spend time together, even briefly.

Ibrahim’s visitor visa application was refused.

Unfortunately, Ibrahim’s visitor visa application was refused. Making an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal had a significant fee of around $1,800 – more than half of Ibrahim’s net worth at the time, including his clothes and belongings. While the Tribunal initially refused the fee waiver request, the waiver was ultimately granted after IARC fought to escalate the matter to the Deputy President of the AAT, allowing Ibrahim to exercise his right to appeal.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Adnan experienced workplace exploitation, being paid an astonishing $4 an hour to gather supermarket trolleys. During work, he was randomly assaulted and was unable to seek redress as he was not properly employed. After the assault, his ability to care for his wife was significantly impacted, making it even more vital for his son Ibrahim’s carer visa to be granted.

In Australia, Adnan was paid $4 an hour to gather supermarket trolleys.

Three years passed and in 2020, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal remitted the decision to the Department of Home Affairs. After another two-year wait, the Department finally granted the visitor visa. But there was a catch – Ibrahim would have to pay a discretionary $20,000 bond, much more than the limit of $15,000 indicated in policy. This amount would be well beyond the financial capacity of many Australians seeking to spend time with their family members, and Adnan had to borrow money to cover the amount requested.

Ibrahim finally arrived in Australia in April 2022, on a temporary visitor visa. The family were finally reunited for the first time in 10 years, albeit temporarily. With IARC’s support, Adnan and Amani had also been successful in acquiring Australian citizenship.

In May 2023, Ibrahim’s carer visa was granted at last. In the coming months, he will be coming to Australia to permanently reunite with his family.

In May 2023, Ibrahim’s carer visa was granted at last.

While there is much to celebrate, Adnan’s family’s story highlights the incredibly challenging nature of family reunions in Australia. People have a right to family and the current caps on family visas mean this is not possible. After eleven years, four visa applications, thousands of dollars and untold emotional strain, Adnan is one of the lucky ones.

*All names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.