By Jane Corpuz-Brock, Executive Officer, Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association
Migrant women are part of the exodus of populations coming from developing countries and most recently countries whose economy had fallen due to the global financial crisis. Many governments of developing countries, for example the Philippines had been using since the 1970s Labour-Export as strategy to reduce unemployment. It is unfortunate that recently World Bank is encouraging developing countries to follow the same strategy. The social cost of Labour-Export is very high in terms to the damage to the families left behind, to the brain drain that follows and the exploitation by employers in host countries, like Australia.
In my work with Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association, as volunteer to Migrant and Refugee Women for Human Rights (MRWHR) and Migrante Australia (Filipino Community organisation’s national alliance), I came across all aspects of issues that put pressures on the daily lives of migrant and refugee women in Australia.
Most often, especially in times of difficulties, the migration status of women from culturally and linguistically diverse background determines the level of access to services and other forms of assistance they could avail. The following are some of the visa types and the challenges the visa holders have to hurdle.
457 visa holders: People who have entered Australia with this visa are sponsored by employers. Their work visa is temporary and valid up to 4 years.Women on 457 visas and those accompanying partner or spouse to their husband - who are primary holders of 457 visas, are vulnerable to hardships due to lack of access to basic settlement assistance or social services. They pay their tax, if they have school-age children and are residing in New South Wales – they have to pay fees at the same rate as international students.
Partner visa holders: They have to wait for two years before they can lodge their final application for permanent residency. The two-year waiting period puts the partner visa holders in precarious situation. The jobs that most of them get are casual and contractual. There were anecdotal data that showed women who are on partner visa (temporary residency) do not have superannuation and annual leave. In times of family and domestic violence from their partner/sponsor, many women suffer in silence because the partners threaten to withdraw their sponsorship and therefore they will be deported.
457 visa holders
The Federal Labor Government has improved the 457 visa. For example, the visa holder now has the right to leave the employer-sponsor without having their visa cancelled. This change lifts one of the conditions that placed a 457 visa holder in a “bonded” – like situation.
There are many conditions on 457 visa that have to be reviewed:
- IELTS (English test) expiration must be removed for those 457 visa holders who have been working for one year
- change the tuition fee for dependents from international student’s fee to local student’s fee
- put the 457 visa in permanent residency framework. It should be a permanent residency and not temporary residency. This will lift all bonded-like work situation that are woven in the 457 visa regulations.
Partner visa holders
Before 1991, anyone who married or was in a de-facto and interdependent relationship with permanent resident or Australian citizen is granted permanent residency when their application for residency in Australia is approved. The Australian government at that time made this change due to the abuse of this visa. There are data gathered by the Department of Immigration that indicates that serial sponsors and mail-order-bride businesses are exploiting the visa.
The two-year waiting period of this visa must be reviewed. There are more advanced methods of assessing visa applications and therefore this visa must be reversed and the successful partner visa applicants must be granted permanent residency. The two-year waiting period must be cancelled.
This article is authored by Jane Corpuz-Brock, Executive Officer, Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association. More information about Jane Corpuz-Brock