It was in June that Cristina Cristea found out her father Gheorghe had been diagnosed with stomach cancer.
After undergoing six rounds of chemotherapy, and it seeming that his condition was improving, the Melbourne resident learnt Gheorghe – who lives in his native Romania – had been rushed to hospital, with the prognosis being dire.
“The doctor saw him and said that, unfortunately, there’s nothing they can do for him. He cannot eat anymore, and he only has days left to live,” she said.
“My brother and the rest of my family back home are already planning his funeral.”
Despite her dad’s diagnosis, Ms Cristea is unable to fly home and say her last goodbyes, due to her visa restricting her being able to leave the country.
Ms Cristea is currently living in Australia on a bridging visa E. It will be cancelled if she leaves the country and she would have to wait three years to reapply for a visa in order to come back to Australia.
The Romanian citizen moved to Australia with her then-husband in 2011 on a 457 visa, but after the pair got divorced in 2015, she faced the risk of deportation.
After moving in with a new partner, she was placed on her current visa while she waits for a more permanent partner visa to be approved, which could take several months.
Ms Cristea now faces the agonising decision of choosing between starting a new family with her current partner, or saying goodbye to her dying father.
“It’s a very hard decision to make, having to choose between these two worlds,” she said.
“If I leave now, I won’t have the money to be able to apply for another visa as I’ve already spent $20,000 on visa fees, but I’ll probably regret it later on if I don’t go.”
Despite seeking help from immigration lawyers and writing to the Department of Immigration, Ms Cristea has not been able to gain an exemption that would allow her to leave the country.
“It’s hard to be here knowing that any message on my phone from my family could bring bad news,” she said.
As of September 30 this year, there are 30,111 people in Australia on a bridging visa E..
A spokesman for the Department of Immigration said there were different sets of conditions placed upon holders of the visas.
“A bridging visa E holder can depart Australia of their own volition at any time. However, if a BVE holder departs Australia, this visa will cease on their departure,” the spokesman said.
“Every visa has a prescribed criteria as set out in legislation. A BVE cannot be granted with travel authority.”
Ms Cristea said after exhausting all her options, she was still contemplating her decision.
“My partner, thankfully, is very supportive about all of this. It’s a very difficult situation with the visa situation,” she said.
“I sometimes think that my father is waiting for me to find a way to come to him.”
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