A British woman who has lived in Australia for 11 years is facing deportation after her visa was denied because her employer sold the company she works for.
Belinda Checkley, 36, first came to Down Under in 2012 as a backpacker on a working holiday visa and fell ‘instantly’ in love with Byron Bay.
After working on a farm for three months, Ms. Checkley studied hospitality management before taking a job in the New South Wales tourist town and working her way up to pub manager.
But in 2018, the cafe changed hands and her visa was revoked.
Despite more than 20,000 people signing a petition to allow the Briton to stay in Australia, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has not acted, meaning she will be deported in less than a week.
Belinda Checkley, 36, first came to Down Under in 2012 as a backpacker on a working holiday visa and ‘immediately’ fell in love with Byron Bay
Ms Checkley and her partner Julian, who is Australian, now face a move abroad as her temporary bridging visa expires on Tuesday.
She says she has built a “beautiful life” in Byron Bay and has “no life” in the UK.
‘I worked hard to build a secure future and my goal was to get permanent residency.
“It has been a long journey – one filled with countless personal, emotional and financial sacrifices – to work within the Australian immigration system,” she says. change.org petition explains.
After living happily in Australia for six years, she was told in 2018 that her visa had been rejected. She later discovered that her migration lawyer had submitted the application on her behalf and had not completed the paperwork correctly.
She found a new lawyer and appealed to the Appeals Board (AAT).
After working on a farm for three months, Ms Checkley studied hospitality management before taking a job in the New South Wales tourist town and working her way up to pub manager
At the same time, Mrs. Checkley was beset by personal tragedy when her partner committed suicide.
“This was an incredibly painful experience and it’s something that will stay with me forever,” she explained.
“The magnitude of the love and support I received from my incredible friends and members of the local community was a clear testament to the fact that this beautiful city is truly my home.”
While processing her grief, Checkley faced another setback when her employers sold the cafe where she worked.
This led to the immediate revocation of her visa.
“I appealed to the Immigration Department on this unique set of circumstances,” she explained.
After living happily in Australia for six years, she was told in 2018 that her visa had been rejected. She later discovered that her migration lawyer had submitted her application on her behalf and had not done the paperwork correctly
My case rose to the level of ministerial intervention – to be judged personally by the immigration minister himself.
“So for another two full years — during the pandemic — I lived, worked hard, and anxiously waited for an outcome.
“And last Christmas I got one: my appeal was also rejected by the Department of Immigration without further review.
‘I was told there was no option to apply for an alternative visa while still living in Australia.
“And I had three months to prepare my deportation. Once outside the Australian borders, I would not be allowed to enter the country again for the next three years.’
Mrs Checkley is now appealing for public support to stay, with many Byron Bay residents speaking out for her place in the community
Ms Checkley is now appealing for public support to stay, with many Byron Bay residents speaking out for her place in the community.
“I gave 11 years of my life to this country. It’s surreal and unfathomable to rebuild my life after years of hard work and dedication,” she explained.
‘I am a hard-working, law-abiding and productive member of Australian society. I work in an industry that is desperate for talented and reliable employees.
“I have proven myself time and time again and sacrificed so much to call this place my home. My only crime is that I was not born here.
‘I came, like so many of us still in Byron Bay, as a backpacker in my twenties. I loved it and never left. I am now 36 years old, settled and trying to start my own family with my partner who grew up here.
‘I have no life in the UK. It’s a cold and distant memory.’