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Monday, May 8, 2017

Three numbers that have changed our lives

The process for obtaining visas to come to Australia was a bit atypical for us as compared to most. Since Aaron has a chronic illness – though he's lucky enough to be pretty healthy – our visa required Aaron to get a medical exam. It was a nerve-wracking process with almost no information / communication. After all, we were under contract to sell our house (YAY!), had booked flights, paid deposits to school, etc, etc, etc. and we had no idea if our move would happen or be blocked because of the health screening. Then one evening during a festive Hanukkah party at my sister-in-law's parents house our visas came through. With no warning. Just BOOM! We're really doing this! Sh*t got real.
Image courtesy of

We're here on the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) which allows skilled workers to come to Aust​ralia and work for an approved business for up to four years. This visa is commonly referred to as the "457" in Australia. As in "are you here on a 457?"

After all the waiting and uncertainty we experienced in December, there was a HUGE disruption to our lives while we were on our cruise in April.

During our trip, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced that the 457 visa will be abolished and replaced with a new work visa that is “manifestly, rigorously, resolutely conducted in the national interest.” Um. Okay. Deep breath.

PM Malcom Turnbull (L) and IM Peter Dutton (R) announcing plans
to scrap the 45 visa.  Image courtesy Kym Smith / NT News

So here we are, out of the country we reside in. Away from home. A new home, maybe sometimes unfamiliar, but still HOME. Will we be able to re-enter and get back home? Will we be detained at the border by immigration? Will we have to apply for a new visa? How will Aaron's Crohn's disease impact us staying?

Luckily, anyone already issued a 457 visa can continue on as usual. It took some patience to determine this (remember: we were on a cruise!) and though one of us was 100% certain we'd be welcomed back to Oz the other wasn't nearly as sure (Aaron’s note: I’ll let you all guess which one of us was more relaxed about this).

I hadn't previously thought of a label for our family during this experience. I guess temporary worker. But think about what that term means to you. And think about WHY you think of that meaning. This has made me incredibly introspective and cognitive about my own prejudice when I hear certain terms relating to immigration or job status and role.

We aren't immigrants as we're not seeking permanent residence (though I do love it here!). We also don’t think of ourselves as a class of people who are threats to take Australian jobs. We’re here legally with Aaron focused on building up an office that will add jobs to the Australian economy. We’re paying taxes and have insurance to cover our health issues. And we've been welcomed by the Australian people with open arms. 

Would we do the same in the US? Would it depend on where the foreigners hailed from? If they had insurance? If they had a high paying job v. a low paying one? No answers here, just lots of thoughts on the subject.

I've noted this before -- I pushed (hard!) for us to make this move. I wanted to push myself and our family outside of our comfort zone (cliche!). Taste new foods, experience a new culture, live on a different continent.

When did borders start to tighten? And why? Or have they been this way for some time and I just never noticed because it didn't impact me. And is that really the right attitude to have regarding immigration (or other, for that matter!) policy? "It's not going to impact me, why should I care?" But you know what? It might impact you one day. Or a friend. Or a neighbor. Or a child.

This isn't meant to stir up a political debate, but it's had me pondering for quite some time and I encourage you to think about these things, too. What is a “good” immigration policy? Why are so many people skeptical of immigrants? Why shouldn’t people that don’t live in our country of residence have the chance to experience what we experience? Aren’t nearly all of us descendants of immigrants?

You can point fingers many places, but sometimes we also have to look in the mirror. Are we really just scared...?

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