Review rights and processing times of people on Bridging Visas
Bridging visas are granted to applicants of various visas (mostly Australian permanent residency) to allow them to live legally in Australia while awaiting processing of their visa applications. People on bridging visas end up on a bizarre no-mans-land as they attempt to support themselves in Australia while receiving far less assistance for an indefinite amount of time.
Like Australian citizens and permanent residents, those on Bridging Visas:
* Are subject to the same tax laws, as they are counted as Australian residents for tax purposes
* Receive Medicare, though on interim basis (applicants are advised to also get private heath coverage)
* Work and study unlimited hours in Australia
Unlike Australian permanent residents and citizens, however, Bridging visa holders CANNOT:
* Apply for permanent jobs in civil service
* Apply for other jobs that demand an "end visa date" (which bridging visas do not have)
* Apply for scholarships and grants
* Apply for non-monetary support that is funded by an Australian government body (e.g. arts mentorship programs funded by the Australia Council)
* Apply for a credit card unless their income is $50,000/year and over
* Apply for loans
* Apply for Centrelink assistance (financial or non-financial, such as Job Support)
* Leave the country for more than three months at a time without renewing the visa (at cost to the applicant)
* Reliably apply for jobs, as various companies decline to hire those on bridging visas despite them legally being available to work
* Undertake tertiary study on domestic student fees (nor receive HECS)
There are also inconsistencies with bridging visa rights: for example, my area was affected by the early 2011 Queensland floods, which made me eligible for the Centrelink $1000 support payout. The Centrelink officer had to hold my application under review but told me that people on student visas and working holiday visas, as well as a British applicant on a bridging visa, had received the money. A few weeks later I received a letter from Centrelink informing me that my application was denied - due to the bridging visa.
This is especially troubling because the processing dates and rules for Australian permanent residency applications continually change and are often pushed further and further away. For instance, my application made in mid 2009 was due to be reviewed by end 2010; however, now it has been pushed back to at least end 2012.
This lack of security in dates makes it really difficult for bridging visa holders to safely consider their options, especially when stable jobs are difficult to obtain and other funding measures (especially those common to groups of people such as young people, academics, and artsworkers) are unavailable.
It is *not* the bridging visa holder's fault that they are in a precarious financial and living situation; in fact, their payments of higher fee rates and taxes with far fewer benefits makes up a major part of the Australian economy.
Like any other Australian resident, bridging visa holders come from all walks of life and desire to contribute to local community the best ways they know how; however, their constant in-flux status and DIAC's unhelpfulness in reviewing the situation of bridging visas and their application makes this deeply difficult.
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