A British woman who has lived in Australia for 11 years is facing deportation after her visa was denied because her employer sold the business she works for.
Belinda Checkley, 36, first came Down Under as a backpacker in 2012 on a working holiday visa and ‘instantly’ fell in love with Byron Bay.
After a three-month stint working on a farm, Ms Checkley studied hospitality management before getting a job in the New South Wales tourist town and working her way up to cafe manager.
But in 2018, the cafe changed ownership, causing her visa to be cancelled.
Despite more than 20,000 people signing a petition for the Brit to stay in Australia, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has not intervened, meaning she is due to be deported in less than a week.
Belinda Checkley, 36, first came Down Under as a backpacker in 2012 on a working holiday visa and ‘instantly’ fell in love with Byron Bay
Ms Checkley and her partner Julian, who is Australian, now face a move overseas as her temporary bridging visa is due to expire on Tuesday.
She says she’s built a ‘beautiful life’ in Byron Bay and has ‘no life’ back in the UK.
‘I have worked hard to build a secure future and my goal has been to obtain permanent residency.
‘It has been a long journey – one filled with countless personal, emotional and financial sacrifices – to work within the Australian immigration system,’ her change.org petition explains.
After six years happily living in Australia, in 2018 she was told her visa had been rejected. She later found out her migration lawyer had filed the application on her behalf and hadn’t done the paperwork correctly.
She found a new lawyer and filed her appeal with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
After a three-month stint working on a farm, Ms Checkley studied hospitality management before getting a job in the New South Wales tourist town and working her way up to cafe manager
At the same time, Ms Checkley was beset with personal tragedy when her partner took his own life.
‘This was an unimaginably painful experience and it is something that will be with me forever,’ she explained.
‘The magnitude of love and support that I received from my incredible friends and members of the local community was a clear testament to the fact that this beautiful town is truly my home’.
While working through her grief, Checkley faced a further setback when her employers sold the cafe she was working at.
This lead to the immediate cancellation of her visa.
‘I appealed this unique set of circumstances to the Department of Immigration,’ she explained
‘My case rose to the level of Ministerial Intervention – to be personally reviewed by the Minister of Immigration himself.
‘So for another two full years – during the pandemic – I lived, worked hard, and waited anxiously for an outcome.
‘Then this past Christmas, I got one: My appeal, too, was rejected by the Department of Immigration without further review.
‘I was informed there was no option to apply for any alternative visa while still living in Australia.
‘And I had three months to prepare for my deportation. Once outside Australian borders, I would be legally barred from re-entering the country for the next three years.’
Ms Checkley is now appealing for public support to stay, with many Byron Bay locals speaking out in support of her place in the community
Ms Checkley is now appealing for public support to stay, with many Byron Bay locals speaking out in support of her place in the community.
‘I’ve given 11 years of my life to this country. To face rebuilding my life after years of hard work and dedication is surreal and unfathomable,’ she explained.
‘I’m a hardworking, law-abiding and productive member of Australian society. I work in an industry desperate for talented and reliable staff.
‘I’ve proven myself again and again and sacrificed so much just to call this place 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 20s. I loved it and have never left. I’m now 36 years old, settled down, and trying to begin my own family with my partner who grew up here.
‘I have no life back in the UK. It’s a cold and distant memory.’