A GROUP representing British retirees living in Australia has started a petition for the Federal Government to review their visa class.
The British Expat Retirees in Australia group wants the government to give about 3000 people living onshore with a 410 visa a path to permanent residency.
The visa was introduced in the 1980s for self-funded retirees over 55 and withdrawn in 2005, although existing visa holders can continue to renew it every 10 years.
The group says many of its members have been living in Australia for the past decade, have relatives who are citizens, are self-funded, law-abiding and have private health insurance.
‘We call upon the Federal Government to enable temporary retirement (subclass 410) visa holders who have lived in Australia for 10 years or more the right to become permanent residents and citizens,’ the petition says.
The group has appealed to the wider population to sign an online petition at www.retirementvisa410.com.
The British retirees’ story
Ocean Reef resident Jean Newstead and husband Peter have been in Australia for 11 years and have no children.
‘We renew our visa every 10 years, which the government said would give us security,’ she said.
‘As you get older you need the security of knowing you are established, that they are not going to change the visa at some stage.
‘Something could still happen in 10 years’ time. We’re all ageing.
‘It’s very difficult to be in a country where you get the impression that you are not wanted.’
Mrs Newstead said they had already paid their way over the past decade, spending money in Australia and buying their house.
She said like many 410 visa holders, she volunteered and was involved in community groups such as the West Coast View Club.
‘This is our home ” once you move over here, you sell everything you possess,’ she said.
‘We live here legally, we are law-abiding.’
Mrs Newstead said it hard been hard enough moving to Australia but to move back, particularly in five years when they were in their 70s, would be harder because the community they left would not be the same.
Now a Quinns Rocks resident, David Humphries moved to Australia in 2004 and said he worried about what would happen to his wife if he died.
‘Is the Australian government going to deport her, repatriate her?’ he said.
Mr Humphries said he did not have the balance of family in Australia because his wife’s children lived overseas.
‘As a household, we’ve probably brought by now at least $1 million into the Australian economy,’ he said.
‘Whatever we spend in Australia becomes someone else’s income and they get taxed on that.’
After the British Expat Retirees in Australia (BERIA) group submitted a report to the Department of Immigration in 2009 outlining the impact of permanent residency for 410 visa holders, the Australian Government Actuary compiled a report outlining Treasury cost predictions.
‘It purely reported on the maximum cost in terms of the next 60 years ” now 56 years as four years have gone,’ Mr Humphries said.
‘The 60 years is until the last one of us dies. It took into account all 7215 visa holders at that time, irrespective of whether they were resident.’
Mr Humphries said since then many onshore visa holders had moved back to their countries of origin and were unlikely to move a third time if in their 80s.
Mrs Newstead said BERIA wanted the Federal Government to review the situation because the last report looked at a worst-case scenario for the financial risks to Australia, not potential benefits.
‘We can’t get them to review their figures ” ‘it would cost $1 billion’ ” that keeps being quoted back to us,’ she said.
Mr Humphries said the number of 410 visa holders living in Australia had since dropped to about 3000 and was decreasing by about 9 per cent each year.
More: Push for visa review