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The door to Australia is closed - 457 visa changes made me feel "kicked out" from my home,

For the past months my career has taken me to Singapore, where I was enjoying to explore the opportunity of modeling and acting in Asia.

I never planned to go to Singapore, it all happened out of a very unfortunate situation. But after all it appears, it all happens for a reason and it seems like: “It's kind of luck in the unlucky situation to get forced to leave Australia.” End of 2017 I got the very sad news, the notice to leave Australia within 28 days. I got asked to withdraw my 457 visa application, because my occupation is no longer in the list to qualify for a 457 work visa.

Oct 14 2010 I arrived in Australia, and October 3 2017, almost 7 years later, I was forced to leave Australia due to unexpected immigration law changes. I almost completed 7 years, sadly enough I could not be there anymore for the anniversary. It’s been the best 7 years ever, so many wonderful times, adventures and travels will never be forgotten. I met my boyfriend of 3 years in Sydney and many other friends. It feels like my home, and my whole heart is in Australia. Luckily in my last week, I was blessed to see a kangaroo, my favourite animal. At the airport, I was not able to hold my tears back and kept telling myself: ”It feels like I belong here!”.

In my last week in Australia, I was blessed to see my favourite animal.

When I told my story to Australians, they hardly believed it and didn't understand that people who have lived in Australia for so long, cannot apply for permanent residency. Often they even asked me why I am not applying for citizenship after being there so long. Most don't know the strict rules and that it is simply not possible unless you have a high skilled occupation which has shortage in Australia. I was only on working holiday, student and bridging visas, which do not qualify for permanent residency. And my boyfriend is from Canada, being on a working holiday and after that as a dependent partner on my work visa. Then I believed there is a way to stay and settle with the 457 visa and then permanent residency after 2 years of employment for one company. However the immigration laws changed in April 2017 and out of nowhere hundreds of occupations got removed.

The application was for a long time in process, I was left in limbo, always hoping for the best; even immigration lawyers, I have paid a total of $18,000 in fees, not knowing what will happen. Even though I lodged the application before the law changes were made, I got unlucky and forced to leave Australia after living there for 7 years. It does not seem to count anything that I lived and worked in Australia for 7 years, even worked in the australian outback, paid taxes, high student tuition fees, immigration fees and lawyer fees. And tried to build a future. I personally think it's anything but fair to treat applications made before the new changes under the new laws! And I know I am not the only one, it affects the lives of many individuals in a drastic or catastrophic way.

I heard stories of several people getting forced to leave the country after several years calling it home, the news articles were full of complaints from companies, who got forced to fire there best employees and tell them "Good Bye and Good Luck in another country." After a few months, at least some complaints and petitions resulted in further changes and that a few occupations got reintegrated in the occupation list that qualifies for a work permit. A friend of mine, who works in IT, for several years in Australia as well, however not in the specific right occupation in IT, had the option to leave Australia or to apply for a partner visa via his girlfriend - the only option also for the couple to stay together. It just means very high additional immigration fees and pressures the relationship to another level of commitment, which is challenging and he was very upset as well as he always thought, he can get his permanent residency himself through his occupation. I absolutely support the idea to treat ‘Australians first’ and adopt immigration policies from time to time, but feel those changes have been handled not fair for certain individuals.

During my 4 months of farm work on a Cattle Station in the Outback.

With the new immigration laws, it looks like one of the only ways to get permanent residency is to relocate for 2 years to regional Australia. 6 years ago I worked on a farm in the Northern Territory for 4 months. It was a really good experience to live and work in the Australian outback, but also enough after 4 months! My home is Sydney and 2 years feels to long at the moment. I kind of would feel like wasting 2 years, where I am still young. Maybe in the future at some point it's imaginable. But for now I want to work a bit more as an actress and model and will need to be located in a bigger city. There are a few temporary visa options like an Entertainment Visa, for eventually a year more or so, it is not easy to obtain and then there is no pathway to stay and settle though.

Packing down my life of 7 years with a notice of 28 days have been the most stressful times ever, especially not knowing where to go and no clear destination in mind. I also had work almost every day, I only cancelled a few shifts, as I simply did not know how to get it all done on time. But mostly I just was running on 4 hours sleep per night in my last month in Australia. You may ask why not cancel all your work when you are leaving anyways? Yes I could have done that, but personally did not choose to let other people down, clients, events and film productions I already confirmed to do the work. Sadly enough I had some work confirmed up until mid November 2017, which I had no option to cancel, as I had the due date to leave Australia on October 3 2017, which meant upsetting other people and myself. Also it is to mention that I simply could not afford it as probably lots of people in my situation, as I simply need the income as I had no idea where to go to and no matter where to go I had to start all over in a new country and would not be earning money right away again. And in addition moving costs a lot, plus a flight ticket and new start up costs are required.

I was selling or giving away lots of items, from kitchen appliances, printer, stationary items, weight scale, table lamps, mirror, camping chair, wardrobe, shoe cabinet, blankets, bedding, pillows, books, portable CD player and radio, hairsprays, deo sprays, make up, nail polish, 2 older laptops, shoes, clothes, big teddy bear, clothes rack, etc.. I was crying a lot as I love my big teddy bear, my hundred pairs of shoes and about 4 big suitcases of new clothes, all just going to charity. It felt like getting forced to become a minimalist and getting rid of all my belongings. And yes its good to declutter, but that was just to much for me. I probably was throwing out clothes and shoes worth $5000, and I remember the face of the lady from charity being in disbelief why I would give away completely new and expensive clothes. Sure I still packed a 30kg suitcase and shipped a few boxes to my parents in Germany and my boyfriend in Canada, but its very pricey to ship boxes plus they don’t have the space to store all my belongings.

Luckily I got some support and friends and other people helped out by buying some items, bringing them to charity, cleaning the flat and driving me to the airport.

“No place like Australia. I still miss Sydney every single day.”

It has not been easy and I could not hide my tears all the time and never experienced that kind of attachment and love for a country before. Even little thoughts that I can't go to my favourite pool and sauna Bondi Icebergs anymore or seeing my work mates and friends anymore, still make me feel down.

I didn’t even know where I wanted to go as Germany does not feel like home anymore after more than 8 years not living there. Also I found out, that it is not easy to move back at all, and integrate in the bureaucracy system again after so many years, just for example the german health insurance system considers me as a foreigner after living abroad for more than 5 years. Plus the winter was about to start and after 7 years Australia my body has adapted to a warm climate and winter was no option. Sydney feels home, but I got kicked out. Literally one night before the deadline day to leave, I checked the cheapest flights and randomly booked a flight to Singapore and a hostel on the last minute only after I arrived at the airport. My boyfriend went back to Canada to complete his studies. I could only go there as a tourist not being able to work in a harsh winter climate I never even experienced in my life, and so did not choose that option.

The first weeks in Singapore I simply spend calming down from the shock, recovering from the sleep deprivation and slowly embracing the changes and trying to make the best out of the situation. I told myself to see this lack of owning things, of not having a whole flat full of stuff which requires rent payments every month, of not having options of shoes in all matching colours, instead to embrace that one pair of simple black heels that just need to fit with the little clothing options available in my suitcase, as a positive thing, a kind of freedom I probably never experienced before. And after a while the travelbug hit me, and I also went to Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan for a bit.

It's been a few months since I needed to leave Australia and I still miss Sydney every single day! Whereas the first weeks I was super sad and kind of depressed, I am slowly getting better and happy again. I decided to stay in Singapore for a bit, palm trees, australian expats, some buildings in the city remind me of Sydney, and probably one of the best parts is that they have imported original Tim Tam's. So I found the transition of countries easier to cope with, as in Germany or Canada everything is completely different. Also I found an acting and modeling agency and got a few projects lined up.

My most memorable experience as a model would be the shoot I did for Singapore Airlines in January. The whole experience of sitting in the prototype of the new airplane was super exciting. The photographer Troy Goodall has years of award-winning experience being ranked in Luerzer's ARCHIVE top 200 advertising photographers worldwide. Also I landed acting roles in Singaporean television series.

One of my latest projects in Australia was ‘HAWAA’ the Film with the previous working title 'Project C 420'. It is the first Telugu movie which was being shot entirely in Australia. 'HAWAA’ is in production now and planning to air mid of this year in India and Australia. From the Indian production team I am referred to as Australian actress. Also in Singapore people tent to say that I come from Australia after residing in Sydney for so many years and I feel that people tend to get confused where I am from and honestly I am too.

The door to Australia is closed for now, a new door opened with acting work in Singapore and the opportunity to travel and explore a new culture. Living and working in Singapore has been an incredible experience and I am truly grateful how lucky I got in booking much more acting work than I expected. My story is a positive reminder for anyone going through tough times at the moment. Due to the 457 visa immigration law changes, I got forced to leave my favorite country Australia and home of 7 years studying, working and traveling. I felt kicked out, lost $18,000 in immigration lawyer fees, gave most of my belongings to charity and went from an appartement full of items and clothes to just 2 suitcases. Even today I still miss Sydney every day, and also certain dresses and shoes that were mine once. But without this tragic slap in my face, I would have never had the chance to get to know Singapore, explore, be free and travel.

After a lot of confusion, I have a plan again. Last year I applied for the permanent residency in Canada and the application got approved. A few weeks ago I travelled from Asia to Canada, and long distance with my boyfriend is no distance again.

I still hope to be back one day, as for now it seems like there is no place like Australia. Immigration laws seem to constantly change and eventually I may be allowed back in the future.

Anja Meyer