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indiscomp

Banned from applying for ETA visas

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I've been staying with my boyfriend in Australia on a 601 visitor visa (3 month limit) for 9 months.  I've never overstayed and abide by all the rules of the visa.  However, on coming back from my third visa run I got flagged and pulled aside for questioning.  Apparently the border patrol agent didn't like my answers, so he had me go over to the desk where I was interrogated (rather aggressively), told "You know what this is about, right?" I had no idea.  I answered all of his questions as truthfully as I could.  He went through my phone and wallet (I had nothing to hide).  Then he had me sit down and went out to question my boyfriend, who was waiting to pick me up.

Finally, he came back and said our stories don't match because I said I was staying with my "friend", and he's actually my boyfriend.  He said "living with your boyfriend doesn't satisfy the requirements of a visitor visa".  Although they let me in one last time, I was told I was banned from applying for future ETA visas, had to apply to the embassy for future visas, and would probably have to wait 8 months.  I was told if I try to come back on my current Visa that I'll be detained.

I checked my Visa status today, and it still shows "in effect", and shows no evidence that I've been banned.

I intend to call immigration on Monday in hopes of getting more information, but I'm wondering if anyone has ever heard of such a thing?  Am I permanently banned or just a 3-year reentry ban?  Would welcome any advice.

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2 hours ago, indiscomp said:

I've been staying with my boyfriend in Australia on a 601 visitor visa (3 month limit) for 9 months.  I've never overstayed and abide by all the rules of the visa.  However, on coming back from my third visa run I got flagged and pulled aside for questioning.  Apparently the border patrol agent didn't like my answers, so he had me go over to the desk where I was interrogated (rather aggressively), told "You know what this is about, right?" I had no idea.  I answered all of his questions as truthfully as I could.  He went through my phone and wallet (I had nothing to hide).  Then he had me sit down and went out to question my boyfriend, who was waiting to pick me up.

Finally, he came back and said our stories don't match because I said I was staying with my "friend", and he's actually my boyfriend.  He said "living with your boyfriend doesn't satisfy the requirements of a visitor visa".  Although they let me in one last time, I was told I was banned from applying for future ETA visas, had to apply to the embassy for future visas, and would probably have to wait 8 months.  I was told if I try to come back on my current Visa that I'll be detained.

I checked my Visa status today, and it still shows "in effect", and shows no evidence that I've been banned.

I intend to call immigration on Monday in hopes of getting more information, but I'm wondering if anyone has ever heard of such a thing?  Am I permanently banned or just a 3-year reentry ban?  Would welcome any advice.

It sounds like you had the misfortune of dealing with a particularly nasty immigration officer. Welcome to Australia!

Firstly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with visiting your boyfriend on an ETA. An ETA can be to visit family members in Australia.

You are not banned from applying for another ETA.

It would appear that the immigration officer had doubts as to whether you still held an intention to visit Australia as a genuine temporary visitor only, and was looking for a way to cancel your visa. Your frequency and duration of travel to Australia might have prompted those decisions. How long have you spent outside of Australia in between visits?

The statement that you will be detained if you return again is concerning, and if I was in your position I would be making a formal complaint in writing to the Department.

 


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Please note that this posting is of a general nature only. It does not constitute legal or migration advice and may not apply to your particular circumstances.

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Basically you haven't been using the visa for its intended purpose and they have let you in this instance but will have flagged your file to prevent another entry. So there is no ban on future visas but would be best to leave it for a while.

If you are looking to apply later for a partner visa later on you have made things a bit harder for yourself by not declaring him in previous visas. Ie, if you apply and say you had been in a relationship since 2018 however after that date you applied for a visa and listed yourself as single it contradicts yourself and causes issues.

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1 hour ago, AFV said:

It would appear that the immigration officer had doubts as to whether you still held an intention to visit Australia as a genuine temporary visitor only, and was looking for a way to cancel your visa. Your frequency and duration of travel to Australia might have prompted those decisions. How long have you spent outside of Australia in between visits?

Thanks for the responses. 

My visa runs typically last only 2-4 days, so I was not really surprised to get flagged as suspicious, perhaps suspected of working illegally.  However, I was blindsided to have been treated so shabbily in the end.  Clearly this officer was on a fishing expedition.

1 hour ago, Aussie_83 said:

If you are looking to apply later for a partner visa later on you have made things a bit harder for yourself by not declaring him in previous visas. Ie, if you apply and say you had been in a relationship since 2018 however after that date you applied for a visa and listed yourself as single it contradicts yourself and causes issues.

I don't recall ever claiming I was single or giving any information about my relationship status at all when I applied for the 601 visitor visa.  

Partner visa is certainly an option, however, the $7000AU price tag is exorbitant, especially when there's no guarantee I'd get approved, and the 22 month waiting period.  I've lived with my partner for 12 months now (9 months since 2018 plus about 3 months in 2014), but have no proof aside from a few pieces of mail, and a mobile phone bill.   It seems like a non-starter at this point.  I never really imagined that dealing with Australian border patrol could turn so ugly, so I never bothered to make plans about this.

My next step will be to call IMMI and find out if i'm actually subject to a re-entry ban or banned from applying for future ETAs.  The officer's conduct seems questionable, and it's as if he deliberately gave me false info to discourage me. 

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2 hours ago, AFV said:

It sounds like you had the misfortune of dealing with a particularly nasty immigration officer. Welcome to Australia!

Sounds more like they got an officer doing their job. 

Let's not forget they lied to the officer and are in breach of their visa conditions.

But blame the officer.

2 hours ago, AFV said:

You are not banned from applying for another ETA.

That's technically correct, but I dare say any applications for a an ETA in the near future will be denied and they will have to apply for a visa.

So in layman's terms yes they are banned from applying for ETA's

2 hours ago, AFV said:

The statement that you will be detained if you return again is concerning, and if I was in your position I would be making a formal complaint in writing to the Department.

Why it's most likely correct, if they return again on a tourist visa or ETA they will be denied entry and detained until they can be returned home. 

What's the grounds for this formal complaint?

 

 

 

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54 minutes ago, indiscomp said:

However, I was blindsided to have been treated so shabbily in the end.  Clearly this officer was on a fishing expedition.

I dare say lying to the officer, breaching your visa conditions will get this type of treatment.

The officer knew this, hence the questioning.

56 minutes ago, indiscomp said:

My next step will be to call IMMI and find out if i'm actually subject to a re-entry ban or banned from applying for future ETAs.  The officer's conduct seems questionable, and it's as if he deliberately gave me false info to discourage me. 

You are not subject to a re-entry ban as such, if you formally were you would have been denied entry and given the information in writing. 

You are not banned from applying for ETA, but your application will most likely be denied, given your conduct and travel history, so effectively a ban.

 

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I did not "lie" to the officer.  I was never asked about my relationship status.  I merely said in response to "where are you staying in Australia" that I was "staying with a friend".  Had they asked me about my relationship status, I would have told them.

I was told that if I reenter on my current visa, i'll be detained.  Yet on VEVO my visa status is still listed as "in effect" with no evidence of a re-entry ban.  I was told that "staying with my boyfriend does not satisfy the requirements for a visitor visa."  Yet the Home Affairs website clearly states a visitor visa is for the purpose of "visiting friends and family." 

Based on what I've read, under the current government's reorganization of the Home Office, genuine visitors are being denied entry with increasing frequency based on mere suspicion, and written complaints are simply ignored, as are requests for information about a person's visa status. 

I may yet write a letter of complaint, but I think a better avenue will be to write to my own govt and point out that this ETA scheme, which is supposed to be reciprocal for visa exempt agreements, is not being honored by the Australia govt.  Of course, as a powerless person I don't expect anything to come of it, but there seems to be a growing chorus of discontent about the Australian govt gaming visa exempt agreements.

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On 8/8/2019 at 2:42 PM, indiscomp said:

I did not "lie" to the officer.  I was never asked about my relationship status.  I merely said in response to "where are you staying in Australia" that I was "staying with a friend".  Had they asked me about my relationship status, I would have told them.

I was told that if I reenter on my current visa, i'll be detained.  Yet on VEVO my visa status is still listed as "in effect" with no evidence of a re-entry ban. 

Based on what I've read, under the current government's reorganization of the Home Office, genuine visitors are being denied entry with increasing frequency based on mere suspicion, and written complaints are simply ignored, as are requests for information about a person's visa status. 

I may yet write a letter of complaint, but I think a better avenue will be to write to my own govt and point out that this ETA scheme, which is supposed to be reciprocal for visa exempt agreements, is not being honored by the Australia govt.  Of course, as a powerless person I don't expect anything to come of it, but there seems to be a growing chorus of discontent about the Australian govt gaming visa exempt agreements.

Although IMMI did not specifically ask you your relationship status, common sense would dictate that you should have been more transparent to IMMI's questions.  Nothing is ever gained by arguing with Border Officers.

But your experience does highlight a couple of possible learnings for us all in this.

  • IMMI have the right to know, and verify your place of residence.  If you can not provide details and evidence of a suitable place of residence, entry may be refused. I assume you provided the name, address and phone number of your friend.
  • If you were given a ban or subsequent re-entry condition, it does take up to several weeks for it to be processed and be listed on Vevo.
Quote

I was told that "staying with my boyfriend does not satisfy the requirements for a visitor visa."  Yet the Home Affairs website clearly states a visitor visa is for the purpose of "visiting friends and family." 

What you were told, on the face of it, is incorrect. Yes you can stay with friends and family on a VV.

If your visa was cancelled, and if you tried to re-enter, you would most probably be refused entry.  In this situation, you would be 'detained' sent home on the next available flight. If that was not within a reasonable period of time (12 hours) IMMI may extend accommodation to you at the very attractive Villawood Detention Centre, but I expect this would not prevail.

No one is refused entrance on 'mere suspicion'.  What you said is just not true.

With all policing activities, initial suspicion is certainly an aspect. If the suspicion, followed up by formal interrogation, establishes a reasonable case for refusal of entry, then yes this may occur.  For refusal to occur, there is a very formal process that is followed. Several interviews, a senior officers review, and your right to testimony at the time.

Refusal is actually a major pain in the neck and creates a lot of work for the officer.

I am still struggling how a IMMI Border Officer could get the facts so wrong.  This is all basic stuff.


 

 

Disclaimer:

Makes me sick, in the fact that I must include a disclaimer. All opinions, advice and comments expressed by me are of my own personal opinion, and not that of a Immigration Agent, Lawyer, or related professional. They are given in the spirit intended, as an independant contributor, to a public forum. No implied, or expressed guarantee or undertaking as to accuracy or relevance is given.

 

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Of course I provided the address where I was staying, phone number, email, etc. on the customs card, answered all of their questions, and let them go through my phone, wallet; I had nothing to hide.

The lesson here is that, if anyone is wondering if you can stay in Australia for a year on a 12 month multiple entry visitor visa (for up to 3 months upon each entry), then the answer is probably not, at least not under the current govt.  On your 3rd re-entry you'll be flagged as suspicious and pulled aside, aggressively interrogated, and they'll use any excuse or inconsistency in your story to blacklist you (not a re-entry ban) from the ETA visa program.  So if you try it, you'll have to have an absolutely air-tight reason for doing so, and I cannot even fathom what that reason would be since I was told the reason I was being blacklisted was the very definition of the purpose of the visitor visa as written on the Home Affairs website.  I suspect the officer who interrogated me misspoke, or used imprecise language, when he told me this, but I have no doubt they'll use any excuse to justify blacklisting me, and probably don't even need to justify it.   Maybe I was just unlucky, but it seems consistent with the many media reports about the current govt's reorganisation of the Home Affairs ministry to increase scrutiny of visas and immigration across the board.

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On 8/13/2019 at 7:36 PM, indiscomp said:

The lesson here is that, if anyone is wondering if you can stay in Australia for a year on a 12 month multiple entry visitor visa (for up to 3 months upon each entry), then the answer is probably not, at least not under the current govt.  On your 3rd re-entry you'll be flagged as suspicious and pulled aside, aggressively interrogated, and they'll use any excuse or inconsistency in your story to blacklist you (not a re-entry ban) from the ETA visa program.  

What you describe here is alarmist, and without any basis or fact.  Your are also just plain wrong with your understanding of the 3rd entry flagging.

Government discussion of the day, has no bearing on policy immediately.  As we see with the changes to the Sponsor criteria, it takes months/years for it to filter down.

Government Officer can only respond to and enact policy of the day. Otherwise they are subject to review, and disciplinary action, and their decisions subject to appeal.

I think your case is an isolated incidence, and I would ask you not to generalise that it was policy.


 

 

Disclaimer:

Makes me sick, in the fact that I must include a disclaimer. All opinions, advice and comments expressed by me are of my own personal opinion, and not that of a Immigration Agent, Lawyer, or related professional. They are given in the spirit intended, as an independant contributor, to a public forum. No implied, or expressed guarantee or undertaking as to accuracy or relevance is given.

 

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On 8/16/2019 at 4:11 PM, AussieDude said:

What you describe here is alarmist, and without any basis or fact.  Your are also just plain wrong with your understanding of the 3rd entry flagging.

Government discussion of the day, has no bearing on policy immediately.  As we see with the changes to the Sponsor criteria, it takes months/years for it to filter down.

Government Officer can only respond to and enact policy of the day. Otherwise they are subject to review, and disciplinary action, and their decisions subject to appeal.

I think your case is an isolated incidence, and I would ask you not to generalise that it was policy.

I'm only basing this on my own experience, which is all I have to go on, so don't take it as the gospel.  I don't mean to say you will 100% get flagged on your third entry, but at some point it could happen if you're staying long term on a visitor visa.  Based on this, I would advise that staying in Australia long term (up to a year) on a multiple-entry visitor visa is iffy.  

It may or may not be related to the political atmosphere, but in any country there's flexibility in how govt policies are actually executed. 

I could be mistaken, but I don't believe the ETA visa program is subject to all the levels of scrutiny you're describing (review, appeal etc).  The Australian govt has given me nothing more to go on, so how can I appeal?

It certainly could be an isolated instance, but so was my use of the 12 month visitor visa.  Most people probably only enter once or twice, and don't use it to stay for a full year.  I don't mean to discourage anyone from doing so or generalize about policy.  Just saying this is what happened to me, and it is quite baffling. 

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2 hours ago, indiscomp said:

I could be mistaken, but I don't believe the ETA visa program is subject to all the levels of scrutiny you're describing (review, appeal etc).  The Australian govt has given me nothing more to go on, so how can I appeal?

The ETA Visa decisions themselves are not subject to appeal, but most other visa decisions are. I was specifically referring to the incidence of illegal, incorrect or inappropriate actions taken by ANY public servant, contrary to the law, is subject in itself to complaint, review and possibly disciplinary action,  but this is dependant on the matter, the severity of the irregularity etc.

If you feel you have been treated unprofessionally or unfairly, you have the right to complain.  But the circumstances you describe are not really associated with a visa decision, but the suggested poor behaviour of one IMMI officer.


 

 

Disclaimer:

Makes me sick, in the fact that I must include a disclaimer. All opinions, advice and comments expressed by me are of my own personal opinion, and not that of a Immigration Agent, Lawyer, or related professional. They are given in the spirit intended, as an independant contributor, to a public forum. No implied, or expressed guarantee or undertaking as to accuracy or relevance is given.

 

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I discovered some new information that suggests my experience is quite typical, aside from the border patrol agent's cold, intimidating demeanor, which made me feel as if I had done something wrong.

According to australiavisa.com, immigration has a 12-month rule on visitor visas: "there is a consecutive 12 month rule of your stay in Australia... multiple entry visas which allow the holder to stay in Australia no more than 12 months in an 18 month period... if you take a trip to N.Z or somewhere, re enter Australia on your current visa and then apply for a visitor visa, then of course the 12 month stay in Australia consecutive rule cannot apply to you. However there is the Genuine Temporary Entrant test case officers will look closely at...in all cases where the applicant has recently spent 12 months or more in Australia cumulatively but not consecutively, officers should consider carefully whether the applicant continues to satisfy the genuine temporary stay requirement... For example, persons returning after a short stay outside Australia and wishing to remain for a significant period may have difficulty meeting the genuine temporary stay requirement."

This explains why I was told I'd have to wait 8 months before applying for a new visa.

I found a post on australiaforum.com which describes a very similar situation to my own, and the moderator responded: "From what you describe it sounds like she will not be allowed entry again if she comes on a tourist visa. We have had a few forum members questioned on the 2nd or 3rd entry into Australia and were told to apply for a more appropriate visa or they would get refused entry next time."

So it seems getting another ETA visa is definitely a no-go, at least for the foreseeable future.  Applying to the embassy for a visitor visa might be possible after a year, but I suspect they'll make it hard.  I do feel better about the situation now, though I wish Australia would be more upfront about the true nature of their visitor visa, as opposed to these secretive, backhanded methods.

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