An Australian resident struggling with cancer will be reunited with her husband after the Commonwealth finally granted him access to rush to her bedside.
- Rupinder Kaur came to Australia as a skilled migrant during 2019 and worked as a chef
- Her husband, Randeep Singh, is the only family member able to visit and help take care of her
- Her husband was granted a partner visa after being repeatedly denied a visitor’s visa
Rupinder Kaur has been struggling with stage four breast cancer since January.
Her husband, Randeep Singh, lives in India and Ms Kaur has not seen him for 15 months because the Department of Home Affairs has repeatedly denied him a visa.
After four visitor visa refusals — including two since her diagnosis — Ms Kaur’s husband got a call from his immigration lawyer.
“I was just about to sleep, and my husband called me telling me that his visa was approved,” she said.
“I said ‘no, you’re kidding me’, he said ‘no, I’m serious’.”
Ms Kaur said she needed to see it with her own eyes and confirmed her husband’s partner visa was approved online.
Ready to reunite
Ms Kaur said he husband would come “in a few days”.
“I need him over here because of my health,” she said.
Within a week of complaining about shoulder pain, Ms Kaur was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her lungs, spine and pelvis.
Complications during surgery means the 35-year-old now needs to use a walker to move around.
“I’m alone here. Nobody is here from my family, and I need my husband,” Ms Kaur said.
Ms Kaur came to Australia as a skilled migrant during 2019 and worked as a chef in the regional Victorian town of Halls Gap, before moving to live with colleagues in Stawell.
She relies on her work colleagues and friends to attend appointments and care for her, but says they have their own lives and family commitments.
“My friends try to help me each and every time, but family is family. No one can take the place of family,” Ms Kaur said.
Ms Kaur will undergo surgery to remove her breast in the next few weeks.
She said her mental and emotional health had deteriorated since her diagnosis.
Ms Kaur said she did not want to go through the cancer journey alone.
Visitor visas rejected
The couple met during 2019 in India before Ms Kaur was granted her permanent residency.
After being kept apart for more than two years due to travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic, they married in India during 2022.
Shortly after their wedding, Mr Singh applied for a partner visa while Ms Kaur returned to Australia. They have not been together since.
Mr Singh has attempted to reunite with his wife by applying for visitor visas but his applications have been denied four times in 12 months.
Balance ‘completely wrong’
Ben Watt, an immigration lawyer with Visa Envoy who is not involved with Mr Singh’s case, said the Department of Home Affairs was usually quite reasonable, especially when there were compassionate grounds.
Mr Watt said department officials had the right to refuse visas if they suspected someone would overstay their visa or find other pathways to remain in Australia.
But given the compelling circumstances of Mr Singh’s case, Mr Watt said he could not understand the repeated refusal of Mr Singh’s visitor visa.
“There’s a small inconvenience or problem there but it has to be weighed against the enormous amount of emotional and practical pain with not having a support person there for the healing process,” he said.
“I think the department has got the balance completely wrong here.”
“It’s very traumatic. It’s an awful feeling for [Mr Singh] and his wife but what makes this more awful is the manner in which the decisions are being made.”
Mr Singh’s visa rejection letters suggested the department did not consider him to have strong enough economic or familial ties to return to India.
But Mr Watt said the explanations given in the Department of Home Affairs’ decision were “vague and generic and did not acknowledge the gravity of the consequences of their decision”.
“It feels like a pro forma letter that might have been sent to dozens of other people,” he said.
“Here it isn’t apparent [those assessing the application] have intellectually engaged with the information they’ve been given whatsoever.”
Ministerial intervention sought
Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster, who is also the deputy chair on the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, told the ABC earlier she spoke to Immigration Minister Andrew Giles about Mr Singh’s outstanding partner visa application.
She said although she did not know the department’s reasons for refusal, she asked that they acted “swiftly” because it would be “an absolute tragedy” if the visa was refused.
She said the circumstances Ms Kaur faced were compelling enough on a humanitarian basis for her husband to be allowed to visit her.
“Her recent diagnosis and status of her health is precarious and any one of us would desperately want our partner to be with us,” Ms Webster said.
“Some people are refused entry into Australia but this doesn’t make any sense to me.
“[Ms Kaur] has filled a gap in the workforce in Halls Gap and now has these awful circumstances she’s facing.”
Ms Kaur said she would like to meet her husband, who had never come to Australia, at the airport.
But her poor health meant that would be unlikely to happen.
“If my illness was not there, there’d be more happiness.”