In a dreadful wait: Teenager at a loss over visa foul-up

“I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to wait for, everything seems to take a backseat now. I was all set for the HSC trials but I don’t even know if I’ll make it to that day,” said Sheen

Most Year 12 students by this time are bracing for their HSC exams while scouting for exciting options – a uni placement, a job, or maybe a school gap adventure.

Indeed it’s a great time for graduating students but not for Sheen Chiong, a bright Moorebank High Year 12 student who is facing a tough battle ahead.

She is in a quandary: the Australian immigration had told her family that their visa had been cancelled [Story: Ten Days to a Dream] and the family had to depart the country by July 28 else they face deportation or even detention.

She admits she’s slipping into confusion, losing her focus just in the homestretch of her schoolyear.

“I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to wait for, everything seems to take a backseat now. I was all set for the HSC trials but I don’t even know if I’ll make it to that day,” said Sheen, a consistent Top Five student in Maths and in the Top 20 in English in their graduating class.

It’s a torture for the 18-year old who also works as a part-time restaurant worker. She says she’s not really bitter at the fate that befell them but she is at a loss over the twist of events that overtook their family over the past year.

Her family entered Australia on the basis of her father being granted a residency visa. The thrill of their migration experience was short-lived. Their visa was cancelled a year ago when authorities found discrepancies in their father’s application which was listed as one of more than 50 visas approved by an immigration officer caught in a corruption scandal.

The father claims he did not commit fraud in his application which, he says, was arranged and followed up through an intermediary.

Sheen barely understands the legal hitch that embroiled their family. What is clear to her is the looming possibility that her family may be forced out of Australia very soon. She is afraid she will miss out on good opportunities here in Australia just as she missed an opportunity back in the Philippines two years ago.

Sheen is in an irony of sorts. Two years ago, she had to forego a chance to enter the military school in the Philippines to pursue a dream to become an air force pilot. Then 16, she had passed the qualifying exams to enter the Philippine Military Academy, the country’s elite school for officers of the armed forces.

“I had to skip that dream (studying in the PMA) because I was told we were to pack for Australia. Mum assured me life would be better here. I began to love Australia especially studying here but now everything is just vanishing, just like that,” she said.

So excited was she of pursuing a new life in Australia that in just a few months after arriving here, one of the first places she visited was an open house at the Australian Defence Force. It was a visit that fascinated her. Then and there, she thought she would be studying aviation.

“I had always wanted to be a pilot and I asked them how to be one, they told me I have to wait to be a citizen, so she prepared herself through her final years in Year 11-12 focusing on a possible study pathway that could lead her to an aviation degree or an engineering degree.

Worried for her brothers

Sheen is the eldest and only girl among four siblings.

She said she is worried for her brothers – Jericho 16; John Lloyd, 14; and George, 12. She is concerned especially for the youngest who is in primary school. Jericho and John also study in Moorebank High School.

“I know they’re feeling the uncertainty too, I am worried for them,” she said.

Their case has drawn the support of the community including the Parish where their family regularly attends Sunday services.

The father, Chester, is seeking an audience with the Minister for Immigration to lodge a final appeal to be allowed to stay in Australia.

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