British woman who's lived in Australia for over a decade faces deportation after cafe she worked for sold

1 March 2023, 19:10 | Updated: 1 March 2023, 22:50

An English woman who has lived in Australia for over a decade faces deportation after her visa was cancelled when her employer sold the business she worked for.
An English woman who has lived in Australia for over a decade faces deportation after her visa was cancelled when her employer sold the business she worked for. Picture: Facebook / Instagram/@b_e_l_s_y

By Chris Samuel

An English woman who has lived in Australia for over a decade faces deportation after her visa was cancelled when her employer sold the business she worked for.

Belinda Checkley first came to the country in 2012 as a backpacker on a working holiday visa and fell for coastal town Byron Bay in New South Wales.

Following a three-month stint working on a farm, the 36-year-old studied hospitality management then got a job in the area and worked her way up to cafe manager.

But the the cafe changed ownership in 2018, resulting in her visa being cancelled.

Despite a petition for her to stay which has garnered over 25,000 signatures, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles hasn't intervened in the case, so the Brit is set to be deported in under a week.

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With her temporary bridging visa due to expire on Tuesday next week, Ms Checkley and her Australian partner Julian now facing having to leave the country.

Ms Checkley says she has built a "beautiful life" in the coastal town and has "no life" back in Britain.

"I have worked hard to build a secure future and my goal has been to obtain permanent residency," her change.org petition explains.

"It has been a long journey - one filled with countless personal, emotional and financial sacrifices – to work within the Australian immigration system,

Ms Checkley (pictured) says she has built a "beautiful life" in the coastal town and has "no life" back in Britain.
Ms Checkley (pictured) says she has built a "beautiful life" in the coastal town and has "no life" back in Britain. Picture: Instagram/@b_e_l_s_y

In 2018, after six years living Down Under she was told her visa had been denied, and later discovered her migration lawyer had filed the application on her behalf and hadn't completed the paperwork correctly.

She then found a new lawyer and filed her appeal with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

At the same time she faced desperate personal tragedy when her partner took his own life, but was supported by the community.

She explained: "This was an unimaginably painful experience and it is something that will be with me forever.

"The magnitude of love and support that I received from my incredible friends and members of the local community was a clear testament to the fact that this beautiful town is truly my home".

While working through her grief, Ms Checkley has hit further misfortune after her employers sold the cafe where she worked, leading to the cancellation of her visa.

"I appealed this unique set of circumstances to the Department of Immigration," she said.

"My case rose to the level of Ministerial Intervention – to be personally reviewed by the Minister of Immigration himself.

"So for another two full years – during the pandemic - I lived, worked hard, and waited anxiously for an outcome.

With her temporary bridging visa due to expire on Tuesday next week, Ms Checkley faces having to leave the country.
With her temporary bridging visa due to expire on Tuesday next week, Ms Checkley faces having to leave the country. Picture: Facebook

"Then this past Christmas, I got one: My appeal, too, was rejected by the Department of Immigration without further review.

"I was informed there was no option to apply for any alternative visa while still living in Australia.

"And I had three months to prepare for my deportation. Once outside Australian borders, I would be legally barred from re-entering the country for the next three years."

She's now appealing for public support to remain in the country, with many locals in Byron Bay voicing their support for her bid to stay.

"I've given 11 years of my life to this country. To face rebuilding my life after years of hard work and dedication is surreal and unfathomable," she explained.

She added: "I came, like so many of us still in Byron Bay, as a backpacker in my 20s. I loved it and have never left.

"I'm now 36 years old, settled down, and trying to begin my own family with my partner who grew up here.

"I have no life back in the UK. It's a cold and distant memory."

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