Department of ImmigrationIt was early September 2014 that Mr A., a close family friend and I, were discussing and we talked about plans for the Vacation period. We talked about a planned Cruise trip and concluded that it would be a nice experience for his daughter to join the cruise.

Soon after, we looked at the requirements for a Visitor’s Visa to Australia and put together the needed application package. Since the cruise will take her out of Australian waters and then back, we concluded that she will be needing a multiple entry visa and as such need to pay for her cruise trip so as to demonstrate to the Australian Visa Officers the genuineness of our intentions. The needed payment was made to the Cruise Line and the relevant tickets were issued. The cruise would depart Australia on 6th Dec 14.

Our dear lady made the needed appearance at the VFS centre and on 24th Sep 14, the Visa Application was sent to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection Pretoria for processing. This was a clear Ten (10) weeks and a few days before the planned Cruise departure on 6th Dec 14. The posted timeline for the processing of visitors visa is six weeks as per the department’s website. It then seems everything went dead. We never heard from the Department. Visits were made to the VFS office in Lagos and emails were sent to the Pretoria office as well. All was silent.

Well, there was virtually nothing else that we could do – no one to talk to or lodge a complaint to. The day of departure of the cruise ship crept in and still there was no Visa nor any correspondence from the Department. As a result, we did not purchase a flight ticket. Suddenly, out of the blues on 3rd Dec, an email came from the Department informing that processing has started on the Visa and there was a need for us to forward the young lady’s immunization records to the Department. We quickly attended to this, and on 5th Dec 2014 a Visa was issued to her.

Now, the challenge was how to get to Sydney Australia within 18hrs and join the cruise. This was an impossible feat and we kept wondering what could the Visa officer be thinking in delaying the processing of the Visa till it was too late for the lady to make good use of it. Could this have been just sheer wickedness? Any other explanation does not suffice given that the application was submitted to the department ten (10) weeks earlier and the purpose and date of the trip was clearly stated in the application.

Being on the receiving end of such a treatment does not help promote Australia. While this might have been an isolated act of a particular Visa Officer, the message it conveys transcend just a single individual It leaves a sour taste in the mouth of many and I would suggest the Australian Government reviews this process to understand what went wrong. When genuine visa applicants get treated in this manner, the reputation of Australia as a visitor friendly country suffers irreparable dents.