Ireland’s ongoing economic crisis appears to be the primary reason for a large increase in the number of Irish nationals overstaying their Australian visas.
The number of Irish people currently living unlawfully in Australia is at 1,075, a 24 per cent increase on last year’s figures.
Those who don’t manage to get sponsored by an employer, and don’t qualify for other visas, are taking the risk and remaining past their visa’s expiry date.
Michael’s reasons for overstaying his visa were pretty innocent, he was just waiting to get his new passport before he left the country, and with six weeks left on his second year working holiday visa he didn’t have a lot of time.
“I applied for my new passport through the Irish Embassy when I lost mine. I knew it would probably be pushing it with just six weeks left on my visa so I rang up the Department of Immigration.
“I laid it out straight with them, I told them my situation and just asked if I could get an extension on my visa until my new passport came though,” he says.
With plans to go travelling to Asia before going to New Zealand for work, Michael wanted to wait for his real passport to come through instead of using an emergency passport.
“I spoke to a guy in Immigration who sent me out the forms to apply for a visa extension. I filled out all these forms and sent them off. But then I was told that I had filled out the wrong forms and I was running out of time. My visa ran out in March and so now I’m just waiting for Immigration to knock at the door and kick me out of the country.”
:: “There’s just no work for me there”
Michael is working as a labourer in Sydney and is hoping that he might be able to escape without being blackmarked if he leaves on his new passport.
“I’m just hoping that because it’s a new passport my visa expiry won’t show up,” he says.
Michael says that his prospects for getting work in Ireland are slim to none and in his opinion, he’s better off working illegally in Australia.
“If I went home I would just end up on the dole, there’s just no work for me there,” he says.
Barry, who is also a labourer in Sydney, has overstayed his working holiday visa.
“When you’ve got no other options at home you might as well stay here illegally,” he says.
“I had planned on going home but realised I wouldn’t have enough money to live on, especially if there wasn’t a job to go home to.
“I needed to stay to make money and then it just got too late to leave. My visa has been up since March.”
However, Barry isn’t worried about his future prospects if he does get caught because he claims a friend of his was able to emigrate to another country, even after he was found to have overstayed his visa.
“One of my mates stayed illegally for nearly a year and then he booked flights to Canada and went and confessed all to the Department of Immigration.
“He got away without a record because he showed them his flight details and said he was leaving immediately. He’s looking for work in Canada now,” he says.
Barry does worry that employers will become suspicious of Irish people.
There is also concern that an increase in Irish overstayers will lead to Ireland being tagged as a ‘high risk’ country for future visas.
But both men say that because of their illegal status they are conscious of keeping out of trouble, and often avoid going out at the weekend.
“When I see the police I just walk in the other direction. The last thing I want to do is get in trouble and then get deported,” he says.
Names have been changed to protect overstayers’ identities.