Tony and Claire Holmes and their children Lauren, 15, Ella, 4, and Joseph, 2, have been refused permanent residency.
Tony and Claire Holmes and their children Lauren, 15, Ella, 4, and Joseph, 2, have been refused permanent residency. Brett Wortman

Family fears threat of exile

CLAIRE Holmes employs six people, pays her taxes and spends $10,000 a year sending her child to a state school - but she's not good enough for the country.

The British citizen, who moved to Sippy Downs with her husband Anthony and their three children in September, 2010, had her application for a Regional Migration Sponsored Visa turned down last month.

The family has been staying in the country on a student visa, but this expires in September, leaving them vulnerable to "being told to leave in 28 days".

Mrs Holmes knew the risks of coming to Australia on a student visa, but she thought "if we can prove ourselves they'll let us stay".

That has not been the case.

The Immigration Department wrote to Mrs Holmes to tell her she did not have the qualifications for the role she had been fulfilling for the past year.

The qualified occupational therapist, who has a BSC degree and several years of counselling experience, had originally hoped to immigrate using the skills shortage visa.

However, as she had taken three years' maternity leave with the birth of two children, she was told her qualifications did not count as she was not employed in the industry at the time.

The family sank their lifesavings - more than $206,000 - into making Australia work.

Mr Holmes has been studying painting at TAFE while Mrs Holmes has been growing a cleaning business, Redzone Logistics, as the Queensland human resources manager for Victorian investor Martin Stowe.

"We've secured big contracts with Ray White and Blue Care," Mrs Holmes said.

"We were in the position to expand. We're employing people and we're absolutely booming"

But the limitations of a student visa mean she is only allowed to work 20 hours a week.

"We can't expand when I'm only allowed to work 20 hours a week," Mrs Holmes said.

The family has not taken one cent from the country they want to call home and has spent $10,000 a year to send their daughter Lauren to a state school, paid $22,000 for Mr Holmes' TAFE course, and paid for their own Medicare and childcare fees.

They have no idea what the future will hold for them when Mr Holmes finishes his course in September.

"If his qualification is no longer on the skilled shortage list we could be told to go home in 28 days," Mrs Holmes said.

"If we go, we've got nothing to go back to."

It will cost the family $2000 to appeal the decision, money they can not afford.

They hope their story will raise enough publicity that the Immigration Department might reconsider, or that it will at least serve as a warning to others.

"We're not asking for a pot of gold, we're just asking for permission to work here, to buy a home," Mrs Holmes said.

"You've either got to be a millionaire to get in, or get in a boat."

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