Couple forced to leave the country

Steve and Chanelle McKenna have to leave Australia and reapply for a visa for Chanelle to be allowed back in.
Steve and Chanelle McKenna have to leave Australia and reapply for a visa for Chanelle to be allowed back in. Brett Wortman

RULES are rules, especially when Australian bureaucracy is involved.

Chanelle McKenna, a quadriplegic with a speech impediment, will have no choice but to leave the country to apply to come back again and live with her husband Steve.

That the former South African is affected by disabilities and has married an Australian resident made no difference when it came to dealing with the Immigration Department.

Mrs McKenna will have to leave her Buddina home because of tiny writing the couple overlooked when applying for a six-month temporary visa.

The writing concerned a "no further stay condition" on the visa, which meant she could only apply for a visa from another country.

Their story, revealed in the Daily on October 18, sparked widespread interest.

The couple were initially told they had until October 28 to leave the country.

They have obtained a reprieve until January 6, but the rule remains the same.

Mr McKenna said he would have to take unpaid leave from his job to travel with his wife.

"She's in a wheelchair, she can't travel on her own," Mr McKenna said.

"She has no one to go back to in South Africa. Our only choice will be to go to New Zealand."

Mr McKenna was told it could take two months for the new visa, a 461 visa, to be processed.

But he cannot afford to be off work that long.

"I hope they can do it in a month," he said.

As it is, travelling in peak season is going to be a huge cost impost.

"I've looked at airfares, they are ridiculous at that time of the year and the price of accommodation is so much higher," Mr McKenna said.

He cannot understand why he has to pay money to leave the country to be allowed to return two months later.

"It's stupid, we have to go out for a month to get what we want," he said.

But he is willing to do what it takes to get an outcome.

An Immigration and Citizenship spokesman said the department was "continually actively engaging with the couple" and providing them with information on visa options.

The "no further stay" or 8503 condition was imposed on visas on a case by case basis, the spokesman said.

Topics:  australia immigration department visa

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