QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS AND more questions. Twenty-seven pages of questions for the applicant and seventeen for the sponsor.
Is the relationship genuine?
Describe the development of the relationship?
What are the financial aspects of the relationship?
What are the social aspects of the relationship?
They are compiling a thesis on their relationship. A report. A history. We met when… It was then that… We then decided to get married… The applicant was with me for the birth of our first child… The birth of our second child was… Our future plans are–
‘What are our future plans?’ she asks.
‘Saida?’ Say what?
‘Oh. Well, we are very much open to the idea of leaving Australia to return to–’
‘No no no. We’re applying for your resident’s visa. We have to say we want to stay in Australia.’
‘We are committed to raising our two beautiful daughters in Australia? Bele?’
They save their application, and the applicant and the sponsor go to bed.
‘Wait… Where do we attach the kids’ birth certificates?’ she asks.
The applicant yawns. ‘I don’t know amor.’
IN THE MORNING, they make breakfast for the girls, and the sponsor walks them to school. On the way, they see a peewee hatchling on the grass at the base of a liquidambar tree. The mother bird is up in the tree above, calling a shrill warning to her chick as they approach. But the hatchling seems oblivious.
‘Look at the cute bird, Mummy!’ their eldest girl says.
‘Its feathers are so fluffy,’ says the youngest.
‘What’s the Mummy bird saying to it?’ the sponsor asks.
‘Get out of there, squawk squawk,’ parrots their big girl. ‘Them’s is human beings!’
She waves the kids off at the front gate of the school and walks home, past lavender growing wild out of the cracks in the pavement.
Inside, they sit down again at the computer and resume their application. They are scanning in photos when she chooses the wrong file format and maxes out the attachable limit. When they try to attach the children’s birth certificates, they get an error message. They down tools while the sponsor calls the immigration helpline. After forty minutes on hold, she gets on to someone called Heinrich. She explains their predicament and asks for his advice.
‘I can’t advise you,’ he says through gritted teeth. ‘I’m not supposed to help you!’
‘But this is the helpline,’ she protests.
‘If you need help,’ he shoots back, ‘go to a migration agent.’
She puts the phone down in disbelief. There it is in a nutshell – outsource everything, make the process so impossible that a good number of people will either give up or fail.