PETALING JAYA, June 4 — Malaysians make up the largest number of visa overstayers in Australia, according to the Australian Department of Home Affairs.
Between 2016 and 2017 alone, 10,000 Malaysians overstayed their visas, followed by China (6,500) and the US (just over 5,000), reported Australian site SBS News.
Previously, British backpackers were on top of the list.
Currently, there are 62,000 people overstaying their visas and living illegally in Australia.
Ramesh* from Malaysia, is one of them.
The 28-year-old told SBS News he is living in fear because he does not have a valid visa and only leaves his home in Western Sydney to go to work.
He doesn’t see the doctor when he falls ill, nor does he drive because he is concerned about applying for a licence without legal documentation.
That fear multiplies each time he sees the police.
“I get nervous, I get scared, like, you know traumatised,” he told SBS News.
Ramesh arrived on Australian shores with a three-month tourist visa last year.
He said a family friend promised to get him a working visa for A$2,000 (RM6,077), which he borrowed money for, but it did not work out.
Before he came to Australia, Ramesh said he had no knowledge of how the visa system worked and if it was legal or illegal to work on a tourist visa.
After unsuccessfully extending his tourist visa, he decided to remain in Australia illegally.
“It’s like I have that guilty feeling, like I’m doing wrong,” said Ramesh.
Ramesh desperately wants to get out of this rut as soon as possible.
11,000 people stay for a duration between two and five years while 6,600 people stay between 15 and 20 years.
“I don’t want to extend, like other people are doing two or three years in Australia.”
Having been living illegally in Australia for one year, Ramesh plans to return to Malaysia later this year after he has cleared his personal debts including the money he owes for the visa which never materialised.
To make ends meet, he does car detailing where he is paid cash-in-hand on weekdays and does odd jobs during the weekend — his boss does not know he is staying and working in Australia illegally.
“I don’t want to get caught and go back. I just want to go back on my free will. Rather than get caught and have trouble with the police,” said Ramesh, who exercises caution about revealing his illegal status to others.
Between 2016 and 2017, the Department of Home Affairs tracked down 15,885 people who overstayed their visas — they were either kicked out of Australia or placed in detention.
Visa overstayers who are caught can face deportation, detention and bans from re-entering Australia for at least three years.
Ramesh does not want to get caught at the airport when he tries to leave Australia, so he plans to hand himself over to immigration authorities after he visits the Malaysian embassy.
Having learnt his lesson, he does not want others to go through his living nightmare.
“Try to get information from the officials like the embassy or immigration [Department of Home Affairs], rather than jump into something you don’t know. Rather than being illegal, being afraid,” he said.
* Not his real name.
Living in Australia with an expiring or expired visa? Visit homeaffairs.gov.au for more information.