A SALE family has won their battle to stay together after an exhausting four years.

Businessman and father Gagandeep Singh was last week given a pathway to a
permanent partner visa, allowing him to remain in Australia.

This paper first broke the story in April that Gagandeep, also known as Gavy, was near the end of the line with his bridging visa. Unless it was extended or a new visa was given, Gagandeep would be forced to leave Australia and go back to India, separating him from his wife Phoebe and their four-year-old son Jarro, who live together in Sale.

The saga has gone through numerous ups and downs, with Gagandeep stuck in limbo as various visas were given and denied, and decisions delayed. The family and their lawyer tried to get Ministerial Intervention under the previous Coalition government, which would allow the Immigration Minister to give a visa at their discretion. The Ministerial Intervention was refused twice.

The new Labor government gave Gagandeep another bridging visa on June 15, valid until September. As far as the Singh family was concerned, they were back at square one.

Singh family – Gagandeep, young Jarro and Phoebe. Photo: Stefan Bradley

But last Tuesday, Phoebe reached out to the Gippsland Times with some news.

“We won,” Phoebe said.

“Gavy can stay. He doesn’t have to leave.

“We are finally at the end. All we have to do is apply for a partner visa … that’s literally it.

“It was totally out of the blue. I couldn’t believe it.”

Phoebe was at work that day, and their lawyer tried to call her. Phoebe, an aged care worker who suffers from multiple health complications, didn’t answer the phone as she didn’t want to hear more bad news, so she asked Gagandeep to call him back.

“I rang our lawyer. He said we won. Third time lucky,” Gagandeep told the Gippsland Times.

Gagandeep was covered in orange high-vis as he spoke to this reporter, as he had to leave for work soon.

“I was finishing up at work. It was 6pm and I stopped what I was doing. It literally made me cry.”

Phoebe, Jarro, 4, and Gagandeep Singh were all smiles when the news came through. Photo: Stefan Bradley.

Immigration lawyer Joseph Italiano had been working on the Singh family’s behalf for years to achieve this outcome.

“The new Labor Minister for Immigration, Andrew Giles, has granted Gagandeep a pathway to permanent residency. He’s now on a one-year tourist visa with work rights first, and when he has the money, he can apply for a partner visa,” Mr Italiano said.

“Minister Giles has shown compassion and humanity, despite two refusals from the previous government, to allow this family to remain together.

“I’m not sure why the previous Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, did not intervene. It was inconceivable that he wouldn’t show some compassion, especially when an Australian child was involved.

“If Gagandeep applies for the partner visa, I would expect on compelling grounds they can process it as a priority. They can give the family closure, which would be a benefit for Phoebe’s health.

“It’s a team effort from everyone, including the press, who made this issue public. A lot of immigrants are worried about going to the press. In this case, we saw that humanity prevailed over bureaucratic advice.”

Immigration lawyer Joseph Italiano. Photo: supplied.

The win comes following overwhelming community support for the Singh family to stay together, with an online petition for Gagandeep to stay in Australia garnering 8825 signatures on Change.org.

The Singhs were also interviewed by ABC Gippsland and the Nine Network.

Member for Gippsland Darren Chester spoke highly of the family on A Current Affair, shortly before the election.

“I’ve written a letter of support for the family, because I recognise that they’ve got a legitimate case to put to the minister,” Mr Chester said.

“They’ve been employing people and keeping themselves employed at a time when we need people who want to make their contribution to our region.”

Phoebe and Gagandeep originally met in Sale through friends. Gagandeep had come to Australia as a student.

“I’ve been living in Sale for 12 years now. It’s my home,” Gagandeep said.

“I’m from a different culture and have adopted this new culture, so I’m glad we live in a good community that supports us. I’m looking forward to a few drinks over the weekend.

“I’d like to thank everyone who helped us during a tough time, including those I work with. And I thank Joseph Italiano, our lawyer.”

Phoebe also wished to thank the public.

“When we’re out in the community garden, a lot of people ask me how things are going, and ask if there’s anything they can do for me, which is really nice,” Phoebe said.

With Gagandeep leaving the country a real possibility, the family couldn’t plan for the future. He wanted to have another child with Phoebe, buy a house and expand his business, but had to put those plans on hold while waiting for the immigration process to play out.

“I had to downsize my business,” Gagandeep said.

“I had four trucks, two full-time employees and one casual. I now have zero employees and just one truck, but it’s not too late to start over.

“I’m working on a big rail project in Morwell. I move dirt around with the tip truck.”

Gagandeep and Phoebe’s son Jarro, who loves Pokémon and Super Mario, still doesn’t understand what is going on.

“I tried explaining to him that daddy may have to go away. He didn’t like that idea,” Phoebe said.

“He understood that part, but not much beyond that. He is only four.

“But I think Jarro did feel the tension for a while, because there was a point where there was only two days before Gagandeep had to leave and we hadn’t heard anything.”

Asked what Jarro thinks about the fact that his dad can stay in Australia, Jarro raised his arms in the air excitedly and yelled “yaaaah”.

Jarro loves trucks. He wants to drive a truck when he grows up, like his father. He doesn’t want a brother or sister, he wants his mum and dad all to himself.

“We’ve tried to convince him, so we’ll just have to have the child and give it to him,” Gagandeep laughed.

The final hurdle is financial, with the family expected to cough up $11,000 to apply for the partner visa, and then wait for its approval.

“There’s something at the back of my head thinking they may change their mind,” Phoebe said.

“Because you don’t know with governments, but for now, it’s a big relief. So we will start applying for a partner visa and there’s the financial battle with that.”

“We have a year to pay it, but we hope to get it done sooner, so less stress,” Gagandeep said.

The Singh’s are looking forward to going to Queensland next month for a family holiday, and Gagandeep hopes to eventually become an Australian citizen.

“With the new visa, we can go meet Gagandeep’s family, as Jarro and I have never met them,” Phoebe said.

With the threat of removal no longer hanging over their heads, Gagandeep, Phoebe and Jarro are looking forward to a happy family life in Sale.

Phoebe, Jarro (front) and Gagandeep Singh. Photo: Stefan Bradley
Gagandeep and Phoebe Singh’s son Jarro, 3. Photo: Contributed
Jarro, Gagandeep and Phoebe Singh. Photo: Contributed