Husband and wife Australians, in the U.S. with our Australian bred Great Danes...
A bit about our situation: My husband invested a substantial amount of time and money getting our E-2 visas and setting up a United States registered manufacturing business in Western Pennsylvania.
We relocated our entire lives including our 3 Great Danes, from Perth Western Australia, in November 2016.
Starting up a manufacturing business in a foreign country certainly has its hurdles and we suffered many set backs, but we were creating U.S. jobs, and slowly progressing towards our goals. Our perseverance was beginning to pay and 2019 was finally looking up. Exporting our manufactured goods to Australia was the backbone of our business, so when the bushfires ravaged Australia in September 2019 it meant we had to reign everything.
Just as the bushfires were ending, COVID broke out and our business was forced to close its doors on March 19, 2020. My husband has been out of work since, as he is not allowed to gain employment here due to his visa (E-2) being dependent on him 'creating U.S. jobs, not taking one'. Even though our business was solely United States registered and all revenue remained in the U.S., we were not eligible for any of the business assistance or rescue programs offered by the Government, due to my husband not being a U.S. citizen.
I had an Employment Authorization Card issued by USCIS which allowed me to gain employment, in line with my I-94 Authorized Stay date, so when COVID closed our business doors I successfully gained employment and had been working as an essential worker in the community since April 2020.
As time progressed we came to the realization that COVID had unfortunately closed the doors to our business for good, destroying jobs and ending our dreams here. We resided to the fact that we needed to return home to Australia, but with COVID, ongoing restrictions, no commercial Qantas flights with live cargo options, continued international traveler caps and costs to return being outrageous, we remained stranded here.
With COVID’s closures and border restrictions, we followed advice from our immigration attorney about extending our lawful stays until later in 2021 (when hopefully the Aussie airlines would fly again), as our visas were valid till October 2021. We were advised to cross into Canada, return to "re-enter" the U.S. and get new authorized stays stamped in our passports.
So we we packed up the Danes and drove to the Canada border on September 27, 2020.. where things went very badly for us.
At the U.S. border, our E-2 visas were cancelled ‘without prejudice’, due to an administration error in early 2019. Thankfully the wonderful Border Patrol officers found and granted us a ‘Waiver of Passport and/or Visa’, along with new I-94’s allowing us to re-enter and remain in the U.S. until September 26, 2022.
On our return we went and spoke with a new immigration attorney. Our options were bleak; return to Australia and apply for new visas or find a company to petition for my husband to work by applying for an I-140 and subsequent Green Card. Fortunately my Employment Authorization was still valid and not cancelled in the process.
In November 2020 I utilized the immigration attorney’s services to file my I-765 renewal (Employment Authorization Card), which was received by USCIS on December 4, 2020. At the time my application was sent, USCIS’s processing times were 3-5 months, by April 2021 processing times were 5-10 months and by July 2021 processing times were 5-12 months.
My Employment Authorization Card expired on April 6, 2021.. my employer put me on an ‘unpaid’ Leave of Absence effective April 5, 2021. From that date I was not allowed to work, therefore not able to earn an income and in turn made it extremely difficult for us to meet our monthly living expenses such as rent, utilities and food etc.
We are on the DFAT register as Australians trying to return home, however due to commitments here, we haven’t been able to book the short notice repatriation flights when offered. We have 2 Great Danes to organize and transport, we were renting a house up until recently and my husband has the business to finalize.
Due to no income, we had to pack everything up, vacated our rental property at the end of June 2021 and moved into shared accommodation with our 2 Great Danes.
Holding out hope that Qantas resumes flights, allowing live cargo to fly again and at a reasonable price and we can secure our own one way flights to Perth Western Australia, that won’t get cancelled on us.
On July 7, 2021, I received an email from my immigration attorney. By some miracle she advised that USCIS had approved my Employment Authorization Card, allowing me to return to work until September 26, 2022. So after 7 months of USCIS having received my renewal application; 3 months of which I was not allowed to work, I can finally go back to being a contributing member of the community and work for our survival.
This same day I received news that Qantas was finally doing a live cargo flight at the end of October 2021, but fortunately it is not a manageable amount, only coming in $1,063 USD less than via New Zealand.
Quotes to transport our 2 Great Danes back to their home country came in as follows:
* Quoted $25,680 USD, prior to COVID grounding the Qantas fleet.
* Re-quoted $37,313 USD, to transport them via New Zealand.
* Recently advised of a live cargo flight with Qantas HOWEVER the quote came in at $36,250 USD.
We created a GoFundMe page to help raise the funds for the Danes, we do not expect to raise the whole amount.
Having stayed ‘put’ to wait it out, as instructed by smarttraveller.gov.au, we have managed to raise the original quoted amount but struggle with any more. We fall short by about $12,000 USD.
The latest 50% reduction in traveler caps is certainly not going to make the situation any better. It hasn't for the cost and availability for our one-way airfares.
Please remove the caps!!
Allow the airlines to fly again.. to bring the prices back to reality, making them affordable, also increasing seat availability for Australians to return home.
Any advice, information or help with getting us and our Great Danes home is greatly appreciated please.
Angela, Kyal, Nova & Angus