An Aussie family was left in limbo after a father and son were trapped in the US waiting on a visa so they could return home.
Sally and Jeff were forced to rush overseas with their children Jonah and Jay after Jeff’s grandmother died – but only two of them initially came back.
Jeff and Jay were both forced to remain in the US.
On leaving Sydney, immigration officials told Jeff – who had lived in Australia since 2005 – that his resident’s visa had expired three years ago.
“We honestly overlooked it,” Sally told A Current Affair.
“I strongly admit that, but on their part, why were we not notified?”
Before takeoff, Sally – an Australian citizen – paid online to renew Jeff’s resident’s visa so he could come home, and says she was told the renewal would come through in five days.
But when, five days later, they sought to embark on the flight home from San Francisco, Jeff was denied.
Officials in Canberra told the family to travel to the Australian Consulate in Los Angeles.
“Get there, there’s security, and couldn’t get past security,” Sally said.
“They would not allow me to go in, go upstairs.”
The group travelled to San Francisco to stay with relatives and wait for Jeff’s visa to come through.
However, two weeks later there had been no word from Canberra and Sally made the gut-wrenching decision to fly back to Australia with Jonah.
“As hard as it was to leave my husband and son, there’s the other children that were left here,” she said.
“Especially for my oldest son Jonah it was just heartbreaking when we left.”
A month later Jeff was still stranded in the US, and the Department of Home Affairs told Sally he could be waiting up to 85 more days for his visa.
And as the family struggled on without Jeff’s income, Sally says Centrelink cut her family tax benefit because she had been delayed in the US.
The agency also refused Sally’s request for an emergency payment.
“Jeff hasn’t even committed a crime, not like some of these people out here that do rape, murder, terrorism,” Sally said.
“He has the biggest heart and you couldn’t ask for anything else in a man.”
However, as the family fought to re-unite, other members of the community got behind them, including their local MP.
Federal Newcastle Labor MP Sharon Claydon lobbied the Department on the family’s behalf.
She said Sally and Jeff were entitled to wonder why they had been treated differently than the two foreign au pairs and polo player who allegedly had their visas approved by then-Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
Those allegations are now the subject of a Senate inquiry.
“What was going on inside Mr Dutton’s mind or world when he was making those decisions?” Ms Claydon said.
And after A Current Affair also became involved in the story, Sally finally received an email from the Department sayding, finally, Jeff’s visa had been approved.
Local footy club the Cardiff Cougars even covered the cost of the flights home to spare the financially-stretched family a further worry.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018