How do I get a long-term job in Australia when HR won't get past my bridging visa?
In 2009, after completing my Bachelors degree in Brisbane, I applied for permanent residency. While my PR application was (and still is) being processed, I was granted a bridging visa
that allows me to live in Australia legally. The visa ends when they make a decision on my application - there's no specific end date as such.
My visa allows me unrestricted work rights - says so on the label. Problem is, no HR department or company in this country seems to understand this. I'm already cut off from tons of jobs (mostly with public service or which get Government funding) because they specify "Permanent Residents or Citizens Only". Sometimes you get "or temporary visas that last for as long as the appointment", and then they ask you for your visa expiry date, but my visa doesn't have one! I've even attached letters from my migration agent explaining this, especially since for many places the first thing they ask you is your visa situation, but it doesn't help.
One time I applied for a job at my alma mater and sent my application to both HR and the specific group that was hiring. On the same day, I got two emails: HR claiming that they have a policy against hiring bridging visas (I went through their policy documents and no such thing exists), and the group hiring calling me in for an interview. I didn't get the job, but the fact that I got an interview at all is pretty rare.
I could get short-term gigs or contracts, or casual temp work (particularly childcare), but nothing substantial or full-time. I've talked to other people with bridging visas and they've all said it was exactly this that was not getting them anywhere and that their job situation changed as soon as their permanent residency is approved. It's been over four years and I have seriously no idea when Immigration will get to me.
I even did a huge letter-writing campaign to various politicians talking about this, but mostly I got "sucks to be you". I got so fed up that I fled to the US for a couple of years to do my Masters degree - and now my Masters is ending in the middle of this year and the travel period on my bridging visa ends then so I have to come back.
(I have thought about staying in the US, and I do sort of have an option that lets me stay for an extra year, but the bridging visa complicates things because I can only be out of Australia for a small bit at at time. Also trying to jobhunt across multiple countries takes more energy than I have right now.)
I have a really full resume, with tons of international experience and great references. One comment I often got was "you have a great resume!" - but then they hire someone else. Sometimes I wonder if the ethnic name effect
is at play here, but it's not like HR's going to say "oh we thought your name was too boat-people-esque".
Another complicating factor is that most people with my professional background (arts and community) tend to apply for grants. It's expected - you're an artist, or you work with community, you get the Government to fund you. Except that I don't qualify for any grants, scholarships, or anything funded by the Government because of my bridging visa. I've had grantors call me up telling me that even though I have a pretty good application, they can't accept it because I'm still on a bridging visa. (there was one time where I said I had a PR, because I thought it might show up when they start looking for grant apps, but it backfired.)
I'm looking at job apps in Australia now, and am getting so disheartened that I'm seriously wondering why I even bothered applying for PR in the first place. I've been contacting all the places I've volunteered at or worked at or want to work at, asking them for leads - some are curious but no one's outright said "here's a job for you", especially since these are mostly in fields that are already getting funding cuts. I know the job market is rough anyway, and I feel like my bridging visa plus my foreign background will just get me rejected anyway
no matter what I do.
How do I navigate this, especially on job apps where you can't get away from the visa question? Should I just lie and say I am a permanent resident, especially since there's a (slim) possibility that the PR may be granted once I get the job? It's not like they have to do anything magical on their side - none of the places where I've worked before have had trouble. Do I change my last name to something more Anglo, would that help?
I really don't want to go back to Australia and end up in a similar state to the few months before I left for the US: bedridden out of depression.