When Melbourne woman Nóra Dzsida and her husband were expecting their first child three years ago, it was an especially stressful time for the couple.

They had moved to Australia from Italy in 2018 and were living on bridging visas, waiting to see if their permanent visa applications would be approved.

“We didn’t know if we would be able to stay here in Australia, or if we would have to go back,” Dzsida said.

Nóra Dzsida is expecting her second child, who will automatically be eligible for Australian citizenship.
Nóra Dzsida is expecting her second child, who will automatically be eligible for Australian citizenship. (Supplied: Nóra Dzsida)

Immigration processing delays during the pandemic stretched out their waiting time from three to eight months, but the news, when it came, was good.

The sponsored, skilled visa Dzsida’s husband – who is an architect – applied for was approved and the then family-of-three could stay.

Fast forward three years, and the couple have applied to become Australian citizens. 

Dzsida is also heavily pregnant with her second child, who is expected to be born any day now.

When her son arrives, he will automatically be granted Australian citizenship, being the child of permanent residents.

It was with this in mind that Dzsida contacted Centrelink a few weeks ago to apply for the federal government’s paid parental leave.

But, when she got the response from Centrelink a few days ago, Dzsida said she was blindsided by some bad news she didn’t expect.

Dzida was told of a waiting period she wasn’t aware of for new migrants.

Under Australia’s social services law, migrants must wait two years after being granted permanent residency before they become eligible for paid parental leave, or dad and partner pay.

Dzsida said her baby was due to be born on August 8, just 11 days before their two-year waiting period was up.

“It was a surprise, we didn’t realise (there was a waiting period),” she said.

With her baby very unlikely to be 11 days overdue, Dzsida will almost certainly miss out on the allowance of 18 weeks’ pay at minimum wage – worth $14,600 – while her husband will be ineligible to receive $1600 in dad and partner pay.

“I was quite upset. It’s something that we were counting on and it seems a bit unfair that it all depends on 11 days,” she said.

The current waiting periods for migrants to receive government benefits varies.
The current waiting periods for migrants to receive government benefits varies. (Graphic: Tara Blancato)

“When I was pregnant with my daughter, parental leave wasn’t something I thought about. We had just come here and I knew that I would not be eligible for anything like that,” she said.

“But, now we are permanent residents, I thought it would be different,” she said. 

“Our son will be an Australian citizen, so it is quite strange that we will not be able to receive parental leave for our Australian child.”

Working as a sole trader, Dzsida said she did not have any employer-provided parental leave to fall back on.

The current waiting periods for migrants to access government benefits, which also include a four-year wait for Jobseeker, were implemented in January 2019 under legislative changes introduced by the Turnbull Coalition government.

Before January 2019, permanent residents automatically qualified for parental leave pay, while the waiting period to access JobSeeker benefits was two years.

Last year, the then-Morrison government introduced legislation to parliament that sought to double the waiting period for parental leave pay, as well as carer leave, to four years.

Under the proposed new law, the waiting period for Family Tax Benefit Part A would also increase from one year to four years, while Family Tax Benefit Part B would go from zero to four years.

The planned legislation was referred for review by a Senate committee, which heard objections from welfare groups, but ultimately chose to recommend the changes be passed.  

All of the Labor and Greens senators on the committee voted against supporting the legislation.

9news.com.au has contacted both Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles but is yet to receive a response on whether plans for the proposed legislation will be abandoned under the new Labor federal government.

Dzsida said the government’s policies for migrants seemed to be at odds with the warm acceptance she had experienced from everyday Australians.

“I really love Australia and we love living here. I think it’s a very inclusive country… I have never had a negative experience because of my background,” she said.  

But missing out on parental leave pay made her feel like an “outsider”, she said.

“It’s about being accepted. Until you get the same rights as everyone else you will always feel a bit like an outsider, it’s not very pleasant.

“If you work here, if you pay your taxes here, if you do everything they require you to do to become a permanent resident, you should receive the same rights.”

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