Janet & Eugene Bennis, with their four granddaughters (left to right): Alexia, one, Saoirse, five, Isabelle, three, and Teegan, three.The Bennis family.

Two Irish grandparents, who captured the hearts of the nation last year when they emigrated to Australia to spend the rest of their days with their young family, are facing heartache after immigration chiefs told them one of their visas will not be extended.

Janet and Eugene Bennis sold their home in Limerick and moved permanently to Brisbane last February, where their four grown-up children and four young grandchildren are all based.

However, their dream move is now under threat, after immigration authorities "strongly advised" 59-year-old Eugene not to waste his time applying for a renewal of his visitor visa.

The couple, who have ploughed their life savings into relocating life "Down Under", are anxiously waiting for their permanent residency applications to be granted - having applied nearly two years ago.

Read more: Irish grandparents emigrating to Australia to be with kids.

Janet and Eugene Bennis enjoying life in Australia. Photo courtesy of the Bennis family.

Janet and Eugene Bennis enjoying life in Australia. Photo courtesy of the Bennis family.


They could get permanent residency status as soon as May this year, when they will face a hefty $70,000 bill from immigration officials.

But in the meantime distraught [Janet] Bennis, 54, is preparing to part ways from her husband for the first time in decades, after Eugene was informed he will have to leave Australia by February 14, when his visa expires.

Bennis said she's taken little comfort from the fact that her application for a three-month extension to her temporary visa was successful and said she only got it "by the skin of my teeth" when she made a case that she had been helping her daughter-in-law cope with a pregnancy-related illness.

She said: "Everything had been so positive and wonderful up to now. We get to spend so much quality time with our grandchildren every day - and that's like a dream for me and Eugene, because we missed out on so much when we were living in Ireland.

"Christmas was particularly special, because it was such a happy, family occasion, the first with the whole family in 13 years. We were very excited about this year, because my son, Eoin, and daughter-in-law, Hari, is expecting a baby in April. It's a very special pregnancy for us, as we weren't here for any of the other four and we didn't get to meet the children until they were about eight- or nine-months-old.

The four Bennis grandchildren. Photo courtesy of the Bennis family.

The four Bennis grandchildren. Photo courtesy of the Bennis family.

"But this latest development with Eugene not being able to get an extension to his visa has hit us for six. We've spent so much money on visa applications and extensions at this stage, but it's not about the money.

"I just feel it's so wrong that Eugene, who's nearly 60, is being made to leave the country. I don't want him to go. We came here as husband and wife, and now he's being made to leave. Whey on Earth would they let one leave without the other? It just doesn't make any sense."

Bennis, who worked as a catering supervisor at the University of Limerick before emigrating, said Eugene would probably return to Ireland for a month before "hopefully returning on another visa".

She added: "Maybe some people think we should have stayed in Ireland until we got our permanent visas, but life's too short and we'd already missed so much of our grandchildren's lives.

"I haven't stopped crying for days and all this is going to cost us a fortune. But I've got to remain positive and keep going until we get our permanent residency. We'll get through this. We've come so far now that we can't give up."

Janet and Eugene Bennis taking part in the Pieta House Darkness into Light walk. Photo courtesy of the Bennis family.

Janet and Eugene Bennis taking part in the Pieta House Darkness into Light walk. Photo courtesy of the Bennis family.