Divorce sick wife, doctor told
Cancer sufferer Stella Sofocado with her husband Cesar and daughters Sofia, 13, and Kyla, 10.

A foreign doctor who moved to rural WA to help fill the skills shortage, and now wants permanent residency, has been told he cannot stay in Australia unless he divorces his dying wife.

Philippines-born Cesar Sofocado is appealing for a compassionate approach to his family's permanent residency application after the Immigration Department told him it would be rejected because of his wife's terminal illness.

The Catholic doctor said he was advised that the only guarantee to permanent residency would come through divorcing or legally separating from his wife, who has advanced cancer.

Without any legal ties to her husband, Mary Sofocado would be forced to leave the country to die alone in the Philippines.

"I married my wife for richer and poorer and in sickness and health - that is the vow I took," Dr Sofocado said.

"I want to show my daughters we are a family and we don't leave each other for any reason."

Mrs Sofocado said she was only seeking palliative care and would not be a burden on the public purse.

"My only wish is for my daughters to grow up in Australia," Mrs Sofocado said.

The family moved to WA in 2005 for Dr Sofocado's job at Geraldton Regional Hospital.

He worked in Dampier, Karratha and Bunbury before moving to Ellenbrook Medical Centre.

The family began their permanent residency application in 2008 but the department did not start considering their application until last year, a year after Mrs Sofocado developed breast cancer.

Dr Sofocado said their first case officer erred by advising them to change their application from visa subclass 175 to 176 on learning of his wife's cancer.

The second visa category, 176, did not allow the right to appeal against a rejection related to health matters. "We feel our family, after our share of work and contribution in 'areas of need' in WA, is being treated unjustly," he said.

Dr Sofocado said their second case officer told them divorce or separation was the only solution under their subclass 176 application and the only guarantee under other categories.

His medical registration is due to expire in June.

The Immigration Department did not respond.

The West Australian

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