Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A bump in the road

Having taken a few baby steps towards taking the scary medical, my quest hit it's first hurdle this week.  I had signed up to my local GP and asked that they do some basic health screening for me.  Straightaway I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, my blood was also sent away for analysis.  The Doctor advised me to take up more exercise, eat better, minimise my alcohol intake and generally act in a healthier manner.

So I went away joined a gym, ate lots of salad and drank little other than water.  With a blood pressure monitor at home I was able to watch the readings slowly fall away.  Things were generally great, right up until the moment I telephoned the surgery to change my follow up appointment.  "Abnormal blood readings" were the words the receptionist used that froze my heart!

I spent the next two weeks worrying about what the prognosis of the "Abnormal blood readings" might be, thankfully the Doctor was able to very quickly assure me that nothing was wrong.  But my blood pressure does seem to go all over the place in a medical surrounding.

Moving forward my health kick continues, and we wait and see as to whether or not I'll need medication.

Meantime the I have the notes for panel Doctors undertaking the medical to keep me awake at night!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Debt Free

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've had a number of debts that I wanted to clear before moving to Australia.  Having decided at the beginning of August (around the time I also started writing this blog), to make a concerted push for my Defacto Spouse Visa, my son's Australia citizenship and passport and to generally start planning for the move I also focused all my spare cash at my remaining debt.  With a little lot of help from my partner and eBay, I was able to clear the last £5K in three months.  Now to start building my savings up to a more respectable level.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

A Quick Book Review (1)

In my quest to learn all there is to know about the Defacto Spouse Visa application process, I bought a couple of books.

The first: "Didgeridoos & Didgerdon'ts - a Brit's Guide to moving your life Down Under" by Vicky Gray describes itself on the back-cover blurb as: "a collection of short, personal experiences Vicky Gray and her family encountered during the first year or their new life down under. In addition to entertaining diary entries, inspirational stories from other expats, top tips and vital resources, the book is crammed full of well-researched information on everything you need to know to survive and thrive during your first year in Australia. Inside you will learn:

* How to get into Australia - step-by-step
* Which occupations are in demand right now
* What stuff you should definitely take with you
* The ins-and-outs of taking your pets
* All you need to know about Australia's banks
* How the school system works from day care up
* How to use Australia's healthcare system
* What's involved in getting a job and paying tax
* All about renting property in Australia
* How to buy a house - and why it's easy in Oz
* The little differences - from shopping to driving
* much, much more..."

And to be fair to the book, it does just that.  It is well written, informative and funny.  Each chapter is well laid out with both the hard facts and Vicky's family experiences.  Throughout the book links to useful websites are provided.  Overall it is a completely enjoyable read.

I only have one criticism and that is the book's RRP, which is £14.97 - a few pence less if you get it from Amazon.  I'm all for supporting the independent book publishers and authors but 15 quid feels really expensive for 188 pages of large font, that can easily be read cover-to-cover in a couple of hours.

My reccomendation would be buy-it read it, then stick it back on Amazon marketplace as almost new.  Sorry Vicky.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Certified Copies

After submitting the initial payment and forms to the Migration Agents dealing with my Defacto Spouse Visa application, they set me two pieces of homework: 

The first was to write a declaration of the circumstances surrounding how I came to have a criminal record and to obtain character references from a couple of people who can vouch for me as being an upstanding citizen.

The second was to gather together evidence of the relationship between my partner and myself.

Which sounds easy enough.  That is, if you haven't moved house during the relationship or ever had a spring clean.  Most of our old joint bills (such as Council Tax, Utility or Bank Statements) - which are considered strong evidence of a relationship by DIAC - had long since been shredded.  Some applicants struggle to find enough documentary proof to demonstrate that they've been co-habiting for the required minimum of 12 months.  Luckily in our case, we've been together for the best part of a decade - there just isn't anything to show our financial entaglement for the first two years of our relationship.

Having identified a selection of documents, the next step is to get them photocopied and then "Certified as True Copies of the Original".  The people who can do this for you are: a notary, commissioner for oaths, police officer, bank manager, solicitor or magistrate.  Not knowing either a friendly policeman or bank manager, I was left with the option of having to pay for the privilege.

A quick ring around my local solicitors and I had quotes of between £5 per sheet of copy and £220 for an hour of solicitor's time.  Both options seemed a bit pricey, especially as I would still have to do the actual photocopying myself.  With budget in mind I contacted my local Magistrates court, who offered me a price of £5 per sheet for the first 10 copies and then 50p for all subsequent copies - again this wouldn't include the actual copying.

I made the cost conscious choice and the next day found myself in the lobby of local Magistrates court.  Having been through the metal detector and queued amongst a varied group of shell-suited, Adidas wearing, tattooed and sovereign ring decorated customers of the court I was directed to hand over my cheque - at the window normally reserved for the payment of fines.  Here there seemed to be some confusion between the price I was quoted (£52) and the price the clerk calculated I should pay (£77), fortunately common sense prevailed and he agreed to honour the lower of the two.

With my receipt as proof of payment, an officer of the court took my stack of papers from me, directed me to take seat (once more amongst the other court customers) and wait to be called into court.  I have to admit that I started to feel a little nervous - like feeling sick in a doctors waiting room - listening to teenage girls asking for the duty solicitor so that they could discuss their assault charges made it seem like I was going on trial.

Eventually my name was called and I was ushered in to the court, where to my suprise the cerification had already taken place.  Almost.  Apparently they were not prepared to certify documents which are clearly already a copy or are difficult to prove as originals (I had a couple of letters from my bank which were black & white and did not have a human signature).

All-in-all it took me an hour and half to save £20, which seemed a false economy as four sheet's didn't get certified and I wasn't refunded for these.  Next time I think I'll use a solicitor.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Getting some help

Having read books, forums and even magazines I've decided that I am going to enlist the aid of a migration agent to deal with my Defacto Spouse Visa application.  Were my application completely straightforward I would have gone on alone, but..... my previously undeclared criminal record is niggling at the back of my mind.  Twice I've ticked the "No Convictions" box on entering Australia, this apparently causes an immediate character issue.  Who'd have thought they keep those cards anyway?

I don't think will cause me a problem, but having read everything available I'm not sure how to correctly disposition what was a well intentioned lie.  This is where I'm promised a migration agent will benefit me.   Anecdotally, I read a story where DIAC pulled out a landing card from the 1970s to prove a point to a would be applicant who hadn't fully declared his convictions.

There are literally dozens of migration agents who can manage your application, your choice should be limited only to those that are registered with MARA (Migration Agents Registration Authority).  In my case I opted for Go Matilda!, mainly because I can't find a bad word written about them.

P.S. If you're even considering using an agent, get some recommendations beforehand.  Any Migration Agent worthy of his/her title will give you a free 15-20 minute consulation to help understand your visa options.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A step closer to booking my medical

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the prospect of a medical and chest x-rays scares me silly.  So, I'm taking baby steps.  A couple of weeks ago I gave blood for the first time in 15 years. Aside from the health benefits, it was an easy opportunity to be tested for anemia, hepatitis, HIV, syphillis and other nasties.  Not that I was expecting to have any of these diseases, I just couldn't bear the angst of not finding out until much later into my visa application.

I was also reminded that I have a reasonably rare blood type and now that I know that they're still happy to accept my donation I will be a regular giver.  It was disappointing to read that once I'm finally resident in Australia, I won't ever be able to donate to the Australia Blood Service due to the fact that I was living in the UK for more than six months between 1980-1996 - the height of the BSE crisis.

The next thing I need to do is register at my local GPs surgery, as I've dropped through the cracks of the NHS.  With that comes a lifestyle questionnaire (how much do you drink? Too much! How many do you smoke? Thankfully none, never.  How often do you excercise? Not enough) as well as a blood and urine test.  Still, I don't need to do that just yet - baby steps.....

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The character requirement

Another one of my Australia visa application worries, is the requirement to declare any past criminal convictions.   My concern is two pronged.  Firstly, will my criminal record prevent me from obtaining a residency visa for Australia?  And secondly, I know I have a criminal record but what is it for?  It was so long ago, I certainly couldn't detail it on a visa application form.  I also wonder, will it matter that on my last two tourists visits to Australia, I ticked 'no convictions' on my entry card and eVisa?

The first answer was easier to obtain.  According to the DIAC website all partner visa applicants need to meet a Character Requirement these are described on Factsheet 79 as:

The character test

A person will fail the character test where:
  • they have a substantial criminal record
  • they have, or have had, an association with an individual, group or organisation suspected of having been, or being, involved in criminal conduct
  • having regard to the person's past and present criminal conduct, the person is found not to be of good character
  • having regard to the person's past and present general conduct, the person is found to be not of good character
  • there is a significant risk that the person will engage in criminal conduct in Australia, harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person in Australia, vilify a segment of the Australian community, or incite discord in the Australian community or in a segment of that community, or represent a danger to the Australian community or a segment of that community.
    See: Fact Sheet 78 - Controversial Visa Applicants

Substantial criminal records

A person is deemed to have a substantial criminal record if they have been:
  • sentenced to either death or life imprisonment
  • sentenced to a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more
  • sentenced to two or more terms of imprisonment (whether on one or more occasions), where the total of those terms is two years or more
  • acquitted of an offence on the grounds of either unsoundness of mind or insanity and, as a result, the person has been detained in a facility or institution.

Discretionary powers and Ministerial Direction 41

When a visa applicant or visa holder does not pass the character test, decision-makers will decide whether to refuse the application or to cancel a visa. Exercise of this discretion will take into account a wide range of factors, including the protection of the Australian community, whether the person began living in Australia as a minor, the length of time the person has been living lawfully in Australia, Australia's international law obligation. Other factors such as the person’s family ties in Australia, the person's age, their health and level of education will also be taken into consideration.
The exercise of the discretion is guided by Ministerial Direction 41 made under section 499 of the Act.
See: Ministerial Direction 41 (1.2MB PDF file)
Put simply, unless you've spent more than a year in prison or have an extensive criminal record you should be okay.

To demonstrate that you meet the requirement, you are required to supply a police certificate that details the status of your criminal record.  In the UK a police certificate can be obtained (for a fee!) from the Association of Chief Police Officers.

As to the question: what will your police certificate reveal?  The answer to that seems quite complicated.  All recent convictions will listed.  If, like me, you have spent convictions or those which have been stepped down your certificate will state "No Live Trace".  You are still expected to declare these convictions and you may be requested to fill in an additional Form 80.  Those with no criminal record will receive a certificate that says "No Trace".

Unfortunately, "No Live Trace" isn't enough information for me to complete the form and answer my second initial question (what is my criminal record?).  Luckily you have another option.  Under the Data Protection Act anyone has the right to request (for a nominal £10) fee details of any computer records held about them, from any company, government body, local authority and the Police.  In my case it was a simple as downloading a Subject Access Request form from my local Police force website and presenting myself with my passport, driving licence and recent bank statement for ID at my nearest Police station.  Once you've handed the desk sargeant your form and cheque (cash may add an extra delay I was told) all you have to do is wait up to forty days.

I received a print out within a week, before the cheque had even cleared.  It was embarrassing to see it all in black and white and to share it with my partner.  But at least I now know what to write on my visa application form.  I will still have to wait and see whether my previous failure to declare will have an impact on my new application.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Debt

Like a lot of folk, before my son came along I lived a fairly carefree hedonistic lifestyle.  Enjoying holidays, gadgets and good red wine are just some of my vices.  At around the time my partner told me she was pregnant, I realised that I owed the banks £18,000.  This was spread across: loans, credit cards and my overdraft.  I was partly in this position because I had previously run up £8K on credit cards, got a loan to pay the balance back and then not cancelled the cards.  Instead, I started to run them up again...

Since then I've been making a concerted effort to pay the debt down.  The changes to my lifestyle have largely been prompted by being a parent with less opportunity to spend lazy Saturday afternoon's in the beer garden, followed by late nights in the curry house.  Aside from that, I've done my best to be more financially savvy - choosing better finance deals, switching to cheaper insurances and selling all my junk on ebay.

As long as I've had it, the debt has been a large millstone around my neck - blocking any plans that my partner and I might have had about moving to Australia.   I had always assumed - that living in a global economy - it would be easy for the debt to follow me to Australia.  Now that I've been researching my visa application and reading support forums it seems that my assumption was incorrect.

The gist of the advice being given is that due to a number of reasons - such as the data protection act preventing the UK division of a bank from sharing your details with its Australian partner, or a UK court not being able to accept an Australian address for a civil proceeding - it seems unlikely that you will be pursued for  money that you owe in the UK whilst resident in Australia.  Whether this is morally correct, or whether you care about being bankrupted in your absence I'll leave you to decide.  That said, at the time of writing, I am expecting to be debt free within a couple of months...

Some useful discussion threads on the subject (these should not be interpreted as legal advice!):

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A Useful Email


Dear Enquirer,
I am responding to your enquiry about how you/your partner would obtain a visa for migration to Australia. We receive many similar enquiries and most issues are generic. The following addresses our most frequently asked questions.

Partner migration refers to applications for entry to Australia made by the married or de facto spouse, fiance(e)s and interdependent (same-sex) partners of Australian citizens, permanent residents or eligible NewZealand citizens.

An application for a Partner visa should be lodged at the responsible overseas migration office for the country in which the applicant usually resides. For persons residing in the UK or the Republic of Ireland, the responsible office is the Migration Section of the Australian High Commission in London. The information below is intended for persons who will be lodging an application in London.

Key Information Source
The primary public source for information about Partner Migration is the official website of the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs at ww.immi.gov.au. Partner information is at
http://www.immi.gov.au/migration/fam...ners/index.htm and you will find detailed information about the application process, documentary requirements and answers to most frequently-asked questions. The website provides information about partner, prospective marriage (fiancee) and interdependency visas. It provides checklists, describes evidentiary requirement, explains terminology and leads you to the appropriate sponsorship and application forms.

What Forms do I need to Download and Complete?
You have a choice of completing an online application (which you must eventually print off and submit to the processing office in hard copy) or downloading an application package which you can complete in writing. Details for online and downloadable forms are at
http://www.immi.gov.au/migration/fam...plications.htm

You will need to have Adobe Acrobat loaded on your computer to enable you to download these forms. This is a free download, and if you do not already have it, the website provides a link to upload Adobe as a precursor to downloading the relevant forms.

Do we Include our Children in the Migration Application?
If you and your partner have children born outside of Australia, and if one of the parents was an Australian citizen at the time of the child's birth, your child may be eligible for registration as an Australian citizen by descent. This will require you to lodge an application for registration by descent with the Citizenship Section of the Australian High Commission.

If the relevant parent was a permanent resident of Australia, but not a citizen, at the time of a child's birth overseas, then that child does need to be included as a dependent child in the migrating parent's application.

If your child is eligible for registration as an Australian citizen by descent (and this can only be determined in the context of assessment of an application), you can then apply for an Australian passport for that child but only after registration as a citizen.

A child who has been registered as an Australian citizen by descent does not need to be included in a parent's Partner application or undergo any sort of migration processing.

Our Citizenship Section processes most applications for citizenship descent within 5 working days. The Section does not process passport applications which must be lodged with the Passport Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) at the High Commission.

The London website at
www.australia.org.uk has information in the Visas & Citizenship section on forms and application procedures for registration of citizenship by descent. Passport application information is available in the DFAT section of the website.

Further information is available at
www.citizenship.gov.au.

What About Fees and Associated Costs?
The official term is "visa application charge". The Partner Migration booklet has a special section to explain costs and charges and also refers you to the
www.immi.gov.au website for determination of the visa application charge in effect when you are making your application. There is a currency convertor facility on the website if you need it.

Be aware that charges change from time to time, so you will need to check shortly before lodging your application to make sure that you are paying the current charge. Charges are generally varied on 1 January and 1 July each year. The visa application charge applicable to your application is the charge in effect at the time that your application is received in the Migration Section of the Australian High Commission in London (that is, the relevant time is the time of receipt, not of posting).

Note also that you are responsible for all costs associated with the making of your application including the costs of obtaining medicals, character clearances and the like. The visa application charge is a processing fee. If your application is refused or withdrawn, the fee is not refunded.

How Can I Pay the Visa Application Charge?
We accept credit/debit cards only (except for American Express or Diners Card). There is a section in the application form for credit card details.  If we receive your application and you have not paid the current application charge, we will attempt to call or email you as soon as possible to advise you of the current charge and arrange for you to send in the correct payment. An application is not validly made, and processing cannot commence, until the correct payment is received.

What About Medicals?
Each applicant, including children, must undergo health checks. Further details are in the Partner Migration booklet and the following is a brief  summary only.
Each applicant aged 11 years and older will require a medical examination and chest x-ray in the first instance.

Each applicant aged 15 years and older will require a HIV test.

If the applicant is pregnant, she may choose not to be x-rayed until after the birth. This may delay finalisation of the application.

Medical test results are generally valid for one year.

Can I do my Medicals in Advance of Application?

You can, if you so choose, undertake health checks before you lodge your application. This will enable you to lodge a complete application, which may help to speed up processing of your application. You are responsible for the costs and these will not be refunded if your application is refused.

Where do I Obtain Medical and Radiological Forms?

The forms you require are a Form 26 (medical) and Form 160 (radiological examination). These can be downloaded at
www.australia.org.uk in the "medical information" section
How do I Find out about Panel Doctors for the UK and Republic of Ireland?

Medical and radiological examinations must be undertaken by an appointed panel doctor or radiologist. For details of your closest panel doctor and radiologist, please see
www.australia.org.uk. This is the London office website. In the section on Visas & Citizenship, see information on the health requirement. A list of panel doctors is available to be downloaded.

How are Medicals Returned to Our Office?
Your panel doctor should be advised that you are applying for a Partner visa. Your panel doctor will return completed medicals directly to our office c/o Migration Section, Australian High Commission, Strand London
WC2B 4LA.

On the front of each form there is a grey box headed "office use only". Against "visa class" please write either PARTNER or FIANCE according to the type of application you are making. Against "name of office processing the application" please write LONDON. It is important that you do this so that we have appropriate handling instructions for our mail staff when the medicals are returned to this office.

What About Character Clearances?
An applicant must be found to be of good character. Each applicant aged 16 years and over must provide police checks for each country (including Australia) in which the applicant has resided during the last 10 years where the period of residence was 12 months or longer (in total/cumulatively), and the person was aged 16 years or over at the time of residence.

You must provide originals of your police clearances. We will retain these, so you should keep copies if you require. Instructions on how to obtain police clearances for most countries are
contained in Form 47P (Character requirements: penal clearance certificates). This must be downloaded from
www.immi.gov.au.

How Long does it Take to Get a Character Clearance?
We recommend that you initiate your request for clearances early. Note that it takes around 49 days for clearances to be obtained from the UK authorities. You can obtain this, if you choose, in advance of application and present the clearance with your application.

For some countries, clearances can take several months. We are not able to influence or expedite character clearances as these are solely the province of the issuing authorities. Finalisation of your case cannot proceed until your case officer is satisfied that you meet the character requirement.

Do I send Originals or Copies of my Documents?
We require originals of character clearances only. You should provide certified/notarised copies of key documents such as birth, marriage and divorce certificates. In all other cases provide simple photocopies of supporting documents such as rental agreements, bank statements, insurance documents and the like.

Who Can Certify Copies of my Documents?
For the UK and the Republic of Ireland : http://www.uk.embassy.gov.au/lhlh/certification.html

Who Can Witness a Statutory Declaration?
As above. A statutory declaration made out in Australia can be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace (JP). Statutory Declarations supporting claims of a genuine and ongoing marital relationship made out in Australia should be provided on Form 888 which can be downloaded from
www.immi.gov.au. The declarants should provide a copy of evidence of their citizenship or other visa status with the Form 888. Further information is available in the Partner Migration booklet.

If you are obtaining a statement of support from family and friends in the UK or ROI, there is no special format which you must use. You can use the Form 888 although this is intended for persons in Australia. If in the UK or ROI, the declarant can simply make out a statement in their own writing, giving their full name and contact details, and ensuring that the statement is appropriately witnessed by an authorised person such as a notary public or commissioner for oaths.

I Do Not Know the Details of Previous Visas for Australia
If you no longer have previous passports, or have otherwise travelled on electronic visas and cannot give us visa label or grant numbers, just provide approximate dates of your previous visits in Australia as best you can. Your case officer is able to ascertain the details of your previous travel directly from our own records in the course of processing yourapplication. It is not necessary to contact us separately to try to obtain this information in advance.

How Should I Put My Application Together?
Please do not make complex collations of your application papers. We waste a lot of time (and risk injury to life and limb) deconstructing applications which have been extensively stapled or artfully put together in complex folders with indexes, dividers and tabs. Do not use plastic inserts. Please leave the papers, loosely divided by slide-on paper clips if you feel it is absolutely necessary, in a simple stack. Application form on the top; sponsorship form next; key personal documents next (birth and marriage certificates etc); formal statutory declarations next; and other supporting documents last.

Please do not send us video tapes or photograph albums. If you would like to support your claims with photographs, please choose a representative selection and make a photocopy.
Please do not send us phone cards at all as they can tell us nothing. If you wish to send examples of correspondence, please be very selective and send copies only.

How do I Lodge an Application?
All applications to be lodged in London must be lodged by post. We do no accept applications over the counter.

We suggest that you send in your applications by some form of secure post. For clients living in the UK we recommend that you use Special Delivery and keep a record of the registration number. You can then track progress through the mail system and date of delivery to us on the Royal Mail website via their Track and Trace facility. Clients in the UK must also include a self-addressed Special Delivery envelope for the return of their passport and other documents - ensure that the envelope size is appropriate to what you expect to have returned to you.

Clients living in the ROI should also use some form of secure or registrable post. We will return documents by Airsure.

Our postal address is:
Migration Branch
Australian High Commission
Strand London
WC2B 4LA

Clients wishing to use couriers should note that items can only be delivered to the Migration Branch between the hours of 9-11am weekdays(other than public holidays) at the Migration Counter. It is important that you inform your courier of this restriction as no items intended for
this Branch will be accepted elsewhere in the High Commission other than at our counter during our opening hours.

Will I be Interviewed?
Most applicants are interviewed. This may occur by telephone or in person. The necessity for, and conduct of an interview, is at the discretion of your case officer.

Who Will Process my Application?
When we first receive your application, it will be allocated to a migration officer. You should receive an acknowledgment within about 10 working days- please do not approach us before that time. It is our preference to communicate with you by email. This makes for faster transfer of documents and speedy exchanges with your case officer. Your case officer will provide you with details of the officer's name, position number, email and phone contacts.

If you have not heard from your case officer before 10 working days from the date on which you believe we will have received your application, you can send an email enquiry to firstenquiries.lhlh@dfat.gov.au providing the applicant's full name and date of birth.

How Long Will it Take?
Our general response is that the better prepared your application, the faster we are able to make a decision. We can and do finalise decisions on the day of receipt - however this is not usual. Few applications come fully front-end loaded (including health and character clearances) and it is not always possible to anticipate requirements for additional information or complexities that are only evident to the case officer after an application is received and assessment commences.

Special Notice for Prospective Marriage (fiance) Applicants: It is a legal condition of all Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) visas that the holder must marry in Australia within 9 months from the date of grant of the visa.
You should take this into account when calculating the appropriate time to lodge your visa application and when fixing the date of your intended wedding. This office will commence processing of an application when it is lodged and will process at its normal rate to the point of decision and visa grant where appropriate. We will not artificially maintain an application in abeyance to compensate for early lodgement. If you lodge your visa application too early, you will need to consider the real likelihood that your wedding date will have to be brought forward.

Statistically, in June 2005, London took from 3-10 weeks to grant subclass 309 (Spouse Provisional) and subclass 310 (Interdependency Provisional) visas; and from 4-12 weeks to grant subclass 300 (Prospective Marriage -fiance) visas. (as of early 2010 the quoted processing time is 5-6 months).

If Granted a Visa Must I Enter by a Particular Date?(Spouse/Interdependency Visas)
Your health and police clearances are valid for 12 months from the date of grant. In some circumstances you medicals may be valid for a lesser period (for example, if you are subject to a health undertaking requiring you to report to health authorities on arrival in Australia). Whichever of these clearances expires first will determine the "initial entry date" by which you must have entered Australia.

If you have obtained your health and police clearances so far in advance that they expire during processing, or are likely to expire so soon after decision that the initial entry date would not be viable, it is open to your case officer to require you to obtain new health and police
clearances. Your case officer will determine the best course of action during processing.

Prospective Marriage (fiance) visas - some specific information.
If you decide to lodge an application for a Prospective Marriage (fiance) visa (subclass 300), you will need to provide evidence of your intention to marry. This will be in the form of written confirmation by an authorised Australian Marriage Celebrant confirming the details of your planned wedding in Australia. This confirmation must be provided on the Celebrant’s official letterhead and confirm the following details:
· parties to be married;
· date and venue of marriage;
· Celebrant’s official registration number and address.

If your Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) visa is granted, you must marry within 9 months from the date of grant of the visa.

My Situation is Complex - Who Can Assist?
We cannot provide individual pre-application counselling. If you have read the Partner Migration booklet and associated information thoroughly and feel that you still require expert assistance, you may wish to consider using a migration agent. You are not required to use a migration agent, however if you intend to use one, you are advised to use a registered migration agent. Information about registered migration agents (registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority or MARA) is available at
www.themara.com.au.

Yours sincerely

First Enquiries
Migration Branch
Australian High Commission
London

Saturday, 29 August 2009

The Checklist

So having selected what I think to be best visa for my situation (Partner Visa Offshore: Subclass 309/Possibly 100), I found two other documents on the DIAC website to help me in my quest.  The first: Partner Migration, as the name suggests is an application guide for the different types of Partner Migration visa.  The second (reproduced and commented on below) is the Application document checklist which again as the name suggests is a handy checklist of the the items that need to be submitted as part of your application.

Having reviewed the checklist, it is clear that the application process is going to take more than an afternoon and is quite a project - I need to get myself organised and get some help.

The checklist for a Partner Visa Offshore application looks like this:

Forms and Charges

Form 47SP Application for migration to Australia by a partner
A completed form 47SP from you including all dependent children. The form must be signed in all the relevant places and each person included in the form, who is aged 18 years or over, has signed the Australian values statement. Eeek!! first shock of the day, this is a ginormous 29 pages!

Form 40SP Sponsorship for a partner to migrate to Australia - A completed form 40SP from your sponsor. Phew!! this one is only another 12 pages.

Form 47A Details of child or other dependent family member aged 18 years or over - A completed form 47A for each dependant aged 18 years or over from you and/or your partner, whether or not they are migrating with you (if applicable).   Thankfully, not required in my case.

Payment of the visa application charge. See: Partner Visa Charges Currently a whopping £870.


Personal Documents – Sponsor
Evidence that your sponsor is aged 18 years or older and is an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen, such as:
• certified copy of birth certificate
• Australian passport or foreign passport containing evidence of permanent residence
• evidence that your sponsor usually resides in Australia
• for New Zealand citizens; evidence of length of residence in Australia and of continuing links with Australia.
See: Sponsor Eligibility

Photocopies of one of the following documents to show your sponsor’s employment during the last two years:
• Australian income and/or overseas tax assessment notice
• a letter from their employer confirming length of employment and annual salary
• payslips
• if your sponsor is self-employed or self-funded from other sources, business documents or a letter from your sponsor’s accountant.

A statement from your sponsor regarding:
• any other person they have previously sponsored or nominated for a Spouse, Partner, Prospective Marriage or Interdependency visa.
• any other person for whom your sponsor has signed a maintenance order and/or an Assurance of Support.

See: Fact Sheet 34 Assurance of Support
This statement must:
• indicate your sponsor’s relationship with this other person or persons
• when, why and how the relationship(s) ceased
• specify the dates of lodgement of any sponsorship or nominations (including any current sponsorship or nomination), maintenance guarantees or Assurances of Support.
Note: If you are married to your partner and your partner is under 18 years of age, he or she cannot be your sponsor. If your partner is aged 16 or 17 years, he or she may be able to nominate an eligible sponsor. If applicable, you should contact your nearest office of the department to find out what further documentation is required by the department.

Personal Documents - Applicant
Certified copies of the passports or travel documents of all people included in your application (particularly biographical data pages).
Documents to prove your identity – a certified copy of your birth registration showing both parents’ names. If you do not have a birth certificate and are unable to get one, you must provide a certified copy of the identification pages of at least one of the following documents:
• passport
• family book showing both parents’ names
• identification document issued by the government
• document issued by a court that verifies your identity.

If you are unable to provide one of these documents, you must provide other acceptable evidence that you are who you claim to be.

Four recent passport-size photographs (45mm x 35mm) of yourself and any other person included in this application. These should be of the head and shoulders only, and should show the person facing the camera and against a plain background. You should print the name of the person on the back of each photograph. Note: Only two recent passport-size photographs are required if you are applying in Australia.

Two recent passport-size photographs of your partner.

If you, your partner or anyone in your application is or has been married, certified copies of the marriage certificate(s).

If you, your partner or anyone included in your application has been permanently separated, divorced or widowed, a certified copy of the statutory declaration/separation certificate, divorce decree absolute or the death certificate of the deceased partner (as appropriate).

If you, your partner or anyone included in your application has changed his or her name (for example by marriage or deed poll), a certified copy of evidence of the name change.

Certified copies of birth certificates or the family book, showing names of both parents, for all children included in your application.

Certified copies of documents to verify custody and access arrangements, for children under 18 years of age unless it is the child of both you and your partner. See: Evidence of dependency

If any child included in your application is adopted, a certified copy of the adoption papers.

Evidence of dependency for any dependent children aged 18 years or over or any other dependent relatives included in your application. See: Evidence of dependency

If you have served in the armed forces of any country, certified copies of military service records or discharge papers.

Provide evidence that your relationship with your partner is genuine and continuing. See: Evidence of a genuine and continuing relationship

Form 888 Statutory declaration by a supporting witness relating to a partner visa application
At least two statutory declarations, preferably from individuals who are Australian citizens or permanent residents and who have personal knowledge of your partner relationship and support your claim that the relationship is genuine and continuing.

If you are applying on marriage grounds, you will need to provide a certified copy of your Marriage certificate.

If married in Australia, the certificate should be issued by the responsible State and Territory registry office.

If you are applying on de-facto partner grounds you will need to provide one of the following:
• evidence that your de facto relationship has existed for the entire 12 months before lodging your Partner visa application See: Fact Sheet 35 One-year relationship requirement
• evidence of compelling and compassionate circumstances of why you are applying before the 12 months have passed (for example if you have children with your partner).

Health Documents
Details of whether or not you have undertaken your health checks and, if so, details of the dates and location your health checks took place. See: Health Requirements This fills me with a little dread, if I'm honest I can't say I've looked after myself as well as I should the past few years.  I eat and drink too much of the wrong things and I don't excercise enough.  Haven't been to the doctor in years; can't bear to think what they might discover.

Character Documents
Include any results of character checks. See: Character and Penal Clearance Requirements More on this later, I have an ...erm... colourful past.
Form 80 Personal particulars for character assessment
A completed form 80 is required only if requested by the department.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Choosing which Visa to apply for?

As mentioned before: my partner is an Australian and me a Pom. Our little boy is therefore entitled to both Australian and British passports and citizenship by descent.  Me on the other hand, needs a visa before I'll be allowed to work and reside in the lucky country.

A quick google takes me to the Australian Government - Department of Immigration And Citizenship (DIAC) website which advises that there are a number of visa options available to me, either as a skilled migrant or as defacto partner.

The overall list of visa categories the prospective traveller to Australia has to choose from is:

    * Workers
          o Employer Sponsored Workers
          o Professionals and other Skilled Migrants
          o Business People
          o Specialist Entry
          o Doctors and Nurses
          o Regional Employment
          o Australia Needs Skills Recruitment Expos
          o Air and Sea Crew
    * Migrants
          o Family Members
          o Returning Residents
    * Visitors
          o Tourists
          o Working Holiday
          o Retirement
          o Medical Treatment
          o Transiting through Australia
          o Event Organisers and Participants
    * Students
          o Student Visa Options
          o Student Guardians
          o More Information for Students
          o Student Visa Assessment Levels
          o Sponsored Training Visas
          o What's New?
    * Employers
    * Refugees

Luckily, to make things easy a 'Wizard' is provided to help you make the correct choice.

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Decision

To be honest, the decision was made long before he was born. Like all parents to be, we promised our son a better life and all the opportunities we'd missed. And although previously unspoken, both of knew that we'd want him to grow up in Australia.

My partner is an Aussie and me a Pom. So moving back down under had always been a possible option. Life had just always got in the way. Both being terrible at long term planning we made a pledge, to relocate before our son (then only in his first trimester!) was old enough to go to school.

Roll on two years, our little boy is now eighteen months old.  Just need to pay down the credit cards, get the bathroom done, figure what to do with the house and apply for a visa - then we can move to Melbourne.