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


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 Partner information is at 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

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 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

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 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 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 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

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

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 :

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 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

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 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

Yours sincerely

First Enquiries
Migration Branch
Australian High Commission