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.

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