Sunday, 12 December 2010

The best travel guide you will ever read about Australia

Thanks to Bitterwallet for posting a link to this travel guide for Australia, that apparently fell out of a magazine supplement.  The city descriptions need to be read to be believed (click the image for a larger copy) ::

Monday, 29 November 2010

Validation Trip - Part 2 - Getting in to Australia

So, what happened after I got off the plane? (Which incidentally landed into Brisbane forty minutes early). It was a reasonably short walk to immigration, where without any queue I handed my landing card to the officer - for the first time with the "Yes, I have a criminal record" box ticked.  With no mention of my trip plans or visa, he told me that I would have to be referred because of my character issues.

Here we go! I thought, but the lady that dealt with me was lovely.  She took a photocopy of my landing card and asked for brief details of my criminal record, which she noted on her photocopy.  When she asked about any previous visits to Australia, I decided to come clean and admit that my criminal record was previously not declared.  "I don't want to hear" was her reply and she waved me through to the baggage reclaim.

Baggage reclaim was also painless, my bags were neither first nor last onto the belt.  I did notice that another plane landed whilst I was waiting and I thought I would likely be competing with the new arrivals in the queue for customs.  Luckily, this feeling didn't bear fruit and having ticked the "Items to Declare" box I was directed to have the contents of my suitcases inspected.

Sadly, the Border Security "Nothing to Declare" film crew were nowhere to be seen and my chance for TV was lost.  Again the officer who dealt with me was a really nice guy, he didn't bat and eyelid at the amount of baby clothes, documents and old photos I was carrying.  Happily neither the wooden duck nor the Harrod's Flap Jack tin that I was carrying (as a gift for my mother-in-law) were considered a risk to Australia's flora and forna.  So with everything hastily stuffed back into my suitcases I passed bleary eyed through the sliding doors into Australia proper.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Validation Trip - Part 1 - Getting to Australia

Well I'm back from my partner visa validation trip to Australia - and what did I learn? For one, I have to agree with Richard & Judy when they said that "The Girl wth the Dragon tattoo" is a difficult book to get into.  I'm a 150 pages in and still not drawn into the plot..

Having arrived at Heathrow on a National Express coach, I set about trying to unburden myself from my luggage and get to the departure lounge.

The Singapore Airlines check-in area was easy enough to find within Terminal 3, but there was a long line of people waiting to drop-off bags at the 'Online Check-in' desk. Having checked-in online and printed my boarding card at home (and not wanting to queue unless I really had to!), I decided to plead ignorance and went straight to an Economy desk.

Everything was going well, right up until the moment when the agent dealing with me said "Sorry, you're not entitled to 40kgs baggage - as you have a return ticket". Having checked and double checked this fact with the Singapore Airlines contact centre, I was ready for a fight. Luckily, I'd brought a copy of an email I'd been sent by customer services - which the agent took away to discuss with her supervisor. Two minutes later, she apologised and checked my bags in. Unexpectedly each bag was also 2kgs overweight, but it didn't cause me a further problem.

On to the plane itself, people make a big fuss about the Airbus A380 or 'Super-Jumbo'. Personally, from an economy seat perspective things were largely the same as any other wide-bodied aircraft. In fact Singapore Airlines have the same seats and entertainment systems across their entire 747, 777, A330 and A380 fleet. The only differences I could spot were: 1. The A380 has an upstairs economy cabin, which is less crowded with the seats in a 2-4-2 formation and 2. In the upstairs economy cabin, there is an additional storage bin at seat level alongside the window seats (large enough to hold a laptop or to stuff the pillow and blanket into) and 3. The connectors that allow you to plug your iPod into the entertainment system are slightly different (the standard Apple AV cable will still work on both, but on the A380 you need to use your iPod headphones for audio). All the Singapore Airlines aircraft use the twin mono style of headphone socket, so if you want to listen through your own earphones you'll need to bring an adapter with you (how I was mocked for buying a couple of these "just in case").  Being a double decker, you also have the option of going up and down the stairs to use the toilet - a novelty in itself.

As for the in-flight experience, Singapore Airlines and the Singapore Girls cast a shadow over every other airline I've flown with. Even in economy the service at all times was attentive. A menu was distributed soon after take-off and generally for each main meal three choices were offered (a balance of Western and Asian food).  Hot towels were distributed before each food service and drinks were regularly refilled.  More than once, fellow passengers were offered alternate meals when it was noticed that their first selection had gone un-eaten.

And as for how they dealt with families travelling with infants and small children? They were just amazing. Older children were treated as having special dietary requirements and served their meals first. Parents with babies were asked which parent should be fed first (so that one could remain in charge of the baby and the other could eat unmolested). For the babies, multiple choices of jarred baby foods were provided - as were nappies. Compare this, to BA, who don't even offer a meal to kids under the age of two travelling without their own seat (nor did they offer any assistance to my partner when she was travelling alone with our baby).

Krisworld - the name given to to the Singapore Airlines back of seat entertainment system - offers more films and TV shows on demand, than you'll be able to watch - even when you add the hours spent sat in your seat on the four legs of a return trip to Australia. For music there is a wide selection of radio and audio CDs to choose from. I especially liked the ability to create a playlist of tracks from the many CDs on offer. It also offers a selection of games, airport information and flight-path map.  Speaking of the map, my inner child sniggered when the Japanese city of Fukuoka was displayed.

I'd like to say that I arrived refreshed and rested into Singapore, but I'm not sure if that can ever be true after twelve and a half hours in a cramped economy seat? All I can say is it was a relief to land and we exited the plane without delay. Although another quirk of the Singapore Airlines experience is that the curtains that divide the cabins are kept closed, until the premium passengers have departed. So for a few minutes, you're left wondering if the doors have been opened.

Once in the Changi airport transit lounge, I only had time to change into a pair of shorts, get some Duty-Free and drink a quick coffee before needing to join the queue for security ahead of my departure to Brisbane. I was almost nearly tempted to by an iPad, at over a £100 less than the equivalent UK prices! (I would have had difficulty explaining it away to my partner, so thought better of it).

Having done the long leg from the UK, it was a pleasure to hear that with a favourable tail wind our flight time would be reduced to less than seven hours. Again - after take-off - menu cards were distributed and the service matched what I had received on the A380. Apart from a few bumps of turbulence over the Northern Territory the rest of this part of the journey passed unremarkably.
...to be continued....coming soon - Part 2 - Arrivals and my week in Oz...

Monday, 18 October 2010

Getting from Agnes Water back to Brisbane Airport

With less than two weeks away from my validation trip to Australia, I've started to think about the finer logistical points of the journey.

Q. How I'm going to get to Heathrow?
A. I'm travelling alone, so the cheapest easiest option is for me to try out the services of National Express coaches for a knockdown price of £19.90.

Another alternative (other than to ask the better half to drive me) which wouldn't have been too costly is the First Great Western RailAir link. However, it would have required me to negotiate between the railway platform and coach station at Reading, with 40Kgs of my partner's most treasured possessions and my own over stuffed rucksack of hand luggage.

Q. How do I get from Brisbane Airport to my mother-in-laws in Agnes Water, QLD - nearly 500km (310 miles) away?
A. This one was made easier; the m-in-law has offered to collect me.

Q. How do I get back from the m-in-laws to Brisbane Airport?
A. This is a little trickier. Having had her perform the six hundred mile round trip for me once, I couldn't very well ask her to do the same thing again - less than a week later.

So, I started to look at the option of hire cars from Bundaberg. The quote I received - for an eight hour car rental - left me stunned. To give you context: I can collect a car from Heathrow and drive it to Swindon, for less than £40 plus petrol.

A one-way journey from Avis Bundaberg to Avis Brisbane airport was priced at $236AUD, with mileage charges and petrol to be added on top. At today's exchange rate, that's nearly an eye watering £150 before I'd started the ignition.

At that price, I'd want to be offered a Mercedes or be allowed to keep part of the car. But no, this was for a Hyundai Getz - hardly premium transport.

Another option - suggested to me, was the high-speed Tilt Train, leaving Miriam Vale it promised to get me to Brisbane central station for a more reasonable $80AUD. That said, the quoted journey time was a less than high-speed five hours. Un-burdened from my partner's heavy bags (left for safe keeping with her mother) it would be easy to hop onto the Airtrain ($15AUD) to get me to the airport.

Lastly, I considered flying as a possibility. The absolute cheapest option I found was with Tiger Airways, from Rockhampton. Their price was $24AUD - by far this made planes, cheaper than trains or automobiles - but would have meant that I would have had to depart from my mother-in-laws at 4am to get the airport and it also would have left me with a fourteen hour wait at Brisbane.

The route I finally selected was a flight with Qantas, from Bundaberg for the grand total of $88AUD (around fifty quid) or less than a third of the total cost of hiring a car and driving myself.

By flying, the journey time is reduced to fifty minutes - so another win. The only area of concern – particularly for my beloved partner - is the aircraft that Qantas operate from Bundaberg airport: the De Havilland DHC-8-400Q. Since the advent of jet engines, her feeling is that propellers have no place in modern propulsion.

Bundaberg airport markets itself as an up-and-coming facility. "More than 50,000 people pass through the terminal annually" their website pronounces. By comparison, Heathrow handles around 183,000 every day of the year!

Brisbane airport is divided between two terminals that are 2km apart, so I'll need to use the previously mentioned Airtrain to transport me between domestic and international terminals. All being well I should only have a few hours between check-in and the first leg of my Singapore Airlines flight back to London.

Once I finally get back to Heathrow, my lady love and son will be waiting to chaffeur me the final miles back home. By then it will be less than six months, before the three of us (plus our currently unborn beautiful baby) are back in Heathrow to make our one-way flights to Australia. This time I have a feeling we won't be flying up to Bundaberg!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Important Milestones

Four weeks until my current role comes to an end (after 12 years).
Seven weeks until I validate my visa.
Seven months until we all make the move to Australia.
Two weeks until we find out the sex of our baby (and then make his/her flight booking with Singapore Air) and then:
only twenty (or so) weeks to he/she makes an arrival.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Not much from me of late..

Hi-de-hi Campers!! (That will make more sense to some than others).  I don't have a great deal to report.  Am sat here today in a hotel room in New York state, having made what is likely to be my final transatlantic business trip for some time to come.  Slowly it feels like the stars are starting to align and what was first an idea - to move to Australia - is becoming a reality.  In that:

* I have my subclass 100 Defacto Spouse visa
* One-way flights have been booked
* Our families have been notified (one side is happier than the other as you might imagine)
* I have a NAB bank account and have become a whizz at international money transfer
* Things are complicated with my employer (because of its internal structure) but some people know our plans
* The house is starting to look sale/rentable and the mass clearout/ebayfest is ongoing

We have some new challenges.  My partner is pregnant.  This is awesome news; after two years where we thought our son might be an only child.  But the baby is timed to arrive only ten weeks before our flights from the UK.  I don't want to tempt fate, but at some point we'll have to tell the airline and understand from Australia House what our chances of obtaining Citizenship and a passport are in that narrow window.  Also, my employer is showing signs that it wants to invest some money in bringing my skills back up-to-date.  I kind of feel I'm owed, but I don't want to be in a position where I quit a few months later and they try and claw the money back.

Anyhow, thanks for reading and staying in-touch.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Australia: It's a Bloody Big Place!

Just for a bit of fun, I thought a share a postcard I was once sent - indicating the relative size of Australia:

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Enjoying the calm before the storm

Greetings gentle reader(s).  It has been awful quiet from me of late and that's because at this stage in the migration process there has been very little for me to do: Get visa - Tick! Arrange Aussie Bank Account - Tick! Set dates for travel and arrange flights - Tick!

So with April chosen, as the date we're working backwards from it is too early to do more than think about shipping (a process that I'm trying to read up on - watch this space).  Somehow I still need to get into a mindset of 'stop buying things!' as they'll only need to be disposed of, packed or shipped.  Gradually, we also getting the house together; though still don't have a clue what to do with it.  It seems unlikely that we'd get a quick sale without sacrificing the small amount of equity we've accrued.

It is far too early to share my plans with my employer - although according to my calculations I'd be happy to take voluntary (or forced!) redundancy any time after October, as effectively through the pay-out I'd receive the same salary as though I worked right up until March.  Once I do tell my employer, there may be an option for international relocation, but I don't hold out hope. 

It is funny (and not funny ha-ha) having the visa, in that I now feel somewhat disenfranchised from the people who gave me support during my application and the long wait in the various internet forums that I frequent.  I don't know how to explain.  Seeing new people join with questions - as they begin the process - and reading those questions being answered by people who once asked me questions makes me feel that my time has passed and I should move on.  Peculiar, I know.

To pass the time, I have a stack of new books on my bedside table (a stack as I actually haven't finished reading any of them!).  No reviews, but these all come recommended:

  • "Australia: A Biography of a Nation" by Philip Knightley (A history book!)
  • "Digger" by Max Anderson (Man gives up job, goes in search of gold in Western Australia)
  • "In the Land of Oz" by Howard Jacobson (bit like Bill Bryson)
Anyhow, I'll sign off again until I can find something interesting to write about.  Take care.

Friday, 2 July 2010

"I've got a golden ticket"! Part 2..

And here it is, the thing I've been working towards and waiting all this time for: my passport returned to me with a subclass 100 Defacto Partner visa sticker attached to one of the pages, granting me permission to remain in Australia indefinitely..

The turnaround time to send my passport in and get it back was impressive: posted Wednesday, received by Australia House Thursday, back in my possession Friday.

Will be enjoying a few glasses of red wine tonight, maybe the whole bottle!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

WAHOO!!

Just checked the Royal Mail Special Delivery tracking website and already my passport is on its way back to me. Should be back in my possession by 10am tomorrow, can't wait for this chapter to close.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

"I've got a golden ticket"!

Well, the email has finally arrived (after 172 Days or 24 Weeks and 4 Days of nail biting):

Dear Mr Zultan,

I  refer  to  your application for a Partner (Migrant) visa (Class BC).  On
the  basis  of  your  sponsorship  by Mrs Zultan, I am pleased to
advise that you have been granted a subclass 100 visa. 


I note that for the first time during the application my Case Officer sent the email to my agent and not to me.  I must have upset her when I pesterered her directly last week as she sent me a stock standard response:

For the 2009-10 program year the Government has allocated 60,300 places in
the Family Stream (including 45,000 places for Partner visas, reflecting
their high priority). The planning levels for each visa category within
the Family Stream reflect the priorities allocated to these categories.
The Department has a responsibility to ensure that the numbers of visas
granted overall and within each visa category are in accordance with the
agreed planning levels. As a visa category approaches it's planning level,
this means that some cases may not be finalised as quickly as our clients
or the Department would want. We have a responsibility to ensure that visa
grants within the Family Stream reflect the priorities set by the
Government and we will manage this in the most fair and reasonable way
possible.

I appreciate that you would like to have your application finalised. I
thank you for your patience and wish to assure you that every effort is
being made to finalise your application as soon as it is possible to do so. 

 

Which sent me away with my tail betwen my legs.  So here is the time line of my visa application:

Application Submitted - 07/01/10
Payment taken - 12/01/10
CO Assigned, Medical and Police Certs requested - 14/01/10
Police Cert sent via Special Delivery - 26/01/10
Medical completed - 05/02/10
Medical results sent by Panel Doc to Australia House - 15/02/10
CO Acknowledged receipt of medical results (after prodding from me!) - 18/02/10
Partner Visa Subclass 100 GRANTED - 29/06/2010 at 23:02

My passport was sent off first thing this morning, so now I need to find something else to worry about.. But first a large drink!! Wahoo!! :o)

Friday, 11 June 2010

Australia Defacto Spouse Visa - an expensive hobby

So, as I cross the 22 weeks of waiting mark I've been reflecting on how expensive an activity the process of applying to Australia  House for my Defacto Spouse Visa has been - both in terms of time (nearly eleven months since we had the idea) and money (to date just over £3,000).

Visa fee - £1000 (the weak £ and strength of the $AUD didn't help)
Agent's fee - £700 (money well spent for the peace of mind)
Medical - £196 (Bridge Clinic in Maidenhead gets my thumbs up)
Police Certificate - £35 (Absolute rip-off!)
Police SAR - £10 (Not required for everyone, did it to help my addled brain)
Certfied Copies - £90 (in the end solicitor's were much easier than magistrates)
Special Delivery - £30 (various bits to my agent and to Australia House)
Train fare - £30 (to my medical)
Flight to Australia to validate my visa - £930 (more expensive because of visa delays)

Total == £3,021 (ouch!)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

153 Days -- or -- 21 Weeks and 6 Days (and counting!!)

So here we are in June and still waiting for my Defacto Partner visa.  Although we do have major progress on the migration front, in that our single tickets to Brisbane are now booked for April 2011 (again, with Singapore Air).  We decided it was best to draw a line in the sand and work backwords from there.  Still in a bit of shock if I'm honest.

Anyhow on to a brief book review: 'How to Settle Successfully In Australia' by Emigration Australia.  Let me start off by saying I really wanted to like this book.  Its main author is a regular poster at one of the forums I frequent and seems an amiable enough chap and for certain a lot of love and effort went into the book's production.  But....  - and my mother told me if I didn't have anything nice to say I should stay quiet - I don't think I got my money's worth from it.

The book is very verbose in some areas, to say the least.  The chapter "What is the boomerang syndrome' could have easily distilled down to "an overwelming desire to return, or stay in the UK" but instead runs to four pages.  In 'Look before you leap' the author tells that we should RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH and that he has 1485 books on Australia.  What he doesn't do is actually offer any advice as to where to do your research, what to research or which of his books are a decent read.  'Don't sell you house in the UK' would have been succint enough advice, because certainly the chapter doesn't offer any practical guidance on how you might keep your house in the UK whilst you find out if Australia is for you.

Another chapter 'The Credit Crunch', you'd expect to read about how Australia is fairing during the first Global Financial Crisis?  Instead - aside from the waffle - the author dedicates the entire chapter to an anecdotal story about the number of Australians resident in backpacker hostels.  Nothing about house prices, employment, banking, the economy in general or commodity mining..

Anyway, I've said too much.  To balance out my Karma I'm happy to send the book free of charge to the first person to send me an email to: Sorry the book has now gone!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Still aint nothing going on.

It doesn't matter how much I beg.  My Case Officer's mind is made up.  I will be getting my visa 'early in July' and not a day sooner.  Patiently, I continue to wait.

We've decided that I should make a brief visit to Australia in November, as we won't have enough time between the visa being issued and the first entry date to arrange our affairs in the UK.  So, I'm booked on a Singapore Air flight, out on a Saturday, back to the UK the next.  Fingers crossed I'll be able to persuade them to double my baggage allowance to 40Kg, so that my partner can weigh me down with her personal affects.

I've nabbed myself an Australia bank acccount with NAB, which is exciting in itself.  I chose NAB as they a. allow you to open the account from the UK, b. don't charge a monthly fee and c. employ really friendly staff at the UK office in Richmond.  My ATM card and pin code will be waiting for me to collect, once I present myself to a NAB branch on my validation visit.

Meantime, I've set up a new PayPal Australia account that is tied to my new NAB bank account.  That way I can quickly and easily transfer small amounts of money between my bank accounts in the UK and Australia.  For larger amounts I'll need to look into a broker account - more of that later I'm sure.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A Nod in the Right Direction

I cracked again and made contact with my Case Officer. My resolve was tested after reading on British Expats about the Defacto Spouse Visa application of another forum poster who had just received his visa, despite applying to Australia House several weeks after me.

This time around, my call was answered on my first attempt after the second ring.  I was half expecting to hear that parts of my file were missing.  Instead I was told that my application was complete, my grant was being processed and I could expect my visa to be finalised in July.  July? Beg pardon?  Some seven months after the forms and evidence were supplied.

Here I must confess that I made it clear to my CO that I had no immediate plans to travel and that there would be no impact in placing my file in a low priority queue - so that the files of those who did have flights booked, could be processed quicker.  Even so, another three months of waiting feels like a big hill to climb.

I realised after the call, that I'd forgotten to ask which subclass of Defacto Partner Visa I was going to be granted, so once more picked up the telephone.  Again, I was answered promptly and advised that a subclass 100 Permanent Partner Visa is to be issued to me.  Phew!! This means I won't need to do another medical in two years time (bring on the donuts and KFC mega-bucket meals!) and won't need to jump through more hoops to prove the relationship is still ongoing.

After the second call, I again realised I had a question un-answered.  Was I free now to start making plans on the assumption I was going to get my visa?  Rather than immediately bother the CO again (and risk her changing her mind) I sent an email: 

Dear Mr xxx,

Thank you for your message. I would like to confirm that this should be fine  - and the application will be granted in early July 2010.

Yours sincerely
xxx xxx
Position No xxx
Family Migration
DIAC London
Australian High Commission
Australia House
Strand
London WC2B 4LA


Was the reply.  So there it is in writing.  I will have my Defacto Partner Visa in July, nearly twelve months after we started discussing it as a family.

It is a scary realisation to think that once I have the stamp in my passport, we are free to re-locate to the other side of the world.  Today that feels a long way off.  To meet the conditions of the visa I will have to move to Australia by 25th January 2011 - or alternatively set foot in Australia long enough for passport control to stamp and activate my visa before returning to the UK.

In my mind, I had planned for this eventuality and had pencilled a brief trip at the end of April 2010 (the time of year when flights were at their cheapeast).  As things have turned out, booking a ticket for April in expectation of my visa would have been a bad idea for two reasons 1- Obviously April has been and gone and I don't have a visa, so my ticket would have been useless in its purporse. 2- The non-existent cloud of volcanic ash would like have scuppered my itinerary somewhere along the way.

Anyhow, from speaking to my agent he believes that the slow-down in visa processing has been due to a massive uptick in demand for Spouse visas.  Apparently the visa grant year runs from June-June, so pushing my application into July will take it out of the 2010 figures.  I'm not fully sure I follow how that helps anyone.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

More waiting...

After my Case Officer didn't reply to my Agent's email, I picked up the telephone and made contact with Australia House.  This did feel a little bit like buying a dog and barking myself...  Clearly my Agent is a more patient man than me (or has been ground down by the bureaucracy and given up trying to pro-actively interact).

My first call went straight to voicemail; ten minutes later it was answered within three rings.  She seemed a little nervous but polite enough.  Things then went downhill. She suggested that bits of my Defacto Partner Visa application were missing and that there were still documents I needed to supply.  It took all my control to not shout "So, why the hell didn't you ask me or my agent for them?" down the telephone.  I also wished I'd kept the Special Delivery tracking numbers to prove they'd been lost in the Australia House post room.

After ten long minutes of listening to papers being shuffled around her desk - no way was I prepared to hang-up and wait for a call back! - the lost Police certificate and character references were found.  Eventually it was confirmed that my Defacto Partner Visa application was now in a position to go forward for approval sometime in MAY!!!!

That came as a bit of an unwelcome surprise.  From tracking Poms In Oz and British Expats it is apparent that the people who applied to Australia House in December 2009 for their partner visas, were much luckier in their turnaround times and now mostly have their visas.  Something has happened in 2010, to increase the Case Officer workload and increase the processing times.  Maybe the miserable winter has finally persuaded Australians living in the UK to up-sticks with their partners?  Or maybe it's a staff-shortage, as all the Case Officer's holiday in Australia in January to be guaranteed of some sunshine?  Either way it is a frustration.

Thankfully, I don't have flights booked or any immediate plans to migrate.  But it still feels like my life is on-hold with my visa application hanging over me.   Especially as the Case Officer is free to ask for more evidence (or the dreaded Form 80) at any time.  The positive I can draw from knowing about the delay is that I won't be checking my email every hour for contact from my Case Officer - until May 1st at least.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Move along... nothing to see here.

And the waiting for my Defacto Spouse visa for Australia continues.  A cleverer mind than mine pointed out that an anagram of my Case Officer's name is "Visa Scandal".  I'm not brave enough to tell her.  She didn't reply to my agents offer of more information either, so I may yet - once the boredom finals gets me.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Evidence for a Defacto Visa application

A while back, I was asked about what evidence we had submitted to support my visa application.  Even though it was only a few months ago I had to think hard to remember.  Here is a fairly complete list:

Certified (some by a magistrate/some by a local solicitor)
  • Confirmation of Death in Service payment from my partner to me
  • Confirmation of Death in Service payment from my me to partner
  • Partner's car insurance with me as named driver
  • My car insurance partner as named driver
  • Joint mortgage offer
  • Remortgage correspondence from conveyancing solicitor
  • First joint bank statement
  • Council Tax bill from 2008
  • Mine, my partner's and son's passport & birth certs

Uncertified
  • Numerous travel and holiday itineraries going back to 2002
  • Invoice from nursery addressed to both of us
  • Amex statement showing partner's supplementary card on my account
  • Stat decs (Our's, Both mums, A friend).
  • Personal statement from me about my criminal record
  • 3 x Character Refs from Friends saying i'm upstanding and no longer a crim!
  • Partner's employer reference, job profile and a recent p60

Doesn't look like much written down, but it took nearly six months to get everything together.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Bored of waiting, already,,

So I sent a warm chatty email to my Case Officer, asking if she had received my medical results and whether or not there was anything else I could provide to her.  "I would like to advise that the medical reports have been received" was the reply and then a repeat of the information from her initial contact email.

I was elated to read that others who had applied for their Defacto Spouse Visa in the month before me have started to get the thumbs up from Australia House.  Here's hoping I hear something soon.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Medical/Long wait begins

Well, it's been a week since the medical for my Defacto Spouse Australian visa application and I've heard nothing.  This I'm told is a good sign, I would only have heard from the Panel Doctor if something was found to be wrong with me.  The day of the medical went something like this:

Up early, as light a breakfast as possible (I was due to be weighed afterall!).  With me I carried my partially filled forms 160 (Radiological report of chest X-Ray) and 26 (Medical examination), my passport and two more passport photos (hastily taken in Tesco's the night before).  I bought gallons of water at the train station (as I'd read you could dilute any 'protein in your pee' problems with plenty of fluid).  I'd drunk nearly three litres before arriving in Maidenhead!!  The Bridge Clinic is about a 15 minute walk away and by the time I'd signed in my bladder was fit to burst.

Luckily, the Radiographers waiting room had a loo nearby and I made several nervous trips before my name was called.  The nurse that took my chest X-Ray was warm and friendly and tried her best to put my mind at ease.  She was even kind enough to show me the results and talk me through what I was seeing.  Everything in her opinion was normal, but it was the Senior Radiographer that had to review it and sign off.

In less than fifteen minutes from beginning-to-end I was being ushered outside and into a different building, where I was to see the Panel Doctor himself.  But first I had to pee again.  A new nurse took my height, weight and tested my eyesight.  She then asked me to provide a sample; at this point my tap ran dry.  To help things along, I drank even more water and was eventually able to fill a cup.

Then it was in with the Doctor, who I have to say also did a fabulous job of keeping me calm.  My joints and reflexes were tested, ears inspected, chest prodded and lungs listenened to.  When it came to the moment where my blood pressure was to be recorded, I produced the report from my GP - expecting my reading to be off the scale.  Amazingly it was 133/80, well within the limits - the healthly living had paid off.

I was so elated by my BP, that I forgot about the blood test.  This too was a (relatively) painless affair.  About an hour after I arrived, I paid my bill (around 200 quid, including postage to get the results to Australia House in London) and was gone.  Straight into a cafe for some proper lunch.

So now I wait, and wait and probably wait some more until my Case Officer gets back in contact.  With good news I hope..

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

First Contact

My Case Officer has been in touch, to say that she has been assigned to my Defacto Spouse Visa application.  She has requested that I complete the medical and send my Police certificate in ASAP.  No mention of any further documentation requirements or evidence or the dreaded form 80..

Friday, 15 January 2010

A bullet dodged!

In my last post I bitched and moaned, about how the NHS was forcing me to do my 24 hour blood pressure monitoring a lot earlier than I would have liked.  Well I did it and the results all came back normal; nothing at all to worry about.  Apart from the remaining fact that Doctors scare me silly.  Particularly those who are assessing me for important medicals.  Thankfully, my GP is preparing a report to explain things.  Including a pretty graph that plots my normal blood pressure over a 24 hour period.  Wahey!!

So now my medical is confirmed and booked for Feb 5th.  I booked it in early, as the changes to that DIAC is making to the list of registered UK Panel Doctors could affect my ability to make an appointment at a time convenient to me.  Just need to keep the diet up, I fell off the wagon last night and ate pizza..

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Changes to the plan.. Grrr..

In the space of 24 hours I've had to make two changes to assumptions that I'd made about my application.  The first came after a conversation with my agent.  Because I'd attached a Subject Access Request from Wiltshire Police to my application - at the request of DIAC - my Case Officer may 'do me favour' and not request a proper ACPO Police Certificate.  Unfortunately, this would mean that once my visa was eventually (hopefully!) granted the initial entry date would be set by the SAR and thus expire August 2010.  This would not give me the plenty of time I'd hoped for to sort myself out.  To counter this, my agent advised that I apply for the ACPO Police Certificate with haste.  Which I did, on the same day as our conversation.  The application form doesn't have any gotchas.  One peculiarity I found is that the evidence of your current address can be a photocopy of a bill, it cannot be a print out from an online account.  Green visa applicants beware!

The second change I've had to make, is around the 24 hour BP monitor I need to wear.  I hadn't factored in the NHS.  In my mind, I've scheduled my medical for Friday 5th February.  I'm overweight and have borderline high blood pressure.  My intention was to lose as much weight as possible in the interim 5 weeks, by going on a VLCD - although extreme I find it works for me and I get results. 

Again in my mind, I'd planned to wear the 24 hour BP monitor a week before my medical.  By then my weight should have dropped and my BP along with it.  I would then be able to show the panel doctor my print out.  But of course, I hadn't factored in the NHS.  I received a call late yesterday afternoon, the gist of which was that I could have the BP monitor fitted today or sometime towards the end of February.  So I don't think it will any longer serve my purpose, but am doing it any way in case it does reveal a hitherto undiagnosed health problem.

As manager-speak tells me.  Change is good.  We should all embrace change.  Change helps us to grow.

But is sometimes a big pain in the ass.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Australian Citizenship by Descent

One of the most straightforward pieces of my family's migration puzzle, has been the process for obtaining an Australian passport for my 21 month year old son.

Before we could apply for a passport on his behalf, we first had to register him as an Australian Citizen by descent of his mother.  All this entailed was sending a simple form (118) - with his birth certificate, his British passport, his mum's Australian passport and a passport photograph of him (that was signed on the back, by my local Postmaster as a true likeness) - to Australia House along with a fee of £70.  Additionally, you have to pay the cost of two Royal Mail Special Delivery envelopes for the send and return of your documents.  It took less than two weeks for us to receive everything back and a Cerificate of Australian Citizenship.  If only it were this easy for me!

Once we had the certificate, we then immediately set about applying for his passport using the online tools to prepare his application form.  Because this would be our son's first Australian passport and we are overseas, the application needed to be dealt with offline.  Fortunately, the website allows you to save and return to applications, as well as print off the filled out form.  Again we had to get his passport photo certified as a true likeness, this time it had to be an Australian citizen - so I was grateful to a work colleague.

The final stage of the application required my partner to make a visit to Australia House, with all her and our son's ID documents.  The application cost $104AUD and a train ticket into London.  We had to wait nearly a month to get an appointment, but the passport itself arrived within two weeks.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year everyone!  Or both of you Dear readers, I should say.  Sorry for the lack of updates, my medical worries have made me bury my head in the sand for the past couple of months.

I think my Defacto Visa application is complete and ready for my migration agent to submit to Australia House in London.  I've started 2010 with a renewed health kick and am hopeful that the medical won't throw up any additional problems.  My blood pressure trend seems to be gradually downwards. To help demonstrate to the Panel Doctors that my high BP is partially due to "White Coat Hypertension" (being scared of doctors!), I will be wearing a BP monitor for 24 hours towards the end of the month and can then take the results with me to my Visa medical.

The Panel Doctors I've chosen are The Bridge Clinic in Maidenhead, as their prices seem reasonable enough and they have the advantage of being able to take X-Rays onsite - thus removing the need for a seperate hospital visit.  That said, DIAC have caused me more turmoil by announcing a review of the status of all UK Panel Doctors.  So far, I've heard of three practices that will not be performing Australia Visa medicals beyond January.  The Bridge Clinic believes their DIAC review was favourable, so fingers crossed I won't have to make new plans.

** Update :: Just spoken to my agent and he also feels my application is complete, so will be submitting it today. **