Probably the most important part of moving to Australia is the visa. To be able to legally live and work Down Under, you’ll need one. Without the right visa, Australia will get all bouncer like on your excitable behind. If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in…
There’s many ways you can obtain the right to live and work in Australia, with dozens of different visa types available. You may fall into more than one category, so make sure you take the time to research.
If you’re not sure which visa to apply for, the Australian Government has a very handy visa finder online, to help you decide which one is right for you. There’s also a list of all available visas, and oodles of info on each one. This is the place to begin!
I’m not a visa expert or a migration agent, so I can’t offer specific advice or expert knowledge. What I can do, is share my experience, and the info I’ve picked up along the way.
So, let’s get cracking!
Which visa is for you?
Firstly, you need to decide how long you want to stay in Australia. You could go for:
Permanent – such as the partner or skilled migrant visa, which allows you to stay indefinitely if you meet certain requirements (this may take the form of two stages – temp to perm). Permanent visas may require an extensive application process and cost a lot of money, so factor this into your plans!
Temporary – such as the tourist or working holiday visa, which allows you to stay for a limited time, if you’re eligible.
These two types are then divided into the following categories:
Studying and Training
Family and Partner
Working and Skilled
Refugee and Humanitarian
It would take endless hours to go through every single visa type – and, even then, I likely wouldn’t know enough. However, I can share what I’ve learnt from applying for my partner visa.
My visa story
As you may know from my intro post, I came to Australia with my Australian husband, on a subclass 309 provisional partner visa – this is a visa I applied for off-shore in the UK.
I entered Australia almost 7 months from the date of application. My visa allows me to temporarily live, work and study in Australia until a permanent decision is made on my right to stay indefinitely. I’m eligible for permanent residency two years from the date of applying – which is very soon! – and I’ll need to prove to the Australian government that my relationship is ongoing, before my visa is finalised. And breathe!
When you apply for a permanent visa, it will be processed through your nearest embassy. In the UK, this will be London (Australia House). You’ll also be assigned a Case Officer, who will be in touch throughout the process. Ours was very good, and the embassy was super-helpful with any questions or queries we had.
As you can see, there’s much more to this visa than meets the eye. I had no idea how complicated the process was, until I began researching it. I definitely had to sit down with a stiff cup of tea!
Applying for a visa
For the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus on permanent visas. Here’s a few things to think about before you apply for an Australian visa:
How long will it take? Check the approval timeframe. Some visas will be fairly quick to be approved – such as the tourist visa, but others, such as the partner visa, may carry long waiting times.
When I applied for my visa, I was told it could take up to 15 months! That was a shock to the system! Luckily, that precious visa grant landed in my inbox six months after I applied.
I’m told that the timeframes change continually, and visas are placed in a queue and processed accordingly. Factor this into your migration plans! If you apply from within Australia, you may be eligible for a bridging visa, which allows you to live and work in the country until a decision is made. Make sure you check this first!
Will you need a medical or police checks? For certain visas, you’ll need to obtain a police check for every country you’ve lived in. If you’re applying for the partner visa, your partner may need to do this, too. You may also need a medical.
I remember standing in a wet car park in Cardiff, in tears, because I’m terrified of needles and was about to have blood drawn! I had to undergo a HIV test, chest x-ray (to check for TB), urine test, and a general medical before my visa could be granted. This is standard practice. It’s also worth noting that only certain ‘panel doctors’ can perform these medicals, so that rules out your GP. You’ll have to pay for the medical yourself (which can run into hundreds of pounds), and may have to travel to your nearest eligible centre. Typically, your case officer will notify you when it’s time to obtain your police check and book your medical.
How much will it cost? Brace yourself! Some of these visas come with a hefty price tag, and prices may increase from year to year (beginning on the 1st July). For example: the current cost of a partner visa, applied for in the UK, starts at £4,425.00. Yikes!
Do you like paperwork? If your answer is yes, you’re in for a treat. If not, look away now! Depending on your visa, you may need to fill in a lot of forms and provide a lot of proof. This is something I’ll go into in a separate post but, just as a heads-up, it took me three months to get my application ready. Yep, three months of slaving over a hot computer and using every curse word known to humankind!
Are you eligible? As mentioned above, before you put yourself through the stress, and the financial burden, of applying for a permanent visa, make sure you’re eligible. Have you been in a defacto relationship, or marriage, for more than a year with an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen? Do you have the necessary, in-demand skills for a skilled migrant visa? Research! Research! Research!
Will you be applying yourself? Some people complete their applications on their own, while others will use migration agents. Decide which is best for you, but remember: using a migration agent will increase your costs. I applied by myself, but my case was pretty clear cut. If yours is more complicated, this may be something to consider.
Are you still with me?
So, that’s the basics all covered. I hope I haven’t bored you to tears or sleep, or scared the pants off you!
If you’re applying for a partner visa; stick with me! Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be sharing a lot more about the application process. I found personal blogs on the partner visa to be a valuable resource, so hopefully I can pass that forward with mine.
Some visas will be easier than others, but remember: sometimes in life, something really worth having won’t come easy. I can confirm that cliched old phrase is 100% true! I found the partner visa to be confusing and draining at times, but it was so worth it to be able to live in such a brilliant country.
Next Sunday, I’ll be writing about timescales. Just how long does it take to move Down Under? Watch this space!