Tag Archives: temporary residency

Australian Partner Visas and the Road to Residency: Part 5

11 Apr

For Part 1, click here.

For Part 2, click here.

For Part 3, click here.

For Part 4, click here.

In my previous post on this subject, I mentioned how and why I came to be stuck with having to satisfy Schedule 3 requirements and explained that the outlook was rather bleak.

I’m pleased to say that story has a mostly happy ending, resulting in me being granted a temporary residency visa! Woohoo!

The only unhappy part to the ending is owing our migration lawyer another $14,000. Ouch! But I guess he got the job done, which is what matters.

Here’s what went down. With the help of our lawyer and a barrister who specialises in immigration law, we filed three statutory declarations, along with several supporting letters, with DIAC in response to their request for information. We decided to ask for the waiver, but also supply all the information to satisfy the Schedule 3 requirements at the same time.

To waive Schedule 3, the applicant must show that there are “compelling circumstances” to warrant a waiver. These circumstances are defined as 1) having been in a relationship with the sponsor for two years or 2) having a child.

However, there is legal precedent which states that compelling circumstances cannot be limited to just those two items and there have been instances where an applicant was found to have compelling circumstances for other reasons, such as health issues, etc. In the letter our lawyer wrote, he outlined these precedents and made his case for why other circumstances must be taken into consideration.

In our case, our compelling circumstances, as outlined to DIAC, were:

1) H’s frail aged mother requires daily care, which I provide (supported by letters from her and her GP)

2) H would feel compelled to leave Australia with me if I were sent away

3) That would cause harm to his employer (supported by a letter from his boss)

4) It would put both H and his mother in a bind, in regards to her need for care and his need to be with me

We left out any references to financial hardship, as the lawyer did not think DIAC would care as much about that and he felt it would detract from the bigger issues.

Our lawyer advised that, failing to get a waiver or satisfy the requirements, I would not have to leave Australia, but would be able to appeal to the Migration Review Tribunal. In such a case, I would be on a bridging visa until my hearing, which would be in about two years.

But fortunately, that wasn’t an issue because my case officer at DIAC was apparently happy enough with our explanations. I was expecting to wait at least a few weeks, if not months, to hear what the decision would be.

Imagine my surprise to get a response just two days after filing our paperwork! Not only did my case officer say that the waiver was granted, but that my temporary residency visa had also been granted. Hooray!

However, even though I am now officially a resident, I still have to wait another two years to become a permanent resident and at least two more years after that to become a citizen, so this is by no means the last post in this series!

*Disclaimer: None of this is legal advice. If you have questions about your own visa application, you really should talk to a licensed migration agent. Iā€™m not an expert. This post pertains solely to my experiences and circumstances- yours will probably be different.*

Australian Partner Visas and the Road to Residency: Part 3

17 Dec

For Part 1, click here.

For Part 2, click here.

If you’re applying for a partner visa within Australia (or just about any other substantive visa for residency), you will be required to submit a police check from your home country and any other country that you’ve lived in for at least a year (including Australia if you’ve been here for a year or close to it by the time you submit).

For Americans, that means you need to get a criminal records check from the FBI. I’ve already mentioned this previously, but I’ll walk you through it again in more detail, along with the fingerprinting process.

You will need to submit an Identification Record Request to the FBI. The instructions for doing so can be found here, and all the relevant links you need for the documents can be found on the right side-bar.

Most people can probably figure out how to fill out the forms required (if you are paying by credit card, which is easiest from abroad, note that the credit card form needs to be downloaded separately- see the sidebar with all the links).

The biggest hassle is getting your fingerprints done. As I’ve said before, there is only one fingerprinting facility in Melbourne. You must make an appointment to have your fingerprints done. The wait time for fingerprinting in Melbourne can be 2-3 months. If you can’t wait that long and are willing to travel, there are several regional offices that you can contact to see if you can get in earlier.

You will need to take your passport with you, along with the fingerprint card used by the FBI. It’s fine to print this from your home computer on standard paper. I recommend printing at least two copies and having two sets of fingerprints taken, just in case you get some prints that don’t come out right according to the FBI regulations. Think how much it would suck to wait all that time for an appointment and travel all the way to the police station, only to have your prints messed up somehow and not have a spare card for them to use. I brought four with me (only needed two), just because I used to be a Girl Scout and I like to be prepared.

Equally important is to arrive early. Yes, your appointment might not be til 11am and you might not be seen until 11:30, but aim to get there at least 15 minutes early so you can check in and they can go over your paperwork.

If you arrive late, even just a little bit, you risk losing your appointment. I was in line behind a woman who was five minutes late and throwing a fit because she hadn’t been able to find a parking spot and was upset that the police wouldn’t accommodate her anyway because their entire day for fingerprints was booked up. So it’s much better to arrive early, and if you are a lot early, there are a few cafes inside the building you can hang out at.

It isn’t too difficult to get there. It is within walking distance from Southern Cross train station and several trams run by or near to it. If driving is your thing, there are parking garages available (but not much in the way of on-street metered parking).

If you GPS the address (637 Flinders), it will take you to a police station at that address. But this is not where you get your fingerprints done. Instead, you need to enter the World Trade Centre building from the Siddeley Street entrance (there is conveniently a parking garage located right next to this entrance) and go up the escalators, where you will see the fingerprint facility right next to the Victorian Police Museum.

Location of Melbourne fingerprinting facility

Location of Melbourne fingerprinting facility

(By the way, if you’ve never had your fingerprints taken before, it can be quite messy, so don’t wear anything that you’d be upset about getting ink on it.)

Now, when I called to make an appointment, I was told the charge for fingerprinting was $141, but when I got there, they told me there was no charge for the service. So I didn’t actually pay anything, but I’m not convinced it wasn’t a fluke. Bring your credit card, just in case.

Once you’ve finished with your fingerprints, you’re good to go. They’ll be given to you in an unsealed envelope, to which you can add your FBI form.

Lastly, go over the checklist and make sure you have everything you need, then post it all to the FBI at:

FBI CJIS Division ā€“ Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306

And then sit back and enjoy waiting on American bureaucracy! šŸ˜€ It will be up to six weeks before you get a response back.

For Part 4, click here.

*Disclaimer: None of this is legal advice. If you have questions about your own visa application, you really should talk to a licensed migration agent. Iā€™m not an expert. This post pertains solely to my experiences and circumstances- yours will probably be different.*

Australian Partner Visas and the Road to Residency: Part 2

21 Nov

For Part 1, click here.

Yesterday, my lawyer finally submitted my application for residency to Immigration, two days before my visitor visa expires. While it is incomplete, still missing the results of my police checks from the US and Australia, they did accept it as a valid application and I was granted a Bridging Visa C (or BVC).

Usually, BVCs are for people who are in the country unlawfully and want to become lawful before they come to DIAC’s attention. I got a BVC because my visitor visa was about to expire and, obviously, I would like to stay in the country while they process my application for a spousal visa. The BVC is an electronic visa, so you won’t get a a stamp in your passport or anything like that.

It’s kind of a crappy visa, although it’s certainly better than no visa at all. You can’t work with a BVC, unless you can demonstrate financial hardship. You also cannot travel out of the country and re-enter on a BVC. As soon as you leave Australia, the BVC expires. So I’m hoping there are no family emergencies in the next few months!

Today, I went for the required health check. There is only one place in Melbourne that does immigration health exams and that is Medibank at 501 Swanston St. You can book over the phone or online at medibankhealth.com.au. I booked online and it was pretty simple. You do have to pay at the time of booking and it’s $332. I’ve heard it’s a lot more expensive to get the health check done overseas and that sometimes, even if you do the health check overseas, you still have to do it again in Australia

When you go to health exam, you’ll need to take your passport and forms 26 and 160. Fill it out before you go because you’ll be expected to have them completed when you check in. And bring something to read because you’ll be there for about two hours and spend a lot of time in waiting rooms.

The first thing they will ask you to do is give a urine sample. If you’re stupid, like me, you might have peed before you left the house because you were worried you’d wet your pants on the tram if you didn’t and won’t need to go right away. If that’s the case, you can always do it at the end of the exam, but they like to get that out of the way first.

Fortunately, eye exams these days are a bit more civilised than they used to be. You won’t have to worry about someone jabbing a buttonhook into your eye.

Following that, they will check your height and weight. Then they will give you a brief eye exam where they just ask you to read the letters on a chart from a distance. They made me read the very bottom line of the chart. I have no idea how well I did.

Next is a blood draw for an HIV test. They give you a form to read about what HIV test results mean and you have to sign a form saying you understand it. I told the nurse that my personal rule is that she gets three sticks with the needle and if she can’t do it in three tries, I’ll scream for someone else. She assured me that she could do it on the first try, but that they only get to try twice before they are required to get someone else. She got my vein on the first try, which was impressive, because I have roll-y veins and most nurses need at least two sticks to catch one of them. And if you are prone to passing out from blood draws or needles, they even have a bed you can lie on while they do it. I’m fascinated by medical procedures, though, so I opted for the chair so I could watch. šŸ˜€

After that, you’ll be called in by an actual doctor who will ask you about any prescriptions you are taking and what they are for. Then you get sent behind the curtain to strip to you underwear, lie on the bed, and cover up with a sheet. The doctor comes and takes your blood pressure, listens to your heart, feels your abdomen, and looks at your feet. Then you can get dressed and go queue for your chest x-ray. The whole thing is so non-intrusive that you can probably even skip shaving your legs beforehand.

The chest x-ray is to check for tuberculosis. And obviously, you should tell them if you are pregnant or might be pregnant because then you’ll need to reschedule the x-ray for another time. I’m pretty sure I don’t have tuberculosis, but if I did, I’ve been in Australia for almost a year, coughing all over people, so if I had germs to spread around, believe me-

You have to check in again with the chest x-ray people and when they call your name, they take you to a small cubicle where you undress your top half and give you a gown to put on. Then you’re supposed to wait in your cubicle until they call your name. Someone got yelled at for coming out of his cubicle when it wasn’t his turn! I guess that’s for privacy reasons. When it is your turn, you’ll be taken to the machine and you press your chest and shoulders up against it where they tell you. Then they tell you to take a deep breath and hold it. The machine goes off and then you’re done and can go get dressed again.

And that’s it! After that, you can go home and they send the results to you in the mail.

Lastly, I’ll just mention Australian National Police Checks, because I don’t think I mentioned them in the last post. You only need to do this if you’ve been in Australia for a year or if it will be a year by the time they get around to processing your application, as is my case. You’ll want to visit this link for information about the police checks.

You might look through that page a few times before you figure out where you can go to download the application form, so I’ll save you the trouble: it’s here. You can do it online or print it, fill it out by hand, and post it to them. You will need certified copies of 100 points worth of the documents they ask for proving your identity (a passport, for example, is worth 70 points). If you do the online application, you will need a way to scan those documents, convert them to pdf files, and email them in. I chose to do it by hand and mail it because I don’t have a scanner. (It was mailed last week by Express post and they have already sent me an email saying my results are in the mail.) The cost is $42. For immigration purposes, you generally do not need to submit fingerprints, so only do that if you are asked for them.

For Part 3, click here.

For Part 4, click here.

*Disclaimer: None of this is legal advice. If you have questions about your own visa application, you really should talk to a licensed migration agent. Iā€™m not an expert. This post pertains solely to my experiences and circumstances- yours will probably be different.*

Australian Partner Visas and the Road to Residency: Part 1

16 Oct

Now that H and I are married, it’s time to think about going through all the necessary drudgery for me to become a permanent resident so that I can stay here with him. While Australia’s partner visa process is a lot easier than America’s, it’s still a heck of a lot of work and bureaucracy.

The partner visas are subclass 820 (temporary visa) and subclass 801 (permanent visa). You can apply for both of them together and there is usually a two year waiting period between when you get your 820 and when you can get your 801.

The first thing you have to do is fill out the appropriate forms. In our case, we need to fill out Form 47SP, which is the application for migration by a partner, Form 40SP, which is the sponsorship for a partner to migrate to Australia, and Form 80, which is your personal particulars for the character assessment.

These are massive forms. In these forms, you will become intimately familiar with yours and your partner’s passport numbers, as well as the birth dates of all your immediate family members. You will need to be able to say exactly where you went to school and exactly what dates, exactly where you worked, what you did there, and the dates you held those positions (since leaving school), every address you have lived at for the past ten years and precisely what dates, and every country you have ever traveled to and the exact dates of your arrivals and departures. (Bet you never thought all those passport stamps would come in handy, didja?)

And yes, the rumours are true that Australia can and will deny your application purely on character grounds. It’s right there in the paperwork. Frankly, I find this the most concerning part of the application, as it could presumably be used to exclude people even on political grounds, which I find a bit hypocritical of a country that also makes you sign a values statement in which you declare your undying love and support for freedom and democracy. But mainly it’s used to keep out criminals.

In addition to these three forms, you also need to get at least two statutory declarations, Form 888, from Australian citizens or permanent residents who know both you and your partner and will vouch for the fact that your relationship is genuine (i.e. not a sham marriage). If you’re like me, you might not know that many Aussies very well and might have difficulty finding people who can vouch for you. You can also submit forms or even just unofficial letters from anybody who is willing to vouch for you, even your family and friends overseas, and they are obliged to at least look at it and consider it.

You and your partner will also both need to provide evidence of a continuing relationship, which includes, but isn’t limited to photos, emails, and other tokens of your relationship history, as well as individual essays detailing the history and nature of your relationship, like how you met, when you decided to make a commitment to each other, how you distribute household chores and finances, etc. Some of this can feel a bit invasive and it is, but I guess you just have to get over that if you want to apply for a partner visa. Here is a good article that talks about the sorts of things you need to include to prove your relationship is genuine.

The other night, H was finishing his essay up, which he had been working hard on for several days. Since I finished mine in one evening, I couldn’t imagine what was taking him so long. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: So how’s it coming? What part are you up to?
H: I’m uh… it’s fine. I’m just revising the part about when we fell in love.
Me: Can I read it at some point?
H: No. It’s private.
Me: So you’re going to show it to the lawyer and hundreds of government officials? But not your wife?
H: That’s right.

I still haven’t seen it and I wonder what he is saying about me!

You’ll also need to get a health check. In Australia, I think it costs about $300 unless they ask you to get tested for a bunch of extra stuff. Mainly they just want to be sure you don’t have tuberculosis or HIV or are in general any kind of threat to public health or a burden on the healthcare system. I don’t really understand that myself. If they’ll let people come in on a visitor visa without a health check, then what’s the big deal about making sure they’re free of diseases later? I mean, for all they know, I could be spreading SARS around left and right and no one has ever bothered yet to see if I’m healthy or not. A friend of H’s, who immigrated many years ago back in the 70s when she was 16, said that when her family came over from Britain, not only did they have to have a physical health check, but also a mental health check and all of her family had to undergo psychiatric evaluations. So far, no one has told me I need to get a psych eval, so I don’t think they do it anymore.

And of course, you have to get your police checks. You have to get them from every country you’ve lived in for 12 months or more. Now pay attention because this part is important: DON’T PROCRASTINATE. If you’re an American, you’ll need to get a police check from the FBI and your home state. A lot of times, the state police won’t even know what the heck you’re asking about. The FBI knows how it’s done, but their turnaround time is a good four weeks. Additionally, you need to submit your fingerprints to them on their special fingerprint form. Here in Melbourne, there is only one central police station that does fingerprinting and you have to make an appointment. The earliest appointment I could get is for two months from now. They are ALWAYS booked up 2-3 months in advance. So don’t leave it until the last minute. In fact, make it one of the first things you do.

Plus, don’t forget to have certified copies made of all your essential documents, like birth and marriage certificates, etc. You also have to four passport sized photos, which you can get taken for a small fee just about anywhere.

Now, I’m told that you can submit an incomplete application if you are stuck waiting on some documents (like in my case, the results of the police checks) and then you can get your bridging visa while you wait on them to process your application. I haven’t personally tested this yet to see if it is true or not, though, so I’ll have to get back to you on the particulars of that.

And now for the hundred thousand dollar question… literally. How much does all this cost? Well, it costs a lot, so you better start saving your pennies. If you lodge outside of Australia, you’re looking at $2060. If you lodge in Australia, it’s $3060. (That’s for a partner visa, not a fiance visa.) Your processing time is likely going to be slightly quicker lodging from within Australia than without (though I’m told six to eight months is typical regardless) and in many cases, you might even be required to lodge an offshore application. It really depends on your circumstances. And if you use a migration agent (a.k.a. a lawyer), expect your costs to at least double, if not triple.

Some people have such simple, straightforward applications that using a migration agent isn’t really necessary, so I’m by no means advocating that you need to have one. We decided to use one because I have a few oddities in my background and circumstances and we decided we’d rather play it safe than risk making any mistakes on the application, but I do know of plenty of people who lodged their partner applications without any help and had no trouble at all.

For Part 2, click here.

For Part 3, click here.

For Part 4, click here.

*Disclaimer: None of this is legal advice. If you have questions about your own visa application, you really should talk to a licensed migration expert. I’m not an expert. This post pertains solely to my experiences and circumstances- yours will probably be different.*