|Alison and I on Holiday in Sydney 2009|
The first stepAfter deciding not to go with an agent, using the Visa wizard on the immi.gov.au/visawizard/ website I had the choice out of a few visas. The main two were the 175 Skilled Migrant visa and the 176 Sponsored Skilled Migrant visa. Even thought he 176 has higher processing priority, after reading into it you are limited on where you can live for the first two years. I didn't want such limitations so I went with the 175 Visa.
For the 175 Visa, you need to meet some basic requirements. You will need to have an occupation on the Australian Skilled Occupation List. My occupation is Developer Programmer. You need to have a Skills Assessment done, be less than 50 years of age, meet the English language requirements and satisfy a points test.
For the 175 Visa (now known as the 189 Skilled Independent Visa) you need 65 points (the 189 Visa now requires 60). This is made up from your age, your work experience, qualifications and a few other things (see the booklet on Skilled Migration). I had 55 points at the time. To make up the additional 10 points I decided to sit an IELTS test.
The IELTS TestIf you have a British passport (or a passport from most English speaking countries) then you do not need to sit the International English Language Testing System tests as you will automatically be awarded Level 6 (competent), however you do not get any extra points for that. To be awarded the extra 10 points that I needed, I had to get at least a Level 7 (Level 8 gets you 20 points).
I booked the test last November and sat it in December. For some reason I was nervous that day and what didn't help is that I had a cold. The IELTS consists of 4 tests, Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. You are graded in each section, however you are awarded based on the lowest mark. I got Level 7 overall.
Skills AssessmentNow that I meet the points test requirement, the next step is to apply for the Skills Assessment. As I work in IT, the board I needed to get my Skills Assesed from was the Australian Computer Society.
For this Skills Assessment I needed to provide certified copies of my qualifications and work references. Unfortunately my previous employer wouldn't give a reference, however I got in contact with my old line-manager and I was able to provide a statutory declaration for him and myself. I also got a reference from my current employer. When I mentioned at the top that you need to read through all the descriptions of what you need to send off, I mean really read through it, I found out the hard way when my work reference was not on company headed paper and therefore I needed to get another reference and pay for a re-review, which was about $300AUD, but it still worked out a hell of a lot cheaper than going through an agent.
Just something to point out, if you need to get certified documents, do shop around with different solicitors. I have heard some charge £10 per copy and if you have quite a lot of documents, that can add up to a lot. I managed to find a solicitor who did whole lot for £5! Not each document, £5 for all documents!
Also note that you will need to scan and send the certified copies to the Skills Assessment board and you will not get those copies back so you might want to get a couple of certified copies so that you have them for your Visa application too.
The Skills Assessment can take up to 3 months, however my first attempt was sent back after a month and the review took only a couple of weeks.
The ApplicationMy Skills Assessment was done at the beginning of April. Over the next couple of weeks I was preparing my application. I did the whole application online. I went over my application a good half a dozen times. I did this at different times of the day, there's always something that may need to be corrected, either a typo or you may have missed the read the question. Before I submitted the application I made sure that I had all the relevant paper work, I even made myself a checklist. I scanned in the documents online ready to be uploaded. I submitted my application and uploaded all the relevant paper work. I didn't need to send any paper work via the post, but keep hold of all your documents just in case they need them.
The WaitMy application was submitted in the middle of April. I was in no rush for the application to be processed and after reading about other people's applications, I had a rough idea that I would hear back towards the end of the year. Wrong, just over a month and a half later I received an email from my case officer to get my medicals and police checks done.
Police Checks and MedicalsThese must not be done until the case officer asks for them as they're only valid for a year so if it does take longer for a case officer to be appointed, then you may end up getting another one done. You must reply within 28 days, but don't worry if you can't get an appointment for your medicals within that time don't worry, as long as you provide them proof that the appointment is booked then that's okay. There is a list of panel doctors on the DIAC website. If there are a few near you contact them, you'll be surprised that their prices vary. I paid £270 each for my wife and I. Application forms for obtaining police certificates can be obtained from the ACRO police website.
My Police Checks and Medicals were uploaded towards the end of June. Now was another wait…
The Wait part 2As I knew that everything had been done I spent the next couple of weeks waking up every morning picking up my phone and checking my email for a response. The morning of the 10th July I did the same as I had been doing every day, I picked up my phone and there it was, an email from immi.gov.au with the subject "Grant Notification"! I opened up the email just to be sure and yes it was! That morning was filled with a lot of fists in the air and woohoo'ing!
It was a lot sooner than expected but at least I know now that we can go. Alison and I have decided that we want to leave the UK by spring next year so it gives us some time to get our affairs sorted over here, save up some more money then get out!
We can't wait!
The next blog entries will be discussing the things we are doing between now and then like researching removals, what we need to do when we get there etc…