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Our Timeline

As I’ve said time and time again, you’re a the mercy of the Immigration System.
Flawed or not, there’s a reason Australia is such a desirable country to move to, and that is in part due to the rigorous immigration systems they have in place.

Looking back on everything, with the benefit of that 20/20 hindsight, we were so lucky that our process was as smooth as it was. Our timeline was incredibly efficient in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve still not forgotten how lonely I felt in Auckland and how frustrating the process felt when we were right in the heart of it, there’s nothing better than sitting in my house in Melbourne writing this post.

The hardest part for me was the uncertainty, of not having a timeline I could work towards, of not knowing how everything was progressing, because ‘no news is good news’.
Your timeline will not be like ours, but as a guide for how long you might expect everything to take, here’s our visa timeline.

'Social Media - by Becky Kadansky [Infographic] copy

 

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Personal Statements

I was going to rewrite this post, but after reading through it, there’s not a lot I’d change.
Yes, this was the most time consuming part of the process, but it was also my favourite part. We’d never really taken the time to sit down and think about our story, our meet-cute and to enjoy it.


Just as an aside, I think this is without a doubt one of my favourite photos of us.
How ridiculous are our faces?!
It was taken when we went to the Edinburgh Dungeons at the end of our anniversary trip to Scotland.

take your marks. go.

This part is possibly one of the most time consuming elements of the whole visa process, because you’re mostly relying on other people who aren’t working to the same emotional, panic driven schedule as you.

For us, people are so supportive and excited about the prospect of us coming back that we didn’t really have to nag anyone too much to get their statements back to us. I would say, however, to start thinking about this part first.
This element can be ticking over in the background while you’re getting the rest of the documentation ready.

Perhaps the strangest part of these statements is writing down, in tangible terms how I felt about Zac, and seeing his version of what he feels for me.
Even stranger is reading that from an outside perspective.
You never really get to hear what people think of your relationship (weddings aside); usually you’re not hearing people’s real

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Police Checks.

It’s very easy, from my relatively zen place having done all that nearly a year ago, to say not to stress about these checks.
But they’re possibly the most straight forward pieces of evidence you’ll need to collect, I’ve had countless DBS checks done for my jobs over the years and never batted an eyelid, it’s just when the emotional value is attached that it suddenly becomes a concern.

There are a lot of elements of this process that are out of your control.
You’re surrendering your fate to the will of the visa gods and quite often, the best you can do is to simply be on top of the bits you can organise.

Looking back on the timelines, nothing takes as long as it feels.
I’d heard horror stories of the Police Checks taking months to come back, but the reality of it was mere weeks.
It’s also not as hideously costly as you think it might be, but I’ll go through all of that.

To confirm, you’ll need two police checks (4 in total).
A UK police check for both of you, found here.
An AU police check for both of you, found here.

The forms themselves are pretty self explanatory and really easy to complete online, but make sure you have your evidence ready before you start the application.
We’d already been scanning things in, and naturally I had everything organised in folders on my desktop (that’s right, I gave this desktop significance) but it’s really helpful to have everything together before you start applying.
The other thing to note is save your files as JPEGS – for some reason the forms can’t handle PDF copies of documents!

AU Check: $42 each (accurate as of 2016)

Applied: 9th May
Received: 23rd May

I don’t know if I went slightly overboard with evidence for this one, but having already lived and worked in Australia for a year, I used documents such as my Working With Children Check and AUSTSwim qualification towards the application.
For my proof of address I included both our Aus address and our UK address.
I used a utility statement from our house in Chadstone, as well as a wage slip from my previous job in Melbourne and then bank statements from the UK.

Don’t get caught up in worrying about having 100 points of evidence – but I wanted to make sure there was no way they couldn’t grant my certificate.
As long as you have all the basics, you’ll have more than enough.
Naturally it was a little easier for Zac to provide 100 points of evidence, his birth certificate and drivers license were enough.
The key thing is to just make sure you have one form of photo ID and another form of ID to corroborate that.

The only things that threw me when I was doing the AFP check were seemingly trivial looking back, but at the time significant enough that I wanted to mention them.

First thing was: do I have a case worker?

Even though we’re going through an immigration lawyer the term ‘case worker’ seemed really ambiguous and I was momentarily concerned about how to answer this.
Eventually, we went with ‘no’.
As far as we understood it, if you’re working directly with someone in the department: that’s your case worker, more immediate immigration cases with trickier dealings. Yes, we’re using a third party, but all that really means is they’re checking the paperwork and sending it off for us, they’re not ‘working our case’.
Is that enough of a distinction?

Secondly: which option do I tick?

Now the reason this threw me was, for immigration purposes, you need to have a really thorough police check. When I clicked ‘Option 33’ it was saying ‘Name Check Only’.
I didn’t want my name checking! I wanted a full police check!
Option 33 is the correct option for immigration purposes, and the ‘Name Check Only’ simply means we don’t need to have our fingerprints checked and scanned as well.

Zac’s check came back within the week, mine took slightly longer, but as an Australian citizen, his was inevitably going to be a bit quicker.

UK Check: £45 (accurate as of 2016)

Applied: 3rd May
Received: 15th May

The UK checks have a few more steps online, and require you to input a lot more of the details yourself as apposed to simply providing copies of evidence.
It’s a little more time intensive, but at least you know it’s all in accurately.
I’m not sure which one I prefer!

The biggest stumbling block for our UK police checks was finding someone to endorse our application.
Our endorser just had to be someone who will vouch that you are who you say you are, the only kicker is they have to have an occupation from an archaic and obscure list. The assumption being everyone knows a Doctor or Lawyer or Judge…
Thankfully I know a few bloody good nurses and teachers, who are suitably qualified to say my face is my face.
Zac fortunately knows some teachers and policeman from umpiring so we were covered in that sense and as far as we know, those people were never actually contacted to endorse our application – I think it’s just one of those formalities to catch out the sneaky ones.

let me reassure you, from my pillow fort of zen: these are the least of your worries.

The most important thing I need to say is: don’t worry if something goes wrong…
Between us, we managed to input Zac’s birth month incorrectly on one of the forms, so his police check came back with his birth month at one end of the year at the top of the form and at the other end of the year at the bottom.
The check was still approved, even with this minute error and because all the documents and the birth date at the bottom (which was apparently more important) was accurate, they issued us with a new (correct) certificate within the week, free of charge.

It’s very easy, from my relatively zen place having done all that nearly a year ago, to say not to stress about these checks.
But they’re possibly the most straight forward pieces of evidence you’ll need to collect, I’ve had countless DBS checks done for my jobs over the years and never batted an eyelid, it’s just when the emotional value is attached that it suddenly becomes a concern.

cusp.

There’s a lot of waiting.
As a writer, it makes for dramatic metaphors, short stories filled with fervent tension.
As one half of a partnership, it makes for a long few months apart.

take your marks. go.

via Daily Prompt: Cusp

I had so many images that popped in to my head what I saw the daily prompt.
‘cusp’
Clinically speaking, a cusp is a pointed end, or where two curves meet.
To be on the cusp of something, however is to be on the precipice; to sit on the edge of something big, the verge of a development.

I feel like I’m sitting on all kinds of cusps at the moment.
No prizes for guessing which one is at the forefront of my mind.
Zac and I had a disagreement yesterday, and the loneliness I’ve been feeling here bubbled over and seeped in, lacing the vicious text I sent him, challenging him to call me selfish one more time when I was doing all this for him, I was here because of him, I was lonely and friendless, wet and cold, because of him.
I didn’t…

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Memories Box

This was without a doubt the most fun part of collecting our evidence and by the time we’d got here, I’d got in to a rhythm.

The ‘memories’ box part of collecting our evidence was by far my favourite and by the time we’d got to this point, I felt like we’d got more of a handle on what we were doing.
We were in a rhythm almost and it wasn’t a chore, so much as a fond exercise in togetherness.

This section of the evidence is to prove the social aspect of your relationship, so we also threw in invitations we received, screenshots of messages to arrange meeting up with friends, FB check ins, Instagram posts.
All those things you do without thinking, they’re time and date stamped and they’re great to include. Neither of us really use FB either, so when we did have a check in to include, it had been posted by our more social media savvy friends.

You’ll probably find you do more things as a couple than you realised. Not that I didn’t already know we are basically inseparable, but invitations from friends always included Zac without prompting.

memories box.

I’d been collecting ticket stubs and paper momentos from our dates, days out, little things that would have a lot of meaning to us (like the instructions I left for him for cooking dinner the first night I was working and he was in charge of food).
I always keep things like tickets, but even after a few dates I wanted to get a shadow box frame to fill with these keepsakes as a present for Zac for our 1st Anniversary together.

My rare sentimental gesture meant we already had all of those ‘key’ pieces of evidence on hand.
Train tickets, cinema tickets, flight tickets, parking stubs and a beer voucher from London when we woke up at 3am to Hawthorn win a three-peat Grand Final.
We normally had photos from all these dates as well, so after prising open the frame again, it was just a matter of finding the photo to go with the ticket and getting a digital copy.

make friends with your PDF viewer.

I’m working on a Mac, so use preview, but whatever platform you’re on, get familiar with PDFs.
Remember back when you were gathering your financial evidence? I’d already turned the digital copies in to PDFs, so I just picked a month and then attached the relevant ‘fun’ evidence to that document.
I know there are limits on the number of pages/documents you can upload to a visa application, so I think this is possibly an excellent way of getting around that.
I also felt it gave a tangible context to the memories.

I hope you can see from those screen grabs.
Each file starts with the bank statement and then there’s ticket stubs, receipts (the receipts we actually used were for things like gym memberships, restaurants etc. but there aren’t any shown in those grabs) and some pictures to go with it.

Because we were making use of Dropbox, I’d create the PDF with the bare minimum I thought was needed for the month, but within the Dropbox file, add more photos, ticket stubs, receipts, screenshots, etc. and leave it down to Ana’s infinite wisdom to decide what she wanted and what she didn’t need.

make a night of it.

You’d be hard pushed not to enjoy looking back over photos and love notes, reliving the past few months, or years.
With most of the hard work done, we set aside a bit of time each night and tackled a couple of bank statements each. Zac picking his favourite memories for one month, me picking my favourite memories for mine.

It also made me realise just how much we’ve done together.
That’s one of the things I love about Zac – he’s as wide eyed about the world as I am and wants to try everything once. Some dates were a huge success (pizza and mini golf in Nottingham) and some were a huge disaster (Water Theatre Puppet Show in Ho Chi Minh City), but it was so much fun to look back on them and laugh about an evening well spent.

The Basics

It’s not a daunting task. It seems like it, but there’s a lot of fun to be had gathering your evidence, and the basics are a simple evening of scanning and uploading.

This is without a doubt the most daunting task you’ll face when preparing your visa application, I’m not going to sugar coat it and say you won’t get stressed out, but I’m hoping that I can at least offer some advice to save you from yourself.

As I’ve written this, it’s slowly got longer and longer, so I’ve separated it in to three main sections of evidence and put them in to separate posts.
– The Basics
– Financial
– Memories Box
I think it’s easier to digest this way – you’re possibly already swimming from an information overload and that excited buzz that ‘oh my goodness, we’re really doing this’ won’t carry you forever.

your scanner is your new best friend.

The absolute best thing about being a millennial is that by and large, everything is done online, and we’re ok with that.
(Incidentally, I also think this is the worst thing about being a millennial)
It does however mean that you don’t have to fanny around laying waste to small sections of English Woodland to provide Immigration with the hundreds of pages of documentation they need. And as an idealistic tree hugger, that makes me very happy.
You also don’t need to worry about having everything JP-ed or ‘signed off’ – for us, I just scanned everything in, and sent it over to Ana.
She told us if we needed more, or different.
Scan and repeat.

rome wasn’t conquered in a day.

As annoyingly cliche as that sentiment is, it was something I would have done well to remember while I was gathering our evidence and, as is often the case with hindsight, I think I’ve worked out a much better way of tackling the documentation.

The main thing I really want to press home is do not try and do everything in a week.
If you’re fitting your visa prep around full time work, it’s entirely unrealistic to expect you to have everything turned around so quickly.
For a large part of our evidence gathering I was only working a few nights a week teaching. There would be days when I was lost in the rabbit hole of evidence, getting more and more worked up that I couldn’t find a ticket stub, or a photo that I knew we had somewhere.
It’s stressful and demoralising.
My body reacts to stressful and demoralising with migraines.
My brain quite literally swells up and the recovery from a migraine takes way too much of my time – it’s more productive for me to tackle potentially stressful projects in bite size chunks. We do now have a fail safe routine that gets me back from migraine to headache in around 8 hours and only wipes me out for 2 days, but it’s not fun for anyone and definitely heightened anxiety in this first month.

I’d also like to mention that I’m incredibly organised.
Our entire house regularly has admin audits, which may or may not include new folders, new dividers, amended colour coordinations (with appropriate key) and online versions of the super important documents checked and upgraded where necessary.
Ok, yes, it borders from organised to anal, but I just wanted to highlight the fact that even though this kind of paperwork isn’t a chore for me (I’d go so far as to say I actually enjoy doing life admin) the emotional weight it carried made it harder. Continue reading “The Basics”