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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

 

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”

Be Patient.

There’s a reason they say patience is a virtue, and right now, it’s your best friend.

I’m writing this post in a futile attempt, to
a) remind myself to be patient and
b) to offer kind words from the future that things do turn out.

what’s that? don’t think about it? oh, but that’s the only thing on my mind!

I know, I know, as soon as I tell you to put it to the back of your mind, you’ll be consumed with questions and won’t be able to stop thinking about your new life in Australia.
Doesn’t help that every other channel is showing reruns of Relocation: Down Under all day.
Before you judge my daytime TV habits, I’m a swimming teacher: there’s a lot of day time down time.

Hopefully, you’re not working to a schedule.
If you’re sensible you won’t have already booked a flight.
We are definitely not sensible, and we were working to a schedule.
Zac’s umpiring career would only allow for a season off, meaning he had to be back in the country by pre-season in January.
His working holiday for the UK would run out before then and to be honest I was homesick. I couldn’t bear to be away from him while we were waiting and somewhere in the middle we decided to go travelling for a few months, because when were we going to get a chance like that again?
While I clung on to that return date like a beacon of hope on those long winter nights, I was also terrified I was pinning my future on an overinflated concept of happiness that could never live up to my expectation.

I can be a little dramatic.

The point is, there’s no ‘end date’.
You don’t get given an anticipated return time, other than the promise you will know something within a year or so.
I was expecting to feel excited when the visa application was finally submitted and the money was taken from our account, but instead I was anxious, wracked with a sense of ‘unfinished business’ – for want of a better way to describe it.
We were in Cambodia at the time and I remember sitting on the paper thin mattress in our room at the school, reading and re-reading the confirmation email and then staring blankly at the wall.
Repeat.

you’ll drive yourself mad with ‘what ifs’

I’m not saying you won’t have questions, and if you’re like me, you’ll need a 4th and 5th and 17th opinion or version of events.
Everyone’s case is subjective.
Everyone’s visa comes through on a different timeline and I’m still working out if immigration do things in dog years or human years.
A close friend is going through the same process, but she’s 2 years ahead of me.
She did it by herself, all credit to her, so her story is completely different to mine and the time lines she was working with are vastly apart from our experience.

I spent the first few months, when we were gathering evidence, holding her as some kind of almighty immigration guru, but that was worse than just sitting up all night googling everything.
I had to take a step back, take a deep breath.

If you want to consume stories of people going through the process, avoid the forums.
I’ve found that largely they’re full of misinformation and it can get heartbreakingly confusing.
The thing I found most frustrating was not being able to connect with someone who was going through the process, who was living the wait, or who had lived it, someone objective enough to lay out the information in a way I could understand, that didn’t make it feel that all hope would soon be lost.
That’s why I was so excited to be a part of this blog, in the hopes that I could perhaps be that person.

i think too much.

My biggest problem is I’m a worrier.
It always comes from a place of love and passion, from much more red, fiery emotions, but at the base of it, I’m a worrier.
Perhaps because of the worrying I’ve become incredibly patient.
It might be more to do with the teaching, but I’ve often been commended on my patience.
And oh, I feel such a fraud typing that.

I’m not patient.
I’m the most impatient person you’ll meet (other than Zac, who always manages to ruin surprises, because he’s too excited to tell you about it, because he knows how much you’ll love the surprise).
Combined with an overactive imagination – something I was always commended and condemned for as a child – and I’ve spent too many sleepless night concocting every possible scenario.
Sometimes it helps.

In the end, the best thing we did was forget about it.
We just enjoyed the adventure we’d decided to take together.
We kept busy at work, busy with friends.
We went for long drives and spent weekends in Wales, or Scotland, or Amsterdam.

Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.

– Joyce Meyer

As I write this, I’m in New Zealand and Zac is still in Melbourne – the final part of this phase of our journey.
I think this is the worst part, the part I’m least willing to be patient with.
It’s hard for me to explain.
I’ve always been a solitary creature who needs constant social interaction, an introverted extrovert, some days I hate the fact that he’s all up in my space, but the second he leaves I want him to come back.
For most of my close friends (particularly those who lived with me at Uni) the fact that I haven’t had a moment to myself since we met is testament to our relationship alone.
It’s not just that with this temporary long distance I’m relearning how to be an individual, more that he’s as much a part of my identity as my obsession with coffee, or how I always smell like chlorine.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Mine has grown restless and as I bumble into a semblance of routine, my patience is growing thin.
I just have to rest assured that everything is still ticking over in the background, the cogs still turn, and while each week drags out when this is all done and dusted, I’ll comment how quickly it all seemed to pass us by.

What Happened Next?

So how did we actually find Let’s Go Global? Extensive researching (and getting distracted looking at marble and rose gold coasters) And why did we chose them? To be honest, we did what we always did and went with our gut.

Obviously, it wasn’t quite as simple as: ‘we find Let’s Go, we got our visa’.
I’d spent weeks, months even, looking at ways to get back to Australia.
I’ve always wanted to become a ‘real’ teacher, in a classroom, not a pool, and it was one option to get back.
But it was expensive.
I was at a loss as to what to do.
And it was raining.

After finally settling on using an agent to decide for me and filling in enquiries with what felt like dozens of immigration companies (and not getting an immediate response, because of course that was going to happen), I was second guessing the decision to even use an agent.

It felt like I’d not quite done my research right online and I was flicking between tab, after tab, not able to focus on anything for longer than a few minutes.
I kept coming back to ‘Let’s Go Global’ because they were advertising about helping teachers emigrate, and being a teacher of sorts (if P.E. and Geography still count, swimming sure as hell does) they seemed to fit.
Besides which, I got the nicest ‘feel’ from their website.

But still nothing.

Then I got a call from an unknown number in London.
I have the same phone anxiety all millennial’s have (only I’ve had it forever) and can’t make or take calls unless I know who I’m calling, and even then it can sometimes feel like a huge achievement just to press dial.
My best friend used to dial numbers for me and then thrust the phone in to my hand as they answered just so I’d actually ‘life’.
Zac, who was on his way out to the gym, picked up the slack and answered it for me, and then thrust it in to my hand.

“He…hello Becky speaking.”
“Hi, hi is that Becky? Hello, it’s George from Let’s Go Global here, you placed an enquiry online? I’ve just seen it and couldn’t go for the weekend without having a chat to you, is now a good time to talk?”

I mouthed frantically at Zac, who, despite being a dramatic mouther himself is terrible at lip reading and instead shuffled up to him, dragged him down on to the sofa and put the phone on loud speaker, praying he hadn’t taken his pre-workout yet.

a reassuring voice.

I’ve worked in sales, I understand how a pitch works and I also appreciate the artistry of selling, while always remaining entirely skeptical.
That being said, I love being sold to.
Not that George was being ‘sales-y’ – look, we were a hot lead, I get that, but I also felt like he genuinely cared what the outcome was and really wanted to help us get back home, to Melbourne.

We were struggling with how much to tell him, not in a ‘we have something to hide‘ kind of way, more in a ‘we’ve already bought the flight back is that going to be a problem‘ kind of way.
Zac umpires with the VFL, he’s hoping to make it to the AFL and he could only take one season out without having to start again from scratch. He’d done it to come back to England with me, but it meant that he had to be back by mid-Jan at the latest for pre-season.

(To the uneducated, AFL is apparently a pretty big deal in Australia, it’s sort of like Quidditch, without the broomsticks or hoops and less flying. I say less because some of the marks they take are insane and the 360 element of the game is…aaaaand now I sound like I know what I’m talking about)

George went through the process with us, asked us more questions about our relationship, how we’d met, standard background info to assess our case.

By the time we’d hung up the phone, we’d agreed to let George and the Let’s Go Global team take our case.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief and despite my mind running at a million miles an hour, felt in control of the situation for the first time since we’d been in England.
We happily bounded upstairs to tell my parents the good news and I sat and waited on their email.

when you refresh your inbox a thousand times, knowing that sheer will alone isn’t enough to control the internet.

I tried to put the conversation to the back of my mind, but I was so keen to get started and knew what a huge task we might have evidence wise so couldn’t help but feel disappointed when the weekend went by with nothing.
After what felt like an eternity that email finally landed.
I immediately printed everything out, started annotating, reading and re-reading, preemptively gathering what evidence we did have to hand before signing the agreement and emailing it back over to George.
We were told our agent helping us in Australia was called Ana, and she’d be in touch shortly with more details.

And then we waited.

If there’s one thing this whole process has taught me, it’s that’s Zac’s unfading resilience and optimism is no match for the might of the Australian Immigration system, my patience however goes a long way to making it bearable.

You can’t rush this process.
You can only do your part as quickly and efficiently as you can, there’s no point rushing it wrong – something Ana taught me after the third time I sent her ‘not quite right’ evidence!
Besides which, between timezones and office hours, you’re always a day away from a response.
Patience, patience.

knowing someone’s in your corner makes all the difference.

One thing I can’t press enough is that Let’s Go Global are in your corner.
I’m not going to pretend that every step of the way there wasn’t a part of me that was convinced it was all a ruse, the George was a charlatan, Ana a devious femme fatale and we’d frittered our savings away on a whim.
But just when it was getting a bit much, when I was wracked with doubt, they’d drop an email to check in, give us a call to talk us through options and our progress.
They don’t babysit you, and you’re not the only case they’re working on, but they make you feel like you are.

With immigration, it seems to follow the age old adage that no news is good news.
Don’t worry if it’s been a few weeks since you last heard from them – there’s no point getting in touch until something happens.
At those crucial moments, at the points where they need a response, they’re there.
Even at the points they don’t need a response they’re there, and I’ve always been incredibly grateful to Ana taking time out of her schedule (and sometimes personal schedule) to put my mind at rest again.

We’ve spent part of the process travelling and even while we were away, George was in touch to offer kind words and a much needed morale boost.

I’m not saying it’s not a stressful, emotional process.
I’m certainly not saying it will be hassle and hurdle free.
What I am saying is you’ll have the best people looking out for you.