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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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.