Monday, 20 January 2014

Australia's Newest Permanent Residents!

Yesterday we received a very exciting email: Notification that our Permanent Resident (PR) visa was granted! This means we are able to live in Australia indefinitely and have most of the same rights as Australian citizens. We will also be able to apply for citizenship in 3 years time, which is the overall plan at the moment. And, we can sponsor relatives who would like permanent residence here... Hello??? Mom, dad, Mike... anyone want to move out here with us??

The biggest benefit for us at the moment though is that with Andy going back to University to get an Australian teaching qualification in March, it means we don't have to pay international tuition fees. The fees for an international student are around $22,000 (AUD) compared with $6,000 for a resident. We had a deadline of 24th February for paying the first instalment of these uni fees, and so if our PR visa hadn't come through by then we would have had to pay the international fees. This was starting to stress us out as I anxiously checked my email inbox daily looking for something from immigration, so yesterday's news was a huge relief!

For those who are looking at coming to Australia, we got PR through the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS, Visa Subclass 186). My job as a secondary school teacher is on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL), which means it is an occupation that is in demand. If you have worked in Australia for less than 2 years, you can only get residency if your job is on this list (or a second list, called the Consolidated Skilled Occupation List). You also have to have a nomination from your employer, as the title of the visa suggests. The employer also has to guarantee your job for the next 2 years. I have been extremely lucky as the school I am working for has been super supportive of me through all this. They agreed to sponsor me after only a few months of me joining the school, and also payed for our PR visa. 

The whole process took just over 6 months, with the Nomination submitted to immigration in July and being approved in October. I then applied for the nominated position in October and the approval came in January. The main differences to the 457 Temporary Business visa, which we were on when we first came here, are this:

Skills Assessment
You need to get a positive skills assessment from the assessing authority depending on your occupation. For teachers, it is the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). This is a whole process in itself, although most of the documents I had to submit were similar to when I applied for registration through the VIT. It took about 3 months to get this, and you can't submit your application without it.

Medicals
We both had to get a medical assessment, including an eye exam, chest X-Ray, and blood test to check for HIV. This is for the low cost of about $350 each. We got these done in December, and thankfully we are both healthy! (Well, healthy enough to stay in Australia). You have to book this through Medibank if you are in Australia, and they submit your results directly to immigration.

Character Assessment
This is also known as 'Form 80' and is the LONGEST form I have ever filled out. Seriously, you need a good few hours for this 18 page form. The most annoying part is a lot of the information is repeated from your actual visa application. And you have to list every country you have visited in the past 10 years. I know, I know, that is the very definition of a first world problem, however it was pretty hard to remember all those weekend trips though Europe while I was living in London! Luckily we only had to fill one out for me, as the main applicant.

We also had to reapply for all our police record checks as they were older than 12 months by this time, and so had expired. For me, this means checks from Canada, the UK and Australia. The Canadian one is particularly annoying as you have to get fingerprints done at a police station and then send them to the RCMP, where the processing time is 16 weeks if you are out of Canada! Ridiculous!

Other than that most of the documentation was the same as our 457 visa. The nice thing is that as long as you scan and upload colour copies of your documents you don't have to get anything certified. I really don't want to apply for another visa for a very long time now (although I am getting pretty good at it - we have never used a migration agent for any of our applications). However, I have just realised that if we want to move back to Canada eventually the waiting time to sponsor Andy is 2 years, so we might needed to get started on that sometime soon... Sigh...

Celebrating PR with a glass of bubbly!

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