It's now just 20 days until I leave the UK to start my 'new' life in Australia, or Sydney to be more precise. It should feel like a beginning, but actually it's more of an ending... the end of a very long road that started almost 10 years ago when I first visited Australia on a working holiday.
I loved what I found when I reached Sydney after a couple of months of travelling... a vibrant city, comfortable in its own skin, where it's inhabitants worked hard but knew how to kick back, relax and just enjoy being in their beautiful surroundings. One thing Sydney-siders don't do is take their city for granted. I found a great job and met a Pom who'd come out on a working holiday visa 18 years before and just stayed... what a great idea that sounded! Unfortunately unless you're in an occupation with a massively severe skills shortage, those days are gone. I returned home after my amazing year to complete my chartered accountancy qualification with the intention of applying for a permanent residents visa once I'd finished.
At the end of 2009 I gained my qualification and started on the process of putting together my visa application, the skills assessment being the first hurdle to overcome. Whilst waiting for my application to be assessed, I got my first kick in the butt from a visa system which seems to change it's rules every 5 minutes - on 8th Feb 2010 the Migration Occupations In Demand list (which provided 15 points towards your visa if your occupation was on it) was withdrawn with immediate effect. No warning, no opportunity to get an application in, just yesterday I could apply, today I can't. Words just don't do justice to how gutted I felt that day as my dream disappeared down the plug hole thanks to a pile of bureaucrats sat in their cosy offices. In the whirl of thoughts that went through my mind that day, I remembered a motivational poster I'd bought my Mum years before when she was going through a tough time, which starts like this...
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.
It reminded me that anything worth achieving in life is worth fighting for, so I decided I'd continue to get everything in place to be able to submit my visa application and follow the Dept of Immigration website closely to understand what other changes were taking place and when I might have a window to apply.
Once I'd got the positive skills assessment, I had great fun going off to do my English language test... it reminded me of taking my French GCSES - reading, writing, listening & speaking, but all in English! A really bizarre experience! My only other concern was whether I would be able to claim points for my professional work experience - I had 7 years working as a Senior Finance professional, but only 2 years after I'd gained my qualification. Getting a straight answer from anyone seemed impossible! Migration agents told me relevant work experience had to be post-qualification, whilst the Dept. of Immigration said they would consider experience as long as a reference was provided and the decision on whether it was deemed as "skilled" experience would be down to the decision of the case officer! How reassuring that a civil servant with no knowledge of my industry would be responsible for deciding my fate!! I went ahead and got detailed work references from all my relevant employers, then with everything in place to proceed, but no option to apply imminent, it was time to play the waiting game.
In July 2010, the rules changed, but with no effects that would assist me. Then, part way through the Oz financial year (which runs July - June), news came out about a major change to the points test which would provide a more even spread of points across all points categories... at last a visa application looked like it would be possible! However, as with all information coming from the Dept. of Immigration, it was heavily caveated... "we expect the pass mark to be 60 points, but this will not be confirmed until the new rules come into effect"!! So in July 2011, when they finally confirmed the passmark, I became eligible once again to apply for a skilled independent permanent residents visa and had a 9 month window before I turned 40 and lost points again!
I went on holiday to Oz in Sept 2011 to do a final check that I still wanted to go back permanently (well it had been 8 years since my previous visit, so a lot could have changed) and then came home and put in my application on 8th November. The expected processing time according to the Dept. of Immigration's priority processing orders was 18 months, so I dug in for a long wait. Just 5 months later I received an email asking me to get my health & police checks done and within 6 months I had my visa!
So here we are, 10 months later and I'm about to embark on the final stage of this journey and the start of my new one... hopefully the information I post here about starting my new life down under will help you if you are considering a move to the great Australasian continent.