Thursday, April 2, 2009

Am I Pregnant?

In a span of 1 month, two migrant friends asked me what I did when I first found out that I was pregnant. They were asking about whether I went to a private OB or a public OB, how much were the fees, etc. They are new mothers-to-be and have also been in Australia for around two years now. I gladly responded to their queries, reminiscing how I went about the entire experience. I thought I better share it here and be of help to other new migrant mums out there. When I missed my monthly period, I did not bother checking a pregnancy kit. I initially thought my body was just adjusting to the cold weather and I was just stressed over the job hunt and it would soon come once I started with my new job in a week. In addition, I don’t feel anything different. No morning sickness and craving that they were talking about. Three weeks after missing my period and enjoying my new work, husband prompted me to consult with the doctor. Doctor Hunt Not aware of the Australian processes, I got a phone directory, looked for an obstetrician and rang a private OB clinic. To my surprise, I was informed to go to my General Practitioner (GP) for a referral. As I did not have a GP yet, I insisted that I already knew that I needed to see an obstetrician. But, still the receptionist pointed out that it is the policy – I need a referral letter. Few days later, I again consulted the phone directory to look for a GP. I was still in the dark of the Australian health system so I called each clinic near town to look for a GP. About three medical clinics no longer accept new patients on a regular basis. That was a big shock. I wondered how come these things happen in a developed country such as Australia. I tried my luck again and rang Geelong Women’s Clinic, a private clinic just a few blocks from work. The receptionist were nice enough to squeeze me in one of the doctor’s schedule as they have a policy for new patients to book at least 1.5 months in advance. I told them my case and they booked me for an earlier schedule. But, still I had to wait for 3 long weeks. While waiting, I had a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables especially cauliflower and broccoli. I did not have any alcohol and coffee in my system. Had lots of milk (breakfast, dinner and sometimes lunch) and 3-4 litres of water as I had difficulty with having a pee. It felt like I was having a urinary tract infection, which according to my readings is easily contracted by pregnant women during the first trimester. Having lots of water took away the pain of peeing. Otherwise, I would have needed medication to remove the infection. But, this should be consulted with the GP. GP Consultation My doctor’s appointment came and I explained to her my case. The first thing she asked me was if I already tried checking the pregnancy kit, which I did not do. So, she asked me to do the test in the clinic and it was confirmed! There was neither physical check nor blood test. She discussed with me whether I would like to be referred to a private OB or to the public hospital’s ante-natal clinic. I told her that I am a new migrant and a paying patient and my medical insurance will not reimburse any obstetrics-related claims yet as there is a 12 month waiting period. To help me decide, she then asked her assistants to call the clinics and hospitals and check the prices for me – consultation, hospital bed, delivery fees of both public and private OB. The doctor gave me scripts requesting for blood test done at Pathology Care to check haemoglobin level, blood group, German measles immunity and Rhesus factor and the ultrasound to check the baby’s measurement, due date, heartbeat, placenta, and baby’s condition at Lake Imaging during the following weeks. I was not given any antibiotics for my pee problem as the water therapy worked well but was advised to take any pregnancy vitamins available at the chemist. After about 10-15 minutes of discussion and consultation, the clinic charged me $60. The First Tests Upon arrival at work, I rang both Path Care and Lake Imaging to arrange an appointment. With Path Care, I was informed I could just pop in as they are serving on a first come, first serve basis. But, with Lake Imaging, I needed to wait for 3 weeks for an available slot and should come with full bladder, which means I had to drink 500-1000ml two hours before the schedule and hold it. It was difficult since I cannot control my pee starting week 10. It felt like the baby was pushing it. In fact, I was not able to hold it for the ultrasound appointment and we needed to re-schedule it, which was already on my 15th week. By then, the technician was able to see that I might be having a boy and it can be confirmed on my week 20-21 ultrasound. Going Public or Private All the results were forwarded to my GP and everything were going okay. The GP gave me the price comparison of public and private hospital. Basing on the hospital bed fees ($700 per day) and consultation fees ($70 per visit), I initially decided to see a private OB. However, upon learning from the private OB’s receptionist that the doctor charges $3000 for normal delivery and may be more if there’ll be complications, the practical side of me thought twice as that would be a substantial out of pocket cost. I rang my GP’s assistant and requested for a new referral to the public hospital’s ante-natal clinic, which would charge $1000 for the delivery fee even if I would have a C-section – the sure $2000 difference could already buy a lot of baby stuff. My GP’s clinic faxed the referral letter straight to the ante-natal clinic of the public hospital and I booked my first appointment after a few days. Ante-Natal Clinic I waited for 3 weeks for my appointment with the midwife at the ante-natal clinic. She explained to us my options of care and suggested that since I had no complications so far, I can have a combined care of the midwives and the hospital’s OB. We readily said yes as the midwives seemed so competent, loving and caring. A student nurse was also introduced to us and asked if she could monitor and accompany me throughout my pregnancy. Because of my love for learning, I said yes and accommodated her. It was a plus factor since she was there during doctor’s visit when my husband could not come. In essence The first 20 weeks of my pregnancy was an emotional rollercoaster ride. I just migrated and we just got married. There was joy, excitement, doubt, fear and frustration (over the medical process). But, overall we maintained optimism on what the future would bring for our bundle of joy and our starting family. I was sure the angels and the stars conspired when we had Kimi.

Going Down Under

It was my husband, then boyfriend, who first moved to Australia in 2004 under a student visa with an ultimate goal of migrating under a family-sponsored visa. At that time, Australian citizens and permanent residents in Sydney can only sponsor skilled migrants from a list of in-demand skills. Thus, he had to take that longer and more expensive route.I did not bother waiting for him to get his permanent residency and sponsor me under a spouse visa. It will take longer, marriage was not discussed at length, plus the "proud and independent" side of me wanted to migrate on my own as early as possible. Don't get me wrong. Other couples I met through the application process opted to get married first, either church or civil, then, applied for an Australian visa. This way, resources are saved. Smart move, isn't it?

It took a while and a lot of reading before I was finally able to decide on which type of visa best suits me. There are several skilled migration visas and they (subclass numbers and policies) are changing almost every 6 months since I started with my information gathering. Thus, it is must to do a lot of reading yourself if you plan to migrate to Australia. Information you get here will not be enough as some of them may already be obsolete in 6 months time. This only gives you an idea on how I went through the process. I am not a migration agent but I am migrant who went through the process myself in 2006-2007.

  • Read the information about the different skilled migrant visas at or specifically the general skilled migration page. There are various visas you can choose from, depending on your circumstances and the points (for age, skill, English language ability, specific experience, state government nomination, Australian experience, Australian qualifications, occupation in demand/job offer, community language, regional Australia study, and partner skills) you will get. If you are outside of Australia, you can apply for skilled independent visa, a state-sponsored regional visa, or a family-sponsored visa.
  • If you are lucky enough to get an employer even before you get a migrant visa, you may go through the employer-sponsored visa, which will allow you to work in Australia under the company sponsoring you. This visa however will not let you work with another company and will not be considered as a permanent migrant visa that will enable you to apply for Australian citizenship. Thus, upon arrival in Australia and after working for a few months, you will still need to apply for a general skilled migrant visa for people in Australia and satisfy the requirements of the general skilled migrant visa that suits you. These visas are fully discussed at visa options inside Australia page.
  • If you lack enough points, you may also take the route of studying first in Australia for at least 2 years. Once you finish the course, you may apply for one of the general skilled migrant visas. This, however, does not assure you of an automatic migrant visa grant. Studying in Australia for at least 2 years will only give you extra points and waive the mandatory requirement of recent work experience of 12 months in the last 24 months. You will still need to accumulate the required number of points for the skilled migrant visa that you are applying for. Thus, it needs careful research.
  • For those applying for a state-sponsored visa, this is an additional step. Research on each of the state's sponsorship requirements and processes. Bear in mind that you need to prove to them that you will be a valuable asset to the state and you can manage to settle and adapt well. Review the skills that each state is sponsoring for the permanent migrant visa and the provisional visa so you can carefully consider them in choosing your nominated skills.
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia

  • Choose the skill that best describes what you do and your qualifications. The list of skills, assessing body, and the corresponding points you get for the skill can be found at the SOL.
  • Thoroughly study the requirements and processes of the assessing body for your nominated skill. Read, read, and read. If there is anything unclear, ask the assessing body or ask those who have applied for assessment of the same skill.
  • Gather and prepare your documents for the skills assessment based on the guidelines issued by your assessing body. Getting copies of your qualifications and job descriptions may be a daunting task. Thus, it might be beneficial to get extra copies for your visa application.
  • Send your application to the assessing body either via courier or online if this facility is available. If there is an online application, you might save a bit of waiting time as the assessing body no longer need to encode your application details. Then, wait for the results. The results will be posted to you by the assessing body in 6-14 weeks. This may vary for each assessing body.
  • While waiting for the results of your skills assessment, gather information about and reviewers of IELTS, which will test your English language ability. Information on IELTS can be found at: If you get at least 7.0 band score in each of the 4 components of IELTS, which are (1) reading comprehension, (2) listening, (3) writing, (4) speaking, you will get 25 points for English language ability. The points you get for English language ability is discussed thoroughly at: English eligibility page.
  • Book your IELTS exam allowing enough time for the review depending on your needs. Do practice tests available online or with IELTS review centres to gauge your preparedness. Watch television shows and videos in British and Australian English. It takes a bit of time to get used to the accent especially if you are more familiar with the American English. BBC is a good one. Overall, just practice and come to the exam ahead of time with your passport, driver's license or SSS identification on hand. In 2 weeks time, you will receive your exam results.
  • Additional step for the state-sponsored visa: Gather your documents for your state sponsorship application. Note that requirements vary for each state. Send your application via courier or online if available. Make sure to present your application in a way that brings out an extensive research of the state in terms of its quality of life, cost of living, and work opportunities. Some states would require proof of your financial standing to show that you have enough resources when you migrate. Note though that you will not need to physically show them the money when you come over. Thus properties and other physical assets may be included together with your bank statements. Wait again. This may take 2-6 weeks depending on the state that you are applying as they have different processes. In my case, I received sponsorship from South Australia in 4 weeks and Victoria in 7 weeks. Note: most state sponsorship applications are free.
  • Once all the results arrived, gather your documents and requirements for your visa application which include but not limited to passport and birth certificate of all applicants, education qualifications of main applicant, skills assessment results, IELTS results, proof of genuine and continuing relationship of married couples etc. Print out the application forms (Form 1276; Form 80; Form 47A) and visa-specific checklist so you can have a go at answering the required information and check you have all the requirements. It takes time to look for the information so it is handy to have them in one paper even if you apply online. Scan all your documents in coloured as they will be attached when you apply online. Information on application charges i.e. how much and how to pay can be found here.
  • Apply online or send your application by post or courier to Adelaide Skilled Processing Centre or Brisbane Skilled Processing whichever is applicable to your visa. If you send it by courier, you can track when your application is received through your courier's tracking system and in a few weeks you will receive an acknowledgment letter from the Immigration. If you apply online, you can track your application at the online system using your account. The acknowledgment letter will provide you with an email address where you can send a blank email to get information on which applications (based on application date) are already being allocated and processed.
  • Now the waiting starts. If you have a query with your application contact Immigration using the ways discussed at this page . If you have a change in circumstances, say the wife got pregnant or you changed address, inform Immigration about this. For more information, check here.
  • If your application has been allocated, your case officer will write and request you to provide the additional documents such as the medical exam and the police clearance of all applicants in your application. You may have the medical exam in any Immigration Panel Doctors as explained on this page and police clearance as discussed here. Since the medical exam results and police clearance have short validity period, usually 1 year, and the application review takes longer, it is best to secure them when the case officer requested.
  • During this time, the case officer will thoroughly review your application and the information you provided. They may call your current and previous employers or even ask their embassies to do random visits of smaller business establishments to check the legitimacy of documents submitted resulting in a fair bit of time.
  • Then, visa is finally granted. The instructions on where to have the visa stamped on your passport are provided on the visa grant letter. It might be worth checking the website of the Australian Embassy in your country of location. This may vary from country to country. Once you have your passport back with the visa, book your flight and start to think about your plan to physically move! Remember that you and all other applicants should enter Australia on the date of last entry stipulated on your visa. This is usually the expiration of the medical exam results or the police clearance whichever comes first.

These are the general steps that I followed to migrate to the Land Down Under. The processing time varies now. A guesstimate is 12-15 months on the average. It is enough time to learn more about Australia and strategise the big move of your family. It is very important to plan ahead especially if you have kids to consider.

Wishing everyone all the best with your own migration journey. Would love to exchange insights with you! :D