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 http://www.immi.gov.au/ 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.
New South Wales
- 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: http://www.ielts.org/. 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