I remember the exact moment when the Sailor and I decided to take the plunge and head Down Under. It was my second stint in Prague and about three months into the cold snap. If you didn’t know already, then Czech Republic (although incredibly charming and beautiful) has ‘Canadian quality’ winters. The most I found myself doing in January was drinking beer, eating goulash and skiing! Not a bad life for some, but I was longing for some summer sun and an outdoors lifestyle.
I’d always wanted to live in Australia since watching Home & Away and Neighbours religiously as a kid (nope, still not embarrassed enough to admit it). Compared to the Brits, Ozzies seemed to have it all- the sun, the tan, the chilled surfer vibes. The grass was always greener for me. So I needed to find a way to get there, but knew it wasn’t going to be quick or easy.
At the time, getting a Working Holiday Visa wasn’t a problem for myself. I was under 30 so could easily apply, which entitled me to a year’s entry and working permission. But the Sailor was already over 30 and couldn’t go down this route.
The only option I had was to apply for a Skilled Nominated Subclass 190. This permanent Skilled Migrant visa grants you an indefinite stay in Australia, with a 5 year travel facility that allows you and your spouse to travel freely in and out of the country. The ‘nominated’ bit means that you need a state to sponsor you. In layman’s terms, if a state is seeking a shortage profession that you have, they can sponsor you to be there. Luckily there were two states still seeking applicants for Primary School teachers.
Anyone who has been through a visa process before will know the challenges involved. First, there’s all the ambiguous and sometimes vague terminology. Then there’s the absurd amount of paperwork, followed by the mind-numbing hours trying to get your head around it all. For those working full time, like me- and probably you too- then you may not have the time to spend on it. So I decided to make it easier for myself and chose to hire a migrant agent.
After some research I made a trip back to London and met up with Hannibal Khoury at Thames Migration. He was super friendly and professional, and gave me a clear low-down on what to expect, the stages of the application process and other really useful information. After submitting the initial application he said that the visa process back then was averaging 8 – 12 months. I was also told right from the start that my case wouldn’t be taken on unless he was confident I met all the requirements.
What also really good to know was that I didn’t have to live in the state or territory that sponsored me. Apparently there’s no mention of state sponsorship anywhere on the visa document and although I’d be expected to move there, it’s not a requirement. I wouldn’t even need to uptake Primary School teaching, which is the skill I’d be granted the visa on.
Here are the 3 main stages of the application process.
1. A skills assessment.
For this stage I had to get hold of a load of documents that proves I am a teacher and hold sufficient qualifications.
Hannibal told me what information to collect and then passed it all onto the AITSL (Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership).
I also sat an IELTS English Language Test to prove my proficiency in the English language, which felt a bit weird as a native speaker! I didn’t have to do this, but it was a recommendation to give me extra points towards the visa.
This whole process can take up to 13 weeks, including delivery of the results from AITSL. It’s probably the most time consuming stage on your part as it can take a while to obtain work references, etc.
2. State sponsorship.
I had to research a little about the territory or state I was requesting sponsorship from and answer a range of written settlement questions. They basically want to know that you are fully aware of what to expect when you arrive, from location and employment, to the cost of living.
3. Receiving a case officer who reviews your application.
This is where the waiting game comes into play and things are pretty much out of your hands. It’s also perhaps the most frustrating stage because you’re just waiting for a case officer to be assigned, which feels like you’re sitting in a really long queue but cannot see the front.
Once we were given a case officer, Thames Migration were informed and after about two months, they then requested some additional documents which I had to provide.
Stage 3 is also where you need to get your health checks. Some people may be tempted to get them earlier but as they have an expiry and cases can take a while, it was recommended that we get it done once a case officer was assigned. Hannibal gave us the go-ahead once it was time.
After furnishing the case officer with additional documents, it took a further seven months for our skilled migrant visa to be granted.
In total, it took approximately 16 months to get the visa. This is because the regulations are constantly evolving and there are only a certain number of visas issued per year for each profession in each state, which caused the delay.
Overall with the help of Hannibal and his team, the process was pretty painless and I am so thankful for their help. If I were to do it again, even with the knowledge I have gained, I’d definitely use their services again. I know friends who have attempted to obtain spouse visas and were pulling their hair out by the end of it, making unavoidable mistakes along the way. What’s also great, is that I am still in contact with my agent who is always there for advice when I need it.
Thames Migration are Australian visa specialists based in London and Australia who have a highly professional team of MARA registered agents. Hannibal Khoury, who dealt with my case in 2013-2014, was extremely knowledgeable, efficient and took all of the stress off my hands. I would highly recommend their services.
I am not receiving any benefits from promoting Thames Migration’s services, I simply want to help fellow migrants.