Sunday, December 12, 2010

Canberra Bound

Since we were granted the 176 Skilled Migration Visa, we are required to live in the Canberra (Australian Capital Territory) for 2 years. Canberra is a relatively small city of only 345,000 people, and is Australia's Capital. It is Australia's largest inland city, approximately a 3 hour drive from Sydney. Construction of Canberra officially began in 1913, and was a planned city, developed by Walter Burley Griffin.

 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Flights Booked

With our visa granted we were eager to begin the move, and start our new life in Australia. We went ahead and booked our  flight today, and will officially be touching down in Sydney on January 19th, 2011. Let the packing begin.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We got the Visa!!

After  2 long years, we finally received our Australia Skilled Migration Visa. We knew that there was movement on the processing front, because lots of other people who were in Priority 2, had started to receive their case officers. We were a little disappointed at first because we hadn't heard back, but then all of a sudden, I logged into the online system, and it showed my visa had been approved. I'm still in shock and can't believe it's finally here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Positive SMP News

With the release of the long awaited State Migration plan for the Australian Capital Territory on Monday we are happy to find out that my occupation is on the list. This means our application has officially been moved from Priority 3 to Priority 2. We are now eagerly awaiting the assignment of a Case Officer!

Here is the information on the ACT website regarding their State Migration Plan (SMP) :

http://www.business.act.gov.au/skilled_and_business_migration/SMP_Occupation_List

DIAC State Migration Plans

The Department of Immigration & Citizenship has announced the commencement of the long awaited State Migration Plans. Currently only 2 states have announced their plan, and the rest are expected in the next 2 months:



State Date
Australian Capital Territory 5 November 2010
New South Wales TBA
Northern Territory TBA
Queensland TBA
South Australia TBA
Tasmania TBA
Victoria 3 November 2010
Western Australia TBA


They also released 2 accompanying PDFs:

FACT SHEET - http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/pdf/statmig-fs.pdf

FAQ - http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/pdf/statmig-faq.pdf

Monday, July 19, 2010

New DIAC Processing Priorities

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship has just announced a new Processing Priority for visa applications. Here is the current priority list:

  1. Applications from people who are employer sponsored under the ENS and the RSMS.
  2. Applications from people who are nominated by a state or territory government agency with a nominated occupation that is specified on that state or territory’s state migration plan.
  3. Applications from people who have nominated an occupation on the new Skilled Occupation List (SOL) – Schedule 3 in effect from 1 July 2010.
    See: http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/pdf/new-list-of-occupations.pdf 
  4. All other applications are to be processed in the order in which they are received.
GSM visas affected

The following GSM visas are affected by priority processing:

  • Skilled – Independent subclass 175
  • Skilled – Independent subclass 176
  • Skilled – Regional Sponsored subclass 475
  • Skilled – Regional Sponsored subclass 487
  • Skilled – Independent Regional subclass 495
  • Skilled – Designated Area-sponsored (Provisional) subclass 496
  • Graduate – Skilled subclass 497
  • Skilled – Onshore Independent New Zealand Citizen subclass 861
  • Skilled – Onshore Australian-sponsored New Zealand Citizen subclass 862
  • Skilled – Onshore Designated Area-sponsored New Zealand Citizen subclass 863
  • Skilled – Independent Overseas Student subclass 880
  • Skilled – Australian-sponsored subclass 881
  • Skilled – Designated Area-sponsored Overseas Student subclass 882
  • Skilled – Independent subclass 885
  • Skilled – Sponsored subclass 886.

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Temporary Suspension of Australia General Skilled Migration

    DIAC has just announced a temporary suspension of their Skilled Migration Program, whilst they await the release of the new Skilled Occupations List. 

    The Australian Government has decided to temporarily suspend the acceptance of certain General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa applications. This temporary measure will begin on 8 May 2010 and is expected to remain in effect until the end of 30 June 2010.
    The temporary suspension applies only to primary (main) applicants for the following visa subclasses:
    • Subclass 175 – Skilled Independent (Migrant) visa
    • Subclass 176 – Skilled Sponsored (Migrant) visa
    • Subclass 475 – Skilled Regional Sponsored (Provisional) visa.
    See:
    Fact Sheet – Temporary Suspension of Certain General Skilled Migration Applications (Subclass 175, 176 and 475 only) ( 61KB PDF file)
    Frequently Asked Questions – Temporary Suspension of Certain General Skilled Migration Applications (Subclass 175, 176 and 475 only) (110KB PDF file)

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Australia: A New History of the Great Southern Land by Frank Welsh

    Australia: A New History of the Great Southern Land
    Australia: A New History of the Great Southern Land

    I have been reading this book on and off for several months now. It's a fantastic insight into Australia, where it all began, and how it has progressed through today. An essential read for anyone migrating to Australia.  Here is a brief summary of the book:


    This engaging account places Australia's history in a global context, drawing on sources from the United States, Britain, South Africa, and Canada. Acclaimed historian Frank Welsh traces the history of the land from scattered convict settlements to the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 and on to today's thriving independent nation, exposing many national myths in the process.
    Australia is one of the world's most quickly developed modern nations, leaping to prosperous independence from its English colonizers in the span of a generation. This book also explores the dark side of Australia's history: the long-continued "White Australia" policy, which bedeviled foreign policy for more than a century, reflected in Australia's enthusiastic support for the Vietnam War; the still-tortured official relationship with the Aboriginal peoples; the subordination of women; and the flaws in the constitution. Welsh also examines Australia's uneasy relationship with its Asian neighbors, and its isolation from traditional allies Britain and the United States.

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Medicals Complete

    On the 25th of March we went to our Medicals appointment down in Mountain View, CA. Surprisingly there were only 2 doctors in our area who were registered to do the medicals. We had a general health check up, along with blood tests and chest X-rays. Everything was pretty straight forward, although they did have to take 2 x-rays of my chest. Being 6'5" tall, I apparently have really long lungs, and Australia are supposed to be picky if just a few millimeters of the lower tip of the lungs are missing. The technician has known people have x-rays retaken because of this. Luckily I won't have to go back.

    Yesterday, I checked online at USPS using the tracking number provided to me by the doctor. My results were back, and had been mailed off to Sydney. Hopefully they should get there in a couple of days.

    California Police Check Results

    Well, we finally got our California State Police check results back. I'm amazed how quick they are compared to the FBI. The good news is that we didn't unwittingly commit any crimes :) Our records are clear. Now we wait for FBI clearance.

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    FBI & State Police Clearance Complete

    This morning we went to get our fingerprints taken for the FBI and State check required for our visa. In California we can use the new LiveScan fingerprinting system which digitally sends our finger prints to the State for review. What a great time saver. We just went to our local UPS store who are certified to perform the scans, and everything was digitally transmitted. It cost us $36 per set, which goes to the State, and then about $18 extra for the fingerprinting fee.

    For the FBI prints, we needed to get inked fingerprints. Luckily the UPS store also performed this service. We followed the instructions from the FBI website, filling out a cover sheet, and the necessary payment information. We submitted these along with the Fingerprint cards we obtained from the UPS store. We put a 'expedite' date on the envelope stating we needed them by May 1st, hoping that it will speed up the processing. Although, we have heard that they completely ignore these requests now.

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Medical Exams & Police Checks

    In order to qualify for our Australian Visa, we need to pass 2 main checks, Medical & Police. They need to make sure that we are not only in good health,  but also have what they consider 'good character'. Normally we are not required to undertake these test until we are assigned a Case Officer for our visa,  however in order to speed up the process people often 'front load' these.The biggest risk here is that by the time you are assigned a Case Officer, they may have already expired since they are only valid for one year.

    We decided that with the strong possibility of  moving into a higher processing priority mid-year, it would be worth taking the risk of doing the medicals and police checks early. This means once a Case Officer is assigned, they will have all required documents in hand, and should be able to rule quicker.

    On Thursday we made an appointment for our Medical Check, which will involve X-rays, blood tests, and general health checkup. Luckily we have no pre-existing conditions that would raise red flags in Immigration. The appointment is scheduled for the 25th.

    We also need to go ahead with our police checks. There are 2 parts. One is the California State police check, which requires LiveScan fingerprinting. Being digital, this is a quick process and results can be back in as little as 3 days. The second check is FBI clearance. This requires ink-rolled fingerprints, which are then mailed to FBI headquarters. Results from this can take 8-12 weeks. We will begin this process this coming week.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Taking Dogs to Australia

    Our two dogs, Sophie & Lulu, are our life. They are our kids. We couldn't imagine leaving them here, so when we started planning to emigrate to Australia, we had to make sure that we were able to take them with us.

     

    Upon research, we found out that Australia requires a quarantine process that can take from 1 - 6 months if bringing your pets from the US.  The amount of time the spend in quarantine depends on when you begin the procedures such as rabies testing. If you have things planned in advance you can start procedures 5 months before your departure, meaning they would only need to spend 1 month in quarantine. 

    We are a little concerned as to how well they will cope with being away from us for an entire month. As I said, they are our babies, and a little spoiled. We will only get to visit them twice a week, which will be really hard. Probably more so for us. The quarantine facility in Sydney is very much like a kennel,  which is an environment they are not used to at all.

     Eastern Creek Quarantine - Sydney - AustraliaEastern Creek Quarantine - Sydney - Australia 

    We had a lot of thinking to do when we were talking about moving to Australia. As well as quarantine, they would also face a grueling 13 hour flight from SFO to SYD. In the end
    we decided that the improvement in our lifestyle by moving to Australia outweighed any of the risks. 

    The quarantine situation leaves us with quite a dilemma with regards to timing. Obviously we want to minimize their time in quarantine to 1 month, by starting the procedure early here in the US. However, with the current Visa madness we have no idea when we will be moving. We have to try and estimate when we may get the visa, and hope that our guesses work out. We already made the mistake once of starting the Rabies testing  back when we first applied for the visa. Those results expired, and we were back to square one. With the potential for moving up in Processing Priorities for the visa, we decided that it was probably worth starting again, so we took the dogs last week for their Rabies (RNATT) test, which determines their rabies antibody levels. I'm confident they will pass this time, as they passed it the previous time. We should get the results in a couple of weeks. 


    Sunday, February 28, 2010

    Notice Given

    My wife, Anna,  officially gave notice to her work that she will not be continuing  in the next school. She was required to let them know by March whether she was staying or going. Working in a school, they prefer if you commit to the entire school year, so a decision had to be made. Ultimately, she decided now was the right time to quit. This had the added bonus that we will retain our Health Insurance until the end of August, but after that we are on our own.

    Now, of course, we don't yet have our visa to move to Australia, nor do we have any real indication of when that will happen. There are 2 possible scenarios I see:
    1. We get moved into Priority 2 once the new State Migration Plans are announced, and we would hopefully move in 3-9 months (my guess on how long it would  take).
    2. We stay in Priority 5, and will no doubt see our application on hold until 2012.
    So this raises an interesting dilemma. If we have to wait until 2012, and Anna is out of work, what do we do next. We could stay here in San Francisco, but on a single income, that would be very difficult.  So as a back up plan, should the Australian Visa be on hold,  we started thinking about moving to Europe in September whilst we wait for more visa news. Having a UK passport, it gives us the rights of residency in various European countries. Our first thoughts were either Spain or France. The thought of spending 1 year there, possibly in a long term vacation rental, is a really appealing option.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

    In a Sunburned CountryHearing about our ACT State Sponsorship, one of the people on the forum suggested that I read Bill Brysons In a Sunburned Country. He said it would give me a little bit more insight into life in Canberra. I promptly found myself a copy, and couldn't put the book down. Bill Bryson is a fantastic writer, and has written several  humorous travel books. This was the first of his books that I had read, but will no doubt be picking up some of his others.

    The book covers Bill's travels across Australia, starting with a cross country train ride from Sydney to Perth. On driving adventures, he also visits Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Uluru. It was a little disheartening to read his opinions on Canberra, and his suggestions for new Canberra slogans, which included:

    Canberra - There's nothing to it!

    and:

    Canberra - Why wait for Death?

    However in the end conceded that Canberra was a great spacious city, that escaped many of the troubles of the larger Australian cities. It had managed to stay  small and non-imposing. A city in a park.

    I'll be honest. It does concern me a little, moving from a big city like San Francisco, to a much smaller place. However, I am willing and eager to give it a go.

    If you want to grab a peek at the book you can do so below. 


    Sunday, February 21, 2010

    ACT State Migration Plan

    I received an email from ACT State Sponsorship office to confirm that they will most likely be submitting their baseline list of occupations for their State Migration Plan (SMP). This is the wonderful news we were hoping for. Providing that their list is approved by the Minister of Immigration, Chris Evans, it will mean we will get bumped up from Priority 5 to Priority 2. Fingers crossed. We are not sure when ACT will submit their list for review, but lets hope it happens soon.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Australian Forum Support

    I wanted to also thank the people on the PomsinOz Forum who have provided fantastic information, especially since the new changes on the 8th. it seems to be a great group of people, who, like the ExpatForum folks, go out of their way to help people out with their immigration dilemmas.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Austrlian States Unaware

    Well, surprise surprise, it seems that the States were unaware of the changes made to the Australia Skilled Migration program yesterday. Having emailed the Canberra office for more information on the new State Migration Plan (SMP) they responded by saying that they were not privy to this information, and had no further information for us at this stage. Hopefully over the next few weeks more information will reveal itself as the states figure things out.

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    DIAC Announces New Changes

    This morning the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has announced even more changes to the Skilled Migration Program. On inspection it appears that there may  be some good news for our application but we will have to wait  a little while more.

    The key change for us is the reworking of the Priority list for applications. Whilst we are still at priority level 5, they have introduced a new Priority 2, which has what they describe as a State Migration Plan. Which will allow states to pick occupations they want to get priority above the general 175  non-state sponsored applications. Here is the new processing priority:

    1. Applications from people who are employer sponsored under the ENS and the RSMS.
    2. Applications from people who are nominated by a state/territory government agency under a state migration plan agreed to by the minister.
    3. Applications from people who are nominated by a state/territory government agency and whose nominated occupation is on the Critical Skills List (CSL).
    4. Applications from people who are neither nominated nor sponsored in priority groups 1, 2 or 3, but whose nominated occupation is listed on the CSL.
    5. Applications from people who are nominated by a state/territory government agency whose nominated occupation is not listed on the CSL.
    6. (i) Applications from people whose occupations are listed on the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL).
      (ii) Aplications from people who are sponsored by family and whose nominated occupation is not listed on the CSL.
    7. All other applications are to be processed in the order in which they are received.
    Were not quite sure what the new State Migration Plan (SMP) is yet, but with any luck we will be able to get on there, moving our application to the top of the queue.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    New Changes Expected with Australia Immigration

    New changes to the Australian Migration program are expected to be announced on Monday. We are very apprehensive after the last changes. Fingers crossed for some good news.

    Sunday, January 24, 2010

    The Importance of Support

    During this past roller-coaster year, I probably wouldn't have survive without the support of other people going through the Australian Migration process. I have been an active member of one particular forum, ExpatForum.com, which has some great members who offer advice to all, at absolutely no cost. Most of the people on there are people who have received a visa, or are currently awaiting theirs. There are also some Migration Agents who make an appearance. I think its critical that you keep on top of changes in the migration program, otherwise you could sit there for ages, and not know that things have changed. Being on the forum has allowed me to keep apprised of the current landscape.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    About Canberra, Australia

    As I said earlier, I didn't know too much about Canberra apart from the fact that it was inland, somewhere between Sydney and Melbourne.


    View Larger Map

    Looking at the map above you will see that Canberra is much closer to Sydney than it is to Melbourne. It's about a 3 hour drive to Sydney, and a 9 hour drive to Melbourne.

    Canberra was established in 1913, and was a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne, as neither could agree which city should be the capital. They decided to create a new city to be the government center. You can find more info about Canberra here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canberra

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    ACT Sponsorship Approved

    More good news today! Our ACT State Sponsorship application was approved. I was surprised that it came through this early in the year. With the Christmas break I was expecting to wait until February. We are thrilled that now we have moved up 2 priorities to level 5. This might not seem like much, but even if they process our application 6 months earlier, its better than the position we were in.

    I want to take this opportunity to thank Julianne, the client manager, at the Canberra office. She answered the phone and responded to emails in that 'only in Australia' friendly manner. I can't imagine getting such great service here in the US.

    Now the real work begins. Learning more about Canberra. Scoping out the real estate market. Researching restaurants and neighborhoods. Of course, we still have to wait for the actual visa,  but I'm confident that will come through eventually.
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