So. Sighs of relief all round yesterday when the Australians finally got round to granting my visa. Something of a relief, really, given that we’d already resigned, given notice on our flat, booked our flights for our big trip to South America next month as well as our one way tickets to Melbourne in October, organised our leaving drinks, and ordered 26 packing boxes from Freedom Shipping and started filling them with assorted tat.
Prior to yesterday, the last communication I’d had from Australia House had been back in February, when they sent me a form letter confirming that they were processing my application. It ended with a note reminding me that the visa processing people “do not recommend that you take any irreversible action during the processing of your application (such as leaving your employment, purchasing airline tickets, or selling your property) until and unless it has been confirmed in writing that your visa has been granted” so obviously that was advice that I took to heart.
Having said that, given that the only real requirements for this particular visa are that you (a) have been living with an Australian for at least a year, (b) don’t have a criminal record, and (c) don’t have TB, I was always fairly confident that I might just scrape through.
When we’ve previously got the same type of “dirty de-facto” visa for Sal to allow her to stay in the UK, it’s merely involved filling in an application form and sending in some post addressed to the two of us to prove we live at the same address. The Australians, on the other hand, make you jump through a few extra hoops, like getting Australian citizens to write statutory declarations confirming that yours is not a sham relationship.
They even ask you this directly. Question 74 on form 47SP, the main application form, reads:
74: Did you enter into this relationship with your partner solely to gain permanent residence in Australia?
Yes | No
Hmm. Let me think about that one for a moment…
They’re also quite big on the character requirement. This mostly means that you have to get police checks to prove that you don’t have a criminal record, but they also make you fill in the glorious Form 80, which includes such gems as:
27: Give details of all visits (including short stays) to countries outside Australia for the last 10 years (If insufficient space, give details on an attachment)
There are 7 lines for you to fill in the details.
Quite how they expect you to remember everywhere you’ve been for the last 10 years, I don’t know (especially if you happen to live in a continent that allows freedom of movement between member states and therefore don’t have any stamps in your passport for half of those trips…) My digital photos go back about 5 years, but beyond that I was mostly guessing. I vaguely remember what I did in 1998, but not to the day… And after I got to 36 trips on my attachment, I gave up.
The health checks were fun too. I went to a chap on Harley Street who apparently does nothing else but health checks for visa applicants. After the most cursory of medical examinations, during which he listened to my breathing for all of five seconds, basically just asked me if I had any health problems and then ticked “normal” on all the boxes on the form, he sent me on my way £140 lighter to get my chest X-Rays done down the road at another business that apparently exists solely to X-Ray visa applicants (this one was ironically staffed entirely by Australians, who all sounded exactly like the snobby shop assistants off Kath and Kim). With all that out of the way I just had to go back down the road to let a young New Zealander extract some blood from my arm and I was done, the whole process having taken little over half an hour.
So that’s it then. We really are officially going now. We leave London on the 18th May to head north for a few days, then fly to Peru on the 22nd for four months of flitting around South America before flying out of Sao Paulo on the 22nd September for a brief return to the UK (first to Southport and then back to London on the 26th September for a final weekend here). Our one way flights start from Heathrow on the 1st October, and after a few days in Singapore to see our friends who’ve just moved there (because, you know, 4 months’ holiday wasn’t quite enough), we’ll finally get to Melbourne, penniless, on Monday the 6th of October…