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Australian Partner Visa (801) GRANTED!

9 Aug

Hey everyone! Long time, no post again. I am very happy to report that my second stage Australian Partner Visa (801) was granted on July 21, 2015 — just a little under 4 months post-eligibility. That means I’m now a permanent resident and I have never felt so relieved!

I am so glad that this blog has helped out so many different people. I wanted to leave a note to say that due to a busier schedule and some big life changes, I’m not going to be able to answer questions about the visa like I used to anymore. Aside from anything else, I haven’t been keeping up-to-date on the latest from Immigration. It’s now two and a half years since I first applied for the 820 and a lot of things have changed since then — I would hate to lead someone astray because I didn’t have the most recent information on hand.

That said, I highly recommend checking out http://www.australiaforum.com/ which has plenty of people who are keeping up-to-date with the latest information, plus a few migration agents who answer questions from time to time as well. It’s an invaluable resource that I used many times while collecting evidence for my visa. If you have any questions, they will certainly be able to answer them on that forum.

Good luck to everyone on their visa journeys!

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Things We Included In Our Second Stage Australian Partner Visa (801) Application

4 Apr

Hey all! Long time, no visa update. 😉 If you haven’t seen this blog before, have a look on the right hand side of the screen for a brief overview of my Australian partner visa journey. For anyone new to the 820/801 visa process, essentially when you apply for the 820 (temporary residency) you are also applying for the 801 (permanent residency). Two years after the date you lodge the 820 application, you become eligible to lodge the 801 application. There are NO FURTHER FEES to pay when you apply for the 801 (aside from those you might incur from police checks). When you applied for the 820, you ALSO applied for the 801, so the fee was included in that price.

On January 16, 2015, about two months and a week before my eligibility date for my 801 visa, I received an e-mail from Immigration saying it was time to start thinking about the 801 visa. The e-mail included step-by-step instructions for applying online or via post as well as a checklist of items to include.

Among the things NOT listed below that ARE on this checklist include: an Australian national police certificate, a statutory declaration from the sponsor, and two witnessed Form 888s from people who know us and can say we are in a genuine and continuing relationship. I would recommend applying for the police check early on as it can take a while (though mine was processed in one business day and sent out!). If you’ve lived in another country for a year or more AFTER you applied for the 820, you will also need to get a police certificate from that country. This did not apply to me.

I was told by some knowledgeable people on an immigration forum that DIBP is really cracking down on the 801 visas as fraud cases continue to sneak past the 820 stage. This is unfortunate for those of us who are in legitimate relationships as it means we need to provide just as much evidence of our genuine and continuing relationship as we did for the 820.

Luckily, I feel like I have even more evidence this time around. For the last two years since I applied for the 820, I’ve kept a little storage box on a bookshelf in the lounge room. Whenever I remembered, I tossed in ticket stubs, receipts after going out to eat, plane tickets, etc. I’ve also kept online reservations for joint travel in a specific folder in my e-mail inbox. I think these are great tips for you if you’ve just applied for your 820–keep everything in one place, that way when it comes time to apply for the 801 you don’t need to go searching for things!

Anyway, I applied online. In addition to the evidence below, the online application includes a variety of information that is more or less the same as what you would have filled out for the 820: details of the applicant and sponsor, passport information, countries you’ve visited, etc. etc. etc. After you fill out this information, you submit the application and THEN attach all of the evidence. My evidence being:

Financial

  • A variety of credit card and debit card statements from joint accounts showing major expenses (joint travel, vet bills), as well as regular household expenses (rent, food, utilities).
    • A note on this one: I did the most recent statements from the past 6 months for both our savings account and credit card account, PLUS a couple of extra statements showing the major purchases. It seemed like a lot, but better more than less, am I right?
  • Copy of both our credit cards showing they are the same account (I am a secondary cardholder and my name does not show up on the credit card statement)

Social

  • Copy of Europe Trip itinerary + plane tickets (for some reason we only have our tickets going TO Europe and not coming back, but hey–they know we’re in the country!)
  • All Europe train tickets (7)
  • All Europe accommodation reservations (10)
  • Tour reservations in Europe (5)
  • Ticket stubs from castles, museums, and zoos in Europe.
  • Ticket stubs from plays seen at QPAC in Brisbane (3)
  • Ticket stubs from movies seen over the last few years. (I would recommend scanning these as soon as you get them as they fade fast!)
  • Ticket stubs from a museum event we attended together.
  • A selection of photos of us together in Europe.
  • Our Facebook Friendship page.

Nature of Our Commitment to Each Other

  • Facebook communication during time apart (3 weeks).
  • Skype communication during time apart.
  • Our Super Fund Beneficiary information, showing each other as sole beneficiaries.

Nature of Household

  • A copy of our most current lease.
  • An envelope showing both our names and address.
  • A statement about the division of household chores.
  • Vet Vaccination Certificates for both cats showing both our names as “owners”
  • Vet bill showing both our names as “owners”
  • Bank statements from joint accounts showing major household purchases such as a couch, fridge, and mattress.

I hope that this post provided you with some inspiration of evidence to include with your application. If you’re going through the Australian partner visa process, I would love to hear about your journey so far and I would be happy to answer questions you have (to the best of my ability) in the comments below. Keep in mind that I am NOT a migration agent–just someone going through the same process as you!

Below you can find links to my other visa-related posts for easy navigation:

 

Australian Partner Visa Cover Letter Sample

17 Jan

I keep getting questions about what our cover letter looked like for our visa application. A cover letter isn’t necessarily a requirement for most Australian visas, but it’s nice to include as it gives your case officer an idea of who you are and adds a personal touch amidst all of the forms and statements. For those of you curious, here is the cover letter we included with our partner visa application:

 

[Date] 

To the Immigration Application Officer:

Attached is my application for the Onshore Partner Visa (subclass 820). The application is complete except for the medical and police checks. I have sent in an application for a criminal records check through the FBI and will send it in as soon as I receive it. I will complete the medical as soon as advised.

I have assembled the application in accordance with the document checklist, which I hope makes it quick and easy to go through. While we have attached evidence of our genuine and continuing relationship, please let us know if more evidence is needed or if you would like to conduct an interview—we would be more than willing to comply.

My husband and I met online in 2005 and met in person in 2008. In June 2012, after graduating from university, I arrived in Australia on a work and holiday visa. We have been living together since and married in November 2012. We have spent a lot of time and money flying back and forth over the Pacific to see each other and hope to be granted the ability to live and work alongside each other without being separated.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can provide. I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours Sincerely,
[Names]
[Contact Detail — e-mail and mobile number]

 

This letter was written based on a similar letter I’d found somewhere–I can’t remember where or I’d link to it! This is not the only way to write a cover letter, by any means. You might find something that works better for you, but like I said, I’ve been getting questions about ours and this worked for us.

Basically, you want to start with what it is you are applying for and let the case officer know if anything is missing from your application–in my case, the police clearances and medical check. Let them know how far along you are in obtaining these items, or if you intend to wait until you are asked for them. I believe the police clearances and medicals are the only items that you can get away with leaving out of your initial application, but I could be wrong.

Your second paragraph should mention what you have already included and how you assembled the application. In our case, “in accordance with the document checklist.” Additionally, I offered the ability to hand over more evidence if needed. If they need more evidence they will typically ask for it rather than dismiss your application outright, but I thought the offer was good to include.

Lastly, I told the case officer a little bit about ourselves and why we wanted the visa. For partner visas, this answer is pretty obvious–“we want to be together.” However, the little bit about you is a nice personal touch. You’ll tell more of your story in your relationship statements later on. I think it’s good to give the case officer a little taste of what they’ll be seeing and dealing with.

I hope that helps! If you have any questions about the Australian partner visa application process, check out the following links. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!

Australian Onshore Partner Visa 820 GRANTED!

6 Jan

Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting that! Five hours after I turned in my FBI police clearance, my partner visa was granted! I’m still a little bit in shock! Is this too many exclamation points?!

This has been quite the 9-month roller coaster and to be honest, I’m glad to be off of it. In this post I’ll do a brief synopsis of our visa journey so far. At the end I’ll link the posts I’ve written about applying for this visa. I hope this information helps someone out, and as always, if you have any questions feel free to ask them.

First, my Australian husband and I met online in 2005 and met for the first time in 2008 when he traveled to my home in Michigan. We spent the next several years going back and forth between the US and Australia. After I finished university in May 2012, I arrived in Australia on a Work and Holiday Visa (462) with the intention of staying with him and working until he graduated that November.

A few months in, he decided he wanted to pursue a teaching degree which would take an additional year. That meant if we didn’t do something, we would be separated again, as my visa expired June 2013. So, as we were already engaged, we simply eloped and decided to apply for a partner visa.

After several months of collecting documents and evidence, we lodged our application in person at the Brisbane Department of Immigration and Citizenship (as it was then called) on March 25, 2013. Forked over an arm and a leg, and started the wait.

I applied for my police checks around the same time. The Australian one came within a week. At the end of April, I received notice from the FBI that my fingerprints were not readable and to send in another set. I did, and waited. and waited. and waited. Unable to find the customer service phone number at the time, I sent in another application at the end of September. Cue government shut down. Finally, money left my account on November 15 for the application.

On November 25, one day after our first anniversary of married life, and eight months after lodging our initial application, I received a request for more information–that meant the police checks and medical.

My medical was completed on December 9, 2013 and I turned in my Australian police check that same day. I received notice that my medicals had cleared on December 13, 2013.

Still waiting for my FBI police check, I made several calls and eventually learned that my fingerprints were readable, they had sent out the certificate on November 25, and had made a mistake on the address, which is why it never reached me. A second copy was sent December 12.

At the end of my rope, it finally appeared in my letterbox on January 6, 2014. I immediately scanned it in to my case officer, and five hours later I received my visa grant!

If you’d like more details, follow these links to more information about my visa journey:

That isn’t the end of visa posts, however. I was granted the 820, which is the first step toward Australian permanent residency and citizenship. In March 2015, I’ll be eligible for the 801, which is permanent residency. Afterwards, I will probably pursue citizenship barring any sudden changes in plan. At the very least, it will make traveling back and forth between Australia and the US a lot simpler!

I’d like to thank everyone for following these posts, offering support, advice, and asking questions! I love hearing from people going through the same thing so if you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask. Wishing you luck on your visa journey!

My FBI Clearance is HERE!

6 Jan

The last piece of the visa puzzle: the FBI police clearance. This elusive piece of paper that says “Emily has committed no crimes” cost over $150 all told, took 10 months, 3 applications, who knows how many sets of fingerprints, two lost letters, one bungled address, numerous phone calls, and a couple nervous breakdowns… but it’s finally here.

It has been an incredibly frustrating time. There have been tears. There has been anger. It should NOT be this difficult to get a little piece of paper that proves you are a law-abiding citizen.

I’m posting this to warn anyone who still needs to get this done not to wait. My case officer requested this document eight months after I turned my visa application in. Can you imagine if I started this hellish process when the request for more information came through on November 25? I would be sitting here at the start of my waiting journey, unknowingly signing myself up for another ten months before I could be eligible to get this visa approved.

If you don’t send in your FBI police clearance application before you send in your visa application, I recommend doing it soon after. The new online visa application submission system should mean that applications are approved faster than before. While your FBI clearance is only good for a year, its likely that by the time you get your FBI clearance, you will only have a few months’ wait ahead of you for visa approval.

To those of you still waiting for their FBI clearance, I’m sorry, and I understand your pain. Try to take a deep breath. You will get the document you need. Eventually.

Here are some tips for getting your FBI clearance with your first application rather than your third. A lot of these probably seem like common sense, but I’ve seen several people on forums struggling with this, so I thought I’d post them up.

  1. Get your fingerprints taken by a professional, and make sure you get multiple sets. When they scan your fingerprints in, it seems the machine is particularly sensitive. Sending multiple sets will ensure there are multiple chances for your fingerprints to be readable.
  2. Send your fingerprints in via registered post (make sure your envelope is trackable) so that you can have some peace of mind knowing that your application has arrived. You will not receive any communication from the FBI until you receive either a) a request for additional fingerprints or b) your clearance in the mail. This could be three months after your application was sent in.
  3. Don’t fold your fingerprints. Make sure they are in a large, flat envelope. Folding increases the risk of making your fingerprints unreadable.
  4. Make a copy of your application before you send it out, and make a copy of your receipt from the post office. In case your case officer asks for this document before you are able to provide it, these things will serve as proof that you have sent out an application.
  5. Don’t be afraid to call in! The customer service number, as well as when they will start answering your questions (currently 6 weeks from the time they receive your application), are available on the FBI CJIS website. Again, this may give you some peace of mind. Or, in my case, it helped them catch a mistake with the address. You never know what issues there might be.
  6. If possible, have it sent to an address in the US. This will cut down on post time and reduce the risk of it being lost in international transit. My case officer only requested a scanned copy of the document, not the physical thing. Had I done this, my mother could have scanned the document to me when she received it and I could have forwarded it to my case officer. If you do need the physical copy, the US person could at least make many copies, get them certified, and send the document with tracking to you. Again, this would offer you peace of mind.

Let me know if you have any questions, tips, or complaints about the FBI police check process–I’d love to hear them (and commiserate!)

I have a case officer!

14 Dec

Hey everyone! So many updates, so little time, huh? Things are MOVING with my visa and it is awesome!

The most exciting thing is that I really do have a case officer now! This is a huge step in the visa process as it means that my application has been picked up and is being looked at by a person who will be able to decide whether or not I get to stay in this wonderful country. A little while ago I posted about getting the request for more information from the admin team. I’m pretty sure this request technically came from my case officer. I had an additional e-mail from the admin team, and then my third e-mail from Immigration was from my case officer. Cool stuff.

The request came exactly eight months after my visa application was submitted, and one day after our first anniversary. Nice, huh? I was given a 28-day time frame to get the required documents in (AFP clearance, FBI clearance, and health check).

Anyway, my health check is IN, my AFP clearance is IN, and we are now just waiting on the FBI clearance. GOOD NEWS on that front: my fingerprints were readable!! If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably remember all of my drama with getting this FBI clearance. To recap, I’ve had to submit multiple applications and, with the long, drawn-out processing times, it’s basically been eight months since my first application. Money left my account for the final application on November 15–nearly a month ago–and I’ve been stressing about it being lost in the mail or receiving YET ANOTHER request for more fingerprints rather than an actual clearance.

(Pro tips: if you have to apply for an FBI clearance for your visa, a) get multiple copies of your fingerprints done! I’d recommend AT LEAST three, and five wouldn’t go amiss! b) send via registered post so you can track it and c) don’t be afraid to call in to request updates–it will set your mind at ease!)

A few days ago I called the FBI to check on the application. I was a bit worried about being put on hold for a long time and running out of credit on my phone, but this was a fast, painless call. I gave my name and the address that the check was being sent to. The lady on the phone was able to tell me that a) my fingerprints WERE readable, b) they sent the clearance out on November 25, and c) if the clearance does not reach me by December 23 (28 days after it was sent out), it is considered lost and I should call back and request a new one, which they will send out.

I AM a bit nervous that it has been lost in the mail still, but I’m glad she told me what I could do if it is. Sounds like a relatively painless process. I was afraid I was going to have to submit a whole new round of fingerprints, but it sounds like that isn’t the case!

My case officer seems very nice, very understanding of the whole FBI clearance process (I swear it is NOT this bad in other countries! The AFP clearance arrived in a week!), and very communicative. There have only been a few e-mails bouncing back and forth, but I’m a fan. 🙂

This will likely be my last update before my police check gets here. I hope, hope, hope it’s here on Monday. That would be three weeks from the time they sent it out–a pretty long time for things to get here from the US, particularly just a letter. Oh well. I’m going to just keep breathing and stop stressing and wonder if it’s possibly possible for me to have my 820 visa granted before the new year…

Australian Visa Onshore Medical: My Experience

11 Dec

I haven’t seen many blog posts about the whole medical experience when it comes to applying for an Australian visa onshore. I would have liked to read about other people’s experience because I HATE going to the doctor. I get anxiety about having to step into a doctor’s office–and don’t even start me on needles, let alone getting blood drawn. I know these are all irrational fears but they are fears nonetheless. Even so, my medical experience was a breeze–not bad at all! So if you’re like me and are agonizing over your upcoming medical, perhaps this post will make you worry a bit less.

First of all, my medicals were requested on November 25. I went to the online form and started filling it out. You can only make your appointment up to two weeks from the current date (so, having made the appointment on November 25, the LATEST I could make my appointment for was December 9). If you make the appointment online, you will pay at the time of booking. My medical, chest x-ray, and blood test cost a total of $353 AUD. Note: you’ll need your HAP ID which will come with the request for more information.

I was happy to see that you are allowed to bring an adult friend/chaperone with you into the medical examination. I tried to get an appointment on a day that my husband was off work so that he could come with me, but was unfortunately unable to do so. Cue additional anxiety. (Again, it wasn’t that bad!)

The site says to call in if you would like to request a female doctor. I am much more comfortable with female doctors, so I did. That said, I didn’t end up getting one (more on this below), and it wasn’t bad at all. However, given that experience, if you need a female doctor as a strong preference or, say, for religious reasons, you will want to be pretty adamant about getting one to ensure your preference is heard.

Fast forward to December 9. My appointment was at 8:45, and they said to arrive at least fifteen minutes before the appointment. I actually got there around 8:15 and just went in. I went to the Brisbane Clinic, which is on Adelaide Street. I’m not sure about other clinics, but this one was set up like this: first, you walk in to a waiting room where you have to take a ticket and sit down. Then, people working at the surrounding desks will call your number. When your number is called, you must present your passport and appointment confirmation. If you have made your appointment online, you will have already paid; if not, you’ll pay at this station. Afterwards, the person will take your picture. Then they will take your passport and documentation and hand it off to a nurse. You will then be sent to a second waiting room.

Note: You no longer need to fill out the health forms if you apply online. All of this is done online.

Now, on my appointment day there was a bit of a hiccup. The computer systems had stopped working, so there was a bit of a back-up of appointments. That said, I don’t know if the next part goes more smoothly usually than it did that day.

First, I was called back by a nurse to get my blood drawn for the HIV test. I had to sign a waiver saying that it was okay for them to release the results to Immigration. Getting blood drawn was the most dreaded bit for me. I have a tendency of fainting around needles, which I told the nurse just in case, but she was very understanding, calm, and kept talking while she attempted to find a vein. Having never gotten my blood drawn before, I wasn’t sure about how it was going to go, but I’d heard stories about people who have to get poked multiple times before they are able to find a good spot to draw. That terrified me. However, she was VERY good about it (perhaps because I told her I was a fainter?) and triple checked before she poked me to ensure she had a good spot. I looked away and she kept talking through it, which kept me a lot calmer than usual and kept my mind off the needle. It was done in seconds, and honestly, I barely felt it. My stomach didn’t even drop like it usually did–score!

After, I was sent straight to the x-ray room to get my chest x-ray. This was probably the most awkward part. I was sent to a little changing room to take off my shirt and bra, and put on the gown that they gave me. The gown was darker in colour but still a little see-through, so I felt SO awkward when I walked into the area with the x-ray to find an older male x-ray technician. After a bit of a chat (with my arms crossed over my chest) he took the x-ray no problem and that was that. Had to remind myself he does dozens of these a day and he’s a professional. Still.

After, I was sent back to that second waiting room for a while before I was called back for the urinalysis by another nurse. First she took my height and weight and had me read an eye chart on the wall to make sure I could see. Then she handed me a cup, and, well, I’m sure you’ve probably done that before. Again, there was no issue. That said, ladies, don’t make your appointment for that certain time of the month, or you’ll have to come back in to do this section of the medical.

Then it was back to the waiting room again. Finally, I was called back by the doctor–a male doctor, but he barely had to do anything. Honestly, I requested a female doctor MOSTLY because I thought the doctor would be doing everything, and I thought a female doctor would be more understanding of me fainting during the blood test if it happened (which it didn’t).

All the doctor did was have a bit of a conversation with me (there’s a section about “mental capacity” so I guess this was testing that?) then had me lay down checked my heartbeat/breathing, then felt my stomach (I guess to check if there was a hernia or something?), had me sit up to check my ears and eyes, then stand up to touch my toes, twist side to side, look left and right to make sure I had no back/neck injuries.

And that was that. The only additional thing I believe you have to do is if you’re a woman over 40, you need a mammogram. As I’m not over 40, though, this wasn’t applicable.

I just wanted to reiterate that this was NOT stressful. All of the nurses and the doctor were very friendly and put me very much at ease. I can’t stress enough how nervous I was, particularly about getting blood drawn, and the whole experience was perfectly fine. If you have hospital/doctor/needle-anxiety like me, please try not to stress about the medical too much! It isn’t going to be as bad as you think. I know you probably hear that from a lot of people, but take it from someone who was just as stressed out as you are: it really isn’t that bad.

As for how long it took, it was about two and a half hours from the time I walked into the building to walking out. I believe it usually takes a lot less time, but again, there were computer issues that led to backed-up appointments that day. (My appointment was scheduled for 8:45; I didn’t get my blood drawn until about 9:30!)

Let me know if you have any questions about the medical process and I can answer them here! If you’ve already gotten your medical done, I’d love to hear about your experience. Let me know in the comments below.

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