As I mentioned in my previous post, I applied for Australian PR last 2014. My friend in Australia was pushing me to apply since 2012, but I was still caught up in the euphoria of living in Singapore. So,I ignored her prodding. My heart couldn't bear the thought of leaving Singapore (even though my mind telling me that Australia is the next best thing). Every time I think of starting my application, I feel a big massive wall obstructing my path. It made me depressed just thinking about it that I decided to dropped my AU plans momentarily. I still monitored the application process though, and I continued reading forums extensively. I also read lots of blogs on migrating/living in AU hoping it would motivate me enough to finally make the first step.
My AU migration plans started early and was lurking deep inside my thoughts. I was still happy in Singapore but I always felt there's something missing. Living in SG for years, everything is convenient and easy. This country is a stark contrast to my home country, the Philippines. I am also working in my ideal job & company here, so career-wise, I am very much contented. But then as years passed, I realized I am drowning in my comfort zone. I am only kidding myself into thinking this is where I belong. Deep down, I know this is not where I want to be. This is not the life I want to live. My go-getter and fearless attitude has been dying over the years staying here. I have lots of plans! I want to do lots of things but I feel my world is restricted.
Ok... to cut the long story short, come early 2014, I found there were a lot of major changes with the AU PR application. Dependents which were initially free suddenly has fees. Skills assessment is more strict and I feel the application process will be harder if I chose to delay.
And so, early January of 2014, I summoned all my will and started the application process. There's a lot of changes now but the basic process is still the same. I found the following sites most helpful:
Australian Immigration Official Website: http://www.border.gov.au/
PinoyAU Forum: http://pinoyau.info/ -
Australia PR application is a point-based system. You can lodge a visa once you earned at least 60 pts. I posted below the categories on how you can earn the points. I believe this process applies to Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189) & Skilled Nominated Visa (subclass 190). You may refer to the Australian Immigration Offical Website for information on other types of visas.
1. SKILLS ASSESSMENT
In order to earn points for Skilled employment and Qualifications, you need to have your skills assessed first. You should select an occupation closely related to your skills and work experience. Each occupation has their corresponding assessing authority.
Example, for those working in the IT field, the assessing authority is Australian Computer Society (ACS).
There are 2 type of Occupation Lists;
a. Skilled Occupation List (SOL) - this list contains all occupations which are in high demand all over Australia. As long as you meet the all the requirements and your total points is at least 60 points, you can already lodge a visa application via the Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189). This does not require getting a State Sponsorship/Nomination.
b. Consolidated Skilled Occupation List (CSOL) - this list contains occupations which requires or accepts State Sponsorship/Nomination (SS). It means whether you already obtain 60 points and met all requirements, it is still mandatory to apply for State Sponsorship. Or if your nominated occupation is in both SOL and CSOL and you need to earn more points (5 pts), then you can apply for State Sponsorship. This will then qualify you for the Skilled Nominated Visa (subclass 190). Please note that each state has their own occupation list, application process, and processing times so make sure your occupation is on their list and you meet the state's requirements.
I found this 3rd party site helpful in checking sponsorship status for each occupation on each state.
2. ENGLISH LANGUAGE ABILITY
To provide of evidence for English Language Ability, you may take any of these English Language Exams. The most common language exam taken is the IELTS.
Most people would ask whether they should complete Skills Assessment first, or the English Eligibility Exams. It really doesn't matter, as they are not dependent of each other. Most would suggest to take Skills Assessment first, as this is where majority of the points will be taken (Skilled employment and Qualifications). You can also process both at the same time. Like in my case, ACS Skills Assessment took 12 weeks to process during my application. So while ACS result, I studied and took my IELTS. Nowadays ACS processing is much faster and results are released in just a matter of days.
3. STATE SPONSORSHIP
Although my nominated occupation was in SOL, I still lacked 5 points. I only had 55 points at that time and the easiest way for me to get the additional 5 points was to apply for state sponsorship. I was thinking of retaking the IELTS for band 8 (20 pts.) but I got so drained already from studying that I decided to just try State Sponsorship.
My initial target state was NSW (Sydney), since its more popular and they offer more employment opportunities. However, they were closed for sponsorship by the time I completed my ACS and IELTS. Part of me wanted to wait till they open in July, but another part of me was restless. I can't bear the thought of waiting around for couple of months. I was concerned with possible changes of their sponsorship requirements when they open in July. There's a possibility they will implement a more strict process.
The next best option for me was to apply for Victoria (Melbourne) since they were still open for sponsorship. Unfortunately, they require at least 3 years work experience and I was only awarded 1 year by ACS. I read forums and bombarded several active forumers with my questions. :D I found one forumer who got approved by VIC with less than 3 years work experience, so that gave me hope. VIC has higher rejection rate compared to other states, but I took the risk anyway. I was thinking I've got nothing to lose since I could still opt for NSW sponsorship, if ever they reject me,. I really am a gall of backup plans.. :) After 12 weeks of waiting, I got my miracle approval letter!!! Yay! I was so happy! Also, the more I read about Melbourne, the more I'm liking it over Sydney. The laid back environment is more fitting for me and they consistently top the "Most Livable Cities" list. I'm glad I took a risk with VIC 'cause come July, NSW implemented a quota when they opened their state for sponsorship. They only accepted 1000 applications and the quota filled up quickly in a matter of minutes.
4. LODGING A VISA
Having my VIC State Sponsorship approved meant I earned the needed 60 pts and I get an automatic invite to lodge the main visa. I have 60 days to lodge and pay the very expensive visa fee. First thing to do after the invite is to open an ImmiAccount, fill-up and submit my online Application and Health Declaration Form.
After submitting the Health Declaration Form, it will generate a HAP ID needed for the medicals.Next, me and my family did our medical before lodging so that we will be aware if there's any problem with our medicals before we can proceed with Visa application. I did mine in Point Medical in Paragon. I just called to book an appointment. The entire process was smooth and efficient. I gave them my Health Declaration Form with the HAP ID and they directed me to another floor for the XRay. The checkups require fasting btw and everything can be completed in half-day. My Mom and daughter did their medicals in Nationwide Health Systems Cebu Inc. It was also a smooth process although it took almost a day to complete. Our medical results were uploaded within 5 days and I was happy that there was no health issues.
I lodged my Visa on November 21, 2014. I then started to upload the rest of the required documents. I have to submit an SG Police Clearance as well as Philippine NBI Clearance. I already had a valid NBI Clearance which I took last Feb. 2014, but I ead that the Initial Entry Date depends on the expiry of either Medicals or Police Clearance (whichever expires first). I was not ready to make an entry very soon, so I decided to get an NBI Clearance again. Fortunately, there's a contact in Philippines who can process your clearance even if you're overseas. I emailed her and she just asked for a copy of my existing NBI Clearance, Application Form, 2x2 ID Picture and Passport. She only billed me for Php706 (courier fee) + Php115 (Clearance fee). I was surprised she didnt asked extra money ("lagay") for her efforts. Lagay is a common practice in the Philippines so it was refreshing that she assisted me without making it a personal business. I just added a bit extra with the payment as thanks for her efforts.
I uploaded all the required as well as supporting documents. I was a bit OC so I anticipated all docs they may ask and I tried to complete them as much as I can. I was on the process of filling-up the tedious and lengthy Form80 when I got my Direct Grant! It was one of the most emotional moments of my life.
The grant was more meaningful because Year 2014 was a stressful and challenging year for me. While I was very anxious with my Australian PR Application, I was also dealing with my Aunt's battle with Cancer. It was very tough as she was my closest Aunt, more like a mother to me. Witnessing her fragile and miserable state, it really broke me. I wasn't able to deal with her sickness the best way I can, and until now I still have bits of regret. First day of 2015, she passed away and another Uncle of mine passed away couple days after. I know I have to go home but problem was, my passport had less than 6 months validity. I will certainly have issues if I return home without renewing it.
January 5, 2015... I was at the Philippine Embassy in Singapore having to deal with a rude guard who kept telling me they don't cater rushed passport renewal anymore and I should make online appointment.. The problem was, the next schedule for passport renewal was like in March! I kept telling her it's an emergency and she only finally let me in (with her bitch-face and raised eyebrows) when I said in my most firm voice that she's not the one in charge to make a decision and she should let me talk to the officers.
The officer was much easier to talk to but she gave me a lecture on renewing the passport like 8-12 months before the expiry. I kept thinking to myself how crappy & unfair this process is. We shouldn't be losing like a year of our passport validity, but I didn't dare to argue anymore as she hadn't approved my extension yet. Luckily, she approved later on, but she requested death certificates before stamping. It was such a hassle but at least I had the chance to go home now. I left the embassy feeling depressed and stressed. I decided to check my email to de-stress and I quickly saw emails from Australian Immigration. I suddenly got nervous and opened one email scanning the message. It took me a while to see the grant confirmation message. I read it again in case I was mistakened or I might have misunderstood the email. When I was sure it was a positive Visa Grant, I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotions. I'm not really an emotional person but it was too much for me to handle. I was shaking so I decided to stop walking. I took deep breaths and was about to do "walling" on the condo gates beside me when I saw few construction workers ahead watching me intently. I decided to pass on the walling moment as I don't want to cause any commotion. I just took several deep breaths to calm me and then called my mom to deliver the good news. :)
Anywayz, I was able to go home and attend my Aunt and Uncle's wake. It was extremely sad time for me but I guess God has a way of reminding me that there is still something to look forward to amidst grief. Life goes on and I still have our future to focus on as well. Until now, I am still recovering from the aftermath of year 2014. It's true what they say that when it rains, it pours... but I guess those dark times reminded me to learn to let go and appreciate what we have now. I am looking forward on our life in AU but I also know that I still have LOTS of things to settle here in SG before my permanent move. I trust that everything will be well.
I am a Filipina, formerly based in Singapore and is now living permanently in Melbourne. Yet, I am really a global citizen at heart. :)