To move or visit anywhere, you need a visa. Get used to saying this word, because depending on your situation, it will become a daily part of your vocab and life for many months. These immigration/visa and discussion board links helped me immeasurably:
- US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), Australia
- Yanks Down Under (forum for American expats in Australia…fantastic info regarding visas and the immigration process)
Tips on the Visa Process in Sydney
It took six months for my temporary spouse visa to be approved. Here’s what I learned while pursuing this visa in Sydney, Australia. This is my experience and perspective—I am not offering legal or migration advice.
- Invest in a printer that also has a scanner. You will be making lots of copies.
- I had all my certificates and certified copies (marriage, divorce, birth, passport) ready to go before I started the whole process.
- I had my fingerprint/criminal background check completed before leaving the States. I front-loaded it with my application instead of waiting to be told to pursue it. I believe that it sped up the process significantly.
- Because you have to use an Australian panel-certified doctor, it was cheaper and easier to do my medical in Sydney rather than in the States. And the medical is a piece of cake in terms of what they do. If you get to the office and it is packed, and it probably will be, don’t worry. They have that place running like a well-oiled machine.
- My experience using a migration agent was so-so. In the end, we had to file a form to have him removed because his communication skills were awful and we weren’t happy with his progress on our behalf.
- When I called the immigration telephone line, I got different answers depending on who I spoke with. Getting answers was faster, easier, and more reliable when I went to the DIAC office in Sydney on Lee Street, in person.
Bridging Visas and Permission to Work or Travel
Without getting into full details surrounding my visa, know this: I could not work during the six months I was waiting for the visa. Not working was not only difficult financially, it was excruciating mentally.
I found out too late in the wait that I could (and eventually did) get permission to work while my application was in process. I had heard that it was very difficult to get permission to work, but in reality it ended up being a snap for me. If you move on a work visa, that is great. If not, this is what I learned:
- I could not apply for permission to work while on a tourist visa, but once I was issued a bridging visa, I could use form 1005 to change the conditions of my bridging visa (which inherited the conditions of the visa I entered on).
- I presented Form 1005 and some Australian-based bills (electricity, Internet, phone, rent), and was granted permission to work on the spot. The woman hardly even looked at my documentation.
On the subject of bridging visas…if you’re on one, you must obtain permission if you need to travel outside Australia. I completed form 1006, took it to DIAC at Lee Street, paid $90 AUD, and was granted permission to travel that very day—they put a sticker in my passport.
I can’t remember the time frame, but I had to complete my travel and be back in Australia within 60-90 days, I think. I also seem to remember the woman saying that if you DO travel with permission, your visa application kind of goes on hold until you get back. I never got the chance to test this out because my visa ended up being approved a week after I had applied for permission to travel, and I hadn’t left Australia yet.
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