Firstly, thank you to everyone who has “liked” or decided to follow this blog so far, whether through WordPress or Facebook. I’m very new to blogging and any kind of encouragement means a lot. Thank you. 🙂
So an update as to where I am up to in the application process:
I finally received my police clearance certificate on Thursday 2nd May and posted it with a photocopy to Australia House in London on Tuesday 7th May. I received an email from my case officer at the embassy on Thursday 9th telling me that she has received my certificate and that now there is nothing else outstanding on my file. She also told me my medical results had been received and that they were clear – which was the part I was most worried about! Phew! So now, I have nothing else to submit and at last, after just under five months, my application is complete. I’m pleased, relieved, excited and…nervous. Now we are at the most difficult stage: the waiting.
But let’s back up a bit. What exactly happened after P and I submitted the application?
We made the journey to London to hand in our application in person on December 17th after three very very very late nights putting the finishing touches to our over 200 pages long submission. As I mentioned earlier in my post on what we included in our application, we found our there was going to be a big jump in the visa’s cost on January 1st 2013, leaving us about three weeks to get the application together before the embassy’s Christmas closure and the increase came into force.
Australia House received our application on December 18th 2013. On January 3rd 2013, I was contacted by my case officer for the first time (this is usually all done via email). In that first email, receipt of my application was confirmed and details of current processing times were given. At the moment, processing a partner migration visa from the London office is taking at least 8-9 months from the date an application was lodged. So this means that at its quickest, my visa should be granted between 18th August – 18th September 2013.
The next stage is the health and character requirements. Processing times for partner visas have markedly increased over the past couple of years, so they now give you a date after which you can obtain your health and character checks. Mine was 18th March 2013 – three months after I submitted. They do this because medicals and character checks are usually only valid for twelve months from the date of clearance. As the visa could take longer than nine months to process, they give you a date part way through this time in order to avoid the checks expiring before your visa is granted. If they were to expire, they would need to be done again (and paid for again!) in order for the visa to be granted.
I’m taking the date my case officer has given me as kind of a “longest possible” date. I’m assuming they are pretty certain you’ll be in Australia before your medicals and character checks expire, provided you get them done after the date they’ve given you. So, for me, I’m thinking it’s pretty certain I’ll be in Australia (if I’m successful obviously!!) before 13th April 2014. That’s roughly when my medical check expires. I try and keep this “longest possible” date in mind to stop me going insane. Obviously, I’d rather the visa came earlier than this! 😀
So what exactly is the health check?
Each applicant has to have:
- a radiological examination if aged 11 years or over;
- a medical examination regardless of age;
- a HIV test if aged 15 or over.
The medical has to be done by panel doctors and radiologists designated by the Australian Government, you can’t get them done anywhere else. A list of current panel doctors for England, Scotland and Wales can be found on the DIAC website. The email from your case officer will also give you your HAP number which stands for Health Assessment Portal number.
You will need to take the HAP IDs for each person included in your application that is having a medical to your appointment, as well as their passports. Don’t forget the passports. If you arrive without them, your medical probably won’t be done. There are only 11 places in England, Scotland and Wales where you can get your medical done currently, so wherever you live, a significant amount of travel is likely to be involved. Take this into account when booking your appointment.
They may want to see supporting documentation if you have any existing medical conditions or have suffered from anything significant in the past, make sure you take anything you have that may be useful. As I have a long-term medical condition, I took a few reports with me that confirmed my diagnosis. I tried to take the most up-to-date stuff I had, which wasn’t easy as I’ve had it from birth and it hasn’t exactly changed. Before my appointment, I also spoke to family and noted down any significant things in my immediate family’s medical history, just in case I was asked. I also took my current glasses prescription and my glasses and contact lenses.
Turns out, they didn’t ask to look at anything I had brought with me, it wasn’t needed, but I would advise anyone else doing this to prepare in the same way just in case they are asked.
The first thing I had done was a chest x-ray then I went and had a sight test. I also had to give a urine sample. Then I went and had my examination. The doctor asked me questions about my medical history – it was very brief, I’d say about 15 minutes – then he physically examined me. He just listened to my heart, looked into my eyes, ears and mouth and checked my strength and reflexes. He also poked and prodded a few places as doctors tend to do, but it wasn’t painful. Pretty standard really :-).
When he was taking a history, he was only concerned with significant hospital stays, any major mental health issues which had resulted in me being admitted, and if I had an illness such as cancer. The only thing he noted down on my form was my medical condition, and he wasn’t concerned by that. I even told him I have suffered (suffer?) from depression – I was so worried about this – but again, he wasn’t concerned. I think they are only really interested in things you are currently undergoing treatment for or things that are long-term.
I suppose it’s best summed up by this quote from DIAC:
Most applicants will meet the health requirement. Some applicants, however, may be refused a visa if they have a costly health condition or they require treatment, care or community services that are in short supply in Australia and the utilisation of these resources would result in Australian residents having to forego or wait longer for access.
The last thing that was done was a blood test. When all your results come back, they are sent directly to DIAC. Panel doctors aren’t authorised to send your results back to you, they will only contact you if your results have revealed something you need to be told about. If your panel doctor uses the eHealth system, your results are sent to Oz at the click of a button. Your case officer will get a copy of your results too.
What exactly are the character requirements?
For the character requirements, you need to provide original police clearance certificates for any country you have lived in for twelve months or more during the last ten years. The police clearance must also include all names by which you have been known. For some people, I’m sure this could be quite a lengthy process. Luckily for me, it was the most simple part of the application. I’ve never been married or changed my name, and I’ve only ever lived in the UK, so I only needed one clearance doing.
To apply for my police certificate I just completed the application form on the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) website. It’s pretty simple and self explanatory, the hardest part was that they wanted ten year’s worth of address history. I’ve lived in eleven different houses since 2004!
If you choose the standard option, it takes roughly 10 working days to process the application. Once that arrives, all you need to do is photocopy it and send this, along with the original, to your case officer. They also want you to include a self-addressed envelope as well so they can return the original to you.
DIAC don’t keep originals of anything – when we did our application originally, we also included a self-addressed envelope so they could return our photos, the only original items we included. They did this pretty quickly :-).
The only other thing I can think of to add is that don’t be afraid to ask questions. Although DIAC and Australian missions overseas can’t comment on specific individual circumstances, P and I found Australia House very helpful. They have a phone number you can call and we asked them all our general application questions if we couldn’t find the information ourselves or if it wasn’t clear.
We didn’t use a migration agent – and I’m glad we didn’t. Our application was relatively simple so an agent really wouldn’t have been necessary. They do bump up the cost of your application significantly, so do think hard before you go down that path. In saying that, if your application is more complicated and you feel you would benefit from the individual attention and tailored advice, it could be the right option for you. It does take a lot of the stress out of applying, but don’t assume you have to have one.
And that’s it…fingers crossed! Let the wait begin! Good luck to anyone else who is doing / thinking of doing this. Apologies for the length, I will work on shortening posts. I couldn’t find this kind of information anywhere when I was applying, and I would have found it helpful. I hope one day this helps others. 😀