We applied for a Skilled Migration Visa (175) through an agency based in Ireland. We could have done all the paperwork and running around ourselves, but as we both had busy jobs, two small kids and not a lot of spare time, we decided to pay the extra and get someone else to do it. After all, it’s what they do full time, so we felt it would improve our chances of getting approved.
Our kids were still pre-school, so they wouldn’t be taken out of school or old enough to have too many friends. We spent a couple of months sending certificates and forms to the agency, only to be told that we had to change something and do it all again. It was very disheartening. A couple of times we discussed forgetting the whole thing.
But eventually, after starting the process in October 2008 we had all the information together and the agency sent it over to the Australian High Commission in London to be assessed. It was a tense time. As it happened, my wife was driving home from finishing a night shift when the agency phoned to say we had been approved! We were overwhelmed; as we thought it would be another two weeks before we got a decision! It was now April 2009, almost seven months had gone by but we hadn’t really prepared for moving.
When you get the visa, you are allowed three months from the approval date to get to Australia, otherwise your visa is cancelled. So we had to sell cars, rent out the house and quit our jobs, book flights etc. I work for a global company and asked my boss what the chances of a transfer were. I wasn’t sure how he’d take it, but after five weeks of regular meetings I got the transfer approved too!
I was allowed to take two weeks’ vacation and then start in my new office. We booked a one way ticket for the four of us with Etihad Airlines (they had been recommended and we had heard a lot of good things about them). In the headrests on the plane, they have a touch screen TV with listings of movies, TV programs, audio CDs and radio shows, a lot for kids in particular! We had a seven hour flight to Abu Dhabi, a two hour stopover and then a thirteen hour flight to Sydney. The kids slept for four hours on the first flight, and an amazing nine hours on the second, so we got time to eat and sleep ourselves.
We didn’t have any relatives in Sydney that could put up all four of us, so we booked a room in a guest house for the first ten days. It was tough for us; we had one room that had one double bed and two singles, one TV, a table, a wardrobe, a kitchenette and an en suite. To make matters worse, it was winter (July), so it got dark by 5:30pm every day. The kids weren’t happy! We hired out a car and went around real estate agents, and eventually found a house to rent that we liked. In Australia, you have to apply for the house and put down a deposit to show you are interested, and then the owner makes a decision. We got word that we got the house and moved in the Thursday before I was due to start work. We spent a not-so-small fortune buying beds, chairs, kettle, cutlery, linen, crockery, and washing machine – almost the entire contents. Most houses/apartments are unfurnished, literally!
But we settled in, a twenty minute walk from the beach, bus stop across the road and a small garden. Getting stuck into work, we are both delighted that we made the move and are looking forward to our tax rebates from Ireland! Given everything I know now, I would do it all again tomorrow if I had to. We had both spent a one year working holiday in the country previously, so we knew what to expect. That was a big help with the kids. They love the outdoors and especially the beach.