5 Lifesaving Tips For Navigating Australian Immigration
Every time I tell someone from the States that I live in Australia, I’m met with a response of jealousy (the good kind, of course) and heaps of questions. Usually, the conversation starts by talking about the beautiful landscapes, beaches and people, then goes in the direction of how I’ve managed to stay in accordance with immigration requirements or restrictions and what my long-term plan is. I also point out that like all immigration departments, navigating Australian immigration is very difficult to achieve, particularly by yourself. This article is all about my tips for moving or traveling to Australia, with regards to border protection!
Disclaimer: This piece is written from an American’s perspective of migrating to Australia, and her experience or advice will not apply to everyone reading this article. Her advice is also not legal advice to anyone attempting to travel or migrate to Australia.
Tip #1 – Play with the Website
Australia’s immigration website is surprisingly interactive, and they are always making changes to try to make it more user-friendly. They have made some recent changes to their visa sub-classes, so click around using their visa-finder tool to figure out what you do and don’t qualify for, what you need to provide, and any visa conditions. To my knowledge (and in my personal experience) Americans can get temporary visas such as visitor visas, study visas, and work and holiday visas fairly easily. The visas that grant permanent residency are a different story!
Tip #2 – Call Immigration
Before calling immigration, figure out what your questions are and make sure you have a way to record the conversation for recall purposes. Oh, and be prepared to wait in a call queue. Once finished, you will often hang up the phone with more clarification, along with some direction of where to go and what to do. These conversations can also be really challenging and frustrating because of all the information that will be relayed to you. Plus, you may find out less-than-optimal news.
For example, I moved to Australia on a work and holiday visa with the plan of apply for a student visa while onshore in Australia… only to find out that due to my status as an American, I had to leave Australia to apply for one! This was really frustrating and I had to scrape for cash – but the situation was ultimately due to my own negligence, further illustrating the importance of making that phone call early on!
Tip #3 – Start Saving
Unfortunately for travelers with their hearts set on Australia (and especially those from smaller, less well-known countries) it can be pretty difficult to get in Australia for good without spending a substantial amount of money. Study visas are about US$500, and if you have a complex medical history or take medication, you can incur other expenses.
My work and holiday visa around this US$500 price, but it allowed me to stay for up to a year just working, traveling and living in Australia. When it comes to attempting to get permanent residency, though, the best route to take is to get formal legal advice. This comes at an additional cost, which of course not everyone can afford, and I have a feeling this is not a coincidence.
However, having a registered migration agent (an immigration lawyer) has been one of the most stress-relieving decisions I’ve ever made. She basically lets me know what I need to do and organises all my paperwork for me, as opposed to me trying to figure out what I need to do all by myself. When navigating immigration there is little room for error or misinterpretation! I’m also finishing up my master’s degree, which will mean I need to organise professional assessments and paperwork immediately afterward to get organised for my visa application. Having her available to certify copies of documents and hold them all in one place is perfect!
Tip #4 – Keep All Your Documents and Paperwork in Australia
This includes Australian bank statements, property lease agreements, copies of all your bills, and more. When moving to Australia, take originals or certified copies of all your identity documents, including your passport, birth certificate and license. This will make things easier for employment and immigration purposes down the track, because you are responsible for maintaining documentation and knowledge of your work rights/restrictions and visa status. If you’re planning to apply for a visa that will grant you permanent residency, you will also need to prove that you have lived in Australia for a certain amount of time. Get organised early to save stress later! I’ve had an ‘Immigration’ folder since I arrived in Australia, and it’s made a huge difference.
Tip #5 – Future Plan
If you are planning to migrate to Australia permanently, try to plan and sort your visas accordingly. There are a few ways to migrate: skilled work, sponsorship, or if you’re lucky enough to have fallen in love, a partner visa. This is when consulting a migration agent might be a good idea, so you have a clear path of what you need to do to qualify for certain visas!
Dealing with immigration in any country can be really challenging and difficult, and takes an abundance of patience. The easiest way to avoid stress is to be pro-active, organised, and double check all information. Don’t forget to care for yourself while trying to figure all of it out – those beach days or arvo beverages with good mates make it all worth it.
If you have any queries or need someone to empathize with your experience, please do not hesitate to reach out via social media!