August 2015 was a memorable time for us; not only was it our 7 year wedding anniversary, but we had also just returned from a month long holiday in Australia and started the process of applying for a 190 visa.
The first step in our process was to ensure that my qualifications and employment experiences were aligned with those required for a Welfare Worker. A Welfare Worker is defined by the ACWA as ‘a person who assists individuals, families and groups with social, emotional, or financial difficulties to improve their quality of life, by educating and supporting them and working towards change in their social environment.
To give you an idea of time frames, it took 11 months to actually collect all the information needed and submit the skills assessment due to a number of hurdles I will talk about later in this post; I suppose the time frame will differ based on each case, this is just our experience.
The skills assessment saga
The skills assessment saga started as many things do with a Google search, I went on to the Australian Community Workers Association (ACWA) website to see what a skills assessment was all about and what we were required to do. After a lot of reading and trying to get my head around exactly what was being asked and I was actually required to do, It became clear that I was required to apply for the option titled ‘applicants with at least one overseas qualification included in the application’ and it cost us $800 (Approx. £440) which at that stage was less than I expected. However, as I worked through the application and started gathering the information and documents required as well as running a household, raising kids and working full time in a Charity in a pretty senior role, I realised that the task was going to be bigger than I had expected.
The application form (http://www.acwa.org.au/migration-assessment/Skills-assessment-form.pdf) started off asking for some pretty simple information; which role you are applying under and what is the purpose of the application etc, then came page three…..
Page three asked for information pertaining to the evidence I would be submitting with the application and was the first time I heard about the English proficiency test.
This page was broken down into sections;
- The Identity section was asking for information about me; I was asked to provide a certified copy of the biography page of my passport and a signed authorisation form from our migration agent
- The English proficiency section asked me to take an English test and provide a copy of the test outcome. WHAT??? Really??? I was required to take an English test?!? I was born and raised in South London, lived in England my whole life, Educated to Masters level blah…blah…blah…. What a pain I thought and a convenient way of getting more money out of me, but OK if this is what is required then this is what I shall do. Oh and I also needed a letter from my employer confirming that I speak English in my day to day activity at work
- I was required to provide certified copies of evidence of any name changes and evidence of my qualifications by way of certified copies of result transcripts and a letter that detailed fieldwork placements under the Qualifications and evidence of any name change section
- Industry experience; which included an up to date CV/resume, job descriptions of all my roles (of which there were seven), ANOTHER letter from my employer confirming my time in the role, and an organisational structure chart.
Then came the easier part of the form, this is where it was asking for personal information and ‘CV/resume type information’ which was pretty easy and quick to pull together. But back to that memorable page three that gave me a few grey hairs and wrinkles.
Page three was the most time consuming, not only due to the amount of evidence I needed to provide but the diversity of this information. One of the first challenges I faced with this section was the requirement for the documents to be signed and authorised by a Justice of the Peace (JP). Maybe it was just me, but I had no clue what a JP was; so again, Uncle Google came in handy. Once I had established what a JP was and what other options I had, to get the paperwork signed, I started to talk to friends and colleagues to see if anyone knew of a JP that I could get to sign the paperwork. The other options included going to a solicitor and this option required payment for each document that needed to be signed. So my search to find a JP continued; as you read more of my blogs you will quickly realise that I am a cheapskate and will take most opportunities to save a coin or two.
So after speaking with a colleague, I found out that one of our other colleagues was a JP… who would have thought? A girl from my background and upbringing does not move within ‘those circles’, what a great nugget of information and better still a great opportunity for me to save a few coins.
So, the first hurdle was overcome, a JP identified and agreed to sign the paperwork for me (approx £100 saved).
The second hurdle was to gather together all the job descriptions from past roles, so I started to engage with my previous employers to request the information that I was missing. In my 20’s, when I got a new job or a promotion, I was so excited about moving up the employment ladder, I was not as conscientious as I should have been about retaining important documentation and information (contracts & job descriptions). I started with Brook, the Sexual Health Clinic as this was my first full-time employment job (outside of retail). I knew the dates that I was employed by Brook as I had these recorded; however, I did not have a copy of the job description. This was pretty easy to get hold of, following about six emails to the HR department and CCing my previous manager into the emails, they sent me a copy of the JD along with confirmation of my employment with them.
Then came the really difficult part… thinking about it now is giving me flashbacks. Local Authority! Those two words send shivers down my spine. After spending two weeks trying to get hold of the right person in HR, I was informed that the council I had worked for had changed their HR systems and were not able to provide me with the information I required. Oh GREAT! Well, that’s it then, I thought, if I can’t get hold of this information, which proved I had worked in a welfare worker role, then I would not be able to move forward. I informed my agent George of the Local Authority barrier. Then, I turned to Uncle Google once again and it became apparent that there were other ways of proving I was employed by the Local Authority and confirming the role I acted within. So the search of my inbox began. I searched for any information that would help support the application and also reached out to some old colleagues that I was still in touch with, including my ex-manager and two peers.
I managed to speak with three ex-colleagues, whom I worked with during my time working for the Local Authority, One of these colleagues was my line manager so a very useful person to reconnect with at this stage of the process. I met with two of them in Croydon, London (close to their new places of work) to visit a solicitor’s office. It turned out, signed statements in front of an official from previous colleagues would be enough to prove employment. Separately, I met with my final colleague in Peckham to certify his statement. This stage was now complete and I was starting to feel a lot more positive about the process. I felt a small sense of achievement. Oh, I also wrote to Greenwich University, where I obtained my BA in Youth and Community Studies and Brunel University, where I obtained my MA in Youth and Community Studies, to obtain confirmation that both courses were taught and assessed in English. This part of the process went really smooth and quick, I guess it’s because they could find me on their systems.
English test was the next challenge we needed to face head-on – when I say we, I really mean me. We looked at our options and IELTS (https://www.ielts.org) and PTE (https://pearsonpte.com) were the two options available to me. The first time I completed the IELTS, I was transported back to the 1998 GCSE school hall, written style, situation. That was followed by an ‘interview type conversation’ to assess my level of ‘speaking’ English. The following time I took the test was via the PTE route; this felt more high tech with the use of computers and software. The test was based on two categories;
- Communicative skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing
- Enabling skills: grammar, oral fluency, pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary and written discourse
The test was pretty full on and I felt like I was back at school, feeling pretty pressurised.
On the 18 March and with a score of 75 I had achieved the required level to move forward.
Posting the paperwork to Australia
Once we had gathered all the required information and documents, had them countersigned by a JP, we had to post them all to George (our agent) in Brisbane. I had mixed feelings at this point; part of me really did feel like a winner and that I should receive a Gold medal. Maybe that’s my position of being a ‘borderline millennial’. Howe and Strauss define the Millennial cohort as consisting of individuals born between 1982 and 2004. Part of me for some strange reason was scared, maybe because I was worried they would get lost on route, or maybe because I was starting to think that this might actually happen; that we might actually be making our dream happen.
The day after my husbands 36th birthday, on the 8 September, the stars and planets aligned… After an email to George, our MARA agent, on the 7 September, we received notification that the skills assessment was approved by the ACWA. What a birthday present.
The next stage of the process was the Expression of Interest (EOI)!
Thank you for reading this far. I will be posting the EOI blog soon.
Peace, Love, and Happiness
Gold Coast, Australia
Buy the rights to this Image taken by Ruth Jalloh