With the skills assessment sent off and approved by the ACWA, we had no time to waste. Diligently, we moved on to the Expression of Interest (EOI) stage with a hop, skip and a jump! The sun was peering from behind the clouds and we can see the silver lining, which made us feel warm. On reflection, the skills assessment stage was not the worst thing in the world, I think we just (and by we, I mean me) had unrealistic expectations on time frames, speed and processes… Give us a break (and by us…), we had no experience of immigrating before – we were learning as we go. In our eagerness to hurry the process, we also got caught up in the online world – blogs and videos, which were telling us how straight forward the process was and how the ACT (Australian Government) can turn applications around very quickly; which for us simply was not the case.
We started off by completing the form 956, which appointed George, our MARA registered migration agent, authority to act on our behalf. There was a little back and forth with George regarding this form, just double checking the details were correct, however, this didn’t take much time or effort to be completed.
Then we received the draft Expression Of Interest (EOI) form from George, which was an online application. This part of the process was actually pretty straight forward, we checked over the information populated by George, made some amends, went back a forth a few times over the detail and then it was completed and submitted. On 24 February 2017 (our sons 8th birthday), we received notification that the EOI and ACT nomination had both been approved and that we had an invitation to apply for a 190 visa.
We then received from George, a six-page interactive PDF called a Client Information Questionnaire (CIQ), which we had to complete at our leisure. Our assumption was, it was an internal document used by Career Up to collect all the information required to support the application. Completely wiped out by the skills assessment, I looked to my husband and best friend and said ‘this one is on you, babe’. Within our marriage, we often tag team on ‘grown-up stuff’, sometimes I will lead with his support (like we did with the skills assessment), this was my husbands – Ahmed’s – turn to lead with my support. We both have pretty demanding jobs, Ahmed being a primary school teacher and a football coach and I lead on various projects for a national charity; we are also raising two children.
As he always has, since I met him in 1996, he has not shied away from anything that is difficult or hard work (he married me, after all, lol) and said ‘I got you, babe’. Seriously, this guy is my life and I am forever grateful that I found him – (but our love story is a subject for a future blog).
The CIQ was quite a robust document to complete and it was a very deceptive form. On the surface, we thought, ah… this is pretty straight forward and not too long a form to work through. We can balance this 6 page PDF with the demands of work, children and their extra circular activities. We soon realised it was one of those forms. You know the forms that reveal additional pages depending on the answers you selected? Yup! This was when we realised that the CIQ form was a bigger task than we initially thought. We geared up for the challenge, still enjoying the fact that we had got this far and that we were learning so much more about the process and rediscovering each other. We were also learning more about the ACTAustralia through reading, talking to people about our plans and via the actual process thus far. The application process was a great opportunity to internalise and somewhat understand how things were approached in Australia. During this period, we also realised how the pace London actually is and that great adjustments would need to be made mentally when living in Australia.
Que the coffee and herbal teas! We spent many evenings in Starbucks in Vauxhall or Costa in Brixton and any other coffee joint available, including our kitchen table. We spent the early mornings, before work, struggling to populate the CIQ form. Then spent evenings researching specific areas of Canberra we wanted to live, the school we wanted our son to go to and with a shopping mall close by for our daughter. This was part of the application process, which we concluded was for the ACT government to see how much you want to move to Canberra. The form was not actually difficult, it was just time-consuming, due to the fact it just required so much detail, a lot of cross-referencing information, including passport numbers, dates of degrees, dates of employment and ensuring all those dates matched with the earlier Skills Assessment application. We were also required to provide detailed information on our extended family members, which was not too difficult for Ahmed, having come from a family with one mum, one dad and siblings. The only problem for him was having to admit he couldn’t remember dates of birth of his parents… For me, this was not as straight forward, coming from a family with a mum and dad that were never married, a step parent and four brothers with three different dads. You could say my childhood was interesting (more on my childhood in later blogs).
Ahmed did the lion’s share of the work on the CIQ form. He would go to work all day as a primary school teacher, with 34 children in his class (I know, I thought the maximum in one class was 30 children too), do a full day teaching inner-city children (which is not an easy task), pick up our son from school and do homework with him, then read a book or take him to football, mark 34 x 3 books (regularly) ready for the next day. Through all that, he would also listen with sportive ears as I “banged on” about something that had happened at work or some opinion I had about something (and I have many I share even if I am not asked to) and then fire up his laptop to tackle this CIQ form.
During this time, I also got a promotion at work! A promotion is usually something to be celebrated and a real confidence boost… An opportunity! But on this occasion, it was a little worrying. Worrying because I was the main applicant and we were applying under my job title of Welfare Worker and I needed to have recent experience of working in a Welfare Worker role also, if this promotion took me and my role in a completely different direction,then it could have meant that my work history did not meet the requirements to apply. The stars were aligned once again and the promotion came off the back of a re-organisation, meaning that they deleted a role above me and gave me a third of her work… promotion quickly turned from a huge confidence boost, toa bit of a panic, back to a realisation that something can be wrapped up as something amazing, but in reality, it is just a way of getting more work out of employees. Although, I can’t complain too much because I did enjoy my job and had the most amazing team, working on some really innovative and life-changing projects and services.
When we reflect on this time, we always laugh at how the form deceived us. We thought ah, it was 6 to 9 pages maximum and it is info about us, so we will turn this around in no time at all. I don’t think we have underestimated something so much in our life. Date night quickly became Australia night and romantic dinners, cinema, work out/ gym dates turned into square eyes dates, where we sat in front of computer screens, for hours, trying to make a dent in a form that never wanted to end. We would complete one section and feel a sense of progress only to be met by a whole new section, depending on the information we provided. At this stage, it felt like there was no finish line in sight and we were just going down this long, never-ending path but we both knew would take us to our future and to the life we wanted to create for our children. So we kept our heads down and kept going! As my husband always says, Jalloh’s never quit…
Once the CIQ was pulled together, George used this information to complete the EOI application on our behalf. After a bit of back and forth, we finally submitted the application (third draft) early, so we were ‘top of the table’. We then waited with bated breath…
My heart nearly stopped when a few weeks later, we logged on to track ‘processing times’…. APPLICATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED FOR OVERSEAS APPLICATIONS, read the banner at the top of the Canberra, your future website. What did this mean for us? We visited ‘Uncle Google once again to see if we could figure out what this meant for us. Also, to pre-empt anything that might come from George, we then crafted an email to George… would this have negative consequences for us? Would this impact our application? Had we fallen at the final hurdle? The reassuring words from George that we were not impacted and that our application was ahead of its closing date, was music to my ears. My heart went back into place and slowed to its usual rhythm.
On the 29 January 2018, we were notified that we had been issued a caseworker, wow, surely that was a good sign. We, again, waited, assuming we would be contacted by our caseworker for more information, or at the very least a touch base to let us know our application was being processed – that’s how “normal” governmental services worked in England after all. Nope, nothing of the sort. So we waited in the hope that we would be informed soon that we had been successful.
Thank you for reading this far. I will be posting a blog about finding out that our 190 Visas had been granted, soon.
Peace, Love and Happiness