Those of you who have me on Facebook will already know, but I recieved my passport and documentation back in the mail today, unexpectedly.
I'M GOING BACK TO LONDON!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes! I am now the holder of a 3-year Tier 1 Visa - I'm a highly skilled worker!
Of course, the package arrived back while I was out of the house having lunch with a dear friend, and my Dad called me up to tell me. I told him to open it, and sat there with my hand over my heart in the restaurant, because a package back with a prior approval email = doom. For five minutes I sat in silence while Dad pored over the paperwork, eventually announcing that he couldn't find a declination letter. I asked him to flip through my passport for the elusive sticker, and wouldn't you know? THERE IT IS!
I'm in absolute shock. Just last night, I heard about another person being declined for having similar evidence to my own, so I had worked myself up to the fact that I shouldn't expect too much. To have this happen today has totally thrown me. 45 working days to be precise. I've been here for nearly ten weeks. And it's actually happened. It's happening. It's good news! I can stop writing out alternatives for my future and actually plan on LIVING it abroad now. I'm so thrilled, I can't even explain it.
Now it's time for the reality to set in.
I need to rearrange my flight. I need to pack my life back into a suitcase again. I need to say goodbye to my family, my friends, my Bailey-pup. I need to get myself organised and back into work mode. I need to get my head screwed on straight.
For now though - it's celebration time! Break out the champers, yippee!!
I'm breaking this post into chunks today, folks.
THE VISA BIT.
I'm at 43 working days. The processing time at the moment is 45 working days. I'm so close that panic mode has set in. I'm reading horror stories online of rejections. I'm pleading with everyone I know to start using the positive powers of 'The Secret'. I'm racking my brains to think of anything I forgot to include in my application, even though I know I checked it a bazillion times. I'm thinking of ways I will be unleashing my rage to HSBC in London if my application is rejected because of their refusal to sign my bank statements. I'm biting all of my nails off. I'm checking my emails so much, I fear I've got Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I'm reaching the end of my tether. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for an outcome next week. A positive one, of course.
A warning to innocently curious friends and family members? If you ask me if I've heard anything about the Visa, I may explode. When I know, you'll know. Heck, both HEMISPHERES will know. The entire solar system will know. Trust me.
THE CONCERT BIT.
I managed to keep myself busy this past week, that's for sure.
Rewinding a few weeks, I found out that my cousin had won tickets to a Kings of Leon gig. I've been saying for months that I wanted to go to a KOL show after hearing rave reviews, and they have been sold out everywhere - even back in London! He was kind enough to sell me his tickets, so Kirby drove up the coast from Sydney to Newcastle with me to check out the show. The guys, they were amazing. I thoroughly recommend you check them out, if you have the chance. The sex was on fire.
A mere two days later, Julie flew up from Melbourne to see The Fray with Kirby and I. We queued for ages to get a good standing spot in front of the stage, and had an amazing view, albeit surrounded by annoying twelve year old girls trying to push through to the front row. All was well, I had my best linebacker stance down-pat, until some idiotic guys decided to create a crowd surge in the moshpit during the opening Secondhand Serenade set. After being stubborn for a good while, we eventually gave in and went and got a beverage, finding a more age-appropriate spot to watch The Fray - complete with room to breathe! The guys were as good as I remembered from the first time I saw them, and have cemented themselves as one of my all-time favourite bands.
Next week, I'm heading into the city with my Momma, to see her favourite band on the planet - Counting Crows! I'm excited to see them, as I missed out last time. It'll be fun to see her being the screaming fan for a change. Pictures to come, I'm sure.
THE EXERCISE-CHALLENGE BIT.
One of my favourite bloggers, The Casual Perfectionist, has been blogging about her 30-Day Shred adventure. After doing some Googling of my own, I decided it looked like a challenge I'm interested in - especially after plateauing majorly over the last few months. My 30-Day Shred DVD hopefully arrives this week, so watch this space.
THE BACK-HOME BIT.
Well, there's really not much gossip. The boy is so busy working that I doubt he's noticing my absence. I've been missing Oscar loads lately, even though my precious Bailey-pup is a joy to be around. Everytime I'm in the vicinity of a cat, I miss my little man. It's this time of night that I miss his company the most - where I'm tucked up on the lounge or in bed, laptop handy, cat snuggled under my arm. Before we left, I bought an automatic cat feeder to try out for any times Jason was working late or away from home, and apparently it's a little disperse-happy. The last pictures I got sent, show Oscar with a pooch belly! He's back on the slimming cat food now, bless him.
THE FRIENDS & BIRTHDAYS BIT.
The best part about being here at this time of year, is that I've managed to stick around for a fair few people's birthdays. Julie's birthday. Kirby's birthday. My Aunty Kim's birthday. Nanna's birthday. And as of next Monday, my Momma's birthday. If all goes well Visa-wise, I'll miss out on Ajay & Dad's birthdays, but I'm sure they'll understand - everyone around me knows how desperate I am to go back to London.
It's been so hard catching up with people while I've been here: not because I'm super busy, but because I'm car-less. People have been awesome. They've taken the time and effort to come by when they can, to shuttle me around to places, to spend time with me when they're free. It's been, by far, the best thing about this extended holiday.
I realised a few days ago, that there would be people out there who have no idea of the particular waiting game I'm going through at the moment. My blog has been fairly sporadic over the last six months, after all. This is my attempt to shed some light on the situation, and I'm warning you - there will most likely be whinging involved, and it will probably end up being a long entry.
First of all, I am still back in Sydney. Jason is at home in London, looking after Oscar and holding down the fort while I'm away. It has been over six weeks since I touched down in late January. Keep that in mind, while I rewind and fill you in on some of the specifics of my situation... and why I feel like this:
When I left for London initially in December 2007, I was on a Working Holiday Visa. This is a working Visa designed for people under 30 who wish to work and travel in the United Kingdom. The Visa itself is valid for two full years, however had a restriction that all work is limited to 12-months only. I believe the premise for this Visa was to encourage ex-pats to have a balance between working and travelling.
This brings me to my first issue: the policing of this old Visa. It is completely up to the individual as to how honest they are with their working limit. Employers should be keeping an eye on the 12-month restriction, but for contractors and casual workers, it's very easy to skate around this. My work were sensible, and ensured that I finished up with them at my 12-month limit, but there are hundreds of people who are still working over this restriction and getting away with it.
And as for enforcing this 12-month rule? There really is no enforcement, save for the random questions one might get asked by customs whilst entering the country on random occassions. As an addition to this, the Working Holiday Visa has now been made redundant, replaced by a Youth Mobility Visa which, funnily enough, allows holders to work for the full two years with no restrictions. What happens to all those people still on the old scheme? Nada. Same original ruling applies. And if you had any thoughts of changing to the Youth Mobility Scheme after your original Visa expired, you would have to think again - the ruling is that if you held the original scheme, you cannot apply for the new one.
Moving right along... let's move on and explore other current options.
For Australians wanting to work in the UK, there are a variety of Visas available. There is the new Youth Mobility Scheme, as described above, designed for young workers. There is the Ancestry Visa, which you are able to apply for if either a parent or grandparent was born in the United Kingdom. (My history? English, but a generation above that, leaving me ineligible. Lovely!) There is the Work Permit (Tier 2) scheme, where employers in the UK sponsor you to work for them - however this has recently been made tougher to obtain, due to tighter immigration laws. (British employers now need to advertise in the UK and the European Union before offering jobs to foreign nationals, to show that there is no-one suitable in closer proximity.) To top it off, only certain professions are eligible to apply for Work Permits through employers - and teaching has now been taken off the list. Again, bonus!
Another Visa option is as a dependent to any of the above categories, which is quite easy to obtain if you are either engaged or married, but extremely difficult if you are in a de facto relationship. Jason and I have been together for six and a half years, but as we have been living together for less than two years, we are not classed as a couple and therefore have no grounds to apply for this. (Just another way to kick this not-engaged girl in the proverbial backside.)
The last option is the new Tier 1 Visa, which was formerly known as the Highly Skilled Worker Category. Here's where it gets interesting! To be eligible for this unrestricted three year work Visa, you merely had to hit a certain amount of points in particular areas, including education, age, UK experience, and earnings. You also had to show that you were proficient in English and had a maintainence fund to show you could support yourself. Having hit the criteria needed to be eligible, this is the Visa I have applied for. The next few paragraphs about this Visa could get long, so I'm simplifying them into bullet points to make it easier to read.
- You need to apply for this Visa from your home country; hence me having to fly back to Sydney.
- The cost involved is huge - we're talking about $1600 Australian dollars, not including your flight back here. And the real killer? Even if your application if denied, you never see your dollars again.
- The average processing time for this Visa was originally 30 working days. I'm fortunate that I have Jason at home to watch the flat and the cat (ha, flat cat) but not so lucky for singles doing it on their own - they would either have to give up their accomodation, or pay for it whilst not living in it. Ouch.
- Your passport and original documents go to the British Embassy, leaving you pretty much stranded for the duration of your stay.
- You cannot contact the Visa office for updates until after the 30 day mark. When you can contact them, you speak to Call Centre Operators who cannot tell you anything about your application what-so-ever, save for the fact that it is with a Case Worker. The people on the other end of the phone often don't even know how to answer simple Visa-based questions, and charge you a $10 flat rate or $2.95/minute fee for the pleasure.
- Applications being approved or denied are down to the Case Worker who ends up with your application on their desk. From what I've heard, the British Embassy here are notoriously bad for making simple mistakes and having no efficiency what-so-ever.
Ah, what a process. They're the basics anyway, and sort of explain what I've been doing since I got here and submitted my application back in January. Waiting. Lots of waiting. Lots of nervous anticipation and trying to keep busy, to try and stop thinking about it all. And in the process of that waiting? The British High Commission is currently suffering from 'delays' that have seen applications taken a new minumum of 40 working days to process - and from the forums I've been reading, a lot higher than that too. One friend of mine who called the Visa office hotline, was told last week that they are still processing December applications - so my January application is likely still at the bottom of a very large pile.
It's frustrating on so many levels. I expected the process to be a long one, and so didn't book a return flight until April, but it's already April in two short weeks - how did that go so quickly and so slowly at the same time? My work have been great, only hiring a replacement for me temporarily; but that time soon runs out. The biggest problem with the system is that I have NO way of knowing when the Visa will be returned to me; and even if it is approved or refused. Why they would have a system that takes over two months to tell you that you have been rejected is beyond me. It's a cruel joke.
So back to waiting it is for me. I'm not getting my hopes up to hear a response before April, but I'm staying positive and trying to enjoy this long 'vacation' while I can. I'm taking on all the positive thoughts I can get for a good outcome - and hoping that it's sooner rather than later. I'll keep you posted...
What a slack, slack blogger I have become - and I can't even use the 'I'm too busy' excuse, considering I've been a lady of leisure for the past five weeks. It's so surreal being back here, like nothing has changed and at the same time, so much has changed.
Of course I'm missing Jason and Oscar, but I suppose this is to be expected after just another separation. Five weeks down, who knows how much longer to go? The main problem with this Visa process, is that everything is a giant unknown. I have huge problems with the way that it is structured; perhaps I should save that for another blog entry - maybe when I have been approved (fingers crossed!) just in case! I'm lucky to be able to put my UK life on hold to wait around for this, but my patience is already starting to wear thin. At this point, I will be lucky to get back in April.
I've been quite out of it, trying to keep busy with catch-ups, reading, relaxing and distracting myself. So tell me... what have I missed?
We've also introduced a new member to our family back home. Meet Bailey!
We adopted Bailey from a rescue shelter when she was 12 weeks old. She's a beagle cross, and has the longest, lankiest legs that she doesn't quite know what to do with. She's been a perfect distraction for me, and is constantly making me laugh, being in her puppy phase. Bailey doesn't quite realise how long her legs actually are, and I've almost taught her to fetch.. occasionally. Or when she wants to.