Saturday, January 21, 2012

Australian Immigration - An Engineer on a 574 Visa

Australian immigration is the second immigration I've had to go through, after Canada.  Both times I was led by my wife, who has been studying abroad now for a long time.

Canada was stupid. and by that I mean that we were stupid for showing up expecting them to let me in, even though we weren't married yet.  So we got married in Canada! Yay Canada.  Yay work permit (engineering opens doors). I left shortly due to lack of engineering work on the semi-remote (and beautiful) Island we were living on.

But I've never been through a full-blown immigration application before.  And now I'm going through that.  I just wanted to share what it's like to go through Australian immigration as of 2012, coming from a specific visa.  I have advice for you, Engineering Spouse of PhD Candidate.

You will come in on a 574 post-grad research visa.  You won't know it, but this is a class TU visa.  That doesn't mean anything.  It allows you (as a spouse of post-grad student) to work full time and any profession.  As a secondary applicant, your chances of getting any other on-shore visa are non-existent.  Let me just re-iterate: you may think they want you, but you will have NO ON-SHORE VISA OPTIONS.  This means that you will be equally judged as someone who hasn't ever been to Australia.  You won't be eligible for a bridging visa.  You may have to leave the country.  You might as well just be sitting at home in Seattle, except for one thing:  you have to get an employer here to sponsor you.  That's where already being here and having a job gives you an advantage.

There are a two pathways to permanent residency from this visa:
1. Get a Subclass 121 offshore skilled migration visa (permanent visa). 6 months turn-around time.
2. Get a Subclass 457 offshore skilled visa, which is temporary.  2 months turn-around time. Then, you can apply for the on-shore 856 visa (just the 121 but on-shore).  6 months.

All of these visas require sponsorship, which requires that your current or future employer submits some paperwork that proves that they are treating their Australian workers fairly and offer some sort of career development, in the form of training.  This is meant to be more than 1~2% of their annual budget.  This is designed to prevent foreign labor from undercutting the Australian work force.  Fair enough.  But I don't see how grabbing engineers from the US could possibly be a bad thing for Australia.  Now's the time to poach!  Wake up immi!

Update:  As of ~ July 2012, there will no longer be a distinction between onshore/offshore visa applications.  Also, after 2 years working on a 457 you will be able to transfer to a PR visa much more easily.

There are some hidden costs on top of the immigration application:

  1. Get certified by Engineers Australia - $467  (!! for a resume check!! Unabashed exploitation of a vulnerable group.)
  2. Health checks - $300 per person (do this in the US if possible! ironically cheaper at home...)  Not required for US citizens on the 457.
  3. Police checks - $75pp.   I'm looking forward to getting my fingerprints done.
  4. Health insurance quotes (3 best in early 2012, $/mo):
    Company ----- Basic Cover -------- +Outpatient
    HIF                 $158                      $173
    IMAN             $163 *                    $210 *
    MediBank       $211 ~                    $352 ~

    *Doesn't include meds
    ~$300 annual hospital excess pp.
So the total hidden cost is about $1200 for us, not including health insurance.

Update:  Engineers Australia failed to review my work experience.  They didn't even contact me to let me know.  I emailed them, and this is what I got back:

As per page 25, Section D of the Migration Skills Assessment booklet, sufficient documentary evidence must be supplied in support of work experience for assessment.  Unfortunately, your application did not contain any documentary evidence in support of the work experience claims made on your CV so I was not able to include any work experience in your assessment.
As per page 25 again: "Only those documents meeting the above requirements will be considered in the provision of formal written advice by Engineers Australia.  No Further correspondence will be entered into in addressing shortcomings in the submitted documentation".

I included everything on their application checklist.

Which implies that I will have to pay again.  AGAIN.  I really can't believe how much ill-will this organization is willing to foster with these arcane policies.  It's not even proper English.

UPDATE: A calm head prevailed, I was nice in my reply and they are accepting my additional proof of work without charging me again.

A nice loooong thread by / about engineers in Australia.

I hope this helps you, random stranger.  Leave a comment to get in touch.

UPDATE:  We now have our 457 visa, now working on the 856 PR visa.