Thinking of migrating to Australia

After receiving success and overwhelming response on Facebook and LinkedIn for this post, I am re-posting this on my blog with the hope that this will help hundreds more who are looking for answers.

You are reading this post because you are interested in migrating to Australia, which comes as no surprise since Australia is one of the most desirable countries to live in. According to Economist Intelligence Unit (The Economist), three of the cities of Australia, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne, are in the list of world’s top ten cities to live in. Melbourne being number one for the sixth consecutive year in 2016.

Every year in July Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) releases a list called ‘Skilled Occupation List (SOL)’ with all the required occupations in Australia. This list is used to nominate a profession that you want to migrate under which also relates back to your education and experience. Please note that there is also a list called ‘Consolidated Skilled Occupation List (CSOL)’ which is only to be used if you are applying under nominated scheme, subclass 457 or subclass 407.

To access authentic and in-depth information about Australian migration including visa types, required documentation, application fees and waiting periods, please visit www.border.gov.au.

If you navigate to ‘Individuals and Travellers’ and then to ‘Working in Australia’, this will allow you to see all the various available schemes including SkillSelect, State Nominations, Regional Employment and more.

I must mention that you must be aware of scams and fake agents. Do the extra homework and check for government charges, waiting periods and visa requirements. If you are using an agent anywhere in the world, you must check their registration on www.mara.gov.au which is an official Migration Agent website from Australian Government. If you are unable to find your agent’s license number and/or details, either their license has expired or they are lying.

Please be aware that Australian migration is handled by people working for DIBP, more specifically the allotted case officers. No connection, whether senior or junior or direct or indirect, can help you waive any visa requirements. There are many agents in the world who will tell you that they will get their connection to waive such and such requirement for an additional cost, they are lying. Keep it simple, if it is not on www.border.gov.au, it is false.

If you can find all the information on www.border.gov.au then what’s this post about? This post is about my experience and few things I learnt along the way.

Everything you read on the website of DIBP is genuine but it’s hard to understand that information in practical sense and many people want to know directly from a person who have been through the process. Well this is your opportunity to know, however please be aware that this information is specific to Subclass 190 – Skilled Nominated visa applied under SkillSelect scheme.

Note: all dates, figures and statements are specific to my situation and my opinion, this post should not be used to judge anyone or anyplace and neither should it be used as a basis for making your decision or to be used as a timeline for your visa.


NADRA Official Documents (for Pakistanis only)

One thing I learnt was that your marriage certificate, birth certificate and family registration certificate must be NADRA official documents. If you choose to use for example nikkahnamah (old fashion marriage certificate), your application will be delayed because of additional checks, and DIBP can also turn around and ask you to apply for an official NADRA marriage certificate, which can take around 4 weeks or more.

For Australia, Family Registration Certificate (FRC) is a must and if you have a large family, this could become a very tough task since you require a copy of NIC/CNIC/NICOP of every individual for NADRA to issue you a FRC. You must apply for FRC as soon as possible if you don’t have one.

There are always loop holes and people who are risk takers will use all kinds of unauthentic documentation but their applications will be delayed by DIBP and most likely be rejected with a 3 years or lifetime ban if they found any document to be a fake. Don’t lie and don’t take unnecessary risks, go to NADRA and get authentic documentation which is easily verifiable by the Pakistani government or Pakistani consulates in Australia.


Qualifications and Experience

Every qualification and experience that you want to claim points under requires assessment by an assessing authority. Assessing authority is given next to your nominated profession is SOL or CSOL lists. If your profession is not mentioned in SOL or CSOL, you must contact DIBP to enquire about your eligibility. Usually there are no exceptions to SOL and CSOL but DIBP is the judge here.

Note that if you are claiming points for qualifications only, you don’t have to worry about experience requirements in your assessment application. In other words, you can claim points either in one section i.e. only education, or you can claim points for both sections.

Also, note that to apply for an occupation of ‘Engineer’ which is referred to as ‘Professional Engineer’ in Engineers Australia MSA Booklet, the minimum requirement of qualification is 12 years schooling + 4-year bachelor or 16 years of education in total. Assessment results are on the discretion of Engineers Australia, however here are some examples for you to get an idea:

  • 12 years of schooling + 3-year bachelor = criteria not met
  • 12 years of schooling + 4-year bachelor = criteria met
  • 10 years of schooling + 1-year foundation + 3-year bachelor + 2-year master = criteria met
  • 10 years of schooling + 1-year foundation + 4-year bachelor = criteria not met
  • 10 years of schooling + 2-year foundation + 2-years bachelor + 2-year master = criteria met

Note: senior applicants with 10 years or more experience and no formal qualification must refer to MSA booklet for their eligibility.

As for experience, please be aware that only the employment post-graduation will be counted i.e. if your 16 years of education includes your Master’s degree, like in my case, then post-graduation is not the date for your bachelor’s graduation rather it is the date of your Master’s graduation. Also, any periods that you haven’t worked or spent searching for work doesn’t count in the period of employment.

Minimum number of years to claim points under experience category is 3 years.


Assessment (Engineers Australia)

Fortunately, my UK degree is accredited under Washington Accord and I didn’t have to go through the long route of proving my competency. Engineers Australia did all the checks with the UK awarding body and my university on my behalf.

If your qualifications are not accredited under the following accords:

  • Washington Accord
  • Sydney Accord
  • Dublin Accord

Then you must apply via CDR pathway to prove your competency in your nominated field. Competency Demonstration Report (CDR) is an application where you must write about your competencies in a specific way laid out by Engineers Australia. Many examples and templates can be found on their website and likely on Google.

Don’t take CDR lightly because if you fail this, you fail your migration. Please note that CDR is not your resume/CV/LinkedIn, so don’t even try to copy and paste content from these things. It must be written in a very specific and professional way that concisely demonstrates your ability in your nominated field.

That’s all I know about CDR since I haven’t done one. If anyone has experience in this, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


English Language

English language has several testing standards including TOFEL and IELTS. Since I haven’t done any other tests except for IELTS, I chose IELTS as the primary test for my migration.

Before I speak about my experience with IELTS, you need to know that immigration services only accept IELTS General, there are none or very few cases where DIBP have accepted IELTS Academic results. Even though IELTS Academic is a higher form of IELTS examination, DIBP explicitly asks for IELTS General results, so please make sure that you book for and sit in the correct type of examination.

In my case, I could not claim points for experience and I had no choice but to get 8.0 in all bands of IELTS General exam to satisfy migration points requirement. Altogether I attempted IELTS General three times at UTS Sydney and on the last attempt I manage to get 8.0 in all bands – one of the happiest moment of my life.

Even though IELTS is heavily regulated and there could not be a slightest doubt in their evaluation standards, the rumour has it that if you are attempting IELTS General onshore (meaning within Australia), choose a test centre which is in a regional area, usually their standards for writing and speaking are lower than that of city. What it means is that if you are getting 7.5 in either writing or speaking in a test centre based at a prominent location i.e. city, there is a good chance you can get 8.0 in one of the regional test centres. The theory behind it is that writing and speaking points are based on human evaluation and since there is no right or wrong answer like listening or reading, regional assessor may evaluate you at a higher band than someone in the city who is use to assessing excellent English speakers all the time. Now I don’t know how true this is because by the Grace of God Almighty I managed to get 8.0 in all modules in city-based test centre but maybe people who have experienced it may share their thoughts in the comments.


Australian Employer Sponsorship/Nomination

This may sound simple enough – search for job, apply for job, give an interview over Skype and TA DA you have received a job offer, but trust me it is not. It is already difficult finding a field related job when you have received your permanent residency than to have a job offer while you are sitting in one of the third world countries – I will discuss this further in the next section.

If you are applying for University scholarships, research assistant positions, post-doc positions or applying in one of the fortune 500 companies, then yes this is possible. The reason it is possible is because the universities and large corporations can afford to pay DIBP application costs to sponsor you or to nominate you and they can afford to drag along with you until all your processes are complete. For this you need to be that fortunate one who is not only highly skilled but also one of a kind in your chosen field and tick all the boxes. Just a quick thought here – if you are this fortunate person, I am sure you will not read this post because you don’t need to. You will already have job offers from all around the world.

If you are not this fortunate one and spending your time sitting in a third world country or even any other country where you might be working or studying, applying for jobs on Australian sites such as seek, career one and more. Let me inform you that you are wasting your time.

If you have no choice but to get a job offer in Australia, you need to search for jobs which specifically mentions that they will provide you sponsorship in the job advert. Usually these companies are large companies such as GE, Airbus, Boeing, HP, Oracle, etc. It is best to focus your efforts on jobs with large companies where there is at least a hope for sponsorship.


Character Certificates/Police Checks

It is mandatory for DIBP to ask for 10 years of character certificates/police checks for everyone who is an adult applicant, normally it is 18 years or over but you should check with DIBP.

So, if you lived in many countries like myself in the last 10 years, then you need take time periods in consideration for each police check of the country.

My checks for example included:

  • UK – applied through their website and it took about a month including shipping to arrive
  • UAE – applied through UAE consulate in Pakistan and it took between 4-5 months
  • Pakistan – applied through Pakistan consulate in Sydney and it took more than 8 months
  • Australia – applied through their website and it took only 2 days

FOR PAKISTANIS ONLY – if you are onshore (in Australia), you need to apply through your nearest Pakistan consulate, they do take very long because they need to verify your local and your international details.

If you are offshore (in Pakistan), you can apply through your local police station and can get the same within a fortnight.

One suggestion that will save your precious time is that if you are living in Australia, it is a good idea to visit your family in Pakistan and apply for it in person. This way they can verify you and your details a lot quicker.

Note: In Pakistani culture, it may be odd for a woman to have a police character certificate and many people are offended by such a request. Please don’t be, in the west men and women are considered equal in all shapes and forms and it is common for a woman to be involved in the same crime as a man. For this reason, it is mandatory that woman have character certificates and/or police checks done.


Medical Tests

Medical test can only be booked after you have received a request for a medical, when you do, simply book and turn up to your test. Everything you need to take with you is mentioned such as your eye tests, surgery reports, etc. Nothing to worry about.

There are special instructions for women, they can check the instructions when they receive the medical request.


Job Market/First Job

The day you receive the email that your immigration application has been successful, the only things you can think of is what is shown in 50cent music videos money, sports cars, big houses and beautiful girls. Well let me slap you on your face as hard as I can so you can wake up to reality (hypothetically, for some people literally).

REMEMBER – getting your permanent residency is ONLY a start

REALITY – everything you expect is a lie (in some sense) and a fantasy. DIBP made you believe by publishing SOL and CSOL that there are so many, probably uncountable opportunities in Australia. They are not completely wrong but all those jobs are:

  1. As advertised (rumour has it that not all jobs advertised exist – companies do it for various other reasons – topic for another day)
  2. Very specific in terms of company’s requirements/skills

There are people who have an action plan. Before they even arrive in Australia, they are already applying for jobs. These kinds of people may suffer six months at max and they might have to opt for odd jobs (blue collar) to support themselves. Usually they manage to get a field related job within couple of months – I have few examples of my friends. But as for myself, it took me approximately 5.5 months to get employed.

Then there are people who don’t know what they are doing and they don’t have an action plan. Such people can use recruitment agencies once they have arrived in Australia and they help to get interviews with few local companies leading to job offers. It’s free of charge because this service is provided by the Australian government. However, this process can take up to a lifetime depending on your skills and English speaking abilities.

My example to give you an idea:

I migrated to Australia as an Aeronautical Engineer and per SOL/CSOL aeronautical engineer are in demand and that’s true for defense industries such as Airbus, Royal Australian Air Force, Boeing and few other smaller companies. Now to be employed under defense contractor or defense industry, you need to have security clearance and that cannot happen before the citizenship except for few exceptional cases. So, before I can be employed as an aeronautical engineer, I need to wait 4 years to get my citizenship and then the company will apply for security clearance and then I can expect to receive a job offer.

It’s all easier said than done.


Citizenship

To apply for citizenship, you need to satisfy residency requirements. You need to be living in Australia for at least 4 years legally from which 1 year must be as permanent resident. So even in the best-case scenario, once you receive your permanent residency, you must wait for 12 months before applying for citizenship.


Note: In the following sections when I am speaking about finance and dates, I will not mention exact amounts and dates to protect my privacy but they represent the true situation.

Waiting Period

In total, my application took 10 months – from the day I spoke to my immigration agent, to the day immigration agent sent me my visa. This includes medical, qualification assessment, police check, etc. However, this doesn’t include IELTS because IELTS is necessary to lodge EOI (pre-requisite).


Migration Costs

The entire migration including government fees, airline tickets, second VAC installment and agent fees cost me around $25000 AUD for a family of 2 adults and 2 children.


Migration Agents

Finally, I would like to mention two migration agents I have used for my migration and I have found them to be professional, reliable and committed to deliver quality results.

Australia-based: Settle in Australia, Rajesh Satija, www.settleinaustralia.com, MARA ID: 0318301

Pakistan-based: ISAS Consultants, Maraj Ahmed, www.isas.com.pk, MARA ID: 1460522


Concluding Remarks

I think I have covered most of the concerns but if you have more questions, feel free to ask me. However, note that I am not a migration agent nor do I specialize in this field. All this information is experienced based and may become outdated as time goes on.

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