Have Visas, Will Travel...Finally!
Actually, the expedited approval process for our Australian visas only took about two months instead of the typical 4 - 6 months for our type of visa. It just felt like forever.
We were fortunate to have a business sponsor through Rob’s new employer. The company subsequently hired a team of immigration agents in Sydney to manage and submit all of our
necessary paperwork. They were our liaisons to the Australian government and immigration department. I can’t imagine going through this process on our own.
The visa we were aiming for and ultimately received was a Permanent Residency Visa: Subclass 124 (Distinguished Talent Visa). So, really, it was Rob’s experience and expertise in diagnostic detection sciences that opened the door to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I‘m the lucky duck that gets to tag along! This particular visa allows us 5 years of residency and unlimited travel in and out of the country during that time. Oh! And Rob does not let me forget that it allows me, the spouse, to work too.
As you might imagine, it was a lengthy and detailed process:
1) Expression Of Interest (EOI) - This was submitted to the Australian Global Talent department to verify the viability of approval of the Subclass 124 visa. While the EOI was being reviewed we worked on the following steps.
2) Visa application draft - the collection of extensive details for ourselves, immediate family members, siblings and even their spouses. The two of us had to provide our addresses, schools, and jobs since birth. That’s a lot when you think about 48 years of life! We also had to provide details for all passports held, expired or not, and specifics of all out-of-US travel in the last 10 years (location, dates, and reason for travel). And for anyone who knows us knows we do a lot of travel. Nonetheless, we managed to pull it all together.
3) FBI and Police background checks - we got fingerprinted to verify that we had clean records with federal, state, and local police.
4) Approval of EOI and submission of final VISA application.
5) Assignment of HAP #’s - these numbers were required before scheduling our health assessments. They essentially connected our health assessment results to our visa applications. There are approximately only 20 panel doctors in the US authorized to provide the required physical, chest x-rays, and blood tests. We were able to see a panel doctor in Seattle. 6) Visas Granted - yay! They were electronically linked to our passports. Immigration agents, however, advised us to print and carry paper copies with us. I’m so glad we heeded their advice since the gate agent at LAX asked to see a copy before issuing our boarding passes.
Before we knew it, we were finally on our way!
Traveling during COVID times was interesting. With so few folks traveling at the moment, the airports and airplanes were at 25% capacity at most. The percentage was even lower outside the US. In fact, our flight from Auckland to Brisbane had maybe 30 passengers spread out on a jumbo jet. While transiting through New Zealand, we were directed to an international transit gate area and not allowed to leave. There were a few people outside the view of the photo below but not many.
COVID-19 tests were neither performed nor required. We were required to wear masks while in the airport and on the plane. Obviously, we could remove them temporarily to eat and drink. Air New Zealand attendants came through the cabin frequently to offer fresh masks.
Next on the itinerary...a Queensland quarantine!