/ #citizenship #bureaucracy 

Australian Citizenship - our ticket to getting our tickets out of here

We’ve been in limbo. It’s been 9 months since we moved states to stay at my mum’s house and free ourselves from the ties and contracts of rent and bills. I remember the excitement we felt on the drive over from Adelaide, “we’re so close”, “there’s nothing keeping us here now”! It was a nice narrative, except there was something still keeping us here. Citizenship.

Warning: this post will probably only appeal to people with one of two very specific interests; understanding the process of obtaining Australian citizenship through marriage or understanding the story of Ruddy and Nancy in excruciating detail. You’ve been forewarned.

I should probably insert a little context here. Ruddy and I were married in 2012 (I was just a wee babe, recently turned 22). We married quickly so that I could live in Switzerland with him (green card wedding?). We knew we wanted to be together and this seemed like an easy formality to endure to achieve that goal. As we told ourselves at the time - if it doesn’t work out, there’s always divorce? 7+ years later and I think we can say that risky move paid off. I lived in Switzerland with him while he finished his PhD, after which he moved to Australia so I could finish my studies. The marriage enabled us to organise visas on both sides - that $400 wedding well and truly paid for itself!

The journey to Australian citizenship (I remember when that started, I was young…)

All the way back in September of 2013, we started planning for the eventuality of moving to Australia. We submitted a very expensive application for a temporary residence (TR) partner visa. Once you are granted residency, you become eligible for medicare (Australia’s version of universal healthcare). It seems the government doesn’t want to pay for the treatment of people with existing tuberculosis, glaucoma, or other expensive illness (they’ll only pay if you’re lucky enough to contract/develop those here). So we organised a rigorous appointment schedule with very specific Swiss doctors who’d received the Aussie immigration department’s stamp of approval and the shedding of money began. All in all, I estimate we paid around $5,000-$6,000 AUD for his visa application (apparently we got in just before they jacked the prices - you can now expect to pay $8,000-$9,000 all up). The upside is that once you pay all that money upfront you’re home free all the way up until citizenship (great if you’re lucky enough to stay with the person at least until permanent residency (PR), but very costly if you break up with your significant other before then).

So we wait the 9 months Australia estimates for processing the TR, book tickets (just hoping it will come in time) and make it by the skin of our teeth. We’re both in Australia and now we wait until he can apply for permanent residency (2 years after the initial application). Fast forward to May 2016 - we’re both working in companies in Melbourne, have a cute apartment in the city and we can now apply for his PR! We want to keep the process moving as quickly as possible because we had already come this far and decided we would stay in Australia until he received his citizenship. See, in order to be eligible for citizenship you need to have lived in Australia for 4 consecutive years (with at least 12 months as a permanent resident) at the time you apply. Consecutive years is the key there - if you leave Australia for any more than 12 months over the period, the clock on the residence requirement resets. And unless you want to constantly remain aware of when you need to renew visas or return to Australia, you might as well just wait it out.

His PR is eventually granted and now we just need to wait for the four consecutive years living in Australia to amass. During this period we were freaking out a little bit because the government had snuck through a law tightening restrictions on the residency requirement, meaning we’d have to be in Australia an additional 2 years! Luckily these were repealed and haven’t been reinstated as at the time of writing. So May 2018 rolls around and we apply for his citizenship (yay!)

This is the part where the waiting feels like it will never end… Don’t bother trying to call the immigration department. They won’t even speak to you about your case until 18 months to 2 years have passed since you submitted your application. But eventually, things do move along. March 2019, on a Friday 10 months after we applied Ruddy receives an email inviting him to do his citizenship test in a couple of weeks. Followed very closely by a text message inviting him to sit it on Monday. True to our record of moving things along as quickly as possible, he accepts the invitation to sit the test and interview on the Monday and we spend the weekend learning all about Australia, it’s traditions, people and government (I can recite both verses of the national anthem [a skill not widely held by Australians] but had I been tested on all the structures of government before reading this, I would have failed). The examinable text, although detailed in parts, is not long - and 90% of the test items are on the easiest content. Ruddy receives a perfect score and we’re told his police clearance certificate will just need to be renewed (a process that usually takes a few days) and we will receive approval of his citizenship and an invitation to his citizenship ceremony. Of course now we’re thinking “we’re going to be well and truly ready to leave even before we’ve saved all the money we want, this is amazing!”) It wasn’t. It took 5 months for this teeny part of the process. 5 months during which you can’t leave the country (technically you can, but you have to inform the immigration department and it might affect your application, so yeah, you can’t leave). Our feet became real itchy during this period. But as with all bad things, the waiting eventually came to an end when we received the invitation to his ceremony. Ruddy is now officially one of the newest Aussies, having been minted just two weeks ago. We applied for his passport today and should receive it in the next few weeks at which point we’re good to go!

The moment we received the confirmation of his ceremony date, I immediately started looking into the logistics of getting our butts and our bags over to Europe. But that’s another long story for another long and specific post. If you’re wanting to move from Australia to Europe (or vice versa) and don’t want to do all the research yourself, feel free to read my next post where I’ll venture into logistics, options, costs and more.

Right now we’re feeling very grateful the long, expensive and time consuming road to citizenship is finally over and we’re free to leave! The daydreaming about nomadic life is becoming more and more frequent every day. 4 weeks and 6 days to go!