Exist Loudly

A Journey…

Yesterday, February 28, 2023 by 3 pm, I was certified as a true blue Aussie per my Aussie friends.

7 years + 2 and half months, I became an Australian citizen.

I landed here in Australia on Friday, November 13, 2015 with one dream in mind: to become an Australian citizen. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have the right visa or how little money I had to survive, I had faith in the Universe that it would catch me and make the dream a reality.

I just had to jump.

So I jumped.

I arrived on a 6 month tourist visa and then another 6 month tourist visa was granted. My migrant agent for the 457 visa I needed said she had never seen a 6 month tourist visa granted let alone twice to the same person. I took this as a sign that I was definitely on the right journey. During the application process of my 457, the Australian government changed immigration laws and discontinued the 457 visa and implemented the 482 visa. I stressed about this as the 482 visa was harder to get than the 457, and the 457 was no easy feat to get either. My migrant agent gave me the good news that I was grandfathered into the system as I had put in my application in before the visa change. The bad news, the processing timeline was thrown out the window. How long the application process would take was anyone’s wild guess.

So I waited. Patiently. I was on a bridging visa for about a year, maybe more to be honest. I don’t remember the exact length of time. I just remember the agent’s comment, “This has been the longest visa process I might have ever had, but you were never stressed and waited patiently. Congratulations, your 457 has been approved.”

With a 457 or 482 visa, you have the right to work and live in Australia, but you have to have an employer that has your back and will essentially let you be their financial burden while working for them. I had an employer but a career opportunity came up and this meant I had to transfer my 457 visa to my new employer if they wanted to accept that I came with financial baggage so to speak. If they didn’t, well, no career opportunity for me. Thankfully they were onboard and took it over with no problem.

But my 457 visa was only valid for 2 years. I didn’t have the required time with my new employer to qualify for PR (permanent residence), so I would have get another visa, which was the 482. Again, thankfully, my employer had my back and fully supported the application for the 482 visa and in May of 2019, we started the process.

Let me tell you the amount of paperwork was insane. I had to reach out to my high school and ask for a digital copy of my diploma from 1994. Not only that, I had to submit to the FBI hard copies of my fingerprints so a FBI background check could be done. That sounded like the easy part expect my first 2 sets were rejected for not being clear enough. The police officer at the police station who took my prints knew my face by the time I walked in for my 3rd set. He was a gem and we did 10 extra sets just in case the FBI couldn’t read any of them and he hand delivered the express envelope to the post office for me. He knew I was on a deadline and that deadline was shortening by the day. Through all of that, once the application was lodged, 11 days later on August 23, 2019, I was granted a 482 visa.

But the visa journey does not stop there.

If I had been with my employer on my 457 for two years, I could have qualified for PR, but I switched employers which resets your clock. When my 457 was up, I was 7 months shy of two years. The moment I qualified to apply for PR, my HR department let me know as they had been on my journey with me since joining them. I was also aware of this day as well and of what would be needed. Everything I needed for the 482 visa and more. In the weeks leading up to the day, I prepped. Multiple sets of fingerprints sent to the FBI again, Australian police background checks again, and ever piece of document required on the list. I did not want to push the deadline like the 482 had done. I also needed to financially prepare for PR. While my employer nominated me, the financial burden was on me. It’s not a cheap thing to do. It’s a hefty cost but a cost I was willing to go into debt for.

We lodged my PR on March 30, 2020, right as COVID (not named at that time) was enveloping the Earth. Of course as businesses started cutting their losses as the whole world shut down, my employer had to prove to the government that my role was still needed which thankfully, in the midst of a pandemic, we were growing.

On Sept 3, 2020, PR was granted. I had the right to work and live in Australia and benefit from Medicare (which still blows my mind). I had all the rights as a citizen but 2 – I could not vote and I could not hold an Australian passport.

With citizenship, at least mine, I needed to be on PR for at least 1 year and have lived in the country for at least 5 from the date of arrival. I had all of that ticked off and should have applied for my citizenship in September 2021, but with the pandemic and our lockdowns, I didn’t actually apply until April 20, 2022. This time, I did it on my own. No migrant agent to help or lean on. But I did have one co-worker who had just been approved for citizenship and she knew what was needed so with her eye, she cross checked every document I needed.

Like all the times before, you submit an application, get notified that it has been received, and then you wait. And wait. And then wait some more.

And in between that time if you do it on your own, if you’re like me, you start to wonder, what the hell you could have done wrong. Did I attach the wrong document? Was the document that needed to be signed by a notary within the accepted dates? And so on and so on.

But in October 2022, I finally get notified that I had an appointment for the citizenship interview and test. The final decisions lie here…with a person behind a glass wall and computer that tests your knowledge of Australia.

I missed one question. It was the same damn question I missed in the practice tests. It would be the same question I missed if it was about the US. I will never remember what the fuck the judiciary branch does. Never. Nonetheless I passed the test. Now more waiting for the final decision. Two friends who had already been through what I was going through said it took 4 weeks for their answers but that was also in the middle of a pandemic.

Within 5 minutes of me walking out of the government office, in my inbox was my answer.

In the middle of a sidewalk in Parramatta, I fell to my knees in tears…on October 27, 2022 my citizenship had been approved.

Guess what though, the waiting is not done.

The time between citizenship approval and the citizenship ceremony could be weeks or even months.

My wait time was 4 months and 1 day.

Yesterday, I took the pledge under oath:

From this time forward, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and libertiesI respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

And when Lord Mayor Clover Moore confirmed we were citizens, I burst into tears.

The dream I pursued for 2,664 days (63,936 hours, 3,836,160 minutes, 230,169,600 seconds) was completed.

I am an Australian.