With little money, we didn't have the option of employing an immigration agent to guide us through the process, and so were left with the daunting prospect of wading through hundreds of pages of documentation, and government websites to figure out what we had to do. Before then, the most I had to do with immigration was applying for tourist visas, or short term visas in Africa, and I was surprised to discover how much information, a person was required to produce to apply for an Aussie spousal visa.
For the uninitiated, the way spousal visas work in Australia, if already married, an applicant first applies for a temporary spousal visa, permitting them to enter and work within Australia for two years, after which another application must be lodged for the temporary visa to rollover into a full permanent residency. In terms of effort, the initial temporary spousal visa was by far the most comprehensive, requiring both the applicant, and their partner to fill out a significant amount of paperwork, and prove the nature of their relationship is genuine, committed and ongoing. Early on we downloaded the spousal migration guide from the Australian Immigration website, and followed its checklists and guidelines religiously to ensure we didn't leave anything out.
After the usual identity checks and background checks on both parties, the applicant must also undergo a fairly rigorous health check, detailing medical history, and current conditions. These had to be completed at recognised institutions, and luckily for us, we lived only an hour from one of these in Zambia. I'm not sure what the process is for others applying outside of first world conditions as logistically, this could be a nightmare as some countries may have only one recognised medical centre approved by Australian Immigration.
The sections producing the greatest anxiety for us concerned proving our relationship is genuine. It can feel a little invasive as social, financial and emotional commitment all have to be demonstrated in the paperwork, as well as details on how our household is run (separation of daily tasks etc.). We had to include phone records, bank statements, proof of my (the sponsor's) income, written and signed statements concerning how we met and the situations surrounding it, as personal photographs proving our life together, and signed statutory declarations from friends, family and colleagues stating that they have met us and believe that our relationship is genuine. All in all, we submitted about 100 - 150 pages of personal data to the migration agency, VFS, in Johannesburg which handled Australian immigration for all of Africa.
Overall, it was a bit of an ordeal, but I would have to say that, illegal immigrant debate aside, I am happy that Australia goes to the extent it does to validate an application for residency. Praise Jesus our application only took three and a half weeks to process and approve, which, after hearing stories from friends and family, was an amazingly short time.
For those going through the process, I have posted up a copy of the covering letter of our application detailing exactly what we put in our application at
www.beninzambia.com have to point out though, that I am not a migration agent, or an authority on this topic, just a guy who has been through it recently, so for anyone applying for an Aussie visa, make sure you check it out yourself before acting on any information in this article.
Ben Kitzelman has spent the last 4 years travelling between Australia and Zambia, serving for one as a missionary, and is now an IT professional in Melbourne.
Ben Kitzelman's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/ben-kitzelmen.html