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Wanted Down Under - reality dross or recommended viewing?

by Lauren 8/29/2008 1:16:00 PM

Regardless of your situation, when you're in the midst of lodging a visa application, it can sometimes be difficult to keep a perspective on your situation and see your visa grant as a tangible reality. Even with the support of a migration agent, there's always the possibility that a new life in Australia can feel further away than it actually is.

With this in mind, it's refreshing to see the return of the BBC's Wanted Down Under, which is currently being repeated on BBC2 on weekdays at 5:15 PM. Not only does it show the light at the end of the tunnel by showcasing the gorgeous locations of Australia, it doesn't shy away from exploring the difficulties that the average Brit family faces as they pursue a new life Down Under.

I've always found that the best option to take with clients is to be completely honest and upfront about the visa process. While on paper it can seem like a straightforward application, there are often hidden hurdles, and Wanted Down Under is a programme that goes beyond the simple aspirational melodrama of other relocation shows.

In a time when television is undergoing something of a 'crisis of faith', we can testify to the validity of the subjects featured in Wanted Down Under, as some of the show's 'stars' in the first series were Visa Bureau clients. What's more, we're delighted to report that they've since successfully made the switch and are now happy Australian residents.

Also, the programme does well in acknowledging that 'Down Under' doesn't just mean Australia; the second series also follows Brits as they look to emigrate to New Zealand, making it ideal for any Kiwi-minded migrants.

Tune in for yourself to see it, or catch up on the BBC iPlayer - it's definitely worth your while!

- Lauren Mennie is the Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

.NET developers .Needed Down Under .Now

by Tom 8/28/2008 1:49:00 PM

News reports continually remind us that IT professionals are in short supply across the globe, so it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that Australia is one of the countries keen to lure new tech-minded individuals to their shores. However, the addition of the 'Computing Professional - .NET technologies' occupation classification to Australia's Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) gives the indication that they're finally getting a bit smarter about enticing a broader range of developers and programmers.

The MODL is essentially a list of the occupations which are part of the country's ongoing national skills shortage, with workers in any of the listed occupations awarded extra points and put on the Australia visa fast-track. Simply put, there are few better indications that you're all set to migrate to Australia than having your occupation feature on the MODL. Historically speaking, the MODL has always featured a fairly broad range of IT-centric occupations… unless you were a .NET programmer / developer.

Some headway was made in rectifying this with the introduction of the occupation classification of ‘Computing Professional - specialising in C++ / C# / C’ in September, 2006. All very nice for those with C# experience, but not much use to programmers using any other .NET language.

However, with May's MODL addition of 'Computing Professional – specialising in .NET technologies', Australia's doors were finally flung open to .NET programmers of all shapes and sizes. Many Visual Basic.NET programmers, as well as those specialising in less common .NET languages like PerlNET and IronPython now have a path to the 'gold standard' of Australian permanent visas – the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 175).

So, if you’re a programmer working with .NET on a day-to-day basis, then chances are you’re 'in demand' by Australia. Certainly something to feel warm and fuzzy about, right?

- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau, and has a compulsion to make bad puns in blog titles

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

TRA Stalls Again on Pathway D Alternative

by Andy 8/26/2008 11:57:00 AM

It's difficult to restrain my disappointment with The TRA: Trades Recognition Australia.  Almost a year ago, the TRA announced the closure of Skilled Pathway D, which gave skilled tradespeople without formal qualifications a pathway through the skills assessment stage of the Australian skilled migration programme.

To me, Pathway D was an integral part of the migration programme.  It met the insatiable demand for skilled tradespeople in Australia, and allowed thousands of experienced workers from the UK to make the move down under.  The closure of Pathway D, without warning or consultation, came as a body blow to industry in Australia and to thousands of families in the UK.  Australian industries lost a source of dedicated, highly skilled workers, and families saw their plans to establish themselves in Australia delayed indefinitely.

Earlier in the summer, the TRA announced that they would begin to implement a replacement to Pathway D on September 1 with their new Migration Assessment Policy (MAP).  We were extremely excited at the prospect, as it would allow thousands of families to get their visa applications back on track and to start making long-term decisions about moving to Australia.

The TRA has once again thrown these lives into disarray by delaying their implementation.  They have postponed their announcement about implementing MAP indefinitely, without any explanation or indication of when we can expect more information.

I am appalled at the TRA for its apparently blasé attitude towards the thousands of people who they have left to twist in the wind by delaying their announcement.  Families who want to make the move down under need concrete information in order make decisions that affect the rest of their lives. The TRA is making this heartbreakingly difficult.

This appalling attitude is demonstrated by the TRA's complete lack of transparency or explanation.  They did not give a concrete reason as to why they closed Pathway D and they did not give detailed information about its replacement.  Now they have delayed the implementation of a replacement without explanation or any indication of how much longer families will have to wait.

Many would-be emigrants face a difficult choice: to pursue the long road to skills qualification through a different pathway, or to wait out the TRA and hope for a positive announcement in the next few months.  The TRA is directly responsible for forcing families into this stressful situation.  The Australian Visa Bureau staff will do their best to ease the stress that this decision may place on our clients by providing as much information and help as we can.

I sincerely hope that the TRA to task for explanations and more information.  I look forward to the day when we can help the thousands of families affected by this fiasco to realise their dreams of a new life in Australia.

- Andy Harwood is the CEO of the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Snow gods bless the Land of the Long White Cloud

by Giles 8/15/2008 10:33:00 AM

It's summertime in Britain and (surprise, surprise) it's cloudy again.  But, we mustn't complain because we are not alone in the world of the dark and gloomy weather.  Storm clouds have covered New Zealand for some time now, but instead of moaning about it, the Kiwis are begging them to stay.

In New Zealand there's a different kind of cloud cover at this time of year – a much more refreshing, more exciting, more exhilarating cloud; a cloud which has left skiers and snowboarders to revel in the best snow conditions in eight years.

Already thousands of Kiwis and Aussies have hit up the country's Southern Alps to play on the new world-class terrain parks and explore the famous back-country slopes.  Mount Hutt, the southern hemisphere’s highest ski field, is wallowing in a nearly 2.5m base with a soft powder surface. Nice. As the Ski Area Manager of Mount Hutt put it so perfectly, "the snow gods have truly blessed us this winter."

It doesn't seem to be a one-eyed opinion either - skiing superstar and World Cup champion Bode Miller, along with the Norwegian and Austrian downhill ski teams, have caught on to the rush and headed to Mount Hutt to train. 

If the thought of missing out on that fun strikes a chord of jealousy, then you’ll be pleased to hear New Zealand offers extended working holiday visas for UK nationals.  Even though the season has already started, if you are keen to hit the slopes than a NZ working holiday visa is the best way to do it.  You'll be able to work, ski, and travel for 12 months, and then apply for an 11 month extension if you find it too hard to tear yourself away. 

In a place like Queenstown, where adventure sports thrive all year round and snowfields turn into hiking playgrounds, leaving to come home won't be as easy as you thought.

- Jessica Bird is a writer for the New Zealand Visa Bureau, and has spent more than her fair share of time on the slopes.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Watch out Australia - Google's got wandering eyes

by Tom 8/8/2008 12:03:00 PM

Imagine this: you're in Adelaide city for the first time and you need to arrange to meet your mates in town at a landmark.  That's fine, except that they've never been to Adelaide either.  So, what do you do? While you could abandon your social plans and become a hopeless recluse, an easier (and altogether less drastic option) would be to ask Google.  Their wandering eyes have mapped out Australia for you so you can wander around the country without ever leaving the comfort of your computer chair.

Google Street View has created a virtual street map of Australia so that web users can take self-controlled tours of its cities and towns with a 360 degree, street-level panoramic view.  The streets marked in blue on the map have streetview enabled.

Since November last year, the web king has sent its foot soldiers in Google cars to film almost every possible nook and cranny of Australia. Some locations like Uluru have been omitted for reasons of Aboriginal land and cultural rights, (but really, you'd be in trouble if you didn't already have a rough idea of what it looked like.)

The new feature launched in Australia this week, after pilot programs in the US and parts of France and Italy proved to be successful… well, relatively successful.  Not surprisingly, a number of scenes in America were caught on tape that weren't really meant for public eyes, and have since been used by privacy activists as a damning tool to have Google Street View banned.  However, Google has since learnt from its mistakes, and now blurs out faces, number plates and anything else that could be categorised as an ‘offending scene'.

Regardless of these minor concerns though, we here at the Visa Bureau are congratulating Google – they've done a massive favour for our clients, tourists and migrants to Australia.  Visitors to Australia will now be able to check out accommodation before they book, take a pre-peek at tourist attractions, or get their bearings in a city before even stepping foot in the country.  Migrants can also use Street View to help decide which suburb to move to in any chosen city, and once they have settled in, friends and family will be able to take a virtual tour around their new neighbourhood.  It's brilliant – and absolutely free.

Over the next few months New Zealand will join in on the fun too.  It's a pretty exciting development for anyone with travel or migration on the mind – we can now tell our clients that seeing Australia from the UK is not just a visual possibility but a virtual reality, and the best way to get a taste of what they're in for is just a few clicks away!

- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau, and a streetview addict.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK Skilled Migration - What's in a Name?

by Tom 8/4/2008 12:59:00 PM

I thought I'd take my opportunity on the Visa Bureau Blog to say a few words about the transition from the HSMP to the new Tier 1 General Skilled Migration programme here in the UK.  It's occupied a lot of our time!  It usually does whenever the Home Office makes a major change like this.

Our UK caseworking team and our online editorial team worked hard to make sure that the UK Visa Bureau website was up to date as soon as the change from the old HSMP went ahead.

The changeover has certainly been an interesting experience!  Aside from the days of research, writing and caseworking, the biggest challenge has been getting the message out to clients.  The HSMP, it seems, was a very well known programme.  It was an easy "brand" to remember, and it described exactly what the programme was after - highly skilled people who wanted to live and work in the United Kingdom.  It was so well known that people continue to refer to the new Tier 1 programme as the HSMP.

It's an easy confusion to make.  Both the Tier 1 General Skilled Programme and the HSMP are essentially the same.  Both use a similar points test with similar education, occupation and income requirements, and both are meant to attract highly skilled migrants to the UK.

We've been working to help educate our clients and prospective clients on the changeover.  Our site now has detailed information on the Tier 1 programme, and we make sure that we talk callers to our freephone line through the changes.

But, if people still want to call it the HSMP, that's fine by me.

- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.