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Relocation Down Under: Melbourne

by Stephanie 28/01/2010 14:49:00

More than 2 million viewers tuned in last week for the first episode of Phil Spencer’s new programme, Relocation: Phil Down Under.

It was quite a tidy result for Channel 4, and arguably shows the interest at the moment in the Australian property market, or perhaps the joy of watching a British family find their dream home.

In the second part of this new series, which screens Friday night, Phil will be focusing on Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia, to find a home for Adam George and wife Cam in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges.

Adam George, a recycling manager, and his wife, Cam, an occupational therapist, from Basingstoke, met while travelling around Australia almost 13 years ago. They are keen to trade in their three bed semi in Basingstoke for spectacular national parks and bush land.  

After emigrating to Australia and  spending nearly nine months in the country with their two daughters they are ready to buy and put down roots.

The Georges were looking for a four-bedroom house with plenty of room for the girls, within easy reach of Melbourne, but also to be near countryside with views and a large garden. Phil managed to find their dream home for £223,000 – and it was three times the size of their Basingstoke home.

Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, is already one of Phil’s favourite cities because of its European-like feel, multiculturalism, four distinct seasons, and top class sporting facilities.

Melbourne is the home of many Australian major sporting events, like the Australian Open tennis and the Melbourne Cup horse race. With 3.8m people, it also has all the amenities and cultural perks, cafes and restaurants that anyone could wish for. 

Phil also considers property in Melbourne to be good value. The average house in Melbourne costs £278,000, according to Australian Property Monitors.

Relocation: Phil Down Under screens tomorrow night on Channel 4 at 8pm.

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications Editor 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.

Australian visa client testimonial: The Wilson family are Wanted Down Under!

by Stephanie 22/01/2010 12:55:00

Wanted Down Under recently featured Visa
Bureau clients Tanya and John Wilson
(Image: BBC)
We were delighted to see some current Visa Bureau clients appear on the BBC's Wanted Down Under programme recently.

Tanya and John Wilson have both been in the midst of the Australia visa application process for a couple of years now, with their situation summarised in the BBC's programme listings as follows:

"The Wilson family from Liverpool want more space and better weather to enjoy an outdoor life. They try out life in Perth, Western Australia, for a week. John Wilson finds a potential job as an artisan baker. But, the family hadn't bargained on the emotions they experience at the prospect of leaving friends and family back on in the UK."

Sadly, the programme in which they appear is no longer available on the BBC iPlayer (although we're sure it'll be repeated at some point on the future).

However, we recently got in touch with Tanya to get her thoughts on the Wanted Down Under experience, as well as how they've been helped by Visa Bureau in their process of emigrating to Australia:

“I’m absolutely buzzing about Australia and I can’t wait to move. We all loved Australia, our family are all behind us to go, so we have all the support we need,” she said.

“Perth did seem brighter, not congested. It was nice, bright, airy and not daunting at all.”

“We had a good experience meeting expats and Australians and getting a taste of the day-to-day life. Household chores are always going to be the same, but experiencing the outdoor lifestyle was different,” she said.

The Wilson family at the bandstand in
Adelaide Botanic Park.
(Image: Tanya Wilson)

"John spent some time with the New Norcia bakery in Mount Hawthorn, Perth. Director Kingsley Sullivan, the staff and customers were lovely. John really enjoyed his experience there.

Filming for Wanted Down Under was a little daunting for the family, but ultimately they found it a rewarding experience. 

“The filming process was brilliant, although you did have to follow a strict filming schedule and you did feel a little like stars having to stop and re-film sections.  It was a worthwhile experience.”

Tanya said the family enjoyed the week in Perth, which was filmed in September last year, and have chosen to complete the process and emigrate to Australia to live in Adelaide.   

"We went to Perth as that was the only option for filming but it still gave us a great insight into Australian life, of which we loved every minute," Tanya said.

The Wilson boys are Owen 12, Callum 14, and their hobbies include karate, fishing, walking and camping

"For ourselves, karate, camping, walking and we really enjoy the beach be it summer or winter. Our karate club, GKR Karate, originated in Australia, which we also attended courtesy of Wanted Down Under in Perth. The boys loved every minute, except the thought of leaving friends and family. Owen has his case 'theoretically' packed already," Tanya said. 

The Wilson family lodged their Skilled Visa application around the same time of filming Wanted Down Under, and unfortunately have been affected by recent changes in processing by the Australian Government and are still waiting for approval.

Tanya though is upbeat, and remains positive.

“I’m very optimistic and positive about the move, although my husband is a little worried that we won’t be able to go,” she said.

Visa Bureau caseworker Leonie Cotton helped the Wilsons with their application, and Tanya said her help through the skilled migration application process was invaluable.

“It would have been an awful lot of hard work if we had decided to do the application process without Visa Bureau, particularly on the initial preparations. As much as we did our own research and preparation the help with writing and re-writing the application questions was excellent. Our application under the Trades Recognition Australia was accepted the first time, we didn’t have to resubmit.

“I’ve recommended Visa Bureau to my friends and I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t happy with the service.”

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications Editor 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.

Property down under: relocating with Phil Spencer

by Stephanie 21/01/2010 17:12:00

TV property presenter Phil Spencer will be on Channel 4 tomorrow night offering his top tips for making a move to Australia, and landing on your feet in the Australian property market.

In the programme Relocation: Phil Down Under, Phil will be drawing on his own property experience and knowledge of the Australian market, to help four British families find their dream home.

Phil has visited Australia many times over the past 20 years, starting with a year as an outdoor education instructor and sports coach with a school on the Gold Coast having just left school in 1989.  Phil and his Australian girlfriend Fiona, now wife, also travelled for three months in the country in 1999 and go back every year for monthly holidays at Christmas.

The four families in Relocation: Phil Down Under are a small part of the some 40,000 Brits who emigrate to Australia every year, keen to take advantage of the arguably more affordable housing market.

The first family being screened in tomorrow night’s episode is the Davidson family. Lee and Bronagh Davidson, an insurance salesman and teacher with three daughters, from Essex are giving up their three-hour commutes and small, expensive house in search for an improved quality of life.

After completing the Australia immigration process, the family wants to move to Perth, and had their heart set on a detached four-bedroom house with a swimming pool within walking distance of the beach. They got the lot for £275,000.

What is the current state of the Australian property market?

The Australian economy has performed relatively well during the global recession, in contrast to the UK market, and so Australian houses have largely retained their value. Argueably though, there are still opportunities for house hunters to purchase properties for considerably less than the equivalent in the UK.
  
The well-respected annual Financial Times Property Index for June 2009 shows that the UK house prices were 13.1 per cent lower in 2009 than in June the previous year. Coupled with a strong Australian dollar, comparing property prices is perhaps not favourable until you consider what your money can purchase you in Australia.

What is the cost of an average Australian house?

The Real Estate Institute of Australia’s Real Estate Market Facts research showed the average three-bedroom freestanding house in Australia in the June quarter of 2009 was £255,478 (this figure has been converted to Sterling using the exchange rate of 1.79 Australian dollars to the British pound, as provided by Oanda.com on 23 October 2009).

According to live tables of the housing market and house prices provided by the Government’s Communities and Local Government website http://www.communities.gov.uk/, the average UK house price in the same quarter was £224,064, but to buy the equivalent to the Australian three-bedroom house in the UK the average price is £344,989.

Certainly, with six state and two territories in Australia there are also many locations from which to choose.

Relocation: Phil Down Under begins on Channel 4 on Friday, 22 January at 8pm.

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications Editor 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.

Breaking Australian immigration update: Many UK panel doctors set to be removed

by Lauren 19/01/2010 15:26:00

DIAC is removing the number of panel
doctors eligible to conduct medical checks
for Australian immigration applicants

Even in the ever-changing world of Australian immigration, it's still generally accepted that upon being requested by your Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) case officer to submit health and character checks, you've entered the final stages of having your Australia visa application finalised and potentially just a month or two away from being ready to migrate.

However, a recent change that affects this final stage (and which many migrants may have missed out on) is the current review of UK panel doctors by DIAC. You can see the notification on the top of this page here, but you'll notice that there isn't an awful lot of information given.

Since hearing about this update though, we've spoken to a few GPs who have received notification from DIAC that they will be removed as eligible panel doctors (with some set to be removed as soon as the end of the week).

It's interesting seeing DIAC rationalise the decision, as you can see in the following paragraph of the notification letter sent to affected doctors:

"By reducing single panel clinics in areas of relatively low demand and concentrating services in centralised areas with clinics that can provide a one stop shop for clients, we are expecting to be able to provide our clients with a higher level of all round service. While we recognise that some clients may need to travel greater distances in order to visit a panel doctor we believe this will be balanced by the other factors."

It's certainly arguable that reducing the number of eligible panel doctors will provide Australia visa applicants with a 'higher level of all round service', especially if you're required to travel much further than previously to visit an eligible doctor as a result. Regardless though, the most pertinent piece of information to people currently at this stage of their application seems to be the following:

"All medicals conducted prior to your removal should now be completed and forwarded to the processing office by 25 January 2010. However, should you have any medical cases you conducted prior to your removal which are yet to be finalised due to outstanding requirements, please proceed to complete these."

Therefore, the situation seems to be that any checks conducted with a panel doctor who has since been removed will still be accepted by DIAC, provided they were initially conducted BEFORE the panel doctor was notified they would be removed.

This is good news for any visa applicants who are awaiting the results of their medical checks, but should also come as a warning to anyone preparing to enter this stage of the process. It is VITAL that you keep aware of the most current list of accepted panel doctors (which you can find here) before you arrange for any medical checks to be conducted.

It's also advisable that you confirm with your doctor on the day of the medical checks to ensure that they are still listed by DIAC, so you don't risk paying for medical checks which will not be accepted and could risk lengthening the finalisation of your application for Australian immigration.

- Lauren Mennie is 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.

UK immigration update: identity cards rolled out to skilled migrant workers

by Marissa 14/01/2010 14:31:00

Identity cards have become
compulsory for a number of UK
visa
holders (Image: UK Border
Agency)

As of 6 January 2010, UK immigration identity cards are being rolled out to another category of foreign national resident in the UK: skilled workers and their dependants.

In November 2008, the compulsory identity cards were issued by the UK Border Agency to certain categories of non-European foreign nationals when they were granted permission to extend their stay in the UK.

Since then, they have twice widened the range of categories that require the identity card. As a result, the list now stands as follows:

Compulsory Identity Card Immigration Categories

  • Spouses, civil partners, unmarried or same-sex partners (i.e. certain UK family visa holders);
  • Students under Points Based System Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child) (i.e. certain UK student visa holders)
  • Postgraduate doctors and dentists
  • Visitors for private medical treatment
  • Domestic workers in a private household
  • United Kingdom ancestry
  • Retired persons of independent means
  • Sole representatives
  • Transfer of conditions
  • Skilled Workers (added 6 January)
  • Ministers of Religion (added 6 January)
  • Sports Persons (added 6 January)
  • Representatives of Overseas Businesses (added 6 January)
  • Dependants (added 6 January)

If a migrant in one of these categories applies to extend their stay in the UK, they must enrol their biometrics (fingerprints and facial image) before the UK Border Agency decide whether to give them permission to stay. If their application is successful, they will be issued an identity card.

What is the UK immigration identity card for?

The card provides a simple way of confirming the holder's nationality, identity and immigration status in the UK. It shows whether they have the right to work or study legitimately under the UK's points-based system for immigration, and helps them to access public services.

The changes do not affect the settled population, foreign nationals who are seeking to settle here, or applicants in other immigration categories (who continue to receive a vignette in their passport when they extend their stay).

- Marissa Murdock is Casework Department Manager 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.

New Year, new Australian immigration changes: Fee updates for 2010

by Lauren 12/01/2010 11:36:00

The Australian High Commission
is working to an increased level of
exchange rate in 2010.

While the scheduled MODL review has yet to be announced, 2010 has still already been an eventful year for migration updates made by various departments and bodies that are set to have a lasting impact on the Australian immigration process.

On Friday, I covered the recent updates made by VETASSESS and yesterday, I looked at the news from other assessing bodies. Today, I'll look at changes made to the application fees associated with some aspects of emigrating to Australia.

Australian High Commission in London increases exchange rate for paying DIAC fees

The Australian High Commission in London's exchange rate for paying the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) fees has increased as of 1 January, 2010, resulting in an increase of cost to the applicant despite the fee technically remaining the same.

For example, while the Australian skilled visa application fee is still AU$1,705.00, under the former exchange rate used by the Australian High Commission in London, the cost was £870.00. However, according to the new exchange rate used as of 1 January, 2010 though, it is now equal to £1,000.00.

This predominantly affects applications for the Australian partner visa, the Australian prospective marriage visa and the Australian child visa (as well as the second visa application charge for the Australian contributory parent visa, if you choose that it is favourable to pay it in the UK).

Western Australia state sponsorship fee reduced

The Western Australia state sponsorship fee has been reduced as of 1 January, 2010, going from AU$220.00 to AU$200.00. All applicants looking to lodge a state sponsorship application with WA should be aware of this and ensure to pay the correct fee.

- Lauren Mennie is 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.

New Year, new Australian immigration changes: Assessing body updates for 2010

by Lauren 11/01/2010 10:06:00

The Australian Computer
Society (ACS) will change
their policy on 1 February.

While the scheduled MODL review has yet to be announced, 2010 has still already been an eventful year for Australian immigration changes made by various departments and bodies that are set to have a lasting impact on the Australian immigration process.

On Friday, I covered the recent updates made by VETASSESS, and today, I'll look at changes made by some other major skills assessing bodies, including the Australian Computer Society (ACS), Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) and  Teaching Australia (TA).

Changes to Australian Computer Society (ACS) assessment policy from 1 February

We have received notification of an upcoming change to Australian Computer Society (ACS) assessment policy which will be implemented from 1 February, 2010

The criteria for the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process is set to change. At the moment, the requirement is that applicants write three mandatory 'core body of knowledge' essays,  with applicants also able to write on other areas of knowledge using their own discretion.

However, from 1 February, 2010, there will be a new set of criteria called 'Key Areas of Knowledge'. There will be very little overlap between this new set of criteria and the criteria currently in place.

Therefore, if you are in a position to lodge to the ACS or are close to this point, it is recommended that you do so immediately.

However, if you are not able to lodge with the ACS before 1 February, it is advisable to cease working on the RPL aspect of the application, as much of the work you will do will be obsolete (although it is still possible to work on the employment references required for the application, as they will still be necessary).

As yet there is no further guidance on the new criteria, but we expect that it will be released before the implementation of the new assessing policy. As soon as we have any further details you will be notified.

Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) release new application form

On 1 December, 2009, Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) released an updated version of the General Skilled Migration Skills Assessment application form (Version 1.8).

The new application form has new mandatory fields to collect the applicant's passport and visa information.  It's important that all applicants ensure to use this new application form as failure to provide the aforementioned information may result in delays in processing your application.

Teaching Australia (TA) change name to Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL)

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) came into being on 1 January, 2010, as the new name for Teaching Australia (TA).

While the change seems to be a predominantly superficial change (i.e. one with no updates to assessment criteria), there have already been changes scheduled for 22 March, 2010 relating to demonstrating English language ability and the amount of days of supervised teaching practice required. I'll write more on these changes closer to the time and will continue to monitor the AITSL to see whether any further updates are introduced.

- Lauren Mennie is 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.

New Year, new Australian immigration changes: VETASSESS updates for 2010

by Lauren 08/01/2010 16:04:00

VETASSESS' new requirements and
the cancellation of February's
practical have made 2010 eventful.

While the scheduled MODL review has yet to be announced, 2010 has still already been an eventful year for migration updates made by various departments and bodies that are set to have a lasting impact on the Australian immigration process.

Today, I'll look at changes made by one of the major skills assessing bodies for tradespeople, Vocational Education and Training Assessment Services (VETASSESS).

New requirements for VETASSESS applicants introduced

As of 1 January 2010, the requirements for VETASSESS applicants have changed. We've covered these in a previous blog, but I'll summarise the changes again here, as well as the recent details VETASSESS provided. 

All applicants to VETASSESS will now be divided into one of 4 groups, with each of these groups using different methods of meeting the requirements. It's best understood by clicking here to visit the VETASSESS page which specifically explains how to identify which group you fall into.

Depending on which group they fall into, applicants will now need to have the following in order to receive a positive skills assessment through VETASSESS:

  • A qualification that is in a 'highly relevant field of study' to your nominated occupation*; AND/OR
  • Between 1 year and 3 years (depending on occupation) of 'relevant employment' to your nominated occupation.

*Depending on your nominated occupation and which group you are in, you may be able to substitute the qualification that is in a 'highly relevant field of study' for between 2 years and 3 years of relevant employment.

As we noted before, this does set the bar higher for VETASSESS applicants, demanding that they be far more specific in demonstrating their experience and study as it directly correlates to their nominated occupation.

February VETASSESS practical assessment cancelled for the UK

Without warning, VETASSESS have cancelled the scheduled practical assessment for the UK that was set to take place in February. VETASSESS have said this is due to “programming difficulties”, which may well have centred around securing dates and placements at venues in the UK.

The next UK practical assessments are scheduled between the 2nd and 30th of June, and as always, dates are available on a 'first come, first served' basis. However, with February's cancellations, please bear in mind that June is set to be even busier than usual.

Alternatively, should you have an urgent need to have your practical before June (perhaps due to an impending critical birthday), it is vital that you research alternative options.

Such options include travelling to another country to take the VETASSESS practical there (provided the timing permits, as the earliest that international practicals are scheduled for is April), or choosing an alternative visa application such as the sponsored subclass 457 visa route or under the Employer Nominated Scheme (ENS).

Please note though, the ENS is a pathway that is only suitable for workers in certain occupations due to specific licensing requirements. Therefore, you should consider seeking consultation from a registered migration agent or Australian immigration lawyer before pursuing one of these pathways. 

As a caveat, we have seen that VETASSESS may be willing to offer a full refund to applicants who confirm that they wish to withdraw from the assessment process as a result of the practical being cancelled. Please contact them directly to discuss whether you are eligible for this option.

- Lauren Mennie is 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.

Australian visa client testimonial: Byron's story

by Tom 06/01/2010 10:36:00

Byron strikes a pose as a
new Australian visa holder

A former client of ours, Byron Coetzee, recently started a blog summarising his experiences as a new migrant Down Under.

Titled 'Immigrating to Sydney', Byron's blog already has a number of posts that are sure to be of interest to anyone considering emigrating to Australia, with topics ranging from his experiences upon first arriving in Australia to a breakdown of how much it cost for him to complete the Australian visa process.

One of his recent blogs focussed on his experiences as a Visa Bureau client, which he's given us permission to run here as a testimonial:

How did I get my Australia visa?

Well for me I had looked into going to Australia a number of times. At first I did not make it points wise, but this changed after my experience in certain computer languages increased. Actually, my wife did the check and excitedly told me that we could go to Oz now. (We qualified for the 175 visa - which is the best one IMO.)

I did not want any hassles or uncertainty, and to be honest, I have reached the age where I really would rather pay someone else to take care of any research or expertise I might need to immigrate.

We looked at a number of forums and one company seemed to be recommended.

After an initial set of calls to a very friendly lady called Bronwyn Murphy, we were assigned a caseworker after a very friendly and efficient analysis of our visa points.

The caseworker was a guy called Marek Starke who worked with us for a period of about a year and a half.

I cannot have received better service anywhere. Every email or call was answered with in depth knowledge and courtesy. I would highly recommend them as a visa application service with a solid set of staff and expertise.

Hats off to you Marek, as I am by nature grumpy as hell, and I never needed to be irritable ever!

If Marek's bosses every read this... give Marek and Bronwyn a bonus for me!!

Oh yeah, he's a fellow South African..

Anyway, that's how we got our visa.

The bureau we used can be found here: Visa Bureau

- Tom Blackett is Online Editor 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.