Friday, 6 September 2013

Migration Chapter 9: Subclass 189 Visa... GRANTED!

Hallelujah! And what a wonderful, bittersweet journey it has been. Many, many thanks to the numerous friends, acquaintances and readers who have encouraged, supported and followed us on our visa application journey. It has been such a roller coaster these past 6 months - fraught with uncertainty, full of ups and downs. Today, we are immensely grateful for the opportunity to start a new life in the Land Down Under. What an amazing feeling. Simple words cannot describe that joy. For prospective migrants to Oz (especially fellow Singaporeans), we will be rooting for you guys! We hope that in time to come, you and your family can also experience this happiness and hope for a better future!


YIPPEE!!!!!


Having browsed through numerous forums in the past year, I am aware the most frequently asked question about visa application has to do with the processing time frame. Thus I'd like to share our actual timeline here, so that interested readers could get a realistic idea on the waiting time required for an Australian PR. 

23 February:      Sat for my IELTS
14 March:          AITSL Skills Assessment Application acknowledged
31 May:             Positive AITSL Skills Assessment 
4 June:             EOI submitted
17 June:           Received invitation to lodge, application lodged on same day
4 July:              Medical completed for me and cleared the day after
15 July:            Medical completed for S and referred to MOC for hyperthyroidism
2 August:          Case Officer (CO) Assigned and requested for additional documents
5 August:          Police Clearance applied
19 August:        Police Clearance Received and all additional documents submitted to CO
2 Sept:             Medical finalized for S
6 Sept, 7.10am: Visa GRANTED! A total wait of 195 days! :)


The next step of our journey and life in Oz will begin in November. Can't wait to spend our first Christmas in Melbourne! 

Magical Melbourne, the most liveable city in the World!

By the way, we will be going for a month-long scuba holiday in Sabah starting next Monday so we may not be checking our blog so often. Nonetheless if you do have a question or comment, feel free to drop it below. Cheers!

- A

Congratulations! You have been granted a permanent visa...

... which allows you to travel to and remain in Australia indefinitely. You may wish to learn more about living in Australia. Further information about living and settling in Australia, including the Beginning a Life in Australia booklet and the Form 994i Settlement information for migrants to Australia, is available on our website at www.immi.gov.au
 
Your entitlements to government services
You may be able to access a range of services offered by the Australian Government such as benefits from Centrelink or Medicare. The department of Human Services delivers a range of social and health-related payments and services. Further information about the range of services that may be available to you and your eligibility to access them is available at www.humanservices.gov.au
 
About your visa
You have been granted a permanent visa which allows you to remain in Australia indefinitely. This visa allows you to travel to and enter Australia as many times as you want until _______. If you wish to travel to Australia after this expiry date, you will need to apply for, and be granted a Resident Return Visa (RRV). Further information is available on our website at www.immi.gov.au

Finally, we got confirmation of our PR grant from the DIAC. We are very grateful for this, as well as support from our friends and readers through our migration journey.

This marks the end of our quest to become Australian PRs, but it is just the beginning of the next stage of our lives. Do follow us on our blog, and for those who intend to 'follow' us to Australia some day, we hope that we can also offer support and guidance (at least for the path that we have covered thus far) in your journey. 

Some of you guys are interested in our detailed timeline for the application process. A will be following up on this in a day or two. Stay tuned...

- S

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Does your country make a fuss about emigrants?

Question as posed in the title to our international audience. I know we get readers from all over the world, and I would really like to hear your views. Do read on to understand the Singaporean context and mindsets when it comes to dealing with the subject of emigration.

To my fellow true blue Singaporean readers, I am trying to understand the artificial stigma that our Gahmen has cast on Singaporean emigrants, or those who want to migrate. To any new citizens or PRs who may be reading, if you've ever been labelled as a "quitter" of your own country and somehow don't know why, this should clear things up a little.

My sensing is that we are Uniquely Singapore, that we are the only country in the world which had its (then) Premier publicly criticise Singapore born-and-bred emigrants, and the act of emigrating.

"Quitters" - that was the infamous term he used. It is a term heavily-loaded with negativity. Just check out the following definitions I have culled from the 'Net.

"One who gives up easily"
"Defeatist, deserter, or shirker"

This has had a trickle-down effect. From the rabid professional PAP Internet Brigaders who go forth and spam blogs - including ours - Facebook and forums with criticism of quitters, to the average Singaporean who has been poisoned by indoctrination from our highly-esteemed mainstream media. We have heard the whole gamut of tirades against quitters, and to a lesser-but-no-less-amusing extent, tirades against married couples who refuse to have kids.

On a slightly unrelated note, the influence of the MSM is so pervasive that just about everyone I've spoken to who hasn't lived in Australia, thinks that food is very expensive there, and that everyone is racist. Even people who plan to migrate there harbour such beliefs. Such as A and I. Of course, such beliefs have been partially dispelled by reading The Wrong Things, and hearing from people who have actually lived in both Australia and Singapore for reasonable amounts of time. But we really need to live it for ourselves before we can discard our hang ups completely. It's really not easy to undo a lifetime of propaganda, even when you know that The Right Things which the MSM have been feeding us are largely biased B.S.

In the short time I spent researching for this post, I didn't manage to find any other country which puts down its own people thus, merely for leaving the country in search of a better life. Which brings us back to my opening question.

Of course, immigrants face opposition in Singapore and many other countries, even in way less crowded places than Singapore. See the links here, here and here. I may have mentioned this before, but it deserves airing again: Singapore has the World's 3rd Highest Population Density, with a steadily-deteriorating public transport system and rapidly increasing housing prices, as well as the World's 2nd Highest GINI coefficient (a measure of income inequality - higher means worse). That immigrants are claimed to have nothing to do with any of these (according to one of them anyway) is a huge stretch on credulity.

So if you have been complaining about the influx, rest assured that in international benchmarking that our dear Gahmen is so obsessed with, you are perfectly normal. In fact, given the ridiculous strain on the infrastructure and the sheer population density, I'd have expected even more complaints and protests from true blue Singaporeans. But I guess everyone here is too busy earning their keep to actually try and make a stand for their future.



At the end of the day, if you are gonna scold your citizens for Giving Up Easily and being Deserters or Shirkers, you should recognise the  sheer irony of importing even more quitters from other countries to take our places.

"For every one person leaving, Singapore takes in eight - most of them equally skilled." - Fight or flight, by Seah Chiang Nee, 26 August 2002
Although I have gone a little off-tangent, let's steer right back to my original question! Is Singapore unique in criticising its citizens who emigrate? Do drop a comment!

- S

Migrating to Oz: Visa application fees have Increased again!

Bad news, folks. All Australian Visa application fees (except tourist and student visas) have increased another 15% as of 1 September 2013!! 

Compared to the 1 July 2013 visa fee increase which was announced by DIAC more than half a year in advance, this additional 15% increase from 1 Sept has been rather hush-hush till August and so caught many by surprise. Many netizens and migration agents have reacted negatively to the change, criticizing DIAC for increasing the fees again, after only 2 months from the significant increase that happened after 1st July. DIAC has announced that the release is a result of the recent release of the Economic Statement for the 2013/2014 financial year.

How much are you willing to pay to migrate?

For the most updated complete Visa Pricing Table, click here. To have an idea on how the visa fees have increased this year for Subclass 189/190, I have done a simple table below to illustrate the difference in costs based on some common profiles of applicants. All stated fees are in Australian dollars.

-->
Eg
Profile for Subclass 189/190
Fee from 1 Jan to 30 June
Fee from 1 July to 31 Aug
Fee from 1 Sept onwards
1
1 primary applicant only
$3060
$3060
$3520
2
married/defacto couple
$3060
$3060 + $1530
= $4590
$3520 + $1760
= $5280
3
married couple with 2 kids below 18
$3060
$3060 + $1530 + 2($765)
= $6120
$3520 + $1760 + 2($880)
= $7040
4
Additional second installment for each dependent above 18 with less than functional English

$4250

$4250

$4885

I know what you're thinking: the price increase is really steep for migrating families.  As I did some further research on the fee increase, I noticed a number of good websites and blogs, as well as interesting forums as people speculate on the reasons behind the drastic fee hikes. Many of the points raised are interesting or valid, so check them out if you are keen. Of course, there are a number of ranters as well.

If you want to and can migrate, don't waste time with the Singaporean cry-mother-cry-father style of complaining about fee increases-- that changes nothing. Unless the online petitions actually work (which I highly doubt), the new prices are here to stay and can only increase further with inflation next year. Time waits for no man. Act before the next increase and good luck!

- A

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Migrating your money to Australia

Hi everyone!

A has shared with us how much it cost us to migrate to Oz. Now it's time for us to begin transferring our money to Australia, given the decent exchange rates... While our PR is still pending thanks to my medical, we have assessed that it is worthwhile to transfer at least some of our money over for now.

This post is not just for those who are migrating to Oz, but anyone who may want to transfer money to an overseas bank account. Of course, I will be covering additional information specific to those making a long-term move to Australia, so bear with me.

Do note that I am by no means an expert or even experienced when it comes to such matters. I am merely sharing what I went through. So if you have alternative or better ways to do it, please share in the comments section below. What works for A and I, may not work best for others, so I am sure some of you readers can enlighten us too!


Setting up your Australian bank account

Obviously for prospective migrants, you'd have to set up your bank account down under first. A bank account demonstrates a certain level of financial status to your prospective landlords as well as providing a means for employers to pay you. Setting it up from abroad allows much more lead time and allows you to transfer your funds in your own time, perhaps at a competitive exchange rate. Which bank you'd choose would boil down to individual preference, or pure randomness if like us, you can't make sense of the deluge of information from the internet or helpful friends and relatives.

For starters, I set up a Commonwealth Bank account for A, and National Australia Bank account for myself. Both these banks (and I presume the other Australian or even international banks) allow for applications from overseas, but the money transfer is a ONE-WAY STREET until you have personally activated the account. That means you can only access and transfer the money out of your CB/NAB accounts after you have presented yourself at the bank in Australia, and activated the account with the relevant identification documents.

Why different banks? I didn't know better so I decided to anyhow whack. I usually learn best from personal experience. Turns out that NAB has zero account fees and much more responsive customer service. I can't promise that you will have the same experience with regard to customer service, and A's NAB account did take a few days longer to set up than mine. However, her Commonwealth Bank application process has stalled and we have been subsequently been unable to contact the person - or cyborg - who first made contact with us. I just hope that we won't find her saddled with charges for the apparently-orphaned account that we are just going to abandon. Yes, CB charges monthly fees of between $4-6.

My approximate expression when faced with all the options. Though I am far less handsome...

I guess it only makes good business sense to move fast and furnish your potential customers with all the information needed to transfer funds. In this aspect, NAB hasn't disappointed. Which is why I have been able to make three transfers thus far (trying to catch decent exchange rates) and verified through NAB internet banking that the money has reached my account, though it's stagnant until we show up there. Not that I'd mind, with 4% p.a. interest for the first four months in NAB iSaver thanks to their promotion. The usual rate of 2.5% p.a. applies after that.


Best Bank in Singapore to transfer from?

Having evaluated Standard Chartered, UOB and DBS personally, DBS comes out tops in my book. Best foreign exchange rates every time I've checked, with the lowest fees. Our friend working in Oz told me that Citibank offers comparable charges to DBS (before the special offer mentioned below), however, their exchange rates are inferior in the few instances I have compared.

If you are transferring a small sum of money, whatever bank you are using should be fine. But if you are transferring a larger sum of money, say above $10k, you might want to consider moving your money to DBS first.

Existing DBS customers should note that there is currently a special offer for Internet Banking transfers. Zero charges from the Singapore side! But A$5 per incoming transaction from NAB.

For me, DBS iBanking works just fine. I find that it is effectively as secure as going to the bank to do it, because any theoretical increase in risk of doing the online transfer is mitigated by my ability to check and doublecheck my recipient's details at my own time, from the comfort of home.


So, how does one transfer the money?

This is where I have to say that, "If you have to ask..."

I really won't know how to help you. But do leave a comment if this makes you feel very outraged or cheated. :p

I've found all the internet banking services (from DBS, Citibank, UOB, Stanchart, NAB) to be quite user-friendly. So it's just a matter of getting Internet Banking services set up via your bank's website, then following the instructions. In fact I think DBS's ibanking is the least user-friendly of all those I've tried, due to the ever-changing, and very abundant functions. But given the competitive rates, I have no complaints. "Least" is relative, it just feels less intuitive, but hasn't given me any problems I couldn't overcome thus far

Good for visiting friends

If you have friends you trust in the country you are visiting, and you are changing more than a few hundred bucks, it may make sense to change just a bit of foreign currency and transfer the rest of your budget to them via internet banking. The rates DBS offers are about 1c off the Internet exchange rates, better than any local money changer I have seen, at least for the Australian dollar.

So if you are coming to visit us in future and don't want to carry so much cash, you know what to do! Don't be shy ;).

- S