It’s been a month since I last blogged and a lot has happened since my last entry. Work has been insane which is the main reason I haven’t had a chance to sit down and type up something meaningful, but a big project that I’ve been working on is now complete so I can take a bit of a breather and focus on things more important than work… like my blog!
The biggest news from the past month: I am now an Australian Permanent Resident! Woohoo!
That basically means I can quit my stinkin’ job if they make me do any more massive projects like the last one. So, what is permanent residency? For the Americans in the audience, it’s basically a Green Card. Previously, I was in Australia on a work visa that tied me to my employer. My employer sponsored me, and if I quit or was fired, that sponsorship would cease and I’d be shipped back off to the old country. Ick! But now it’s all different: I am no longer tied to a company. I may still work for the man, but I don’t necessarily need him. I have the right to remain in Australia indefinitely. But that’s just the beginning.
Not only can I remain in Australia forever, I can also work here – wherever I want – except for a few government type jobs where citizenship is required. I can study here – whatever I want – so if I want to go back to school and learn a skill that’s more interesting than insurance, I can do that. Woohoo! I can travel to and from Australia as often as I want for the next five years, after which time I’d basically need to get a supplementary travel visa which is quick and painless to apply for. But wait! There’s more!
I am now eligible to access a range of social and health-related payments and services provided by the Australian Government. So, if I lose my job, I can apply for the dole. The “dole” is what Australians call welfare or unemployment benefits (because the government doles it out to people). Trust that I’ll stay far away from the dole, mainly because that requires going into a government office which would surely be filled with a bunch of poor people all begging for money. Horrifying. On a less horrifying note, I now qualify for some types of student loans and even “dad and partner pay”. That’s a foreign concept for an American. In Australia, you get a “baby bonus” for breeding or adopting – just a bunch of money from the government for each child you have – and you get a year of parental leave as well (maternity or paternity leave). Gay couples qualify too because this is Australia after all, and even though New Zealand just leapt ahead in the race for equality, Australia is still pretty progressive, especially when compared with America. So, if I were to meet Mr. Right tomorrow and then marry him (or really, form a de facto relationship with him) right away and then adopt a child together and decide to take a year off work, then I would now qualify for some financial support from the government because I’m a permanent resident.
But trust that I won’t do that either. I can’t stand children like I can’t stand poor people.
The big benefit, however, is Medicare. Medicare is Australia’s universal health care and I’m in love with it because I’m sort of a socialist. I went and enrolled in Medicare the very next day after my visa was granted. Medicare will thus have a whole entry devoted to it at a later date.
As a permanent resident, I am now allowed to sponsor other people for permanent residency, such as an overseas partner (I’m still looking…) or a family member (except for you, Mom – because I couldn’t handle you kvetching about the giant bugs). Even more: I can get some Australian consular assistance overseas which is far more useful to me than sponsoring my imaginary boyfriend or a family member who would surely have a heart attack at the first sight of a huntsman spider.
And just when you thought that the list of benefits couldn’t grow any longer, while researching all of my entitlements just to write this blog, I stumbled upon something that I hadn’t even considered or thought of at all throughout this process: New Zealand.
I am entitled to New Zealand.
Ok, I’m not entitled to all of New Zealand, but I am entitled to travel to New Zealand without a visa, and even more, I am entitled to remain there indefinitely, and even to work and study! Just like in Australia! It’s sort of like a European Union-style arrangement except it’s only two countries instead of twenty-seven and there aren’t as many snooty French people. BONUS! Two countries for the price of one! Woohoo! Ok, actually, it is more like two countries for the price of twenty-seven. Which brings me to…
The process of applying for my “PR” (as it’s known in the expat community) was a bit tedious and by no means cheap. The use of a migration agent is recommended and most employers who sponsor you for PR require it – to ensure it’s done right the first time. Migration agents also aren’t cheap. I had to supply a lengthy application, police checks from both the US and Australia, a birth certificate, university transcripts, a full medical exam (yay for peeing into a cup!), and a hell of a lot more. I also had to list every single country I had been to in the past decade and the dates I was there. So, how many times did I drive across the border to Canada when I lived in Seattle? Heaps of times. And how many times did they stamp my passport? None. Fun! Thankfully I had archived Gmail and Facebook messages which came to the rescue. The agent did their job and did it well, but my company threw a bunch of other obstacles at me which was entirely unpleasant. My information was in months before the submit date, but my company waited for months to even start on their piece and didn’t have it all in until just after the last minute. Thanks! But, once my application was filed, it only took six weeks to the day for my visa to be approved, so my hat comes off to the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship for doing their part quickly and efficiently. Is this was the US, the process undoubtedly would have taken years.
The most important part of this all: permanent residency also paves a pathway to citizenship for me. I can apply to become an Australian citizen – passport and all – in less than a year. The citizenship process is easier – all of the hard stuff is taken care of with the PR. So with any luck, I should be a true blue Aussie by mid-2014. And you know what that means…
I’ll be entitled to ALL THE TIM TAMS I CAN CHOKE DOWN. WOOHOO!!!!
Wait. Australian citizenship does come with a lifetime supply of Tim Tams, right?