Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Great Visa Saga

Until the other day, I was starting to think that maybe Australia didn't want me anymore. Since I've been in the process of changing positions from a research fellow in the Fenner School to an Environment Officer with ANUgreen, I've had to apply for a new visa. Apparently, my employer sponsored visa is tied not to the ANU as a whole, but to the specific department where I happen to be working. So, since my last contract expired and because I was changing departments, I had to go through the whole process of applying for a new visa.

I applied for the new visa on the second of April, assuming that was plenty of time to process the paperwork before the start of the new contract in late March. I assumed that was plenty of time because the Immigration website told me so. Two months later in the beginning of June, after calling, emailing and logging in to the online system to see what in the world could be holding up the approval, I start to get annoyed. My previous contract had been extended to accommodate the visa process but the move couldn't be formalized until I had the new visa in hand. Finally, after more than two months they tell me that they were missing some documentation needed to approve the new visa! A signed contract, copies of our passports and new chest xrays. All fine until they got to the chest xray part.

I submitted my application for a new visa before the old chest xrays from last year expired (the ones that clearly demonstrated that neither of us had tuberculosis). The results are valid for twelve months and of course I'm not thrilled about the idea of exposing my body to any more radiation than absolutely necessary. So, hoping to get around that little technicality, I submitted all the forms before the twelve months were up. Two months later, however, they needed to tick that little box saying I still didn't have TB. No possibility for a blood test instead of xrays nor an exemption on the basis of being from a low risk country nor a negative result from the previous year could get us off the hook. Dejected, we went off for chest xrays which of course are only offered at one clinic in the entire city in about the most inconvenient of possible locations. Upon arrival we find that they don't actually make appointments for the xrays and the radiologists just slot you in as they find time. It took them about three hours to find time for us! The whole ridiculous adventure took an entire afternoon, but of course neither of us had anything better to do....

So from there it should be easy. The clinic sends the results electronically to Immigration and we get approved. Except for some reason, Brian's results wouldn't show up in the system. And for two weeks I called and called again to get the two departments to be able to communicate with one another to verify the xray results. His results never did show up in the system; I don't know if McMillin was spelled wrong or what, but finally they decided to just add a note to the file and approve our visas. Good grief. At least we know we don't have tuberculosis.

I'm also renewing my passport since it expires in August. Renewing an American passport while in Australia involves filling out a fairly simple form and sending it off with two photos and more money than should be necessary to make a little blue book with a hideous picture in it. Two weeks after sending off my application, I get a letter saying I must include two acceptable passport photos. Was the photo really that bad? I call up the US Consulate and am struck by the American accent of the voice recording. Strangely comforting. I'm then told that I submitted Australian passport sized photos and not American passport sized photos. Good grief. Sent those off and am still waiting for my new passport.

When I'm not jumping through bureaucratic hoops, I can be found working at a job I love for more hours than I get paid for, knitting or watching the West Wing (I've started the series again - I told you I'm addicted).

On a more fun note, our friends came to visit us last week after several months abroad in Israel, China and Thailand. We've made a cameo appearance on Majikfaerie's Blog in case you're interested. Which reminds me, I've also made a cameo appearance on the ANU Campus Garden Blog if you're really keen to see yours truly hard at work (well, not really in this particular instance).

I swear the planets are out of alignment right now, but at least I don't have tuberculosis. Good grief.


  1. Truly infuriating experience. Well done for getting through it. By the way, there has been a TB case in a Tuggeranong high school recently. Bet you're glad you don't live there!

  2. Sounds like we need more government to help us through our lives.