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My journey of becoming an Australian started in 2005. I was lying on my couch in my apartment in Kansas nursing a badly sprained ankle, when I began to consider where I want to spend the rest of my life.

A few weeks later, I’d begun the process of applying for a skilled permanent migrant Visa to Australia. On 12 February 2007, I’d received notification that my application had been successful and that I had been granted Australian Permanent Residency.

On 30 June 2007, I boarded a flight to spend a week in Melbourne to search for a job. I landed in Melbourne at 8:00 AM on 1 July 2007.

If I’d landed eight hours earlier, I would only have had to spend two years to fulfil my residency requirements to become an Australian citizen.

Australia’s then Prime Minister, John Howard, had introduced a change to the rules earlier in the year that I’d been unaware of. I now needed to spend four years instead.

I went through 25 interviews in the next five days, which were followed by a handful of interviews over the phone over the next two weeks. Two weeks later, I’d accepted an offer to my first job in Australia.

In September 2007, I had permanently relocated to Melbourne.

By September 2011, I had fulfilled my requirements to be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship.

I filled out the application in November. A few weeks later, I attended an appointment to take the citizenship test. It took me a minute and 42 seconds to complete. I’d passed without missing a question.

A week later, I received a letter stating that my application for Australian citizenship was successful and that I was scheduled for an oath swearing ceremony in May.

A week before my 36th birthday, I attended my citizenship ceremony at the Melbourne town hall. I was sworn in as an Australian citizen by the mayor of Melbourne, Cdr. Robert Doyle. I was issued my citizenship certificate, and a tree to plant.

I’d officially become an Australian citizen.

A week later, I’d been issued my Australian passport.

A few weeks later, I walked into the offices of VFS. They’re a back office processing facility for the Indian consulate. As required by Indian law, since I’d acquired citizenship of another country, I surrendered my Indian passport, renounced my Indian citizenship, and submitted my application for Overseas Citizenship of India.

As the officer took a pair of scissors to cut off the corner of my Indian passport, I felt something tug in my stomach.

I looked at the officer, and said to her “I just felt like I lost something there”.

She smiled back at me, as she handed me back my now mutilated and cancelled Indian passport. “Don’t worry. You’re not Indian any more. You’re an Australian.”

So how did I become Australian?

This was a three step process.

Step 1: Apply for Permanent Residency

There are a few different ways that one can become an Australian permanent resident, and the Australian Department of Home Affairs website deals with the extensively. For me, the most logical option was to apply as a skilled migrant.

Australia has a points based system which allows potential applicants to easily assess if they will qualify for skilled migration. General criteria are whether you have a set of skills that falls into the Skills Occupation List, possession of advanced degrees, age, relevant industry experience,  competence with the English language, additional applicants, financial capacity and presence of family and friends in Australia.

I had advanced degrees in Engineering, was young, had industry experience and could speak English flawlessly.

Get your qualifications assessed and certified

My undergraduate degree was earned in India, and my graduate work was all completed in the United States of America. I had to fill out an application form with Engineers Australia to have my skills certified. This process was mostly chasing a paper trail, sending the material in and paying a fee. The whole process took about 2 months, at which stage I received a letter from Engineers Australia acknowledging that my qualifications met Australian standards.

The next step involved filling out an Immigration Application for a Class BN Subclass 300 Skilled Migrant Independent Visa. This is an application for Australian Permanent Residency based on your qualifications, with no need for a sponsor. The application form is quite long, and asks for a lot of detailed questions and supporting documentation, all of which just takes time to bring together.

Get your criminal background checks conducted

It also requires one to get clearance from local law enforcement authorities to certify that you have no record of committing any crimes in any of the countries that you have lived in during the past 10 years. I’d lived in Kansas in the United States and India during that time. I had to request an endorsement from the Indian High Commission in Houston (I had to mail my passport in with a completed application form and the fee), and from the FBI (an online form), and Kansas Bureau of Investigation or KBI. The latter involved a visit to the local police office where I was finger-printed. They also provided me with finger-print card which I had to mail into the FBI.

Take the IELTS Test if you are not from a native English speaking nation

Last but not least, I had to prove my English language competence. This was a matter of taking the IELTS test which is held every week or so in specific testing centres around the world. I had to fly to Dallas to take this test. Given that I was already comfortable in the language, I didn’t have the need study for it.

Mail your application in and wait

Once I had all my completed documentation and supporting evidence, notarised transcripts, IELTS score and background checks, I mailed in my application to the processing centre in Canberra. I was advised that the processing time was 9 months, during which time, I had to sit tight and wait to hear back.

Complete a medical check-up

I received an email from the processing centre when they received my application. In their email, they advised me that typical processing timelines were 9 months. They also advised me that I would need to complete a medical checkup, and to only do so when they advised me.

About 8 months into the process, I received an email from the processing centre in Canberra with some forms attached. It was time to get my medical checkup done. There are specific panel doctors in each country who are contracted to do this. My nearest panel doctor was in St. Louis, a 4-hour drive from Overland Park where I lived. I scheduled an appointment, and drove across the state to undergo my checkup while accompanied with the forms.

Once completed, the doctor sent the results directly to the processing centre in Canberra.

A week later, on the 12th of February 2007, I received an email from the processing centre with an attached letter that confirmed that my application had been approved. They also advised me of where I needed to send my passport in to get the label affixed. I was ready to land in Australia, and would become an Australian Permanent Resident the moment I landed on Australian soil.

Step 2: Find a job and move.

I took a week off in July 2007 to visit Melbourne and interview for jobs. I’ve covered this in detail in a previous post. To make a long story short, I had 3 job offers by the end of the month. I moved to Australia permanently on the 7th of September 2007, to start my new role on the 10th of September.

Step 3: Fulfil residency requirements and apply for citizenship

Over the next few years, I changed jobs once, while living in a rental property, and lived a normal life. I had to fulfil the requirement of living in Australia for 4 years (including 1 year continuously during that final year before applying for citizenship). I filled and submitted my application at the Immigration office at Casselden Place in Melbourne after fulfilling my residency obligations.

I had to take the Australian citizenship test. It’s a computer based test of 25 questions. The department of Home Affairs has a publication with the material of the test, and in all honesty, it’s quite straightforward. My test lasted less than 2 minutes, and I didn’t miss a question. At this stage, I received a letter confirming my successful completion of the test, and that I would be scheduled into a citizenship ceremony. I was also advised that typical waiting periods were 3 months.

A few months later, I received an official invitation. On the 2nd of May 2012, I was sworn in as an Australian Citizen at Melbourne Town Hall. At the ceremony, I was presented with my citizenship certificate, and a tree to plant in my backyard. Since I didn’t have a backyard, I left the tree behind.

The next day, I applied for my Australian Passport at an Australia Post outlet. It was issued the following week.

As part of my obligations to my native country of India, I needed to renounced my Indian citizenship. I scheduled an appointment with VFS, surrendered my passport and applied for my Overseas Citizenship of India.

My journey to become an Australian Citizen was complete.

 

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