There is usually a single core reason for wanting to become a permanent resident of any nation. That reason is to secure the right to live and work in a new country. The secondary reason is to eventually become a citizen of that country. Both reasons held true for me.
In 2005, while contemplating life while nursing a badly sprained ankle while living in Kansas, I made a decision to apply for permanent residency in Australia.
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 various avenues extensively.
I had advanced degrees in Engineering, was under 30, had relevant industry experience and could speak English flawlessly. Hence, it made sense for me to apply as a Skilled Independent Migrant on what was, at that time, a Class BN Subclass 136 Skilled Migrant Visa.
This article specifically deals with my experience of successfully applying for a Skilled Independent Migrant Visa.
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.
At the time when I applied for my permanent residency, one could just follow the instructions and fill out a paper form. Today, the Australian Department of Home Affairs website has an electronic form which one needs to submit an application with an expression of interest. Once assessed, applicants are issued with an invitation to apply for PR, and have 60 days to submit their applications.
Assessment of qualifications
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.
Applying for the correct visa
The next step involved filling out an Immigration Application for a Class BN Subclass 136 Skilled Migrant Independent Visa. (These visas have since been renamed, but they are still there offering the same rights and benefits). 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.
Criminal background checks
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.
English language competence and the IELTS Test
Last but not least, I had to prove my English language competence. Australia requires this of all applicants who are citizens of nations where English is not the first language (i.e. the UK, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland). This was a matter of taking the IELTS test which is held every week or so in specific testing centres around the world. Being an Indian citizen at the time, regardless of the fact that I had a British and an American education, I still needed to take the test. I had to fly to Dallas to take this test. I was already comfortable in the language and didn’t need to study for it.
Mail the 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.