Becoming Australian

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 wanted 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 fulfill 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 of two.

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. I applied as a skilled migrant.

I’ve already covered the process of my journey in a detailed post and won’t repeat myself again here.

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 too. 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 renounce 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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