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GUIDE TO THE 143 CONTRIBUTORY PARENT VISA DISCLAIMER: The contributions contained here are presented without prejudice by visa applicants in their personal capacities, based on public information freely available off the Australian Immigration website. You are therefore advised to treat this information with caution, and to seek professional advice and assistance from a MARA registered immigration agent for all visa related matters. __________________________________________________________________________________________ On 23 August 2014, a thread dedicated to the 143 Contributory Parent (Migrant) Visa was started on this website for the express purpose of creating a single repository of information for other applicants. Within five months, this thread attracted more than 20,000 views and increased to 18 pages in length, making it increasingly difficult for readers to extract core information about the visa. For this reason, a condensed version of the thread has now been created which includes all those bits of information, commentary and questions that can assist new Parent Visa applicants. __________________________________________________________________________________________ SECTION ONE: Orphan’s Diary #1: PLAYING THE WAITING GAME (posted 23/08/14) We are currently in limbo (or as someone has aptly coined it "The Waiting Room") while we await the appointment of our Case Officer ("CO"). Our application was registered on 17 May 2013, although confirmation of this was only received by us on 15 July 2013. Initially, we were advised that the delay in processing our application would be "less than 12 months", but this has gradually moved out over the intervening months to the current official delay of "18 months". This waiting game has proven to be the most frustrating part, particularly as there is no way of knowing quite where you stand. For those in this visa class, there is no official queue, as has been created for the Non-Contributory visa classes. So tracking one’s progress is difficult. But one can still get an idea of what is going on from other sources. Firstly, I suggest you send an email at month-end to firstname.lastname@example.org You don't need to write anything, as this will generate an automated response which provides you with the latest update and information on every class of parent visa. About halfway down the return email, you will see which month the authorities are currently processing for the 143 visa class. Note that this date does fluctuate - for example, in the beginning of June 2014, the delay was reportedly down to "16 months"; but by the end of that same month it had returned to 18 months again. The next place you can visit is a website at www.gainwave.co.uk which publishes a "CPV Progress Tracker". Here other visa applicants are posting their timelines, and you can get an idea of how long it is taking to complete the whole process. Finally, there are other websites similar to this one, where people are posting their time lines - such as www.pomsinoz.com and www.perthpoms.com ______________________________________________________________________________ #2. WHAT ABOUT THE VISA MONEY? (posted 24/08/14) For most potential emigrants, the decision on whether to move to Australia is probably the most difficult and traumatic. For us it was simple - with both our children and all of our grandchildren living there, there isn't too much keeping us here in South Africa. Equally simple was our decision to go for the Contributory Parent Visa - we couldn't wait 23 years for a visa (which was the official delay back in early 2012, before they allocated more visas to this category). The only problem here was that we certainly didn't have a spare million rand lying around to pay for our 143 visas! (But if you do, then you can stop reading now!) So ultimately, the most difficult decision we had to take was WHEN to sell our house to raise the money needed for the visas? We decided to do so immediately upon submitting our application, for two reasons: Firstly, at the time of submitting our application, the official delay in processing 143 visas, was "less than 12 months". Coupled to this, was the presence of a very clear and quite threatening instruction appearing on the immi.gov.au website: "If you are applying for Contributory Parent visa, you should note that processing times can vary. It is important that you ensure you have funds available for the second visa application charge at all times during the application process, as payment may be required at an earlier date than was anticipated at the time of visa application lodgement." Not knowing quite when you may be called upon to fork over a million rand is a recipe for sleepless nights! Secondly, the local house market was (according to our estate agent), going through a "slump" (don't they all say that?!) and we had no idea how long it would actually take to sell it. As it was, it took precisely 10 days, (and for cash nogal) which then meant that we had to rent something in the interim. The wrong decision? No, not at all. I would do the same again Firstly, for the reason that we sleep better at night knowing that the money is in the bank. And secondly, because we sleep better at night knowing that the money is now sitting in an Australian bank! Using our foreign exchange allowances (R1,0 million per person per annum, renewed on the fist of January each year) we have been able to (legitimately) move most of our money out of the country over the past two years by transferring this to our children. More importantly, we have been able to spread these transfers across a range of exchange rates, starting at below R9.00 to the AU$, and amortising at around R9.40. As the exchange (buy) rate is now over R10.20 to the AU$, this has proven to be a pretty good investment in its own right. With the deteriorating state of the Rand, and your limited allowances, the sooner you can start this process, the better. And the great news is that not having a house to live in and look after, is not a bad thing at all! All of our stuff is sitting in storage (more about this aspect later) and we are now living out of suitcases (good training for when we arrive in Australia), and travelling around the country saying goodbye to friends. We are currently in Ramsgate, on a seriously extended 4 month holiday - how tough is that? ______________________________________________________________________________ #3. THE D.I.Y. VISA APPLICATION (posted 24/08/14) The impression I have gained from reading posts on this and similar forums, is that there is a tendency towards outsourcing the Visa Application process to an external Immigration Agent. We didn't. Rather, we elected to go it alone, for the simple reason that the 143 Visa is expensive enough without having to pay someone commission on top of it all; and, more importantly, because the whole application process is actually quite straightforward. One thing I shall definitely give the Australian authorities - they provide a very clear set of instructions on what you need to do. Therefore you don't need to be a Literary Major, Red Tape Engineer, or an experienced Interpreter of Bureaucratic Double-speak in order to undertake this task. For this reason I would strongly suggest you give it a go yourself before rushing off to an outside agency. After all, who can look after your own affairs better than you? Your starting point is to download a copy of "Booklet 3 - Parent Migration" from the Australian Government website at www.immi.gov.au/visa This booklet is really comprehensive, and covers just about every question you may have about the visa application process. Because it covers all the Parent classes, you may get a little confused at first; but after reading it twice, and even a third time if necessary, you will get a very clear picture of what is required. Keep a copy of this booklet on file, because you will probably need to refer to it quite often while you wait, particularly if you start having doubts about whether you have done the right thing, or perhaps you may read a blog containing some misinformation which puts the wind up in your sails!. BUT, if after all this you still have a question, or want a more comprehensive answer, or need to discuss your specific situation, you can send an detailed email to the WA Parent Visa Centre at email@example.com This will trigger an automated response, but if your question is not covered in this generic email, expect a written response from someone at the Centre in two weeks. They are a really helpful bunch! Filling out the various forms can be pretty onerous and time consuming. But this does have the advantage of forcing you to get all your ducks in a row - like renewing your passports and digging up long-forgotten documents. You need to start early, because some of these forms may be difficult to acquire. particularly if you have lost one and need to apply for another copy. Remember too, that at the time of completing the application, you are looking about two years down the road before actually leaving for Australia, so diarise things like when best to renew your driver's license (because you can automatically convert a current SA license into an Australian driver's license.) My final suggestion is to appoint one of your Australian-based children as the designated recipient of written communications. You will find this section in Part L of the application form. (It does require yet another form, but I think the advantages outweigh this!) I did this in order to speed up the process, and have someone over there who could respond immediately to any issues. For example, I couriered my application and (irreplaceable) original documents directly to my son first, just to make sure that these didn't get lost in the bowels of the South African Post Office. Once in Australia, these documents could then be safely posted onto the authorities. Finally, and without wishing to cause offence, I recommend that you be absolutely truthful in your application. Resist any temptation to downplay, or even fudge some of the information you are submitting, particularly in respect of your health and character assessments. I believe that the Australian authorities are very positive about granting Parent Visas, because they recognise and appreciate the value of the family unit, and the contribution parents can make to society, the economy and caring for grandchildren. They desire to find in our favour; not to prevent us from being reunited with our families. Therefore, we are the only ones that can mess this up by being less than honest at all times. ______________________________________________________________________________ #4. GETTING THE POLICE CLEARANCE CERTIFICATE (posted 26/08/14) Our 143 visa application (Form 47PA) arrived at the WA Parent Visa Centre on the 17th May 2013. One month later the first VAC payment was deducted from our credit card, and another month later we finally received an official acknowledgement of receipt. To our relief, these delays did not impact our visa lodgement date, which was officially recorded as being the 17th May, the same date our application was received at the Visa Centre. This date is something which gains increasing importance as we wait our turn for our Case Officer (CO) to be assigned. The “Acknowledgement Letter” provides a five point Applicant Checklist with critical action dates when various tasks must be done. Coupled to this is a no-nonsense injunction to "ensure you follow all the instructions provided in this letter carefully". Erring on the side of caution, we have done exactly that, by only carrying out tasks, and submitting or retaining documents, as and when instructed. I mention this because there seems to be great deal of confusion among visa applicants as to when to undertake these tasks. This appears to be due to Immigration Agents advising their clients to "hold back because of processing delays", and only start actioning things "once the CO has been appointed". My problem with this approach is not only that it goes against the written instructions of the Parent Visa Centre, but also because once your CO starts your assessment process, you have a limited amount of time to respond to his/her requests. As I certainly didn't want to apply for a Police Clearance Certificate from Pretoria with a visa deadline in place, I went ahead and applied for our PCCs on the date specified! Number I on the Applicant Checklist is the "Personal particulars for character assessment" - otherwise known as the “Form 80”. This requires a great deal of information about everyone in your family, which takes quite a bit of time and research, and is probably why they call for it to be completed and submitted immediately. You should therefore do without delay! Number 2 on the Checklist is your Police Clearance Certificates (PCC). For this we were instructed to commence the process “10 months” after our visa lodgement date, which translated to March 2014. So that was when we did it. However, as we were also instructed to "Retain until requested by our case officer", we continue to hang on to these for dear life. The actual process in obtaining your PCC is not complicated, and you can read all about it at www.saps.gov.za/services/applying_clearence_certificate.php The first step is to get your fingerprints taken at your local police station. This will cost you R59.00 per person, payable there in cash on the day, or beforehand by EFT, but take your proof of payment. When having your fingerprints taken, you must advise the officers that you will be submitting this application yourself, and then get them to fill out all the necessary forms that you need to submit. (Also I suggest you take along a pile of tissues and liquid soap to clean your fingers with afterwards!) The actual PCC is issued by the South African Criminal Record Centre in Pretoria. If you happen to live close by, you can drop off your documents at 271 Frances Baard (was Schoeman) Street. For the rest, I strongly suggest you use Postnet who have set up a PCC delivery, tracking and return service. Your local Postnet will send this through to Postnet Pretoria for actioning (owner is Philip Opperman, contact number 012-3222419, or firstname.lastname@example.org) We did it this way, without any hassles, and got our certificates back in only three weeks, at a cost of R850 for both. (I understand that Postnet has now running a Postnet-to-Postnet special at only R99.00, which should reduce this cost). Your Police Clearance certificates are valid for 12 months from date of issue. BUT, and this is critical to remember, you will have to “activate” your visa (by entering Australia), while your PCC is still valid. So, if you see the visa processing delays growing longer, (i.e. to potentially beyond 24 months from lodgement date) you should think about only applying for these closer to your expected CO appointment date Finally (and I am happy to put money on this), I guarantee that the moment you receive your Police Clearance Certificate back from Pretoria, you cannot open it without a little twinge of anxiety about what it contains! ______________________________________________________________________________ #5. FIXING THE COST OF THE 147 VISA (posted 26/08/14) In your Acknowledgement Letter you will find your visa “Lodgement Date”. This date marks your place in the queue, and signals the start of your long wait for a visa. Your Lodgement Date is also important for another reason - the fees you pay for the second instalment of the visa fee (“VAC2) will be calculated according to the fees applicable on that date. Historically these fees go up at the start of each tax year - i.e 01 July; however that seems to have changed recently, and visa charges have been increased randomly throughout the year. You can find your own visa fees on the immi.gov.au website, but here are the 1st and 2nd VAC prices since 2012 1st VAC 1st VAC 2nd VAC 2nd VAC TOTAL Main Applicant 2nd Applicant Main Applicant 2nd Applicant (2 applicants) Start of 2012 $1,995 Free $40,015 $40,015 $82,025 01 July 2012 $2,060 Free $42,220 $42,220 $86,500 01 Sept 2013 $2,060 $1,030 $42,220 $42,220 $87,530 22 Mar 2014 $3,520 $1,185 $43,600 $43,600 $92,935 ________________________________________________________________________________________ #6. TAKING THE MEDICAL (posted 28/08/14) Number 3 on the checklist in the Acknowledgement Letter is an instruction to undertake a medical examination, and an X-Ray. You are provided reference numbers for this purpose, known as your "HAP numbers". Each applicant receives a personal HAP number, which one must present to the examining doctors. You also get an action date on which to undertake the examination; in our case this was exactly 12 months after our lodgement date, namely 17 May 2014. If you are anything like my wife and I, you will approach the compulsory Medical Examination with a fair degree of trepidation. At our age, most parts of our bodies seem to creak and leak a lot, and there are all sorts of strange lumps, bumps, flaps and thingamabobs which defy description, but could potentially sabotage our chances to qualify for our visas. In preparation for our medicals, I went online and found the official examination form used by the designated doctors, namely Form 26: Medical Examination for an Australian Visa at www.immi.gov.au/allforms/application-forms/forms_alpha.htm#m Filling in this form before the event not only saves you and the Doctor a great deal of time, but also helps keep everyone in a good mood (which has to be an advantage, right?). It is also helpful because there is a great deal of information required about all your previous illnesses and operations, that will necessitate you going way back into your archives and memory banks. My wife for example has had so many operations in her lifetime, I should have married two of her and used one for spare parts! For your medical, you cannot simply pop down to your long-time family doctor. Rather, you are required to see the limited number of Australian-approved GPs and Radiologists who practice in the six cities only. You can get their names and contact details online at www.immi.gov.au/Help/Locations/Pages/South-Africa.aspx If you happen to live outside of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Bloemfontein, Cape Town, or Port Elizabeth, you will have to travel to one of these centres. The medical itself is pretty straightforward, and comprises a physical examination, eye test, height and weight measurements, and blood and urine samples at the one location, followed by an X-ray at the radiology practice nearby. If they pick up anything out of the ordinary, you may be required to undertake more laboratory tests. Note that these local doctors are there only to collect information, not to pass judgement. The final decision rests with your Case Officer, who will either approve the result, or refer it to the Medical Officer of the Commonwealth (MOC) if there seems to be a problem. Unfortunately you don't get to see your medical results. It is requirement for these to be immediately posted online the Australian "eMedical" electronic health processing system by the doctors themselves. Your results are stored here in your personal visa folder for future use. What I found rather strange however is that your acknowledgement letter instructs you to "Retain (your medical results) until requested by your Case Officer", which obviously doesn't happen, and is outside your control. A useful tip if you have any doubts whether or not your doctor has actually sent off your results, is that you can go online and check it for yourself at www.emedical.immi.gov.au/eMedUI/eMedicalClient If you are concerned whether you might fail the medical examination, you can get some indication from the government website about the sort of things the Australian authorities are looking for. According to what is posted there, to meet the health requirement, you must be free from a disease or condition that is "considered to be a threat to public health...", "likely to result in significant health care and community service costs..." and "likely to require health care and community services...which are already in short supply..." The following are listed as being "the most common diseases to result in the failure to meet the health requirement for a permanent visa": Intellectual Impairment HIV infection Renal disease or failure Cancer Alzheimer's/dementia Diseases which are considered to be "threats to Public health or a danger to the Australian Community" are: Active TB HIV Hepatitis Yellow Fever Polio Ebola On the issue of medical conditions which may result in "significant costs" being incurred, these are assessed for a permanent visa "over a five year period" (or three years for those aged 75 and older). You can read about these three aspects in more detail at the following websites: www.immi.gov.au/allforms/health-requirements/threats-public-health.htm www.immi.gov.au/allforms/health-requirements/significant-costs-services-short-supply.htm Your Medical Examination has a 12 month shelf life, so do your sums to make sure you don’t take these too early, in case the delay in processing your visa is extended. Finally, and I stand to be corrected, the cost of our medical examination was around R1600 per person. ______________________________________________________________________________ #7. PACKING UP (posted 29/08/14) I read somewhere that packing up and moving is the second-most stressful event in one's life after Divorce. Whether this is true or not, I cannot say; but I do know that packing up and moving to a completely different country is seriously traumatising! Worse still, because Australia is so strict about what you can take in with you (as anybody watching Border Patrol will know), there is a great deal of pre-removal preparation needed which requires much time and effort. What follows below are some of the general importation issues which the two of us were faced with, but of course everyone is different, and you may have other things such as pets and motor vehicles to worry about. Therefore I suggest you go online and upload some of the many publications which the Australian government has provide on this subject. The most useful publications can be found at the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (“Daff”); in particular, they provide a comprehensive list of just about any item you can think of at: www.daf.gov.au/publications/biosecurity_australia, www.apps.daff.gov.au/icon32/asp/ex_querycontent.asp Based on our own experiences, here are our Top Ten must-does for you: 1. Start Early! The sands of Time run out very quickly while you aren't watching, and you don't want to be trying to sort things out when the packers knock on your door. We started two months before then, and still could have done with another week. 2. Clean Everything This is not because your things are going to be in little boxes for a very long time, but because the Australian authorities demand it. To quote, "Before packing, the Department requires that any items that have been in contact with food, soil, plants, animals or their products are thoroughly cleaned and free from any contamination" 3. Remove the Rust A good sign that your machinery, tools and equipment have been "thoroughly cleaned" is to remove all the rust. In particular, take care that your garden tools, lawnmowers, outdoor furniture and planters have been properly attended to, because these do come into direct contact with grass and soil. We dumped anything we couldn't restore to almost a new state, and even went as far as de-rusting and repainting our garden spades and forks, and wrought-iron garden benches. 4. Treat the Wood You need to check every wood product to see whether there is evidence of infestation, such as wood borer holes, sawdust piles, tunnels, chewed timber, or cracks wide enough to harbour insects or larvae. In addition, the Australians are very concerned with untreated wooden products, particularly indigenous Art,such as African statues, carvings, masks and suchlike. For these we varnished anything that appeared to be raw wood, and sanded down and re-varnished everything that looked rough or weather-beaten, such as my workbench, wooden shelving and garden bench slats. Anything with signs of infestation was burnt. 5. Steam-clean the Camping Gear My wife and I are serious campers, and have over the years collected a lot of camping and fishing gear which we were loath to leave behind. We were warned however that these types of items are high on the Australian radar, and advised to steam-clean everything we have. Fortunately we have a small high-pressure steam-cleaner which was ideal for this purpose. But if you don't, you can always take your stuff down to the local car wash to have it done. Once completed. I made out an affidavit listing everything that had been cleaned in this manner, and had it witnessed and stamped at our local police station. One other thing, be careful to wash your freshwater fishing tackle really well, as apparently there is some sort of bacteria that infects used hooks and line. 6. Check the Christmas Decorations You cannot take a Christmas tree into Australia - whether real or artificial. In addition, you need to go through all your Christmas decorations and turf out any with pine cones (which may carry seeds) and plant materials such as grass and holly. 7. Clean the Dust Collectors Make sure that your vacuum cleaner is really, really clean and bag-less when you send it, because we all know what lives under the bedroom carpet, don't we? Similarly with your brooms, brushes, and dustbins. This might also be a good time to vacuum the mattresses and clean the fluff collector in the tumble dryer. 8. Dump the Grass You will need to get rid of anything made of grass, such as floor mats and yard brooms. My wife was devastated to learn that her beautiful modern display of coloured rod-like things were in fact made from a type of hollow grass, and had to be left behind. 9. Eat the Food You cannot take in any food products in open packets, or anything which looks suspiciously like something home-made. More importantly, eat or dump the spice, herbs, curry powders, cereals, rice and flour. Don't know what it is about South African manufacturing and storage, but every bit of dry food we buy today seems to be infected with weevils or bugs of some description 10. Empty the Washers Before packing up your washing machine and dishwasher, make sure you empty out all the water in the reservoir and pipes and dry everything well. Apart from the mess, you really don't want your machines to arrive with the smell of brackish water. Finally, there is a good financial incentive for doing all this preparation really well. When your stuff reaches Australia, it will be subject to a quarantine inspection at port of entry. The charges for this inspection are based on the length of time it takes to inspect your goods. Thus anything you can do to shorten this event will be of benefit to you; and clear evidence that you have taken the time and trouble to eliminate the possibility of contamination will satisfy the inspectors and weigh heavily in your (pocket's) favour. ______________________________________________________________________________ #8. MOVING DAY (posted 31/08/14) For us, Moving Day arrived on 17th June 2014. I remember this date specifically because the 16th is a public holiday in South Africa, which fell on a Monday. And so, having enjoyed a refreshing long weekend, our team of Movers arrived with all the energy and enthusiasm of a pack of Jack Russells. We, on the other hand, were ready to collapse from exhaustion, having spent that weekend feverishly preparing for their arrival. The choice of which Moving Company to use is really important, because you will be entrusting all your possessions into their hands for quite a long time (In our case, a year or more). Also, as you cannot keep control over the ten or more people wandering all through the house for close to a week, you do need to have faith in their integrity. Although I went out and got three quotes, my choice of Company was less based on price, and more on reputation, testimonials and personal experience. We have over the years used a number of different movers; but because we have enjoyed good experiences with Pickfords Removals on four separate occasions, and their price was the most competitive of the three companies we invited to quote, we ultimately selected them. (Allow me to say at this point that I have absolutely no affiliation with this company or any of their staff, other than as a client). In addition, there were four other factors which influenced our choice of Company: - Pickford's sales executive, Greg Schreuder (083-6250988) is a real professional, knows what he is talking about, and has a good understanding of Australian requirements; - Pickfords has its own sister company in Brisbane (Allied Pickfords); and so you are dealing with one company from start to finish, and the Australian inspectors are interfacing with local lads - Our furniture and boxes are not sitting on some warehouse floor while we wait for our visa. Instead, they are being stored in two dedicated 20ft storage containers, both secured with my own locks, for which I hold the keys until shipping. Everything will have to be repacked into the actual 40ft container used for shipping it across, but that will be the only other time my stuff is handled. - Pickfords can store our furniture at their premises for an indefinite period of time, and at a good monthly rate, (which is approximately half of what I would pay for the same service in Australia). Therefore I can delay my shipping date until I have found where I am going to live. Like everything else, you need to start preparations for Moving Day early, because once the team arrives, you don't have time to think, never mind attend to unfinished tasks. One of the things we started way before this event was to keep all the original packing materials for our electronic and kitchen appliances. We could then pack these correctly into their cartons using the proper Styrofoam fillers. The movers then wrapped their bubble wrap and cardboard around these as well, thereby providing double protection. If you haven't done so, try approaching the supplier or your local appliance retailer for spare cartons. We found Hirsch's in Fourways very helpful in this regard. We also made sure that our major appliances were properly serviced before being packed. Mainly because its cheaper here, but one never knows whether there will be spare parts over there for some of the locally made products, such as Defy. An added advantage is that these usually come back from the service agents squeaky clean. We replaced those appliances which we knew wouldn't survive the journey, or were looking too long in the tooth. But you do need to plan carefully here, because one of the requirements for avoiding import duty is that these must be at least one year old, and Used. In our case we discovered at the last moment that our double-door fridge/freezer was not "CFC-free" and needed to be replaced. Fortunately our stuff will be in storage for most of the stipulated period of one year. Neither did we bother to export either a motor vehicle or trailer. For one, these would have taken up too much space, and required us to take a second container at great expense. For another, there was also the headache of having to contend with police clearances, import duties, and even more forms. So we sold all these on OLX, which only took a couple of days, and without any hassle. My wife is undoubtedly the best packer (and gift wrapper) I know, and insisted on personally attending to all her china and other valuables. Pickfords graciously accommodated her by providing wrapping material and a pile of old boxes about a month before the event, so that she could get started. All that was left for the packers to do was to transfer her carefully wrapped goods into their correct transportation boxes, and seal them. This did save at least half-a-day, thereby reducing the overall price, as well as cutting down the possibility of breakages. What also saved us some money was to dismantle as many things as possible in advance. Our large wooden patio table and twelve chairs, for example, disassembled into a pile of wooden slats. As too our dining-room furniture, headboards, dressing tables and garden benches. Whatever you can do to shorten the number of days it takes to pack you up, will reduce your bill. There are certain things, like original paintings and ornate mirrors, which need to be specially crated in wooden boxes. On our second attempt, we found it best to have them assemble these on site, item by item, rather than prefabricate these back at Pickfords. The reason for this is simple - the arrival of a couple of dozen wooden crates of various dimensions creates a great deal of confusion, and inevitably something gets packed incorrectly, requiring sealed crates to be reopened. As previously mentioned, there are also number of things like African carvings and wooden products which are high on the Australian watch list. These need to be put to one side and packed separately from the rest, as well as being clearly marked. I would imagine that your quarantine inspection will start here; and if done properly and deemed safe, the rest of the exercise will go a lot smoother. On the question of Price, it is of course difficult to apply our situation to yours. Except to say that on a 40ft container, with insurance, storage, shipping and forex, you are not going to get much change out of R150,000. ______________________________________________________________________________ #9. UNRAVELLING THE “FORMAL EMIGRATION” PROCESS (posted 12/09/14) For the past two weeks, I have been trying to make sense of the formal emigration process, and the steps we shall need to take prior to us leaving this country. Much has been written on this topic in the Money Forum and other threads on this website, and I (like many others before me I'm sure), approached this subject with a great deal of confusion. So much so in fact, that I made contact with four emigration professionals who regularly subscribe to this website and offer advice on emigration. But more about them later..... For those Contributory Parent applicants following this thread, I have some good news concerning emigration proceedings..... it really isn't that complicated! And if you are in the same position as us, with only a small amount of money to take out, no fixed assets to worry about, and only a Living Annuity to your name, the even better news is that YOU DONT HAVE TO DO ANYTHING! Formal Emigration (also known as “Financial Emigration”) is really only for those people with Retirement Annuities who want to encash these before retirement age, or perhaps for those with more money than can be moved using their foreign exchange allowances (discretionary and foreign investment). But for those like us who have already converted their RAs into Living Annuities, this isn't an option, as these attract taxation, must be paid into a local bank account, and cannot be transferred in bulk when you leave the country. Thus life can go on pretty much as normal, providing you don't formally emigrate. You don't lose your SA citizenship. You keep your SA bank account, and conduct transactions via online banking. Your pension fund continues to be paid out monthly/quarterly/annually into your local bank account, after which it can be transferred to Australia without having to apply for Reserve Bank approval. You continue to pay taxes on your pension at source, and submit a tax return each year. On the plus side, as an on-going taxpayer, you are then entitled to a Foreign Investment Allowance of R4.0 million per annum which can be used to transfer any funds to your Australian account. On the other hand, Formal/Financial Emigration results in a change in one's status at the Reserve Bank to that of a "Non-Resident". You are de-registered as a taxpayer with SARS (once all liabilities and credit cards have been settled). Your money is placed in a Blocked Rand Account with an authorised Dealer Bank. And all your assets (insurances, property deeds, shareholding certificates) are blocked and placed under the control of the Dealer bank. From this time on, all capital transfers must go through this dealer bank, who will apply for the necessary foreign exchange approval. You don't lose your SA Citizenship, but should you return to the country at a later date, you will need to reverse this process and apply for residency status and the reactivation of your tax number. The application process for Formal/Financial Emigration seems quite simple, and basically involves four steps only. First, you need to complete a MP336a Form for submission to the Reserve Bank. You can find this form, and download a copy of the Exchange Control Manual, at www.resbank.co.za . As your bank needs to complete and sign a section of this form, it would be best to use them to help you complete it (most banks advertise this service). Accompanying your MP336a submission to the Reserve Bank, must be a Tax Clearance Certificate for Emigration Purposes. You can apply for this from SARS, by completing an IT21a Form which you can find at www.sars.gov.za. This will take 21 days to process, so you should start early with this. But note that before SARS will grant it, you will need to have settled your credit card and all other liabilities, Once your non-residency status is registered at the Reserve Bank, your bank will open a Blocked Account in your name. From this point on, you are obliged to process all financial transactions through this one account. The final step is to apply to your insurers to pay any retirement annuities into your blocked account. Provided your RA was initiated more than 5 years prior to your date of emigration, you will be allowed to transfer the full amount. If less than 5 years, you will need to make application to the Financial Surveillance Department. Your insurance broker will be able to advise you on this. Having said all this, I am sure that there are many intricacies relating to emigration that I am not aware of, and which may affect others differently. In which case you may need to seek professional advice and assistance. But from our point of view, it comes as a great relief to me knowing that we can just pack our bags and move without having to jump through bureaucratic hoops, and deal with any more red tape. I rest easy in the knowledge that I am able to manage my bank account without any issues, can use my Australian address for FICA purposes, will continue to receive SMS notifications and one-time passwords, and can transfer my pension abroad without a problem. But if you intend to emigrate formally, and prefer to outsource this task to a specialist emigration company, what follows next is my experience in dealing with four institutions which I picked up from this website. ______________________________________________________________________________ #10. USING FINANCIAL EMIGRATION AGENTS (posted 13/09/14) I must confess that I have been in two minds whether to write this section, as it is bound to ruffle some feathers. However, I figure that if Financial Emigration Agents are going to hang out their shingles on a website like this, and actively use references from Forum Members to generate business, then they should be prepared to take the rough with the smooth. That being said, what follows is a summary of my own experiences, which may be entirely different to yours, and shouldn't be used to influence your decision unduly. As mentioned above, I approached the whole financial emigration issue with very little understanding of what was required, and under a great cloud of confusion. This was probably aggravated through reading the many blogs about this topic on this website, for the simple reason that one size doesn't fit all. Everybody has a different set of needs, and unless you get the full picture of a person's financial affairs, it is easy to get confused by some of the advice given here, well-meaning as it may be. With the benefit of hindsight, what I should have done before approaching any of the Financial Emigration Agents was to have read up as much as I could around the subject. I should have visited the Reserve Bank and SARS websites, which provide some useful information on the subject, as well as met with the foreign exchange division of my Bank. Having such prior knowledge would have been advantageous when dealing with the Agents. My first contact was Hugo van Zyl - a regular contributor to this website, and very knowledgeable in taxation and emigration proceedings. Hugo responded immediately to my email, and we arranged to hold a telecom meeting the following day, for which he charged a fee. The amount quoted was "circa R1200" with a 10% early settlement discount. But when I expressed my unhappiness with an open-ended fee structure, he did amend this to a flat rate. Hugo telephoned me at the pre-arranged time, but on a line which obviously went through his internet. As a result, our connection was not of the best quality, making hearing difficult, and the conversation was repeatedly interrupted by incoming Skype calls. The call lasted one hour (although I think Hugo had budgeted for one half that length); at the end of which I was more confused than ever! The problem was that Hugo threw so many variables at me in that time, that it was impossible for me to keep up. My notes of that conversation are a mass of half-completed sentences and obscure references such as "183/60 day SA rule?????". Although this was a very unsatisfactory meeting, I cannot lay the blame at Hugo's door. He knew his stuff, while I had very little idea about the options available to me, or what route to follow. Consequently, I didn't know what questions to ask, and such a telephone call is not the best way to learn the ABC of Emigration. But where Hugo has failed me, is in completing the transaction. As part of his fee, he was supposed to have provided me a written report of our conversation and his recommendations. Its been 12 days, and I have neither received that report, nor his invoice, nor his formal quote for conducting the Financial Emigration process on my behalf, although he did mention a figure of circa R7,500. [Footnote: neither the report nor the the bill has ever arrived!] My next approach was to Cashkows - who many contributors to this Forum have made use of and reportedly enjoyed good experiences. I cannot say, because by the time they finally made contact, I had already given up on them. My initial contact was made through their website, where I completed their contact request form and specified the time I wanted the telephone call to take place. I waited to hear from them at 09h00 the following day...and the day after...and the next...and the next....and the next, before finally giving up. Eventually, late in the afternoon on the sixth day I received a call from Pieter who explained that the reason he had not made contact earlier was because he was "very busy, and working 18 to 20 hours a day" Not really something I needed to hear. I figured, being so busy, it was unlikely my little account would get much attention! So I never did get to hear how much Cashkows would charge for conducting my financial emigration, which seems dependent on an individual's portfolio. But at least their consultation is free. Also, their website does contain a lot of useful information which is worth reading. [Footnote: One of Cashkow’s directors subsequently contacted me and requested more details of this incident, for purposes of an investigation. Which goes to show that they do read comments posted on this website!] My third port of call was to Tara at Exchange4Free - another prolific contributor to this forum. She immediately responded to my email, but only to say that she had passed my enquiry on to someone else. It turns out that her role is that of Online Marketer, which presumably means that her sole function is to drum up business on websites such as this. Nevertheless, someone from that organisation did make contact the following day, as promised. I never did get her name, but she did sound new to the job. Instead of asking about my own situation and needs, she immediately launched into her sales pitch which included phrases like "Emigration is a very complicated process" and "It takes many months to complete the process". This monologue did start to unravel when I had to cut her off in the middle of her explanation about transferring RAs (which don't apply in my case), and correct her assumption that I had already left the country. But at least this consultation was free, and we did eventually agree that formal emigration wasn't really that complicated after all! Importantly, Exchange4Free will conduct the entire emigration process on your behalf for R9,500. My final contact was to Tanya at FX Capital. And all I can say is that I wish I had spoken to her first! I took up Tanya's offer made on this website for free information on emigration, and received a long informative email about all the various aspects involved in the process. It was here for the very first time, that I learnt that I did not personally need to go down the path of formal emigration! This was such a revelation that I immediately phoned her, and had a most informative 30 minute conversation which answered all my questions, plus some, and for which I am not being charged. FXCapital’s quoted fee for formal emigration is R7,750 per family unit. Although this does not apply to me anymore, I have, as a result of my interaction with Tanya, decided to conduct all future Forex transfers through her organisation, due to their low fee structure as compared to my Bank. ______________________________________________________________________________ #11. GETTING READY FOR YOUR C.O. (posted 01/10/14) Unless something changes in the next two months, I think that all of us in the Waiting Room are now looking at a 19 month processing delay. That being said, we are still hopeful that the extensive delay in processing February 2013 applications was an exception, and that things will not deteriorate further, but may even recover and get back on track. On the upside, all my research into what happens after one's CO is appointed, points to the final stage taking very little time if everything is in order. By this I mean that it could take as little as three weeks between the appointment of the CO and the visa being granted! The key is to have everything on hand for when it is called, so that every document is ready to be couriered to the Parent Visa Centre as soon as it is requested. [Footnote: Now that we have our visa, I can accurately report that can take only four days between your CO first making contact, and getting your visa! BUT, this is entirely dependent on you having everything ready when it is called for by the CO.] Although I am not absolutely clear what these may be, I do know of the following:- 1. Police Clearance Certificates: One can apply for your PCCs from SAPS approximately eight months before your CO is appointed, but keep in mind that these only have a 12 month lifespan. It is not necessary to send the original PCC documents to your CO, but you must have them available if called for. What we have done is to make notarised copies of our PCCs, and have couriered the originals to our son in Australia. Thus it will only be an overnight (and trustworthy) delivery to the Parent Centre if called for 2. Medical Examinations: One can also undergo your medicals approximately eight months before your CO is appointed, but the only reason for you not to have these done immediately is if you intend to delay your departure to Australia once your visa is granted. You are required to take up your visa within 12 months of it being granted; and your medical must still be valid when you enter the country. However, if like us you intend to climb on the first available plane after the visa is granted, then there is nothing stopping you taking your medicals the moment you are entitled to. You get your HAP numbers in your visa acknowledgement letter, and that is all your doctors require. Once done, these are posted on line directly to the Visa Centre, and remain there until your CO is appointed; you need do nothing more. 3. Assurance of Support: As I write this, my son is speaking to Centrelink about his Assurance of Support requirements. As our sponsor, he will have to meet a formula-based income level, provide two years' financial statements, and undertake a telephonic interview, before being approved. We are starting this now as we don't know how long this aspect takes, or what the delay might be. One’s starting date for an AoS appears in your acknowledgement letter. [Footnote: We did not realise at the time how time-consuming this process would be, or just how many difficulties we would be faced with. As a result, although we started this about two months before our expected CO appointment date, we only completed this exercise about two weeks AFTER our CO was appointed. I cannot emphasise how important it is to start applying for your Assurance of Support immediately you are permitted to do so.] 4. Form 1221 (????): I have stumbled across one other document which we MAY be asked by our CO to complete. I cannot be certain about this as there is very little information on this, apart from one reference from a couple emigrating out of the UK who mentioned that they were required to complete it. It is known as the "Form 1221 - Additional Personal Particulars Information", and can be downloaded from the Government website at www.immi.gov....ms/pdf/1221.pdf. As it is a lengthy document requiring quite a bit of personal information, I have decided to complete it in advance, just in case it is needed. Once we have gone through the whole process ourselves, I shall be in a better position to advise others about this particular item. [Footnote: In the end we were never asked to complete the Form 1221. I suspect that this is only asked of Parents who are in their 50’s and are intending to continue working in Australia.] 5. AOS Bond & VAC 2 Payments: Payment of the AoS Bond and the VAC2 only takes place right at the end of the whole process. For some, paying such a large sums will not be a problem; for others like us, it may require the sale of one’s house. If you are in this position, my advice is to put it on the market as soon as possible. The reason being that the housing market is very fickle, and something you think should go quickly, can often take months or even years to sell. And if the market is slow, you will grow increasingly desperate as the visa deadline approaches, and could end up giving it away at a bargain price just to get rid of it. Furthermore, once it is sold, getting something to rent in the interim is not difficult, even if only on a short-term lease. ______________________________________________________________________________ #12. CROSSING THE FINISH LINE After 566 days, our own journey is now complete. All that remains for us is to close our bank accounts, say our final farewells, and get to the airport on time. However, it would be remiss of me not to write a final chapter about what happens after your CO is appointed. Although you will have gleaned quite a bit of information about this from the preceding four or five pages, it is worth summarising the events which follow receipt of that long-awaited CO letter. 1/ The Case Officer Appointment Letter The first thing to know is that the so-called "CO appointment letter" does not actually exist. There is no grand announcement; nor are you provided the name of a Case Officer to communicate with. Instead, you will receive a standard emailed letter which starts Dear __________________, Request for Information – Parent Subclass 143 (Contributory Parent –Migrant) I am writing about your application to migrate to Australia, which was received on __________20__, and which is being considered under the provisions of a Parent subclass 143 (Contributory Parent – Migrant) visa.......... And is signed simply - Parent Visa Centre, Department of Immigration and Border Protection This letter lists the various bits of information that the Visa Centre requires from you and gives you 28 days to do so, although an extension can be requested. This list will change from applicant to applicant, depending on their personal circumstances. For example, if you haven't taken your medicals you will now be asked to do so. However, the following three requirements appear to be common to all: A request to complete the Assurance of Support (AOS) through Centrelink.A key instruction is highlighted under this section of the letter - "Please send a scanned copy of the AOS Acceptance Letter from Centrelink to the Parent Visa Centre by email." This means exactly what it says. Once you have received the AOS Acceptance Letter from Centrelink through the post, YOU must email a scanned copy to the Visa Centre. Although Centrelink will itself upload the AOS information to the Immigration system, the Visa Centre will not continue with your application process until you have sent them a copy of the actual acceptance letter you received. A request to provide a Police Certificate for each applicantYou don't need to send the PVC the original Police certificates. This letter asks for a "scanned copy of the police certificate", and for you to "retain the original document as this may be requested". A request for Polio VaccinationsThis requirement only applies to people who have lived for "28 days of longer in any of the 10 countries listed below on or after 5 May 2014" - Afghanistan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.] In addition to the above, this letter (and every communique which comes out of the Parent Centre after this) emphasises the following: "Change of Circumstances: If the applicants experience any changes in circumstances, the Department must be notified in writing within 14 days of the event. Forms to be used are: Change of Address Notification: Form 929 ‘Client Change of Address’ Changes in Circumstance: Form 1022 ‘Notification of Change of Circumstance’." 2/ The Assurance of Support process Having received your Request for Information letter from the Visa Centre, the focus of attention now switches to Centrelink and the Assurance of Support requirement. As mentioned previously in this thread, you don't need to wait until you hear from the PVC before starting this process. In fact, your original acknowledgement letter from the PVC states that this process can commence 12 months after your visa lodgement date, i.e. about 6 months before you expect to hear from the PVC case officer. We found this process to be the most frustrating, as all sorts of things seemed to go wrong, from Centrelink scanners not working, to our sole Centrelink appointed contact going off sick for a couple of days. In the end, competing the AoS process, and getting the all-important acceptance letter, took us a full 6 weeks. So the sooner you start, the better. The steps in this process are as follows: Your Assurer/Sponsor makes contact with Centrelink, and presents an original copy of the AoS letter that was attached to the acknowledgement letter you received after lodging your application. At this first point of contact, Centrelink will provide your sponsor with information on what the AoS bond entails, and what forms need to be completed.Your Sponsor completes all the necessary AoS forms, and presents these, plus all the other required documents - such as financial statements and payslips - to Centrelink for scanning into their system. It is important to keep copies of everything that was scanned, because, in our case, some of these "disappeared" off the system, and had to be done again.About two weeks after this, your designated Centrelink case officer, will contact your sponsor and conduct a telephonic interview. The main purpose of this is to assess the financial capacity of your sponsor, and explain the legal and financial implications of an Aos commitment. As a result, it can be a rather traumatic event for your sponsor.Thereafter, based on the interview and information provided, a final assessment of your sponsor is conducted by another division within Centrelink. The results of their decision, whether positive or negative, is communicated to your sponsor in writing, and comes through the post, (not by email). If your application has been unsuccessful, you are provided only 14 days in which to find another, or an additional sponsor (you are allowed up to three sponsors), following which either the whole process starts again with your new sponsor, or Centrelink advises the Visa Centre of your rejection..If your sponsor's application is successful, he/she will be sent a second letter by Centrelink (again, by mail), requesting your sponsor to pay in the Assurance of Support. This can only be done at the Commonwealth Bank, who will open up a dedicated Bond Account in the name of your sponsor. If you are not an existing Commonwealth Bank client, there is an additional fee to open the Bond Account ($140, I think).To open the Bond Account, you will need to show the Bank the original letter received from Centrelink through the mail (they wont accept a copy). The AoS bond amount is currently $10,000 for the main applicant, and $4,000 for each additional applicant. Note that this bond money is held on account with interest for a period of ten years from the time the visa is activated.The Bank will issue your sponsor a payment receipt, and bond guarantee letter, which must both be scanned and sent back (by email) to Centrelink. Only upon receipt of these documents will Centrelink issue a final AoS approval letter, again in writing and again through the mail.Immediately upon receipt of the AoS approval letter, a scanned copy MUST be sent by you (or your sponsor), to the Visa Centre. Only this will trigger a resumption of your Visa granting process.Although this is a long, tiring, and at times, frustrating process. we found our Centrelink Case Officer (Victoria) to be extremely able, willing and helpful. Despite her being very busy, Victoria often went the extra mile in trying to expedite the process for us. Therefore, I would strongly encourage applicants to try and build a personal relationship with their case officers, as they all appear to be very empathetic and supportive, particularly towards us grannies and gramps!. 3/ Second VAC Payment Once all your requested documents have been lodged with the Visa Centre, the final stage takes hardly any time at all. It is not unusual for the Visa Centre to contact you within two days to request payment of the second VAC. At this point, you will now receive an emailed letter from the Visa Centre requesting payment of the Second Visa Application Charge (VAC), and giving you another 28 days to do so. For this, there are two payment options available - by Bank Guaranteed Cheque, or by Credit Card. The latter choice will obviously incur a horrendous bank charge of between 1.5% and 3%; but I also read somewhere that Immigration levy an additional credit card charge, so you had better research this carefully before deciding on this route. It may be the quicker payment option, but compare this to the $10 charged for the bank guaranteed cheque from an Australian Bank. Note that you cannot send cash or a personal Cheque, and that cheques drawn on a foreign bank will result in a 28 clearance delay. The Bank Guaranteed Cheque needs to be made payable to the "Department of Immigration and Border Protection" and should be sent by registered mail to the Parent Visa Centre in Perth. This cost only $6, and took less than 24 hours to reach its destination across the country. Once this Cheque has been deposited, the Visa Centre sends a final Visa Grant letter, containing, inter alia, your Grant ID number and initial arrival date. Note that for offshore visa applications, you need to be out of Australia when the visa is issued. The Visa Centre does give you the option of notifying them if you are in the country, and delaying the visa being issued until after you have exited. Your 143 Parent Visa is "Label-free", meaning that it is issued electronically and does not require a physical label to be affixed in your passport. This means you can enter the country immediately upon receiving the visa grant letter (just take along a copy of the letter in case!) As a final footnote, I want to pay tribute to the wonderful support we received from the manager and team of the Parent Visa Centre in Perth. Due to the unexpected delays we experienced with our Assurance of Support, we were under immense pressure to complete the process in time for our booked flights. Although we did so in order to secure our arrival in time for Christmas, I would not recommend you book your tickets until AFTER you get your visa. It is a sure-fire recipe for sleepless nights and more gray hairs! The staff at PVC were incredibly empathetic to our plight, and pulled out all the stops to ensure we got our visas in time. Therefore, don't be reluctant to give them a call if you have a problem or need assistance; they are a wonderful bunch of helpful people! _____________________________________________________________________________ #13 - SETTLING IN (posted 02/01/15) We have now been in Australia for 8 days, and I cannot begin to tell all of you in the Waiting Room just how great this country is! Granted we arrived just before Christmas, and the past week the whole place has been in party-mode, but words cannot describe just how different things are here. Mrs Orphan and I feel truly liberated! And for those reading this who may still harbour some doubts whether you are doing the right thing - DONT! I absolutely guarantee you wont have any regrets coming here. That being said, here are some pointers about what to do when you first get here. 1. Open a Bank Account This was a very quick and painless exercise We went to the Commonwealth Bank, who pride themselves on eliminating the sort of bureaucratic red tape we are so used to in RSA. We were expecting to have to provide "100 points" of Identification, and although we took along everything we could think of (Visa Letter, Passport, Identity Book, old Credit Card, Letter from ABSA Bank, SA Drivers License, and my son's Utility Bill) all they wanted to see were our passports. (No need to FICA here!) It took us all of 30 minutes to open a joint "daily" (current) account, a savings account, and get onto internet banking. Actually that part took about fifteen minutes, and we spent the rest of the time talking to the bank lady about her own parents who are in the throes of emigrating. And the Bank didn't need any money to open the account - "Just put some money in when you have it" was the response. We get our bank cards in four working days; but what was really useful was that the bank gave us a letter attesting to the new accounts, and reflecting my son's residential address, which we used for opening our new Mobile Phone and Data contract. Also, being a new client, we got all sorts of great deals, like an additional 1.5% Interest for the first three months on our savings account, taking us to over 4%. To put that into perspective, the inflation rate here is running at between 2 and 3 percent 2. Register with Medicare The second thing we did was register our arrival with Medicare. First we collected an application form from Medicare, which we filled in while having breakfast in the Shopping Centre. But this same form can be downloaded directly off the internet. On returning to Medicare, which looks more like a upmarket Doctor’s waiting room, the "Concierge" met us at the door and showed us to a comfy settee in the reception area; took our names down on a Galaxy tablet, and apologised profusely for the "10 minute wait" we could expect! Exactly on time, we were ushered to a booth, and efficiently dealt with by a very friendly lady. All she asked for were our passports and a copy of our 143 Visa Letter. It took her about ten minutes to punch our details into the computer, before we were presented with temporary Medicare Cards, "in case anything should happen in the seven working days it will take before your permanent cards arrive". And that was it! A very far cry from any government department in RSA! Next on our list is to convert our driver's licenses, and find somewhere to stay......But more about this later ______________________________________________________________________________ #14 - EXCHANGING YOUR SA DRIVER'S LICENCE I have just exchanged my SA Driver's license for an Australian one, and the process is simple. quick and stress-free....... The steps shown below are for Queensland State, but I would imagine that it won't be much different in other parts of the country. (Note that you can legitimately drive using your SA Licence for 3 months. (Some forumites have recommended that you do so in order to familiarise yourself with the rules of the road without fear of having points docked.) Download and complete a Form 3000 from the Department of Transport websiteGo into your nearest Department of Transport Service Centre, and present this form together with your old SA Driver's Licence, and sufficient evidence of your identity. In terms of such evidence, you will need the following:PassportTwo different SA (or Oz) bank cards which have your name printed. (They are very strict about this and wont accept things like letters from your bank; it seems that it MUST be an official bank plastic card of some sort. So hang onto your credit cards, and don't let your bank cut them up when you close your SA accounts!)Proof of Residence (I showed them my first Mobile phone statement)Cash or Debit/Credit card. (There is an annual licence fee, and you can select to pay from one year ($68.80) up to five years ($154).Combed hair (they take a photo of you!)Once again, the whole process was very slick and friendly - it only took us about 30 minutes, despite quite a few people ahead of us in the queue. More importantly - no tests needed! [Footnote: a Forumite has posted that a “boat licence and your driver' licence are on the same card. So if you are planning to get a boat licence, do it before you get your drivers licence, otherwise you will end up paying twice.”] ______________________________________________________________________________ #15 - THE JOYS OF HOUSE-SITTING When you first arrive in the country, you will obviously need somewhere to stay. You have probably planned to plonk yourself down with your kids, and then rough it for awhile as you await the arrival your furniture. But if you are like us, you may first wish to spend some time sussing out the place while you decide where to settle down. In which case, living on top of your children for an extended length of time could eventually become a tiresome burden for everyone concerned, particularly them. What we have done is to register as “house-sitters”. There are a number of websites dedicated to this, and in return for a modest fee of around $55 per annum, one gains access to all the houses available house-sitting in your area (or throughout Australia if you are in the mood to travel) . The task of house-sitting involves looking after a person’s home and pets whilst they are away, which generally includes mowing lawns, watering plants and cleaning pools. These house-sits can last anything from a few days to six months. In return, one gets free accommodation, lights, water etc, as well as the opportunity to explore different areas. There is quite a bit of competition for these houses, but to our huge advantage, most people request “senior couples” for the role. In the short time we have been here, we have secured bookings right through to October already, with only a few blank days in-between assignment. At these times we will be returning to sleep on mattresses at our children’s home. On the downside, trying to secure house-sitting assignments can be quite stressful in that feedback from most advertisers is pretty bad, and one is often left in limbo. Also, juggling dates to avoid overlaps can be difficult. But in the end, we have found it extremely enjoyable and, of course, financially rewarding. We have met some wonderful people doing this, and had the chance to visit areas all over the Sunshine Coast that we may never have seen otherwise. If you are interested in doing this, the two websites we have found to be the best by far are www.aussiehousesitters.com.au and www.mindahome.com.au. I would also personally recommend you avoid joining www.happyhousesitters.com.au who promise much but deliver very little __________________________________________________________________________________ SECTION TWO: Applicant Questions and Answers QUESTION: I know your visa type is very expensive. I've also heard that the wait time has blown out to 18 months (it used to be 2-3 months). How much of your cash is already handed over to Immigration, and are they paying you interest on that sum? At this point in time, the only cash we have paid over is the first instalment of our Visa Application Charge (“VAC1”). In our case this amounted to $2,060 for both of us, but this has since increased to $4,705 for two people. This fee is non-refundable, even if your visa application is unsuccessful. The next payment will be made in November, when we are required to lodge our Assurance of Support (AOS) Bond, This will amount to $14,000 for the two of us. As the name suggests, this money is held in trust for ten years by the Commonwealth Bank, on behalf of Centrelink, and is used to refund the Australian Government for any social services (excluding Medical) which we may draw on during that period. At the end of the 10 years, whatever remains of this money is returned to us with interest. The final payment - namely the second instalment of the Visa Application Charge (“VAC2”) - will be the last thing we pay before being issued our Visas, which we anticipate will happen in December, This is the bulk of the fee payable, which in our case will amount to $84,440 for both of us, but currently stands at $87,250 for two new applicants. This fee is only payable if one’s visa application is successful. On your second point, the income being derived by the Australian Government from contributory parent visas is indeed significant. According to the latest information published, there have been 8,675 visas allocated to Contributory Parent and Non-Contributory Parent classes for the 2014/2015 year. Of these, 1,500 have been allocated to the Non-Contributory sector, and 7,175 to the Contributory parent visa class. Doing the calculations at today's visa prices, it means that EACH YEAR the Australian government makes $346,6 million (R3.6 billion) out of Contributory Parent visas alone! ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: I was wondering if you could help me with a visa that would be available for my mom? She currently lives in a separate dwelling on our farm. We inherited the farm through my grandfather, who was her dad. We have now sold and feel terrible as this means she now has to move. She has never been dependent on us except for the roof over her head. She currently travels to the UK annually for 6 months where she does care work, then back to us. My mom holds a British passport. We are moving on a 489 State Sponsored visa, and once we have met the criteria we can apply for PR after 2 years. I am the only child How long could she join us for in Oz at any given time? Once we have PR she could apply for the 143 CPV but she would like to join us there instead of coming back to SA every 6 months? From what you have told me, your mother would qualify for a Parent Visa under the balance of family test, with you being the only child. You will however need to be resident in Australia for two years before becoming eligible to sponsor her. Under the Parent Visa category there are, in theory, a number of visa sub-classes she could apply for, but in practice, only two feasible options, due to the extraordinary delays involved. To go through her options...... Because of the recent legislative repeal discussed previously in this thread, she could apply under the two "Non-Contributory" sub-classes - (namely "Parents" for those under 65, and "Aged Parents" for those over 65). You have a 6-month window of opportunity to do so again. These visas cost significantly less than the Contributory Parent sub-classes, however, as the current delay in processing these is 30 years, this is in all likelihood a non-starter for the family. Ditto for the Aged Dependent Parent Visa, with a 56 year delay! Which really only leaves the "Contributory Parent" visas (sub-class 143 & 173), and "Contributory Aged Parent" visas (sub-class 864 & 884) if your mother is over 65 years. Both categories of Contributory Parent Visas contain a "Permanent" and "Temporary" visa option. As the name suggests, the latter is an interim visa which allows you two years to convert this to Permanent status. Once you have a temporary visa, the delay in converting it to Permanent is currently 6 months. The advantages of this visa type are that you only need one medical at the start of the process, and your initial visa fee is lower. However, because the Temporary visa price is not fixed at the time of application (as it is with the Permanent visa) the total cost including conversion is likely to be significantly higher. What is also key about the Temporary visa is that it cannot be extended or renewed beyond the two year time frame. The current costs of the Contributory Parent and Contributory Aged Parent visas, are exactly the same, as is the processing delay, which is currently running at 19 months from visa lodgment date. In respect of the second part of your query, I believe that there is a special visitor's visa available for Parents to visit their children in Australia for an extended period of time. This is the multiple entry "676 Tourist Visa", which allows a parent to stay for 12 months in any 18 month period. The only requirement is for your mother to have adequate health insurance for the duration of her stay. I thought as she travels and works in the UK for 6 months of the year and therefore makes a living that DIBP would not see her as a dependent. She has no income in SA. Would she be seen as a dependent even though we will be arriving in Australia on the 26th November and she will be staying here? We will be responsible for her accommodation in SA. The Aged Dependent Relative Visas (114 and 838) are for people who are over 65, and "can demonstrate that you have been wholly or substantially dependent on your relative in Australia for financial support for your basic needs of food, shelter and clothing or because you have a disability which prevents you from working. This support must have been continuing for at least three (3) years before your application is lodged." As it sounds like your mother is getting some form of income in the UK, and is not "wholly or substantially" dependent on you, I think you may find it quite difficult to prove dependency to the satisfaction of the authorities. However, with the queue for this type of visa being 56 years long, I would imagine that applying for one for your mother seems rather pointless. Nevertheless, there does exist the possibility to include your mother on your skilled visa (depending on the type you have), and it does appear likely that you can include her on your visa even after it has been granted. The regulations state: "Your family can also apply for this visa separately if you already hold either...the Skilled-Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489), or a provisional visa in subclass 475, 487, 495 or 496." The only issue appears to be that of "dependency"; but note that the requirements attached to your type of visa are slightly different to those of the Aged Dependent Relative visa, as follows: “Your other relatives will be considered dependent if all of the following apply: they do not have a spouse or de facto partnerthey usually live with youthey are wholly or substantially reliant on your financial support for their basic living needs (food, shelter and clothing)they are more reliant on you for support than on any other person or sourcethey have relied on you for at least the 12 months immediately before you lodge your application”From what you have described, your mother may meet these requirements to the degree necessary to win official approval. I certainly believe it would be worth a shot. ______________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: Do you know anything about over 18 dependency? What evidence they require to prove dependency of 18+, and how seriously does DIAC take it ? To answer your last question first, I think the DIAC are taking +18yr Dependency applications extremely seriously, for two reasons: The Australians are very sensitive to all forms of "Dependency", whether this is for an aged person on pension and Medicare, or a young disabled adult dependent on state support. Australia has an aging population, and there are concerns whether the country has the means to support them properly. For this reason the retirement age is being gradually raised to 70 for men and 65 for women (I stand to be corrected on this)The other reason is that "dependency" is a fairly nebulous concept. What one person may consider a being a reasonable motivation and measure of dependency, another may not. And because of this, there is a risk of this being exploited by people desperate to get themselves and their entire families into Australia.For these reasons I believe that the authorities will carefully scrutinise those applications which seek to bring in a family member on the basis of "dependency". So back to the question. I am not an expert, but the requirements for proving dependency appear to be pretty clear and straightforward, and seem to be the same for every type of visa. First you must prove relationship. A dependent relative must be your brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or step equivalent. No-one else will qualify. Next, you must be able to show that ALL of the following factors exist: The relative is "wholly or substantially reliant" on your financial support for their basic living needs (food, shelter and clothing); andThe relative is "more reliant" on you for support than on any other person or source; andThe relative must have relied on you for that support for a "substantial period" (usually a minimum of 12 months before lodging your application)However, if the dependent relative is disabled, you must be able to show that he or she is wholly or substantially reliant on you because they cannot work due to the total or partial loss of bodily or mental functions. Finally, note that if the dependent relative is currently married, engaged to be married, or in a de facto relationship, he or she is automatically disqualified. ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: I'm looking to get my in-laws to Oz and have a few questions. I think the cost of the whole 143 visa is +-$90000. Is any of that refunded to you? I know once the Visa is granted, one would be able to live, work etc in Oz and have access to Medicare. I've also read somewhere that my in-laws would have to live in Oz for a period of 10 years before receiving any sort of pension payments through Centrelink. Am I correct ? The total combined cost of visas for both in-laws is currently $91,905, comprising VAC1 of $4,705, and VAC2 of $87,200. Neither of these charges are refundable. However, these prices do rise annually, according to a unique formula based on the level of demand, which has historically worked out at around 5% per annum. These increases used to happen on 01 July each year, but recently there have been ad hoc increases at different times of the year, so one can no longer bank on this. In addition to this, you as their sponsor will be required to sign an Assurance of Support declaration, as well as deposit a financial bond (ÄOS Bond") of $14,000 with the Commonwealth Bank. The AOS bond is refunded with interest after your in-laws have been resident in Australia for 10 years. However, whatever welfare payments they receive during this period will be deducted from this bonded amount. Further, as Jordy has posted earlier in this thread, you, as sponsor, will be responsible for declaring and paying tax on the interest you receive from this bond. With the Contributory Parent visa, your in-laws will qualify for Medicare the day they set foot on Australia, and are able to work there. I don't know too much about pensions, except to say that your in-laws could qualify for an age pension after 10 years. I would however imagine that they would first need to become citizens. Also that the pension will be the standard amount paid out, which I believe currently stands at a basic of $2,342.00 per couple/per month, plus an additional $234.00 per couple/per month in the form of supplements (energy and pension), less a percentage of any income from other sources. ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: Is there anyone that went over to Australia before their CPV was granted ? With the issuing of lenient tourist visas lately, we were thinking of going over on our tourist visa a few months before getting a CO. Our Tourist Visa (received a week ago) is valid until 2022 with 12 months stay duration. We were thinking of rounding up everything by the end of next year, store our stuff with the shipping agency, and go and "visit" our kids for a few months until our CPV is granted. Obviously we'll have our PCC and Medicals done before we go (about 4 months before expecting to get a CO). Once we receive the Visa, we'll hop out of the country (Australia) and return to activate the CPV. Can anyone advise us on the pros and cons of such a move? It is my understanding in respect of an off-shore visa application, that you must be out of the country when your visa is issued; but that there is no restriction preventing you from visiting the country on a tourist visa prior to then. I think the problem arises if you mess up the timing and are still in Australia when the visa is issued. But I have read somewhere about someone who circumvented this by informing their CO that they were still in Australia, resulting in the visa being delayed, and allowing them time to quickly pop across to New Zealand. We have friends who submitted an off-shore 143 Visa application from South Africa in early 2010. Later that same year, they put in a second off-shore visa application after realising that their daughter hadn't been living in Australia long enough at the time of the first application. Then they went to Australia as tourists to visit their daughter, While there, they received a call from someone at the Parent Visa centre querying why they had submitted two applications. But when this woman from the Centre heard that they were actually in Australia, she suggested they submit a letter to the Visa Centre, changing their application to an "on-shore" application, as this would, according to her, take only "3-6 months". They wrote the letter, got a bridging visa to allow them to remain in Australia, and were issued their Parent visa six months later. If you intend to go and visit your children in Australia, and have the means to stay on there for a lengthy period (up to one year), perhaps it is worth investigating this option before submitting your off-shore application The only other issue I can see is having access to documents requested by the CO, which may be sitting in South Africa while you are overseas. Thanks for the reply, Orphan. Because I made the slip up of saying that I'm retired on my tourist visa application form, I got a "No further stay" clause. On page 2 of the Parent Visa Application (47PA) under Legal Restrictions it stipulates that one cannot apply onshore for any Parent Visa if you have a No Further Stay on a visa. That's what changed our mind from applying onshore December when we'll be there for a few weeks. It sounds quite feasible then according to what you mentioned on the personal contact with one's CO, that one might be able to time the issuing of the visa and therefore just slip out of the country for a week or two. We do have good friends in Auckland You are correct in that if the 8503 (No further stay) condition has been imposed on your visitor's visa, you cannot apply for further visas while you are in Australia, which includes not being able to send an application from Australia to the Parent Visa processing centre in Perth. ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: Is the “Lodgement Date” what is shown on the Visa Application Form, or is it when your application arrives at PVC ? The Lodgement Date is the day your application is officially received at the Parent Visa Centre (probably works on a postal date stamp basis). This date will be recorded on your Acknowledgement Letter, which you will get from PVC in a few months. Included are instructions on what to do, as well as your official receipt for the first VAC payment. Your Lodgement Date is the most critical date, as it signifies your place in the Waiting Room! ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: I am in the process of putting an application together for my dad and it asks about armed forces discharge papers. He served in the SANDF from 1975-1976 and I therefore assume he needs to get the discharge papers, and was wondering if you had already gone through the process of getting discharge papers, and how this is done? It sounds as if your Dad was doing his compulsory national service, in which case I don't think the SA troopies were issued with demob papers. I certainly wasn't, and said as much in my own visa application. But I would say that your best bet is to make enquiries with the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans in Pretoria. Speak to the Human Resources division, at one of the numbers below. Remember that you will need to know your Dad's Unit, Rank and Serial Number. HR Div : (012) 339 4000 SA Army: (012) 255-1438/ 1420 SAAF: (012) 312-1261/ 2875/ 2695 SA Navy: (012) 339-4352/ 4004 SAMHS: (012) 671-5169 ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: My daughter just received the AOS bond letter and she’s going to deposit it tomorrow morning. My question is, do we again have to wait for some sort of letter after making the bond deposit, or do they give the acceptance letter or receipt immediately after depositing the bond? When your daughter goes in to pay your Assurance of Support Bond, she will show this original Centrelink letter to the Bank, which will then open up a dedicated Bond Account in her name, and will issue her a Bank Guarantee letter and payment receipt. Immediately upon receipt of these two items, your daughter must email scanned copies back to your Centrelink AoS Contact person. (This is important, as I don't think the bank does this.) Centrelink will upload this payment information into their system, which then generates an overnight report to DAIC. The system will also create an AoS Acceptance Letter, which will be posted to you. Once you receive this Acceptance Letter, you need to scan and email a copy to the Parent Visa Centre in Perth. On receipt of this letter, PVC will check their system to find your AoS payment, and then email you a formal request to pay in your second VAC. You (or your daughter) must then go to your bank and get a Bank guaranteed cheque for the full amount of the second VAC. This cheque must be sent by registered mail back to PVC, who will then deposit it and issue your visa within a day or two. If however your money for the second VAC is not in Australia as yet, and you intend to raise this cheque through your UK Bank, you will have to wait 28 days for this cheque to clear, before PVC will issue you a visa. Alternatively, you could pay by credit card, but the bank charges on this are horrendous! ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: I am helping with a parent visa, but the parents are divorced and both want to come to OZ. The mother still looks after the child who is older than 18; he is capable of working but needs assistance as he had a operation many years ago on the brain. Please advise whether or not the parents can be done on one visa or must it be 2 separate applications? In answer to your questions, it is my understanding that: If your parents are divorced, they will each need to apply separatelyA "dependent" child over 18 can be included in the visa application; however, the extent to which he is deemed "dependent" is determined by the following criteria: He is "wholly or substantially reliant" on your mother for his basic needs (food, clothing and shelter) I.E. He usually lives with his mother, is more reliant on her for support than on any other person or source, and has relied on her for at least the 12 months immediately before the visa application is lodgedHis mental disability stops him from earning a living to support himself.He must still need to meet Australia’s health requirement.He is NOT considered to be dependent if he is currently married, engaged to be married, or in a de facto relationship.You can read more about this at www.immi.gov..../Pages/143.aspx and there is a comprehensive parent visa brochure you can download from the immi.gov website ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: I have trawled through this thread and would like to confirm my understanding of the payments to be as follows: 1. VAC Payment 1 is basically the initial visa application fee, where immigration probably verify core information, request medicals and police clearance before proceeding? 2. VAC Payment 2: now this may be me living in my ideal world, but by being asked to pay VAC Payment 2 and the AOS Bond is the last step, in principle you will be granted residency once this payment has cleared. Is this correct? 3. My Mom has type 2 diabetes, managed with basic daily medication and no other complications, does anyone know if this is an issue? To answer your questions: The VAC1 payment is exactly as you have described it - a non-refundable application fee for purposes of receiving and lodging your Form 47PA (Permanent) or Form 47PT (Temporary) Visa Application. This payment will be deducted off your credit card by the Parent Visa Centre approximately 2-4 weeks* after you submit your application, following which you will receive your application acknowledgement letter about 2-4 weeks* later. (*Note: response times from the authorities may vary according to the volume of applications received)The AoS Bond payment is a separate process to the VAC 1 & 2 payments. This refundable, interest-bearing payment goes into a special frozen bond account at the Commonwealth Bank, who holds these funds for 10 years after the parent visa is activated. The bank will only open the bond account when it receives written instructions from Centrelink (note - not the Parent Visa Centre). This only happens once Centrelink has completed the sponsorship process with your parents' designated sponsor (presumably you). I recommend you start this process as soon as you are permitted to (i.e. one year after your parent visa lodgement date) because of the potential issues and delay. You could however wait until the end of the application process if finances are an issue.The VAC2 payment comes right at the very end of the entire visa process, once everything has been approved by the Parent Visa Centre in Perth. Normally you will receive the visa(s) a day or two after this payment via a bank guaranteed cheque has cleared. This non-refundable payment makes up the bulk of the visa cost, and as it usually increases on an annual basis, the sooner you submit your application, the better, as this "fixes" the amount you will have to pay.On the question of your Mom's diabetes, I do not believe that this will be an issue at all. Type-2 Diabetes (also known as Adult-onset diabetes) is very common among the elderly, and does not pose any risk to Australia; nor is it costly to control, which are their two main concerns. I am aware of another parent with type-2 diabetes who was granted a visa. However, I am not an expert, so you should check this out first. _____________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: With respect to VAC2 Payment, is that payable irrespective of your visa being approved or rejected, or is it only payable if approved? The Vac2 payment is only payable if the parent visa is granted. If it is not approved, you will only lose the VAC1 payment. ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: In terms of documentation, were you required to submit unabridged birth and marriage certificates, police clearance, proof of English proficiency In respect of your parents' documentation, you will only need to submit notarised copies of the originals with their application. These should always be the full ("unabridged") document (NB: abridged anything is unacceptable as these are only temporary documents). If they have an abridged birth certificate, they will need to get onto applying for an unabridged birth certificate from Home Affairs as soon as possible as there is usually a long delay, and it can sometimes be a real hassle. Your folks can get their documents notarised at their local police station, and submit these with their application. They should then courier the originals to you in Australia for safekeeping. Police certificates must be applied for from SAPS, and takes about 6 weeks from start to finish (I have posted on this forum how to go about that) When these come back, they need to make copies, have them notarised, send you the originals, and hang on to the copies until called for by the Case Officer in 18 months. Note that applying for PCC only happens when you get the acknowledgement letter back from the Parent Centre, as this stipulates the date when they may apply (which is about 10 months after the visa lodgement date) Under normal circumstances, your folks don't need to undergo an International English Language proficiency test, unless they plan to work professionally in Australia, and received their degrees at a South African university. In which case, look up the professional umbrella/controlling body's requirements on the internet to see what needs to be done. ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: To whom does the Bank guaranteed cheque for the VAC 2 payment get made out to? Your VAC2 Bank cheque must be made payable to the ‘Department of Immigration and Border Protection’. And don't forget, the cheque should be drawn on an Australian bank, to eliminate the clearance delay of 28 days, which happens automatically if drawn on a foreign bank. ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: We have received our PR and fly out in April this year. My brother in-law has been in Oz for 3 years already on a sponsorship. A botched application for his PR has resulted in him havin to start the application process again, and still being without a PR. Will he be acceptable as a sponsor for my PIL, or will they have to wait until we have been there for 2 years? A sponsor must have permanent residency, and "have lived lawfully" in Australia for two years, in order to qualify. Therefore, if you are wanting to sponsor them, you will need to be there for two years first. However, not so for your BIL. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that PR and Residency are two separate issues. In other words, the regulations do not stipulate that one must have had a PR during the same two years one is required to live in Oz. The fact that your BIL has lived "lawfully" in Oz for three years already, should satisfy the one condition. Once he is granted his PR, this should satisfy the second condition. Its worth checking this out with an agent! Having said this, if your folks haven't submitted their visa application as yet, they are going to wait at least 20 months anyway, which would make this entire discussion irrelevant! ______________________________________________________________________________ QUESTION: We lodged on 6 Nov 2014 and received a confirmation of lodgement email on 25 Nov 2014, on which date the money was taken out our credit card. Attached was the receipt for the VAC1 payment. The email also confirmed that the 6 Nov is our visa lodgement date, and the delay in registering the application will not affect the processing time as applications are based on the lodgement date. But the email also mentioned that due to the great volumes of applications, it takes about 5 months to register an application and send the acknowledgement letter. So we should expect that only about April 2015. Is this normal? It sounds like the Visa Centre has introduced an initial communication just to advise one that their VAC1 payment has gone through. The actual Acknowledgement Letter contains a great deal more information, and includes your HAP Medical Number(s) and dates when you can undergo things like medicals, PCC and AoS. As this letter previously took about 6 weeks to arrive after submitting an application, what you have just received came a lot earlier than normal, and was probably an interim step to keep you from hassling them about the payment receipt and acknowledgment letter. This possibly indicates that the volume of new applications being received by the Visa Centre has significantly increased the delay in acknowledging such applications. If true, you may also find that your time in the Waiting Room will be longer than it has been in the past! However, the most important thing to recognise is that your Lodgement Date has been fixed, and you will see what this is when you eventually get your acknowledgement letter. It also means that your Vac 2 fee has been fixed at whatever the current price is. ______________________________________________________________________________