It’s quite straightforward really. My partner of 4 years is Australian and we just got really sick of how little rights we had in each other’s respective countries. A couple of years ago I quit my job, applied for a one year working visa in Australia, and moved there from the Pacific Northwest. We were eventually able to use this year of living together as proof when applying for my permanent residency De Facto Onshore Partner Visa in August of 2014.
The process was certainly not easy. We had to get our friends and family to write letters (some needed to be notarized), scan in receipts showing every financial tie imaginable (flights, paycheck stubs, shared rent, tax returns etc), and extensively answer questions regarding our unwavering love ad nauseam. I literally had to mail my fingerprints to the FBI in Washington D.C. and then wait a month for them to mail me a one page document simply stating that “no substantial criminal records could be found matching these fingerprints”. It was wicked intense and at times I wondered whether I was signing my life away.
We both needed to provide extensive background checks from every country we’d lived in. A lot was riding on these and I was actually a bit worried due to my last one resulting in mistaken identity. I’d needed it for a sublet and the company that did the search had “forgotten” to compare Social Security numbers, mistaking me for someone with the same name that had been pulled over for littering. Luckily, the FBI tends to be a bit more thorough.
It took us almost 4 months to gather all this “proof” and scan it to apply via the online application. The cost was around $5000 AUD. I’m not sure what a fair price is to become a citizen of another country (or continent) with full rights, but as soon as we submitted the application and paid the fee I was granted full working rights. When the average starting wage for me was $24 an hour this was a big deal. I was also automatically signed up for Medicare, Australia’s universal health care scheme. For me it was definitely worth the $5000. We were told the visa could take over a year to even be looked at, never mind have a decision made on it. Having the ability to work and also getting the basic rights that most Australians have made the waiting period quite comfortable.
Well, a year went past since submitting the application and we’d heard very little. In the unlucky chance of me being denied the visa, I would be granted a few months to leave the country and we would receive no refund. When you’ve received little to no correspondence it’s hard not to consider worse case scenarios. Then, on August 7th, my mother’s birthday, we received an email nonchalantly granting me permanent Australian Residency for the next 5 years. At that point we can renew it if we want to. I can see that being American meant that my application likely went under much less scrutiny than applicants from other countries so we feel a bit lucky. Also it’s important to note that this in no way means that I’m “stuck” in Australia. I have free rights to come and go as I please. Basically what I have is a form of dual citizenship.
Now, the American visa process is a bit more picky. It involves me (the sponsor) being in the states to submit the application, and then my partner entering a few months later at which point we are required to get married quickly and proceed by submitting a series of applications and fees. Also, my partner will not be granted working rights during this time, which can take years. It’s easy to see why we chose to focus our attention on the Australian visa, as the perks of being Australian are many.
In terms of a health perspective, I’ve got to say that becoming Australian has enabled me to focus more on my health than ever before. The ability to make a living wage, universal health care enabling me to see a doctor in an hour’s notice free of charge, and the surprisingly affordable cost of fresh food relative to wages are just some of the reasons for this. There are lots more reasons as these are just the tip of the iceberg, but suffice it to say I’m happy with our decision for me to become a dual citizen of Australia and I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity.