In the summer of 2012, my wife said, “lets get the hell out of here!”. She did not mean the house, or the city, or the state.

Now, this certainly wasn’t the first time I had tried to get out of India. Due to varied reasons, my earlier attempts weren’t too successful. I had also (mis)placed my trust on employers who had promised that they would make it easy for me to move out if I “performed” really well in the job. Two years of performance later, I realised I was getting nowhere. This is when I took matters into my own hands.

Moving house is a big task. Moving city, even bigger. Moving out of the country is in a completely different ballpark.  There is a certain level of comfort attached to living in the country where one is born & brought up. Even though you could move from one region to another, that comfort level sticks. If you want to move country, that comfort level goes out of the window. This nicely brings me to the first section of this post:

Making the big decision

The first step is making the decision: do you want to move out of the country? This decision can be driven by many factors. The most common of which is money. Most of us know someone who moved to the US/UK and has already bought an expensive home in India from all those $$$ that they’re earning and sending back. While money can be one of your motivations, don’t let it be the only one. You must understand how far out of your comfort zone are you willing to place yourself to earn that money. This may sound cliched, but money is not everything in the long run. Another common motivation may be to have a better lifestyle than you currently have. When you are making the decision, make sure you have a clear understanding of your motivations and responsibilities. I know of people who have sufficient motivation but their responsibilities don’t allow them to make the move. Also, be sure to involve all stakeholders. Talk to your spouse, understand their comfort level with such a decision. Talk to your kids, see if they are excited at such a prospect. Take all into account, before making the decision.

Once you’ve made a decision, the next question is where to? As an Indian, your options of getting work visas are very limited. There are a few countries who will offer you permanent residencies based on your qualification, experience & bank balance. A lot of research is involved at this stage, and you may be better off talking to visa consultants about your options. Remember that you aren’t obliged to take their advise, but at least they will give you some direction. In my case, the visa consultant made a suggestion to consider Australia based on a look at my qualification & experience. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t considered it myself till that day. But once I read about it, spoke to people I knew here, I was quite confident of my decision. At this stage of decision making,  research is extremely important. Visa processing is usually very expensive and you want to be extremely well informed before jumping in.

Enough generics, let me talk about my decision making. For me, the decision was made on that summer day of 2012 that matters needed to be taken into my own hands. I had waited long enough for my company to give me the chance I was promised for over 2 years. My first step was to talk to people I knew who had settled outside India and to try and understand my options. I spoke to friends & family in the US, Canada, Germany, UK, Switzerland, Australia & NZ(and maybe a few more places). Everyone had a situation unique to them that had taken them to their current country, and they laid out a multitude of options for me. One of them was to approach for a permanent residence in Canada, based on my tech qualifications & experience, I was told I had an excellent chance. Armed with this research, we walked into a consultant’s office to talk about visa processing. After listening to me, they suggested that in addition to Canada, I must also consider Australia. I went back home and did my research on the visa processes of both, and decided that Australia would be a better destination for me. Once decided, I marched back into the consultant’s office & signed a contract for them to help out with the visa process.

Let’s get a visa!

Make no mistake, no visa process is easy. The amount of documentation required is staggering. Every country has their own requirements, but the most important thing to note is to always be truthful. NEVER fake any document, or lie about something. It is never worth it. If you don’t have a certain type of document, check with your visa consultant or with the embassy/visa authority for alternatives, they usually have some. If you have lost/misplaced a document, ask them, they will tell you a workaround(if possible). Some countries have much friendlier visa staff than others, so be prepared for niceness/rudeness. I say again, research into the visa process is VERY important. If you have questions, google is your best friend. There are multiple online forums that you can join and learn from the experience of others.

A lot of visa processes are point based. What this means is that if you meet various criteria to get points, and the total number of points you get decides whether you are eligible for the visa or not. To claim points, you need to produce evidence(read documentation) to support your claim. The important point to remember here is that more evidence is usually better than less evidence & when in doubt(even after research & asking around), include extra evidence.

During my visa processing, the visa consultant decided it was a good idea to have all document copies notarized. This probably was to add a certain level of verification to the documents as forgery in copied documents is easy. To get an idea of the number of documents you’ll be submitting, here’s the list of documents I submitted to get my degree & experience certified:

  1. Copy of passport – to prove its really me, and for linking the certification
  2. Copies of 10th & 12th exam marksheets (secondary & senior secondary school exams)
  3. Detailed experience certificates from all employers I had worked with. These had to be < 1yr old(i.e. recently obtained) and needed to contain a good level of detail of my roles & responsibilities in the job.
  4. Copies of offer letters, joining letters and relieving letters(where relevant) from all employers.
  5. Copies of form-16 & tax returns since I had started working(almost 10 years ago).
  6. Bank statements for the last 2 years to prove I was working and getting a salary.

Most of these were to be submitted in duplicate. :)

It requires a lot of dedication and determination to go through any visa process. During the process, there will be several ups & downs, but no matter what, never lose sight of your goal. Don’t lose your focus and never delay/procrastinate(this almost cost me my visa, but more on that in the next part).

That’s it for part 1. In part 2, I will talk more about actually living through the process and if space permits, what to do after your visa is approved.

To read up on Australia’s visa processes, visit the Department of Immigration & Border Protection website. For other countries, refer to their individual immigration department websites.