The day before yesterday was a red letter day, the culmination of an interminable wait that had us holding our breath for some time now. An email notified us that our status in this country has been dignified with some semblance of legitimacy. We are now, finally, “permanent” residents.

The red sticker in my brand new US passport says “permitted to remain in Australia indefinitely.” The idea that one is going to be around indefinitely is very pleasing, in Australia or anywhere else.

We began the process that led to this point back in the spring of 2006, when my wife was offered the position at the University. It didn’t occur to me what a time consuming business it was going to be until I started assembling the supporting documentation for the first visa– subclass 457, a short-term, temporary business visa.

In October of 2006, we sent off certified copies of our birth certificates, marriage certificates, New York, California, Ontario and Quebec bar certificates, all my wife’s academic degrees (which had to be removed from picture frames, photocopied and certified), employment references, and passport picture pages. Along with the pre-departure questionnaire.

Then, we needed health certificates and chest X -rays by doctors living in our part of Florida who had been certified trustworthy by Australian immigration. The nearest clinic offering this service was a two hour drive away. The doctor appeared to be from India, though he may have been Australian.

The medical exams and x-rays would be repeated here in Melbourne later, toward the end of process that would stretch well over a year.  I failed to comprehend the time scale involved, the grinding bureaucracy, the big wait.

I have no doubt the same process would be an absolute nightmare in my own country. It would no doubt have me extracting my last remaining hairs in absolute despair. We were like amateur mountain climbers making an attempt on the bureaucratic equivalent of Everest wearing tennis shoes (trainers).

The application for employer sponsored migration to Australia (form 47ES) is 26 pages long.  It requires careful consideration and still more documents, as well as the production of clean police checks from every country in which one has lived a year or more during the last ten years.  Considering the first immigrants on record, you would think we would be required to prove that we were criminals in good standing.

Hong Kong, the Philippines, and the F.B.I. were asked to look into our nefarious backgrounds.  This was not exactly a priority for the federal bureau of investigation, and I was warned it would take some time.  I used to say that everything that taxed my patience was glacial, but I’ll have to come up with a different metaphor.  It’s a brave new world.

We now have the opportunity to consider taking out citizenship. According to a recent article in the “Age,” fewer and fewer immigrants are taking a run at that one. Thanks to a newly-introduced citizenship test, the numbers of applications have plummeted.

A dense, 42 page booklet, from which questions are drawn, describes the use of the “stump-jump plough,” the location of Phar Lap’s heart, and, in the sports section (which should, by my reckoning, be the size of a city telephone book), questions such as, who is the “greatest cricket batsman of all time.”

There is some concern that the booklet may be “impenetrable” for newly arrived migrants, and that potential citizens fear they may be deported if they fail.  Eventually, 95% do pass the exam as long as they know the name of Sir Don Bradman’s bat.

Next time I’m coming back as a cat. She just had a rabies shot, a chip and quarantine. I’ll take that any day.

P.S. The movie, by-the-way, (see a previous post), the Canadian one we waited forever and a day to get in the mail. It wasn’t very good. If you have “Away from Her” on your list of DVDs, you may want to reconsider. Get “Kenny” instead.

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