Patience has never been one of my virtues. Even as a kid I wanted immediate action and immediate satisfaction. What? You want me to wait until another day to go buy a new favorite toy? I’m not doing anything, and you’re not doing anything… let’s go now. It’s just the way I’ve always been, and it is a quality that rears its head in every facet of my life, including travel. Wanting immediate action and satisfaction is why I’m so quick to book plane tickets and make travel happen sooner rather than later… because why wait?!
So, I hate waiting.On October 14, 2010, Patrick and I dropped off a stack of papers to the immigration office here in Sydney in hopes of me receiving a defacto partner visa. We had to basically jump through hoops for about a month before that time, printing out bank statements, throwing together stacks of receipts for items we had purchased together, splicing in joint plane ticket itineraries, heaping on an archive of emails and including a stack of photos of us being “together”. On top of that, we wrote out long essays on our relationship while I spent a day at the doctor’s office getting x-rayed and poked, and another day at the police station getting finger-printed for my US FBI checks. We put all of these things in one giant envelope with labels marking off the sections in neat, easy to jump to categories.
And, I also gave my credit card information for a very large transaction.
It goes without saying that Pat and I put a little bit of time and energy into making the application perfect so that there was no need to question. If they wanted to see our relationship was genuine, it was all right there in my nicely organized filing cabinet of a folder. We handed that in with a big sigh of relief, especially when the people at the family visa department said the partner visa was taking on average just 3-6 months to process.Woo hoo! With that time frame, we were well on our way to getting the visa before our intended trip to Malaysia, and that meant there would be no need to apply for the Bridging Visa B in order to leave the country.
Alas, I was wrong. Very wrong.
About a month before the trip, I went down to the immigration office in Sydney to speak face-to-face with the family visa department where we initially dropped it off. I went up the elevator to the third level, making sure to fix myself up in the elevator mirror for good appearances, when I was met with an awkward silence after walking through the elevator door. The doors to my left – the entrance to the family visa section – were closed, and stillness hung in the air. Just as I was about to make my way to the doors, another elevator opened up letting a woman out who led the way. I’m not sure if she even realized I was behind her as she quickly waltzed into a back room leaving no one out at the front reception area to accept my questions.
I stood there like a big dope for a few minutes, leaning over the desk, peering into the back area to see if I could get someone’s attention (or even see anyone) – all the while, I was really wondering if I missed some memo on the place being closed. Eventually, I walked out, and just at the right time as some people who worked there were coming back from lunch. They saw me and immediately said, “How did you get in there? This place is secure now, you have to go to the reception area downstairs to be helped with your partner visas.”Oh, no… That meant I would then have to talk to the general help people who have no idea what is actually going on in the partner visa area.
However, I took advantage of the opportunity to inquire about whether or not I might need a bridging visa B to head to Malaysia, and they said something along the lines of, “Oh yes, definitely. The process is taking at least 9 months now.”
So I applied, paid my extra money so I could get the visa to leave on my trips to Malaysia and the USA, but on my return, I started to hassle the department every chance I got… well, about once a month. It was always the same thing: They haven’t seen any updates to my application, which basically meant it hadn’t been worked on yet.
I imagined my file – the one I worked so hard on making perfect so the process would go quickly – just sitting on a dusty shelf in the back of this office as the workers sat around telling each other jokes and taking long lunches. I’ll be honest; there were days when I started to think this would never happen. Oh, here I am, just floating around in limbo in Australia. It’s the waiting. It starts to do weird things to you.
I know it must seem weird to hear that something so minor could make you feel lost, but I’m not the only one. I have friends that had breakdowns on the phone with immigration because they were upset with waiting – even though their relationship was pure and genuine, it’s just that damn waiting and not getting any updates that drives a person a little nutty.
Each month, I just laughed. The last time I called at 11 months with no updates (except that it was taking around 12 months now to process), I was tempted to start taking bets as to when people thought it would finally happen.
My luck may have changed at that last phone call. I told the woman that I would be leaving the country again at the end of October, and I really didn’t want to have to pay to get another bridging visa if I were really close to the top of the list. She gave me an email address to inquire directly with the family visa department, which actually gave me a slight glimmer of hope that I had an “in”. But, after receiving my standard “we are working on applications in the order in which they are received” response, I was struck down with my “stuck in limbo waiting” grief.It wasn’t until a few days later that I decided I wasn’t happy with my response, so I emailed them to say that. All I wanted was to know how much longer I might have to wait. Was I behind 20 people or 200 people? Are we actually moving forward?! It’s like getting the call wait times when on hold with customer service; knowing that time is ticking down makes you feel so much better!
And they didn’t respond… for a week.
On Tuesday, September 27, 2011 (day 270), I received an email around 3pm from a case worker. MY case worker. It was to inform me that my application had been allocated! YAY!
And then I read on.
They lost my and Pat’s relationship essays… the most important part of the application as it details how we met, how our relationship works and where we see ourselves in the future. It pulls together all the stupid pieces of paper in that giant stack; I had them sitting at the very front, checked and double-checked. And, they lost them!
I was infuriated! And excited! At once!
But, still I emailed these puppies right back (found copies sitting in my gmail) and waited, checking my email consistently for the next hour or so until I had to leave to head into the city for Tuesday’s Travel Massive meetup. I had no idea how long it would take, or if they would ask for anything else, so when they didn’t respond back by 4:00pm I figured it wouldn’t be at least until the next day.
My curiosity however got the best of me, as I found myself doing a quick check on the train ride around 5pm of my email (on my new iPhone – wee!). To my surprise, I had two emails in my inbox from my case worker. The first one, timed at 4:43, thanked me for my quick response and said it would be about a day for processing.
Processing? Whatever that meant, I wasn’t sure. Maybe a day to add that officially into the records?
Email two was timed at 4:44pm.
“Your visa has been granted, please see attached”
I was sitting on the train, perhaps around St. Leonards station at the time since the lights were dim, rocking slightly back and forth and trying desperately to grasp what the email was telling me. My fingers scrambled across the new little toy I had just acquired, mis-clicking and going back and forth through the succession of emails. Obviously, I had to check the attachment to get proof; I had my visa. Just like that. Within two hours of finding out I even had a case worker after 11.5 months of waiting. My face went flush; I felt like I wanted to shout it to the passengers sitting quietly around me, but at the same time I didn’t even think it was real.
I’m kind of Australian now, can you believe it?!
Alright, I gotta run. I’ve got some VB’s in the fridge, some snags on the barbie and some mates to catch up with this arvo.