We started our Australian visa pathway back in autumn 2009. It was something that we had discussed in our earlier years of marriage, however had felt uneasy about the risks of uprooting our three children. We met Hannibal of Thames Migration at a convention in Coventry, having made some telephone enquiries with him prior. We came away feeling optimistic and decided to proceed with the visa application process.
The pathway was not easy at all; Paul has a specialist skill and the assessment process for a skilled visa through up a few obstacles. Getting references from previous employers as far back as 22 years, evidencing the apprenticeship served and specialist skill area and some of the companies had even ceased trading, so it took many months of work on our behalf.
Having passed the skills assessment, the points system was under a government review and no new visa applications were being considered or allowed to be submitted until a specified date. It also came to light our eldest son could not be classed as a dependent although still living at home, and we had to make the decision whether to proceed without him.
We decided to continue the process for the four of us, only to be advised we had lost points by the time the application process recommenced. Hannibal discussed other options available to us and we decided that we wished to pursue the state sponsorship process via Western Australia. By this time our 2nd eldest son had finished his apprenticeship and again he could not be considered on our visa as a dependent. It was a very difficult and emotional time, whether to consider proceeding without 2 of our 3 children. The initial dream was for a better work life balance, as both Paul and I both work 60 hours a week regularly. Splitting the family was not considered an option.
Hannibal spent many hours discussing our options with us, and explaining what process the boys could take if they wished to apply for visas in their own rights at a later date. We discussed it as a family and decided to still proceed as this was most probably the last chance Paul and I would have as we are both over 40 now! We were successful with Western Australia state sponsorship and lodged our application for our subclass 176 skilled visa applications in March 2011.
In May we were advised by our case officer that medicals and police checks were now required. This was a real headache…Work schedules, daughter sitting GCSE’s, a pre booked family holiday abroad and hospital appointments not tying in with dates we had available, meant we could not get an appointment for all three of us until end of July. We immediately advised Hannibal and he in turn relayed this information onto the case officer.
Medicals undertook, one of the tests needed redoing as the result was not clear and the hospital advised a retest in 14 days time. They advised us that they would not send on any of the medical results until all the tests were completed. We did not object as this was the first time we ever had been in this situation and presumed the hospital had lots of experience of protocol.
A few weeks later, we received a phone call from Hannibal saying that our visas had been refused on the grounds on non compliance of medical information being obtained. We were in a state of shock and disbelief. Hannibal was brilliant and supportive and underwent an investigation into what had happened and what options were now open to us. We were able to appeal the decision, but this was a new process and as far as we were aware never undertaken before.
At the 11th hour we submitted an appeal through Hannibal. It was a difficult few months, as no timescales or previous case could set a precedent. However on 22nd December 2011 we got the phone call, we were successful and we had been awarded our visas. What a Christmas present!!!
The whole process was so difficult, with the constant changes and legal requirements and timescale deadlines. Paul and I both work long hours often 12 hour days and coming home to paperwork requirements and deadlines, often proved pressured. Hannibal and his team at Thames Migration took the time to understand these pressures of ours and supported us personally throughout the whole turmoil! Many times Hannibal went beyond his remit (including opening his office on a Sunday just so we could arrange a meeting with him) as our situation required constant re-thinking or adjustment, but his support never waivered. We truly could not have gone through this process without his or his teams support. Thank you!
Paul & Sherileen Wintrip
Skilled Sponsored (Subclass 176) Visa