About three years ago, I was sitting one evening with my nephew and his partner in their sunny back garden in Perth, Western Australia,along with The Builder, Lindsey and Ian. We were sipping wine, chatting, and generally relaxing and having a good time
The conversation turned, as it so often did, to my foolhardiness in leaving Australia for so long, without having first taken out citizenship. My permanent resident's permit had long expired. I was no longer married to an Australian. It looked as though any chance of returning to Australia on a long term basis was out of the question.
My nephew listened to all this and offered the opinion that, although immigration law was not his field, he would have thought the situation was not beyond redemption and recommended that I find an immigration lawyer and discuss it with them.
I didn't. I moved on to Melbourne and continued my three or four week visit, occasionally thinking that I ought to Do Something - but I didn't.
Twelve months after that I was back in Melbourne and observed that a new legal practice, which offered immigration advice, had opened up nearby Lindsey and Ian's City Centre apartment block. Right, thought I. I shall go and make an appointment and put this thing to bed. I am almost certain the lawyer will say there is no chance. Then we can all move on and consider the alternatives. (I had a Plan A ready to roll, involving 8 or 9 months in Europe and 3 or 4 in East Asia and Australia each year). But no. The lawyer said he thought it was going to be possible to sort it out and offered me a fixed price on a no-win-no-fee basis. I was a bit surprised. Plan A was demoted to Plan B, at least in the short term.
In the end it took my lawyer, plus Lindsey and me about 18 months and lots and lots of effort to gather together the documents required, get them all certified, write up the statements, gather the additional material that the Immigration Department wanted, get more things certified. It cost quite a lot of money, by the time you took into account all the incidental expenses, the immigration fees and my lawyer's fees. All the way through I was fairly sure the Immigration Department would say no - until they asked for the last lot of documentation they required. I thought then they might say yes, or they wouldn't have asked for it. I was nevertheless quite surprised and not a little discombobulated when I got an email from my solicitor congratulating me on the restoration of my residency.
I went into Darwin last December as a resident, able to stay indefinitely, and with a travel permit that allows me to be out of Australia until September.
In the meantime, the library service that I work for had started going through a massive restructure process, more or less at the same time that I was putting into train the process that would restore my Australian residency. The restructure was beset by delays, postponements and deferments. Slowly, slowly, the restructure made its way through the various layers of management, and finally got to my level the day before The Builder and I left on the World Birthday Tour in December.
We knew more or less what the document would say. We just didn't know the fine detail. What that came down to, in the end, was that there were too many people for the number of jobs available and that we would have to compete for those jobs. The other alternative was to put in for a redundancy.
So apply for a redundancy was what I did. And the application was accepted.
I started work at SHU in June 1997 on a 6 week contract. I am finishing on March 31st this year after oh-so-nearly 19 years, without a break in service. Not a bad run, when you think about it.
We can't go anywhere until after the end of May. The Builder's son is getting married in Winchester and we have already replied to the invitation saying we will be there. Plus, of course, we need to sell the house which will be looking resplendent and gorgeous when it goes on the market in a few weeks time. We will get The Builder a 12 month visa in the first instance to see how he gets on with Australia as a place to live rather than a place to visit and then see how things go. My solicitor says there will be no trouble getting him a partner's visa but that will be quite expensive. A 12 month visa is much less money and allows a bit more flexibility. However, I have been doing a spot of house hunting and have found some quite nice places that would suit us just fine. Please everyone cross your fingers for a swift and hassle free sale of the house in Tupton.
It's a bit like what we did when I came to the UK almost 20 years ago. We used redundancies to pay for it, came for 12 months and accidentally stayed (although Ross went back after a few years). I think this will be the last redundancy that will come my way, though.
The plasterer and his mate did turn up this morning. The radiator pipe is no longer leaking. The plasterers are making steady progress. They'll be back tomorrow to finish up, then back in a week or two to do the final bits and pieces. Progress is being made!