• Catalina Martinez P

How to become an Australian Citizen?

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

Here is another inspiring story of how persuading your dreams and having a focus on what you want to accomplish in life can happen.

First of all, why did I end up in Australia?

I am originally from Colombia. Where I studied journalism at la Universidad de la Sabana in Bogota. This University offers a double degree program with universities around the world to do your Masters.

In 2010, when I was applying there were two options for Masters: 1) La Escuela de Negocios in Navarra Espana, to do a Masters in Human Resources, and 2) Macquarie University, to do a Master in International Relations or Arts (Communications). As my Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to become Head of Communications of the United Nations, I thought... The Masters of International Relations sounds like the right choice. Plus, I found attractive the opportunity of doing my Masters in English after studying for my bachelor's in Spanish. I applied got accepted and received the offer of doing the two Masters in 1.5 years and I thought... Perfect! I’ll kill two birds with one stone and so Australia here we Go!

Welcome to the Land Down Under

First photo taken in Sydney

I landed in Sydney on the 9th of February 2011 ready to start my Masters. As always the excitement of a new place and getting to know new people keeps you busy. Besides understanding the whole study system, getting your head around the idea of writing 3000-3,500 essays in English every fortnight, was all pretty full-on but fun.

Later, in the second semester of 2011, I needed to find a job to afford my cost of living and travel around Australia. So I started a cashier position in Guzman y Gomez, the Mexican restaurant that most of you have tried before.

Graduation time! Masters in International Relations & Arts

Time flew by, the one and a half years of my Masters were done. August 2012 was here and I had to go back home. I took a trip to Colombia to see my family and talk to them about the idea of coming back in search of a future in Australia.

The news was hard for my parents, but they understood it was a great opportunity to persuade a better future. However, my dad did tell me: “We are happy for you to go, but you have a year to sort out your visa, if no opportunities are in the pipeline, please promise me you’ll come back and start working as a professional in Colombia”.

Ready to Roll Sydney!

Important to highlight that as Colombians our passport does not have too many visa options in Australia, usually you are either a tourist or a student, we do not have working holiday visas.

On my return to Australia in September 2012, I was on a student visa again, but this time I enrolled in a marketing diploma while keeping my part-time job in Guzman y Gomez.

And what was the plan...

Well, the restaurant I was working on at the time, Greenwood Plaza, was sold to a franchise that was planning to expand into the North Shore. For him to acquire his next restaurant, he needed a full-time manager in Greenwood Plaza. And there I was, at the right time, at the right moment, with enough experience to offer me a sponsorship. I felt so lucky by receiving this news and also relieved to inform my family that my plan of action was happening. As you might imagine, moving from the idea of sponsoring me to make it happened took some good months, a lot of paperwork, and patience. And when I was getting close to the expiry of my student visa my sponsorship was lodged.

I got 457!

Here is where my sponsorship journey begins. By this time, I had already been two years working in Guzman y Gomez. However, the new challenge of leading as a manager in a food court restaurant was exciting. By the end of 2013, I had a successful Greenwood Plaza GYG Restaurant, I used to love going to work and enjoying every day’s pace. One more year went by and by mids 2014 I spoke to my franchise and ask him for a new challenge, and he decided to move me into Guzman y Gomez Crowsnest. This was a full Restaurant opened Monday- Sunday from 11 am to 10 pm, the responsibility was huge plus there were a lot of challenges with the staff and food/service quality that I had to work hard on.

This was the stage where I started struggling with being in a 457 and no having the opportunity to look for any other job. It was a challenging moment of my life, where I started questioning if staying with sponsorship in a restaurant was worth it while having studied for two Master's degrees? I was also seeing how my friends back home had started their professional life and were doing journalism while I was rolling burritos! I know people constantly say you shouldn't compare yourself with anyone but it was a rough stage where I was regretting the decision of accepting this sponsorship, I felt I was done! Anyway, November 2015 finally came and this meant I had completed my two years sponsorship. I spoke to my boss to get going all the paperwork to apply for my Permanent Residence.

Becoming a Permanent Resident!

As you can imagine the amount of paperwork that needed to be collected again was crazy. Adding to this, the tricky part of proving that the business spent 10% of the annual income in training Australian staff from GYG was challenging.

The process took some good long months, but finally, the visa was loge on June 20th, 2016. Here I was waiting again... But with a higher hope as becoming a Permanent Resident would give me the chance to change jobs and finally start my professional career in Australia.

I need to confess this wait was one of the worst of the whole process. Unfortunately, I was so done with GYG, I had already been working for GYG for 4.5 years and there were no more positions I could grow in. Those 231days were the longest of my times in GYG until gratefully on Feb 7th, 2017 I received my PR and was ready to head into a new adventure! I spoke to my boss about my resignation and he requested me to give 6 weeks and then free to go.

New Beginnings...

On April 7th, 2017 I started my professional life in media with an entry role at Mediacom as a media coordinator, I was there for 10 months and worked with brands like the Carnival Cruises and Uber. In need of a new challenge I applied for different roles and an opportunity came in News Corp. In January 2018 I started a role as a product and customer specialist.

February was a year since my PR was granted. I did not hesitate a day to get all my paperwork ready, and apply ASAP for my citizenship. This was another wait of course...

2018 was bumpy! I got engaged, Summer in Europe and Christmas in Colombia, plus my role was made redundant in October. I was devastated after this news and had no clear direction of what was going to come next. But lucky enough, two days before my redeployment period expired News Corp found a role for me as a Client Solution Specialist and kept me in the business.

Becoming a Citizen!

And yeah, after all this long journey on April 14th, 2019 I received a letter from the Department of Immigration inviting me to present an interview and my citizenship exam. I could not believe that after 14 months since I applied, and 8 years living in Australia, the glorious moment had finally come!

About the interview, this only means you sit down with an Immigration Agent to check all your paperwork and proof of identity. Followed by an exam, which is not as hard as you imagine, but it's always good to practice online. You can find questions like:

- how many official flags does Australia have?

Answer: 3

- how many states and territories in Australia?

Answer: 5 states 2 territories

- what is the color of the top half portion of the Australian Aboriginal Flag?

Answer: Black

There are only 20 questions and you have 3 opportunities to do it, so literally, if you fail you can do it again.

After this stage, you receive a letter saying you have passed your exam and some days later another letter comes into your mailbox approving your citizenship and letting you know that it takes between 5-8 months to receive your invitation letter for the pledge. The pledge is the last stage where you make your public commitment to Australia. Followed by this you request your passport and voila you are an Australian citizen.

At the moment, I am waiting for my invitation letter to do my pledge. However, I had to call the Immigration Department to let them know that I would be leaving the country for three weeks in September, and guess what... They notified that my pledge was scheduled for next Saturday, July 20th, 2019, the same day as the Colombian independence day. Still waiting for my letter in the mailbox to confirm all details, but I am absolutely happy and can’t believe it! It's here now!

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oee Oeee Oeee

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