Alex Vivas 29, from the UK

What visa are you on at the moment and what does it mean? I’m on aPermanent Resident visa. It means I can stay in Australia indefinitely – for the rest of my life. If I go overseas for several years, however, it can expire. But once I’m a citizen, I’ll have an Aussie passport and can come and go as I please, forever. Not that you’ll see me supporting them in cricket or rugby mind.

How did you get that visa? I worked for a company for the last three months of my Working Holiday visa, who decided to sponsor me. I holidayed in New Zealand while they got it sorted out. It was a four-year [Temporary Resident visa (457), which included a visa for my then girlfriend. I had really wanted to stay so I was thrilled. It meant I was tied to that company though, whereas my girlfriend could work for whoever she wanted.

Any trouble getting the visa? There was a small amount of hassle, chasing references from former employees, getting chest X-rays, birth certificates, that kind of thing. But the company had hired an immigration agent and it all went fairly smoothly. Took about six to eight weeks, start to finish.

Why did you get another visa after that? I was tied to the company than sponsored me – understandably – but after a couple of years with them I wanted to go travelling again. However, I knew that I would have to say goodbye to Australia for good, if I left the country. I looked into my options. I didn’t have enough points for the other popular permanent resident visa (there are several) – I was five short. But if I could get my company to sponsor my permanent residency (856), I would be home and dry. They had to provide some paperwork again, but otherwise I did it all myself. It was more hassle than the 457, I needed police checks from Oz and the UK, birth certificates, etc. Once I got the paperwork in it was really quick, about three weeks. I was over the moon. I felt such good will towards my company (they didn’t know I planned to bugger off and wouldn’t have sponsored the visa if they did), that I couldn’t up and leave. So I stayed for another year, then went travelling. Now I’m back in Oz and I can work for whoever I want. All the hassle was well worth it. I would hate not to have the option of living in Australia.

Any tips? Chat to other people who’ve been through the process. But don’t take everything they say as gospel. The criteria and even the names of visas change all the time. So you need to get familiar with the government website too. It can seem intimidating at first, but it does make sense once you get a grip of it. I didn’t need an immigration agent to get my second visa. And the civil servants – the cogs inside the machine – can be surprisingly humane and helpful – don’t be afraid to ask them for help or advice.