Saturday, October 3, 2009

The driving force of the long-thin-pointy-shiny-shoes

When we considered immigration for the first time we went to see one of these so-called immigration consultants. I found the one we went to see a great help in the entire process. You see he was one of those slick Jo'burg types, with the glorious and at the time very fashionable clown shoes, long pointy shiny thin things in black and very plasticky patent leather white. His consultancy consisted of you filling in a form and parting with quite a lot of money. Well, I exaggerate slightly. He did look at the form. Then he said "you're too old to go to Australia."

I said: "but they have a special visa category, which has different age requirements and I want to know if I fit that well enough to apply."

Shiny pointy shoes looked very puzzled - at least his vacuous face did. And then decided to pretend he couldn't cope with hearing things that didn't fit his little model and speak to B. "Your qualifications are good, they need Radiographers but you have to be under 45. (I was 46 IIRC). Now New Zealand..."

We persued the point.

Shiny pointy shoes actually had no idea about what to do for the distinguished talent visa for writers, sportsmen and artists. He didn't even know it existed. He wanted people that fitted into neat little frequently used pigeonholes, well and clearly defined in the online immigration manual. In other words: if it was something that you could easily look up yourself, unless you were internet illiterate and stupid to boot, he could help you. If you didn't fit the standard categories, he was absolutely bloody useless, other than having very funny shoes. And I really could have looked at those in a shoe-shop window for free. I am sure that there are some migration agents that make life simpler for standard, desirable migrants. Still, is that really what any country wants? Ok, if the migrant is a doctor or an engineer - and the country needs them, making it as easy as posssible is a good idea. But seriously, as someone who did the complex, non-standard visa application without any ‘professional’ help, you might say that the country gets two more properties extra if they lose the agents -- which might be more valuable than any talent on the desired professions list. 1)Bloody minded determination. 2) Sufficient IQ to cope with reading an Online document, not to mention thrift and independence -- things I’d want for my country, I don’t know about you. (Grin) If I was organising the migration department, and operating a scoring for decisions, I’d take off 10 points for using a professional migration agent. I suppose this could be unfair: There might even be some migration agents who know more than is available for anyone to read online about non-standard types... But basically young shiny-pointy-shoes was a great help to us. Firstly, he might not have activated Dave and Barbs’s overvactive "stubborn" gland, and secondly if he was representative of the intelligence of these blokes (which to judge by a New Zealander I wrote to about this is a reasonable assessment.) we were better off using our combined brain-power than his. The process is much more expensive, and document-hungry than a standard application. The instructions are IKEA flat-pack level, though. The only information missing is the little fact that the whole thing is like one of original text-computer games, where you have to solve all the problems and collect the tokens from them in the right order. For example you need a police clearance, proof of income, proof of honorable discharge free of any war-crimes etc if you’ve done military service, and full extended birth certificates, and evidence of your talent/skill, and of course forms from nominees from Australia. And then you have to have them all together at once... and all valid, as some of them have expiry dates. Yes, now that you mention it I _have_ got two police clearances, because the first one expired while the documents were visiting Canberra. Apply for that LAST not first. And be prepared to drive to the Admin center and wait... because it takes 3 months to print and send (it took 10 seconds on computer to verify we don't have criminal records at the local station, from whence the request goes, and at which point it is dated).

Ah well. It still beat the trousers off the New Zealander responses. Grin. I’m no tall poppy, but getting published as a sf/fantasy novelist is rare (Getting published as a fiction novelist is rare), Getting published offshore rarer still, making a living at it near unheard of, getting over 10 books published is very singular. This is more a symbol of bloody-minded determination on my part than of any genius, but I was South Africa’s first internationally published SF/ fantasy writer. For now, there are two of us. New Zealand did beat us to it, as their eighth Prime Minister Sir Julius Vogel (1835-1899) wrote some sf in the 1800's that wasn’t actually an expenses report. But since then it’s been a long rather dry period with a couple only, (SFWA lists one, I believe there is another) and not exactly tribes of people in the ‘rares’ listed above. Australia seems quite different in that way. I’m going to be a fairly small fish in much bigger pond. Shrug. No worries. Love the company! It’s stimulating and exciting, and I’ve already made some great friends among them, most of whom are a great deal better at writing than I am. Anyway, When a friend over there enquired of the NZ migration authorities about their rare talent visa... they got told well, yes they do have one. But... it was for _rare_ talents... like orchestra musos. Now, rare is a relative thing, I suppose, but I think they have 5 orchestras with say 100 people in each. 500 out of 4 million is rare. Orchestras have value. But a year one average midlist author probably sells more copies a year, than they sell tickets to all of their concerts put together. But I am not 'rare'? If I was determined to apply all I need was a government recognised body of my peers to sponsor me. Peers? Ah well. They were kind enough to point out to me that either B or I are eligible could have gone as our original professions - so long as we worked in them. But I couldn’t be a full time writer there, as I didn’t have a New Zealand publisher but merely had forward contracts with an American one (I could have gone as an unemployed attachment and written!).

And thus I was very relieved when our first choice came through, even without the help of Mr long-thin-pointy-shiny-shoes.

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