Three years after arriving here, we finally become citizens of Australia on Australia Day, 26 January 2009.
Even though we have jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops and parted with even more sums of money (where will it end? and can you not be a citizen if you are poor?), we still cannot actually become citizens unless we go to a formal ceremony where we will swear an oath of allegiance to Australia. If we wish to do so on a holy book, we must provide our own.
I did think it was a bit un-Australian to have us present ourselves for such a formal ceremony at 8.30am on a bank holiday. Where is our lie-in? Do we get a note for our boss so we can cash it in another day?
And given the casual nature of Australian’s dress sense, what does one wear to an outdoor swearing-in ceremony? It is likely to be hot: I suspect it may be de rigeur to wear thongs – that is, flip flops. I am not sure they would specify a type of underwear. Or heels – perhaps not very sensible ina park. A nice floaty summer dress perhaps? But what about skin cancer? Or something more formal? Who knows. You shall all find out in time when I post nice photo of the day.
Then, after the swearing-in, one would think that it is all over. But not necessarily. As we are then Australian citizens our visas in our EU passports will automatically become invalid: you can’t have a visa to a country you belong to. So we have to buy an Australian passport before we leave the country next, or we might have trouble returning to our adoptive home.
Another $350 or so. Thankyouverymuch-keching.
One of these days I am going to add up every penny it cost us to become Australian. Or perhaps not: it is close to the price of a small car.
So what do you do if you are short on money and unfamiliar with government bureacracy? Why, you cannot become a citizen of Australia. You just wan’t make it through the maze – simple as that. Doesn’t seem equitable somehow.
I prefer the Irish government’s position, which is to make becoming an Irish citizen pretty easy and accessible to all “New Irish” as the recent wave of immigrants are called. The thinking is that people choosing to settle in Ireland will become more at home and feel they belong more quickly if they are allowed to become citizens relatively quickly and easily.
That is not to say that I am unhappy with my new home. I am happy here. We have a wonderful lifestyle, we have made new friends and found good jobs. The weather is predictable and we actually get a summer. We live near the sea. The drought takes a bit of getting used to but we are down to 155 litres a day like everyone else now. Our beautiful weatherboard house is a joy, and will be even more comfy when we get a new roof later in the week.
I suppose I just feel fortunate that we were able to find our own way to Australian citizenship, and I worry about those with language, financial, education or cultural barriers who cannot.