"Good afternoon. Compliments of the Season! Is this Mrs Tsika? My name is Mwadiwa Sango of Singer Migration Services. Your son contacted our firm by email, and I am following up your request for preliminary immigration advice. Do you have a minute or two, so we can talk?"
"Compliments of the Season to you too Mwadiwa. Call me, Sheila, that's my first name. Temba mentioned that he would contact an agent to speak to me, I wasn't expecting such a quick response. Yes, I can talk."
"From his email which you were copied in, I understand that you want to move to Australia. Perhaps you can give me a bit of background information on your intentions."
"Temba is my only child and is now based in Australia with his family. My husband passed away a few years ago. So Temba and Judy, his wife are now the only close family I have. They keep asking me why I am continuing to live so far away. To cut a long story short, we are starting a New Year, and my resolution is to emigrate if possible by the end of this year. So Temba has been helping me out with the background research. Now we need professional advice which is where you come in."
"Which state does Temba and his family live in since I assume that is where you want to relocate? Also, different states may have different visa requirements. So I would like to give you the most appropriate advice."
"They live in Adelaide, which is a beautiful part of the country. I have been there several times on short term visa visits. I only seriously considered emigrating after the last trip when the current Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions made me realise that air travel is no longer the same. Gone are the days when you would flit in and out of countries on extended visits if you have the means and the necessary paperwork. Now the media is full of stories of people stuck in countries because of border closures due to the virus. I have visions that when I next need to travel, it may not be possible."
"Why is now the right time for you?"
"Well, I'm not getting any younger, and I am not sure that I can continue going back and forth on these long haul flights. I am also not convinced that air travel is that safe anymore; being moved across continents packed like sardines with viruses lurking in airports, among the crowds and on anything one touches. It is like playing Russian roulette with one's life. But I suppose that's what modern travel has now become."
"I understand your concerns. Let me share with you the services our company provides. Please ask any additional questions later. Is that ok with you?"
"Yes, that sounds fine. Let me get a piece of paper to write down the key points."
"There's no need. Our website is comprehensive. I will also send you a followup email summarising our discussions. The telephone connection seems to be breaking. Hello? Hello? Are you still there?"
Dead silence followed an engaged tone. Mrs Tsika tried numerous times to reconnect before realising that her house's electric power had been cut. She moved around the house, testing lights and powerpoints, without joy. In the ensuing silence, Sheila started muttering to herself, "Just my luck! What do these power people think they are playing at? One has to have the patience of a saint to live in this country. What…. Oh hello! You are back. Sorry about that, Mwadiwa. I don't know what happened at my end. Now, where were we?"
"Hello, Sheila. Yes, I was about to explain about the services we provide. Can we continue?"
"Yes please, and pray that there won't be another power outage."
"Don't worry about writing things down. If we get cut off again, send me an email with any follow up questions. I am here to help."
" Thank you so much. You come highly recommended by Temba. He tries to protect me from bogus service providers who I hear are becoming more commonplace; defrauding people of their hard-earned cash and giving wrong advice."
" I should be saying; thank you for your confidence in us. The visa requirements are constantly changing, and our job is to keep on top of the regulations. We have a short questionnaire online, which will help us determine whether you qualify for the parent visa, which I understand Temba recommends for you. I'm assuming you have read our company information online. If you have any questions, feel free to ask."
" Sorry, I am already getting confused. Should I have completed the questionnaire before I talked to you? I thought you were going to get the relevant information from me as we talk?"
"Don't worry, I can give you time to complete it, and we will give you feedback in 24 hours and then talk at the same time the day after tomorrow? Is that better for you?"
"Yes. Thursday is fine. I hope the power doesn't go off again. Thanks, Mwadiwa. Talk to you soon."
Things were moving, and Sheila felt as if a load had been lifted off her shoulders. She could now work on timelines, disposal of personal effects and how she would tell her friends. Perhaps have a farewell party? Some were bound to say that it was not a good idea to move halfway across the world at her age. Would she make new friends? Wasn't it going to be costly setting up house since she would be unable to take many of her possessions, including family heirlooms? What about her dog? Was her pension enough to maintain her in retirement? It's all well and good to stay with family for short periods; would she get on with them over extended periods under the same roof?
Sheila could not deny that she had become very self-centred and finicky in her old age. Everything in her house was just so, in its rightful place. However, she knew that Temba and family would soon tire and start assessing the financial burden if they had to keep flying back and forth, to check on her welfare. The more she pondered, the more despondency enveloped her. Was she becoming a burden to her son and family?
The phone rang early the next morning interrupting her increasingly melancholy mood during which she had spent an inordinate time reading migration websites and completing the questionnaire as best she could.
"Mum! Happy New Year! I know you are a few hours behind, but I thought I would call wishing you compliments of the New Year! You didn't reply to my text messages yesterday? How are you?"
"Is that you Temba? How lovely to hear from you! Happy New Year! Yes, it is still rather early. I have just woken up."
"That's unlike you. The early bird catches the worm and all that! Are you ok?"
"How is my grandchild and Judy? I hope you spoilt them over Christmas?"
"They are both fine and send their greetings. They are out in the garden in glorious sunshine. You evaded my question, how are you?"
"My blood pressure is a little high. Otherwise, there is nothing to worry about."
"Mum, I know you. Are you are worrying about something? Tell me!"
" Thank you very much for setting up the call with Mwadiwa Sango of Singer Migration Services. She contacted me yesterday and was very helpful. I have filled in a short questionnaire on the Australian migration system, and after 24 hours, I should get feedback about eligibility and additional requirements."
"So if you haven't already had a followup conversation with Mwadiwa, what's the problem? I skimmed through the form, and the questions seem straight forward to me."
" I'm not sure how to fill in some of the information required. It's overwhelming. Do I even meet the requirements?"
"What are your concerns? Can you be more specific? The initial consultation is free until we have opted for a specific service."
"For a start, there is a question about financial support. The whole process is not cheap. I cannot afford to pay AU $42,200 per applicant to the Australian government for a new contributory parent visa. Where am I going to get that sort of money from? It's enough to but a small flat outright!"
"Mum, we talked about all this some time back. We will sponsor you! I know you are concerned about being left with no life savings. We would not have suggested such options if we had not thought it through. We can save because remember the actual processing which is out of our hands, may take some time. All you need to worry about is making sure that you have your estate in order and whether you want to sell up and relocate for good or spend half a year in Australia; that sort of thing. Mwadiwa is supposed to help us with any other pertinent issues. I am not an expert on immigration matters. But please don't worry about finances. We earn enough to keep you in the life you are accustomed to," said Temba disarmingly.
"I'm also having sleepless nights about, what if I move to Adelaide; then you decide to live on another continent, leaving me marooned in Australia! Will my fate be to die in a foreign land?"
"I can't rule out that possibility Mum, although you are now becoming rather morbid! If an attractive international job offer for Judy or myself comes up, we will have to rethink our future. Anything can happen. We would still call Australia home. However, we've great confidence in you making a wonderful life for yourself. Think of the positives; living near us, great medical facilities, the sea, weather like home! You said yourself, everything works here including transport, and it's a shopper's paradise with no power cuts! You were always a glass half full kind of person. I'm certain you can make it work. That's if you get the parental visa!"
"I know you have my interests at heart. Nevertheless, my fears come and go. I will do a bit more reading on others' experiences on relocation. Do you know there are lots of exciting free benefits for the over 65s?"
"That's the spirit, Mum! However, if you have any doubts, please share them rather than raising your blood pressure. I may not have the answers, but I am sure I can find someone who can help. Let me know how the call with Mwadiwa goes tomorrow."
Sheila received the anticipated call the next morning. "Hello, Mrs Tsika. Sorry, Sheila. How are you today?"
"Mwadiwa, hello! Very well, and thank you for the feedback to my online questionnaire. It allowed me to re-read the information and talk with Temba, who allayed most of my fears. I still have a few queries before we proceed. I read somewhere about medicals and visas, tell me more."
"Most types of visas require medical checks which may include a medical examination and x-rays. You have probably done this before when applying for tourist visas in the past. Once we start the process, the Immigration Department will advise us on the way forward. We aim to make this application as painless an experience as possible. However, you shall have to complete yet another short online form before our formal consultation. This time, a fee is involved."
"That's fine. Some final questions Mwadiwa, have people gone through all these processes and not got a visa or have they changed their minds and decided they had made a wrong and expensive mistake?"
"There are no right or wrong answers. Yes, some have been denied visas, a small percentage of our clients. Others fail their medical examinations or struggle with the financial requirements. For some, the process takes too long. So applicants do withdraw or pass away before visas are issued. It is difficult to predict the outcome."
" Thank you for your help so far. Whatever the result, it's a wonderful start to the year! I just hope it all works out after all this effort."