I don’t think it matters which country you’re in, or what visa you’re applying for… they’re always nasty and turn out to be a lot more complicated than originally thought.
Though we were prepared for the pain and work involved it was definitely still a highly stressful process.
I arrived in Austria on the standard 3-month tourist visa. Due to the EU-Shengen rules, for us Aussies, we’re allowed to stay 90 days out of every 180. That means no driving to the border to get your passport restamped, you have to leave the EU and stay there for 3 months before you can return.
After some research we discovered the easiest thing to do would be to try and get me a Student Visa. This would allow me to stay in the country for a year. We discussed going to Australia at this stage but it was not really an option. Until we had been together for a year and could apply for a Partner Visa it was no easier than Austria.
Collecting paperwork from Australia, on a deadline and over Christmas, was not fun. The various public holidays meant that mail took ages to go backwards and forwards. My parents were running around sourcing university certificates, having them signed, having them apostillised… it seemed it might be worth it to just try and stay on illegally and hope that nobody noticed. Certainly Austria does seem a bit more relaxed in regards to these sorts of things (you wouldn’t dare try it in Germany) but we really didn’t want to risk it.
Finally we had all the papers together and headed to the university to sign me up. Sadly, there was still one part missing that we just couldn’t resolve. It seemed the Australian and the Austrian universities just don’t play well with each other. Still, I was able to sign up for some classes, and though it technically wasn’t a course, it was still good enough for the Student Visa.
Biting our fingernails we took the paperwork to our local visa office and less than a week later I was officially an Austrian student. And though I have a student card, I have nothing else to show of it. My visa is valid for a year, but I don’t actually have to attend classes to keep it. Which is good, because I really had no desire to learn about ‘English & American Studies’, the only class I could sign up for with my then non-existent German skills.
But now the time is looming again. In a few months my Student Visa will expire and I won’t be able to renew it (seeing as I didn’t actually attend university this year). So it’s onto the next thing… a Work Visa or an Australian Partner Visa. Here we go again!