Saji arrived in Australia from India in 2007 on a tourist visa when he was 17 years old. He applied for a VET sector visa to study aviation at a training school outside of Melbourne. His plan was to become a pilot and work for a national airline in India. For the first four months Saji felt quite homesick but after he started working at a local fast food restaurant and made some friends, he really enjoyed his time in Australia. After the completion of his aviation course Saji travelled a little in Australia then went back to India. But the aviation industry was in a downturn and he wasn’t successful in finding a pilot job. He worked for short periods in a call centre, at his father’s accounting firm and doing business development and sales for an IT company. He also completed a Bachelors in Commerce by correspondence. He felt some pressure during this time to find a traditional career path, because studying in Australia had been expensive.
Saji kept in touch with his friends from Australia, including Victoria, who he had worked with at the restaurant and had felt a strong connection with at the time. Victoria visited Saji in India in 2012, along with some of his other former co-workers from Australia. Saji let Victoria know about his feelings for her and they started a long-distance relationship. Saji and Victoria met up again in Singapore in 2013 and then started talking about the possibility of living together in Australia.
Saji considered returning on a student visa to complete his Master's degree, but he would need to convince his parents he should pursue his studies in Australia again and paying for the fees would be expensive. A colleague at Victoria’s job told her that he had just applied for a partner visa for his girlfriend – so Saji and Victoria started to consider a partner visa as an option. This was a slightly complicated process – it would be better to apply from Australia, but if Saji applied for a tourist visa to enter, it might be granted with the condition of ‘no further stay’. If this happened he would have to go back to India and couldn’t apply for a partner visa. Luckily, Saji’s visa was granted without the ‘no further stay’ condition. Saji returned to Australia and a few months later he and Victoria lodged their partner visa application. Saji was able to work in Australia on a bridging visa until the partner visa was granted in 2015.
During this time on his bridging visa, Saji did a range of different jobs including working at a fish and chip shop, at a Chinese restaurant, as a delivery driver for a supermarket chain and as a gallery attendant at a local art gallery. Saji also did volunteer work at a local school, which was important to him to feel like he was giving something back to the community. Victoria was working as an engineer. It was hard to have time together as a couple as their work shifts often didn’t align. Saji also worried that Victoria’s family would be disapproving of their visa decisions and of the fact that he wasn’t working professionally but they were very supportive. Saji’s parents, on the other hand, only found out about his relationship with Victoria when they visited Australia in 2015. It was their first time outside of India. Initially his mother was not very happy about the relationship, as she had been hoping for a traditional Indian marriage for her son. But after spending some time with Victoria and getting to know her, both Saji’s parents were supportive.
Just a month after his parents left, Saji also took Victoria to a friend’s wedding in India. His career also moved forward and he got a job as a business planner for a security firm. He started playing cricket with a local club and umpiring for a football team. Saji and Victoria’s future plans are focused on continuing to travel, to build their careers and to ‘give back’ wherever they live. They might live in India for a while or even the UK. They are busy planning a traditional Australian and Indian wedding to take place towards the end of 2018. They also bought a house together which was a significant milestone. While Saji feels pretty settled, as a couple they are very keen on the opportunity of travelling or moving elsewhere as long as it aligns with their career goals. Although he’s followed a different path from his initial aspiration to become a pilot, Saji sees a lot of value in his experiences of trying so many different things and always being prepared to start again with something new. And he values having an emotional connection to both Australia and India.