Meet the couple who left Brazil ten years ago to study English and ended-up staying in Australia for good

Humberto Moreira
Jul 1, 2017 · 9 min read

It was in early 2007 when Erika and Thiago made the decision to pack their things and leave their home country of Brazil.

Their idea was for a temporary get away to study English, and if possible, enrol in short-term courses related to their university degrees, before heading back to Brazil.

A few months later they landed in sunny and booming Perth, in Western Australia.

Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Australia.

At that time, Perth was a relatively unknown city to the rest of the world. Its remote location (a five hour flight from Sydney and Melbourne) had earned it the name title of “the most isolated metropolis in the world”. This all changed with the Australian mining boom which started in the mid 2000s and saw capital start to pour in. All of a sudden thousands of jobs were available and with a shortage of skilled workers, the city quickly became popular to people from all around the world.

I was actually living in Perth in 2008 when I met Thiago at one of our regular "Peladas de Domingo" (weekly casual soccer games between Brazilians). By that time, Thiago was already starting to thrive in this new city and was always happy to help out newcomers, including me.

But he hadn’t started that way. To overcome the many initial challenges and succeed in Australia, he had to re-invent himself and adapt to countless new situations. Before moving to Perth, Thiago worked as an IT Support Analyst in São Paulo (Brazil). The language barrier was the first sign that things would be a lot tougher than he thought. In his words:

If I could sum it up in one word, it would be: Intensity! In a year a lot has happened. Time seems to run differently when you have so many new things to assimilate to. Cultural differences, not knowing many people and especially, the language barrier, can create a tough challenge for an immigrant.

Erika and Thiago found the first years were quite difficult, but at the same time, they worked really well as a team and were slowly getting used to their new “Aussie” life.

They had moved to Australia under a student visa, and because of that, they had restrictions on the number of hours they could work in a week. After many different jobs and short-term courses, they realised they wanted to stay longer, but this meant they needed to sort-out the immigration visa situation.

Erika had already been planning to get a Masters Degree, so their strategy was to have her as the main applicant for a new student visa and for Thiago to be her dependent. Which meant he would have no more work restrictions and could try to get back into the IT industry with a full-time position.

It was easier said than done. Most companies would ask for local experience, but he was struggling to find that very first role. That was when he decided to work as an unpaid intern for one month. It was this step that completely changed the conversations with recruiters.

Not long after his internship, Thiago finally landed a full-time job in IT and it didn’t take long for his employer to be impressed with his performance. The company decided to extend his contract and to sponsor his visa, which meant the Brazilian couple could move from their student visa to a temporary residency visa and from there everything started to fall into place.

Fast forward to 2017, when I actually got a chance to talk to Thiago again, I heard the great news that, after so many challenges and adventures, they were both now Australian Citizens .

They currently have no plans to move back to Brazil. Not just because of the current political and economical crisis there, or the constant news about violence, but also because of what they’ve accomplished in Australia. They have better professional prospects, have created new relationships with amazing people and have a great sense of accomplishment in a wonderful country. Oh, and I almost forgot: They love being so close to so many paradise destinations in Asia and having the flexibility to explore them :)

When asked what advice he would give to people thinking about moving to Australia, Thiago concluded:

Spend time researching your destination and always have a down-to-earth plan. Do not just listen to success stories, understand what can go wrong and be prepared for it. Be resilient. Living abroad is not for everyone, but it will certainly be an incredible life experience.


Immi Stories is a new series about real immigrants in the country they chose to live. The decision to leave, the immigration process, the job hunting and many other challenges they faced until settling down.

Rocking the English Test and moving from the United Arab Emirates to Australia

Have you ever met someone that by simply talking about their life for ten minutes was able to instantly gain your respect and admiration? I was pleasantly surprised to learn about a very intense and inspiring immigration story by meeting Moh’d Aziz Badawi on Quora.

Aziz on his first day in Melbourne, Australia.

I usually receive hundreds of questions about immigration per week, so when I saw Aziz’s request, I thought that was the case. After exchanging a few messages with him, I could see it was the opposite:

“Most people are underestimating the power of getting points for the English Language Ability…”

Aziz actually had many insights and has actually been helping other people who dream about migrating to Australia.

If you don’t understand what he means by “getting points”, you can check this guide to have an idea of how the points-based immigration system works, but in short it means you get points for things such as your age, educational level, English level, work experience, among others, and, if you score the minimum required by the Australian Immigration Department, you are eligible to receive a permanent visa to live and work in Australia.

Aziz and his family are very familiar with immigration bureaucracy. He was born in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to Palestinian-Jordanian parents (Palestinian born and bred, but Jordanian citizens) who moved to Abu Dhabi in the late 70s for better work opportunities. He spent his childhood in between the UAE, Jordan, and Palestine.

When it came time to decide about a university, they realised a degree in the UAE was not an option due to very expensive higher education fees. Aziz didn’t get down about this and quickly put an alternate plan in action: He moved to Malaysia where he was able to get his Engineering Degree.

After that, he decided to pack his bags and head back to the UAE because, as he said:

“Although I loved my time in Malaysia, it was not a good option to stay there any longer since there was no long-term option. It’s very difficult to obtain permanent residency and almost impossible to become a citizen.”

Because the UAE was going through a small financial crisis, the next ten months were filled by failed attempts to get a good job and a more permanent way to stay in Abu Dhabi (even though he was born there, he needed a 90-day visitor visa to be there if he had no employer to sponsor his visa.)

As his last hope, Aziz applied for the Al-Ghurair Foundation Scholarship and actually managed to beat over 14,000 applicants from 22 countries in the Arab World to be among the 170 accepted scholars. Unfortunately, it was a partial scholarship and he was not able to fund the remaining 50%.

And that’s when Australia came to the equation:

“I knew about a visa for graduate engineers by the Australian Department of Immigration, which gives graduate engineers the ability to gain 18 months of experience in Australia.

I liked the idea of moving to Australia, since I had been a fan of the city of Melbourne, and it had been on my list of three cities that I would love to move to at some stage. The other two are Cape Town, South Africa and Santiago, Chile.

Perhaps the UAE was not for me for the time being, I needed a fresh start somewhere, Australia sounded like a great place, let’s do it!

I had decided that moving to Australia was a better decision because of the long-term stay option, which is something that I have suffered from throughout my life, as a Palestinian, in the UAE and Malaysia.”

Because of the temporary nature of the graduate visa, Aziz was determined to plan out for the long term even before flying to Australia. He researched the immigration website and identified the 189 skilled worker visa as the most suitable option to his situation.

Because he could not score many points for his short experience in Electrical Engineering and his age (22 years at the time), he realised he could only rack up enough points to apply for the permanent residency by getting a perfect score of band 8 in IELTS or the equivalent in TOEFL or PTE.

“I decided to take the PTE test because it is computer-based, it had more realistic scores than IELTS and TOEFL. Most importantly, I am more comfortable with computers because I can type fast, and I have a terrible handwriting. I set the date for the exam in three weeks, I studied really hard because I had to score 79 out 90 in each section of the test to be able to apply for the permanent residency visa.”

Aziz was quite worried he would not hit the 79 thresholds for each section. But, a day later, on the evening of his birthday, the results arrived with a huge surprise: He managed to get a perfect score of 90 out of 90 in each section.

Aziz’s PTE results

Settling in Australia

Not knowing a single person in Australia, Aziz was ready to dive in a new chapter of his life. To make things even more adventurous, he received a text right before his flight: His accommodation had been cancelled due to an emergency with the host.

Upon his arrival to Melbourne, he had to fill out the immigration card with the address he would be staying at. He quickly used the first hostel he found on Google. Then he had to actually find an available room, on the fly.

After a few other electric episodes like this, life played its part:

“I managed in a few weeks to befriend a couple of people here who became more like family to me and helped me to find a room on my third day in Melbourne and part-time jobs to handle all the bills.”

By working on these two jobs, as a retail store clerk and a meat clerk, Aziz was able to save up enough money in two months and was finally able to apply for the permanent visa. He got his visa approved in less than 45 days. Wow!

As a new Australian permanent resident, Aziz is performing a lot of experiments and changes on his professional career and has grand ambitions for the next five years. I will make sure to keep following his stories :)

When asked what advice he could give to those trying to migrate to Australia, he concluded:

“Keep learning, keep pushing, stay positive and never despair you might be this close (You → Success) from success. Have a solid plan and commit to this plan, as if there is no back-up one.

If you want to migrate to any country, including Australia, you should have a well-thought out plan. There are various types of visas available, identify the visa which you could be eligible to apply to, and then revolve your plan around it.

Once you’re here, keep applying to jobs, emailing people, and networking as much as you can.

Find ways to highlight yourself from others, the world is full of mediocre people and businesses do not want that. Keep a constant hunger for learning and pushing yourself to the limits.”

This post was originally published on Immi Stories | Duoflag.

Immi Stories

A new series about real immigrants and the story behind moving to their dream country.

Humberto Moreira

Written by

Brazilian immigrant based in Sydney, Australia. Maker @ www.thewinegallery.com.au and www.duoflag.com

Immi Stories

A new series about real immigrants and the story behind moving to their dream country.

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