USCIS finally approved our petition for a partner visa (I-130)!
Sorting this mess out has been a long time coming - fully 14 years after we applied originally in the USA then cocked the entire thing up.
The drive up to Sydney was uneventful - we decided to simply go in to Melbourne and straight up the Hume Freeway, rather than Google's suggested route of up the Newell and across, because generally speaking the Commodore loves being on the freeway. We can spend up to $70AUD a month on fuel just to go up the street to Duncan's school ten times a week, but get this thing at 110KM/H with the cruise control on and suddenly it gets almost as cheap to run as the Cruze was.
We stayed at the Menzies hotel (which gave Sabriena no small source of amusement), and parked the car in the garage of same. It was valet parking, which was a pain, and they managed to break the lock on the adjustable steering column which I will have to sort because it's seriously annoying at best and a roadworthy issue at worst. It did only cost about $50AUD to park for 24 hours which was excellent.
We arrived at about 2pm, checked in, then went looking for something to do. We ended up taking one of the water taxis as a cheap way to get a cruise around the harbor - out to Manly and back.
Our appointment was at 8:45am, and they say to allow up to three hours for the appointment, so we organized a late checkout of 1pm so we'd have somewhere safe to leave all our shit. Getting in was like getting into a prison, with checkpoint after checkpoint and a private elevator to some ridiculously high floor after removing every potentially electronic device you could possibly have. I mused that security was tighter there than at the USCIS offices in the USA... where you can practically buy a gun at a yard sale, which seems counter-productive.
The appointment went by extremely quickly though, and we only saw two agents who were both extremely friendly. After I had spoken about how I'd really like to finish school before we went back, the second agent went to check with a supervisor. Our petition is apparently good for one year from today's date, but the police check and medical examination both have expiry dates. If I'm willing to go get updates to those, then I can send in my passport around september next year and get a visa added to it then, which is good for six months. So not quite the two years I need to finish school, but it'll help.
Apparently what they've actually done is declined the petition, pending "more documentation" (which I had actually supplied, they're just saying I haven't for the purposes of extending the petition), and a note on my case stating something to that effect. Hopefully everything goes smooth when we're ready to get the visa sorted out.