The telling of my process of for immigrating to Canada is going to be fairly out of order, and with my appointment to become a landed immigrant[wiki] so fresh in my memory, it’s easier to start out there. Also, it takes a lot longer than an hour to become permanent resident[wiki]. This is a post about the day that I got my status.
It’s been a year and a half waiting process for everything to come together, and I have done everything I can to be patient about it. Rebecca can attest to this, keeping me from not bouncing off the walls, but wanting to punch holes through them. It’s not the waiting as much as those job opportunities that I’ve had to let pass on by for the only reason that it would be illegal for me to have them. At this time, the job situation isn’t much different, but I have a few projects keeping me busy with a slight trickle of income.
Getting my notification of appointment with the lovely folks at CIC came in the middle of this past April. The piece of paper said 1PM on May 2nd and bring a list of necessary documents; my passport, two copies of I.D. photos that will go on my PR card[wiki], and the most recent permit that is allowing me to stay in this country. In my case, this was my work permit.
I was fretting this from the time I woke up because of that nagging thought in my head that I was going to forget something important, and in this case, it was our marriage certificate. I ended up not needing it because they said you had to show it if you wanted your PR card to have a different name than what was on your passport or other identification records. Not a problem for me, but there is still that lingering thought. This deep in the process, the last thing I wanted to do is not have everything I needed. Would they allow you to run home and get it or would you have to reschedule? Even then, would you have to wait a day? Week? Month?
Some horror stories out there about immigrating all tell you one thing; the immigration leg of the Canadian government can often resemble the pace of a sloth, not to mention that they can lose things into black holes that even Stephen Hawking has no explanation for. Plus, it didn’t help that this was a last minute thought to cross my mind before walking out the door, Rebecca unable to be reached to get an exact location of it because I couldn’t find it anywhere.
When I walked into the lobby, I was a sweaty mess, part nervousness, other part being that it was warmer and humid outside than I anticipated when I left the house on foot. The security guard greeted me right away, asked if he could help me, and was on top of the situation when I said that I was there for my appointment. Checking my name off the list, he directed me to a place to take a seat for waiting, but the whole lobby was packed. I was taken to a side room that was probably for consultation, just out of view of the crowded lobby. Crammed in there with about eight other people, my heart kind of sank because they must all be waiting in line for an appointment as well, and I settled in to endure a long afternoon.
About five minutes later, the same guard came into the room and asked us to step outside because they were giving some directions. Back in the lobby, a woman was telling all of us what was about to happen, and I suddenly realized that we were all there for the exact, same thing. Some folks were there alone, others had brought friends and family, cameras in tote. This is when I realized that this is a big deal, if not an extremely important day for some very happy people, and we were all doing this together.
We were directed to walk down a hallway with our letters of appointment in view at all times. Through a door, we were led to a boardroom that had about fifty chairs lined up in rows. Only those that were there for an appointment were to sit in those chairs, and all but one or two were taken. A movable wall separated the room in two, us interviewees on one side, the three interviewers stationed at tables on the other.
As we herded in, the immigration officers were talking to all of us, joking around and busting out some great one liners. However, you could catch the cultural divide because what was hilarious to some, others let the joke pass right over their head. Another round of directions started to be explained, this time they started in French, then the other person took over and spoke in English. Even this process took a comical approach at times, and that really made the whole thing seem less ominous.
One by one, we were to be called up to have a short, three question interview, and the order was already predetermined by our appointment letters. Mine had “#5” on the top, so I felt pretty lucky. That is until the woman started going around to check everyone’s identification photos for their PR cards.
Tip for those who might be going through this: follow the directions for getting your photos done very closely. If you don’t, then this is the part of the process that will suck for you. The job of this woman was to take a transparent photocopy, lay it over your photos, and check it to be sure that it falls within the requirements. Seems like the first eight people she got to all had it wrong, and they were sent up and around the corner to get new ones right away. They could get them done and get back for their appointment, but that’s going to set you back at least twenty minutes in the whole process, if not more. So plan ahead, and plan carefully.
Sigh of relief, she approved mine. The guy with a Chinese passport sitting next to me said it right, “Thank god, another eighteen bucks I don’t have to spend.” No kidding.
He was #3 on the top of his paper, and #4 got sent out for new photos. My name was called only to have the first interview with the table in complete view and ear shot of the entire group. The other two tables were tucked behind the wall, so only I could see them when I came around the corner.
Three questions, of which I don’t completely recall, but it was purely basic things, essentially verifying that I am who I say I am and intend on going through with this. Then there is that question I always hate; “Have you been convicted of any crimes or misdemeanors during your stay in Canada?” The truth is that I haven’t, but when she asks this, and this is common anytime I’ve run into this question during this whole process, the head comes up, pen gets set down, they look you squarely in the eye, and then they ask the question.
At that point, you hope you don’t flinch or give them any reason to be suspicious. Sure, they can do a background check, but that could take weeks, if not months to do, and here you are, just moments away from getting that document signed and stamped. All you want is for this incessant waiting to be over.
Verification of my personal data, three signatures, the voiding of all other temporary resident permits[wiki], and a handshake later, I’m in. In a room full of people like that, you truly understand that something special just happened, and the people still waiting kinda smile back at you in anticipation of their turn, an unspoken understanding of all the paperwork, fees, waiting, and uncertainty that you’ve gone through together.
This whole time, you’ve been escorted from point to point, but the pathway out of the building is devoid of anyone and anything. The only way is to the exit, so I try to call Rebecca as soon as I’m out the door. 1:32PM? She was busy at work, but I could not believe that just took over a half hour to get my landed immigrant status. When I talked to her fifteen minutes later, she thought something might be wrong. Nope. I’ll be getting my PR card within six weeks of the appointment, but in the meantime, they gave me a copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to enjoy until it shows up.