Thursday, September 4, 2014

Welcome to Canada

I wish I had kept up blogging when I moved to Buffalo, if only for my own benefit, because now I have no record of those pretty major experiences (my first real move away from home, my first real job). So I'm going to start blogging again now that Adam and I have moved to Victoria (in some ways an even bigger change), for that reason as well as so that I can keep people updated. I want to share stories and what's going on with us, but I'm not always good at sitting down and writing to people individually, so this will be one place where I can post the best stories and most important news so that I don't have to write/say them over and over. (Yes, I'm lazy. But no, I don't intend to give up on communicating with people individually! This should help me be better, not worse, at keeping in touch with people.)

Anyway, one story that I've been promising to tell people is about the immigration issues Adam and I had to deal with when we arrived in Canada. He'd applied for his study permit online back in June and it had been approved shortly afterward, and as far as we knew he just had to have the approval letter with him to show to the border officers, and then they would actually issue the permit. So we got off the ferry on Monday morning, after a beautiful ride from Port Angeles, WA, thinking we were all set to enter the country. But then the first officer we saw asked us if we had proof that we had funds to support ourselves while in Canada, and when we said no and couldn't even pull up a bank statement on one of our phones because neither of us have smartphones, they sent us inside to the office.

We quickly found out that we should have had multiple documents with us--the acceptance letter from Adam's school, documentation relating to health insurance coverage in Canada, and the evidence of funds. And adding to the unpleasantness of the situation, the officer who informed us of this was intimidating and even a little rude. She asked us a lot of questions after finding out we didn't have the documents, and we didn't know what the outcome was going to be--was she going to say everything was okay if we gave her enough information, or was she going to send us back to the U.S.?--until she told us she couldn't issue our permits, but would give us a day to collect the necessary documents and come back. She made sure to emphasize that if we didn't show up at the scheduled time--9:00 the next morning--she would issue a warrant for our arrest, adding, "we will come find you."

We ran off to a Tim Hortons to get online and access the documents we needed and then got them printed at our apartment later that day, after unloading our many boxes of stuff. The next morning we got to the office a little early and sat outside in the cold waiting. When the officer finally came out and talked to us, we showed her the documents and waited. After looking over everything, she said that we needed to show that we had applied for health insurance in Canada, not just that we could apply, which is what we had done. So we left the meeting still without our permits and with a second mandatory appointment, this time later that day.

We were frustrated because the officer hadn't made it clear the day before that we needed to apply for health insurance before she could grant the permits--it had sounded like we just needed to show her that health insurance was available to us and that we could afford it. And we were still frustrated about the situation in general because we didn't know how we were supposed to have known that we would need to have all this documentation at the border--the school hadn't told us, and the information Adam had gotten upon the approval of the permit hadn't said anything about it. But we ran back to Tim Hortons and applied for the insurance and printed the confirmation page and showed up for our next appointment. Unfortunately both appointments had conflicted with orientations for Adam's PhD program, but there wasn't anything we could do about that. 

At the second appointment the officer was finally happy, and we got our permits (Adam's for study and mine for temporary residence; I'll be getting a work permit as well but it's still in process). Of course we were really relieved, but it had been so stressful that I told Adam I would probably have nightmares about that officer, and I actually did have a dream that night that we had to go back to the immigration office again. The whole thing also felt ironic since I work at an immigration law office. I guess I should have brushed up on my Canadian immigration law! Anyway, it's all okay now but at the time it was kind of awful, and not a fun way to start off our time in Victoria. We were both worried about getting sent back to the U.S., which would have been really bad with Adam's classes starting our third day here. 

Once my work permit is approved I'll have to leave the country and reenter in order to get it, which is a little scary, but it should be okay because now we have a pile of documents all ready!

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