Thursday, January 11, 2007

O Canada, We Stand In Line For Thee*

This post is brought to you courtesy of yet another Snow/Inclement Weather Day in the Pacific Northwest. Our FIFTH this school year. Out here in the upper left-hand corner, five school-closure days in a year is pretty much unheard of. Chalk it up to global warming, I guess.

But, hey! It gives me time to post. So, go, snow days!

Here's the big news:

Yesterday The Renaissance Woman mailed our completed Spousal Sponsorship/Permanent Residency Application to Immigration Canada, and it is even now winging its way to Missagua (that can't be how it's spelled, but it's something along those lines and damned if I'm going to look it up), Ontario, where according to all reports it will sit for a year or so before the Gods of Immigration Canada see fit to communicate with us and give us a yea or nay on my fitness as a Permanent Resident of the True North Strong and Free and RW's fitness as my sponsor. That's the speeded-up version for spouses of Canadian citizens; the timeline for regular old skilled workers seems to be closer to two years.

A few dedicated readers may recall that we started the application process in July. That would be six (6) months ago.

Now, it's true we have jobs and a kid and are prone to procrastinate. But here's what we did in that time, in no particular order:

1. Downloaded the requisite forms and procedural guidebooks. Two sets: one for the immigrant (me) and one for the sponsor (RW). The Mermaid Girl didn't need to fill anything out because she's a dual citizen like RW and isn't trying to sponsor anyone, not to mention that the Canadian Immigration folks probably aren't up to reading guess-and-go spelling written in purple marker.

2. Searched out and downloaded the elusive and critical Country-Specific Requirements document (containing Appendices A through D), which was not linked to any of the others on the Immigration Canada site. I link it here as a public service.

3. Filled out the relatively straightforward sections of our respective applications. You know, the basic stuff, like our complete list of addresses and jobs going back to our 18th birthdays. This took days and days and much rummaging through old files for addressed letters and outdated resumes. Who knew, when I was 23, that I would forget the apartment number of my place in Brooklyn? Or the philosophical/legal dilemma invoked by the question: "What does it really mean to live somewhere? Does college count? How about that summer internship? Where did I live then, anyways? And why don't I remember? And do I have ANY BRAIN CELLS LEFT at all?"

4. Composed--separately, and in different formats to meet the requirements of our respective applications--a narrative of our relationship from its earliest days to the present, which involved reconstructing and agreeing upon such important data as the place and date of our proposal of marriage ("You asked me. It was that time we were sick and didn't go to Portland and spent the whole weekend in bed with fevers and runny noses." "No, you asked me, and it was at that restaurant in Vancouver, in...July sometime." "July? When in July?" "Crap, I don't know. Let's pick a weekend.") and ruminating upon the previously unexamined question: "Did you have an engagement party? And if not, why not?" (to which I could only answer, "It honestly didn't occur to us." I dunno-- did any of you have engagement parties?)

5. Supported said narrative with a small (7 or 8 page) selection of photos ranging from our earliest kissing-in-the-photo-booth days up through the picture of the three of us from dinner with RW's dad last month, MG sticking out her tongue in convincing 6-year-old fashion.

6. Offered further proof of our relationship status in the form of a sheaf of documents including our Canadian marriage license, our mutual wills, our commitment ceremony programme, our old Seattle Domestic Partnership paper, the receipt from the hotel where we spent our honeymoon (after our first, non-legal wedding), the titles to our jointly-owned cars, and much, much more.

7. Gathered letters of support and reference from seven or eight friends and relations, attesting to the longevity and authenticity of our relationship and to the improbability of RW landing us on welfare in the next few years. (And I need to just say, especially since several of the letter-writers read this blog, that reading those letters was one of the more gratifying parts of the process and in several cases brought us to near-tears.)

8. I got my fingerprints taken and sent them off to the FBI so they could send proof of a clear criminal history on the Federal level. This was by far the most time-consuming part of the process in terms of waiting time (as opposed to people-hours of work time): fourteen weeks from the day I sent the fingerprints in to the day I got the document from them.

9. Got my fingerprints taken again to send to Washington State so they could clear me on the state level (this one only took two weeks).

10. I got a special four-hundred-dollar medical exam, complete with AIDS and TB tests, from one of the two doctors in Washington State okayed by the Canadians to perform it.
The document proving I'd had that exam is by far the most expensive piece of paper in our dossier; I'm even now petrified it'll get lost in the mail somewhere.

11. Gathered various proofs of citizenship and status, including both our birth certificates, MG's second-parent adoption papers, and copies of our passports.

12. RW also had the special joy of assembling various financial documents attesting to her income in the past year (a year during which she's had three different jobs).

13. And the extra-special joy of tracking down her own Canadian citizenship history, which is not completely straightforward as she was brought there as a child and so does not know, nor do her parents, the super-important landing number she was given upon immigrating there almost forty years ago.

14. We assembled the whole thing in an accordion folder, and then I photocopied it, painstakingly, removing and replacing the sticky-notes scattered about where we had questions or had to sign.

15. RW took it to an Immigration Consultant in Vancouver, who was supposed to look it over, only her mother got sick and I think maybe she only looked over the first part before sending it back to us. She seemed a little hazy on the details when RW got back to her later.

16. Finally, RW had the super extra special joy of working out exactly how and how much we were supposed to pay our application fee (online? Or is that only if you're applying within Canada? Different sites, conflicting instructions) and where to send the whole sheaf (Missassagua? Buffalo? Missassagua and Buffalo? Again, different sites, different instructions...)

17. Oh, wait, I forgot getting my picture taken! 4 US-standard passport photos (for the medical exam), and four Canadian immigration photos, which are a completely different size and have different requirements, and I could write a whole post about how I dragged MG to three different photo/copy shop places trying to get them, and each time they took my picture and made us wait ten minutes or so before admitting they didn't have the special photo paper or couldn't make 4 identical copies or whatever, and finally one guy said he didn't have the special Canadian cutting machines and couldn't do it but I think I must've looked like I was about to leap over the counter and sink my fangs into his neck because he quickly said he could cut it to Canadian dimensions by hand. And that's how I got my photos.

But I think that's it.

And now it's done.

We celebrated with a small dance party in the kitchen, featuring music by Canadians such as k.d. lang, Danielle Martineau, the Barenaked Ladies, the Arrogant Worms, and the Wailing Jennies. Oh, and They Might Be Giants, even though they're Merkins like me, because MG insisted.

Now, we just wait.

*Post title courtesy of Renaissance Woman, who taught me the parody of the Canadian National Anthem that she'd learned as a child. Apparently it was the winner of a contest held by the Globe and Mail just after "O Canada" was officially adopted (the anthem before that, of course, had been "God Save the Queen"). I was going to link to it here, but apparently no one on the entire Internet (except me, in a comment on Rachel's blog a few months ago), has ever posted the lyrics. So here they are, as another public service:

Air Canada
Across our Native Land
Through Rain and Sleet we Dash
At Your Command
My bags have gone to Ecuador
Or possibly Dundeeeee
Yet I remain, Air Canada,
To stand in line for theeeee
[dum, da dum dum dum dum]
Air Canada, Beloved monopoly
Air Canada, we stand in line for theee [2X]

If I ever have to sing the real anthem to an official to prove my Canadianicity, I'm sunk. This is the only version I know.


Blogger parodie said...

Hooray on becoming a Canadian! (Perhaps I'm biased, but it will be our gain to have cool people like you here.)

I'm curious: as a spouse-sponsored applicant, will you write the citizenship exam?

The whole process sounds long and stressful. Good luck!

6:43 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Thanks, parodie! I'm looking forward to it! But this whole process doesn't actually make me a Canadian--it's just for Landed Immigrant status, which lets me live and work there (for you other US folks--it's like a green card).

After I become Landed, I can apply for citizenship in 5 years, if I want. Honestly I haven't even thought that far ahead yet. It would be a kick to be dual, though!

9:09 PM  
Blogger nyjlm said...

I can't believe all you did in six months. I was exhausted reading it by the time I got to #7.

I hope it doesn't take a year to find out!

9:40 PM  
Blogger Udge said...

Wow, what a surprising idea (perhaps I should drop in more often). It would be great to be able to count you as a Canadian, but I must point out one thing: we take our Indian place names seriously (well, it's the least we could do, really, having killed off most of the Indians). Bone up on geography and spelling, e.g. Mississauga :-)

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Wow I loved reading all of that,congratulations I'm an Aussie hoping to one day live and work in Canada as a live in care giver fingers and toes crossed.

2:19 AM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Oh, Udge, I am blushing with embarrassment. Especially since I just finished a big tome about Native American kidlit and how disrespectful most of it is. Ah, well, I have about a year to get it right...

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can add to that exhausting list of documents:
- Everywhere I'd ever lived, with phone numbers, since birth (and I'd lived in 26 places by the time I moved to Seattle age 24, in 1987);
- Exactly how much money I made in the last 365 days, to the penny (not easy to calculate for someone with 2 freelance gigs);
- Exactly how much my house is really worth;
- Official statement sworn before a notary that I really did break up with my previous girlfriend over 11 years ago (for which I needed her current address; fortunately I'm on speaking terms with her again).
This is what legalizing same-sex partner immigration will get you: suddenly your ex-es become "legal" too.
But most challenging part for me was writing the essay explaining why I want to move back to Canada, after 20+ years in the US. I wished I could have just quoted the , who are Proud to be Canadian:
"It's cool in many ways to be Canadian [it's cool cause it's cold up here]
We won't say that we're better, it's just that we're less worse."

- Renaissance Woman

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Blogger ate my HTML. That's the Arrogant Worms I was quoting there.

And I think it was the Toronto Star, not the Globe and Mail, who ran that contest to parody the anthem, in about 1973. But as nobody else on the whole Internet appears to remember it, maybe I just hallucinated the whole thing...

- Renaissance Woman

11:21 PM  
Anonymous chasmyn said...

Holy moly, I think you actually have more paperwork than we did. Yes, now you wait.

And we're moving! Finally! We close on our house March 1.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hi there, and good luck to you! We are on steps 17 and 10, and I'm keeping track of everything on our blog too or I'd never be able to remember what's next. E-gad, they want a lot of information. I'm the Canadian citizen and I'm wayyy less organized than my other half, so I just thank goodness I don't have to produce all the information she does or I'd really be in trouble!

Now that you mention it, I think a little dance after sending off that whole package is well-warranted. It may be a lot of work but we know it'll be well worth it!

11:38 AM  

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