Sunday, September 02, 2007

Now It Can Be Told

The Good News: I have a job. It starts in a week. It will be 4 days a week, at a suburban library system, working with kids and teens. It's a temporary gig so it only lasts until March, but that's just fine for now.

The Other Good News: I can finally breathe and enjoy this good news without worrying that I might have to turn the job down after all, because:

As of 1:30 AM today, after a midnight trip down to the border with several hastily-assembled documents, I have a work permit that will enable me to stay in Canada and work at that job, until the Very Important Piece of Paper that will Enable Me to Land as a Permanent Resident (Which Despite My Obsessively Detail-Oriented Preparations For This Immigration And Move I Did Not Realize Was Very Important, And Thus Lost or Misplaced) is found by me, or replaced by the inscrutable veiled presences at Immigration in Buffalo.

This whole process has been much more nervewracking than I have perhaps let on. Immigration almost didn't even let me--or the 26-foot truck full of all our worldly goods--through the border last Monday because I was missing that important document. (They finally let me in on a visitor's visa, and RW imported all our goods as a returning Canadian citizen.) And tonight, at the border again, the Immigration Officer was very concerned that it was lost, though she ended up giving me the work permit after all.

I have called the main Immigration phone number, and been told regretfully that they can't help because the document was processed in Buffalo, not in Canada. I have called Buffalo, and listened to the recorded message stating that they do not respond to telephone inquiries. I have repeatedly faxed and emailed Buffalo, and received in reply only a single cryptic line stating that they will look into my case.

What made all this particularly harrowing was that, until the immigration officer waved aside my eagerly-proferred visa and demanded to see this piece of paper last Monday, I had absolutely no knowledge that it was essential in order for me to land. I have not been slapdash about this procedure: RW and I read all the guides and instructions carefully; we took months to assemble documentation and fill out the numerous forms; we had a lawyer check everything over. And once my passport was returned to me with the all-important Permanent Resident sticker attached, I kept track of its whereabouts at all times.

I vaguely remember receiving this other document, but if I'd had any idea of how important it was I would have filed it with my passport and never let it go misplaced for a moment. Instead, it got lost. It might be somewhere in our 180+ boxes...or it might have been inadvertently recycled in the mass purge of papers that preceded our move. We don't know, and we might never know.

We did a hundred things right, and we got this one thing wrong. And this one thing turns out to be the most important thing.

Somewhere in all those guidebooks and instructions there must have been the information that YOU MUST HAVE THIS IMPORTANT DOCUMENT IN ORDER TO LAND, YOU DOPE. But somehow I missed it. And this oversight is unusual enough that there's no simple procedure for doing something about it. There is a form to send in to Buffalo requesting a replacement copy of the document, but the form assumes that the applicant has landed already; apparently losing the document before you even immigrate is completely unheard-of.

In other words, I have the distinction of being, despite my 11-page list of Goods to Import and my meticulously labeled and indexed accordion file full of documentation, officially too flaky to become a Permanent Resident of Canada.

Well. At least I'm distinctive.


Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Oh, god, elswhere. How nerve-wracking! I'm so sorry!

7:35 AM  
Anonymous cheesefairy said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. I am willing to bet cash canadian dollars that the "oh, by the by, this is IMPORTANT" oversight is the government's fault, not yours.

Just by your post I can tell you're more organized than Canada's New Government (TM) (or its old one, for that matter) You use commas, for one thing.

Congratulations on the job!

8:31 AM  
Anonymous chasmyn said...

Congratulations on the job!

So what is the document, anyway?

10:03 AM  
Anonymous ppb said...

Well, at least there is good news on the job front.

11:03 AM  
Blogger nyjlm said...

If it had been me detained at the border and learning of the important piece of paper I would have been a quivering mass. I think you sound great for having been through it!

and hip hip hooray on the job!

11:32 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

I told Scott about your plight, and he was like, "What piece of paper? Doesn't she have the laminated visa in her passport?"

So yah, the dire import of this piece of paper did not impress itself on him either (even though we presumably had it when we "landed") (and of course, our "landing" involved driving to the border and doing a U-turn). I remembered it as a dot-matrix printout, but apparently that's the proof of landing we got back afterwards, so who knows.

12:10 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

chasmyn-- it's called a Confirmation of Permanent Residence. The first border guy showed me an example: it has a serrated edge on top, and a photo of (presumably) me at the bottom, and some typewritten bureaucratese in between. I know I had it at one point, because it looked familiar (I remember thinking, "oh, *that's* what they needed my photos for") but damned if I know where it is now.

nyjlm--I was! I was a quivering mass! I cried, and everything. The border folks were unmoved, of course; I bet they see lots of crying. They were kind of nasty, actually, and kept insisting on referring to RW as my "friend" even though-- hello!--it was on account of her being my spouse that I had the Permanent Resident visa in the first place.

rachel--Scott's bewilderment isn't unusual; even the person I talked to later [on the phone] at Immigration was confused about what I was talking about, and told me at first--before consulting with a supervisor--that I didn't need the Confirmation document.

What I don't understand is why, if this piece of paper is simultaneously so crucial and so obscure, my dilemma isn't more common. I even googled "lost Confirmation of Permanent Residence Canada" and came up with basically nothing. It's sort of bizarre. Kafkaesque, even.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Arwen said...


Do you see what intelligent things I have to add?
I'm glad you're here now!

12:19 AM  
Anonymous some middle aged guy said...

If you need more advice on cross-border issues this guy, david ingram, runs a great free Q and A website:

He's seen it all, maybe even has experience with your situation....

11:18 AM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Some middle aged guy--

Thank you!! That site looks terrific, and if I don't hear from Buffalo soon I'll try emailing David Ingram.

12:51 AM  
Blogger Casdok said...

Congratulations on the job!!!

3:31 AM  

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