Eh-oh Canada, go…finally!

Preface: This is an incredibly long post about our PR journey.  I do not claim to be an expert on this subject, but am simply sharing my experience of the process.

When I met the Mister in 2008, I never knew the difficulties we would face when trying to decide where we should live. This decision was particularly difficult because the Mister is Canadian and I’m American and our families live on opposite sides of the continent (West vs. East).  We first lived in Vancouver (2009-2011), then moved to Toronto (2011-2013), there was some NY time (Buffalo and Central NY too) tossed in 2012-2013 and now we find ourselves in Calgary.  I was able to work and live in Canada under open visas and a sponsorship through a job.  I knew visa’s would always be an issue, regardless of where we wanted to live…

While in Toronto, I studied at LSE (In the UK) and then landed a job in Buffalo, NY (2012) because my Visa had run out for Canada.   We knew that we needed to apply for my permanent residency for Canada. Now, we did this after much deliberation on where to live, we even toyed with buying a house in Buffalo, NY.  We went back and forth on the pros & cons of the two countries and finally came to the decision that Canada would be able to afford us the lifestyle we want right now.

Now, I’m not sure if anyone has gone through the process of PR (for any country), but it is the most emotionally draining experience we’ve ever been through.  We started our application in October 2012  as an out land sponsorship (because I wasn’t residing in Canada at the time) and it took two months to fill out all of the paper work, gather all of the documents and check (double, triple check!) all of the documents. We paid all of our fees up-front and I had my medical completed even before we sent in the application so there would be nothing to delay the process.

We finally got the documents in on December 4, 2012. And then we waited…the Mister heard that he was approved to sponsor me (support me and such) in January 2013, which is the first step. We were elated, we thought our case was trucking along, but then came April 2013, when the PAFSO went on strike (they are still on strike as of September 2013…) and everything came to a halt.  We waited and waited. We searched the internet for information, scoured over chats and forums, we attempted to get in touch with Ottawa (where our case was being processed) but they do not list their phone number online and don’t have to get back to you via e-mail.  So…we waited in limbo.

Life went on, as best it could, we had our wedding in June and I was able to visit the Mister in July.  Then July 11th, 2013 came: we received an e-mail from an immigration agent asking for more documents!!! They were documents we had already sent it, but we sent them again.  Then the Mister received a phone call from the agent who was processing our case on July 12 to verify some information (my birthday, where he was working etc.).  We couldn’t believe our case was FINALLY in progress.  Our E-case (online tool to follow the progress of your case) was updated on July 15,  2013 to decision made!!! We were so incredibly happy, we might have cried.

You know how I mentioned we surfed chats and forums for information? Well, while they offer some fantastic advice, they can also turn you into a raving nut! Once a decision is made your e-case doesn’t actually inform you if you’ve been approved or not…so you have to wait…and wait…and wait.

I checked the mail every day for nearly a month straight.  I cannot describe how it felt to be let down everyday, to have so little control over the situation and to not know when you’d be out of limbo: it was truly depressing.  I was fortunate enough to have my wonderful family to support me through all of it and make me smile daily.

Finally on August 17, 2013 my Conformation of permanent Residency (COPR) arrived in the mail.  I was out shopping when my Mom phoned: I did a dance in the mall, I was so, so, so happy I nearly cried. Yet, there were still so many unanswered questions-which is why I am writing this post.

Inside of the envelope, there were a couple of sheets of paper: two copies of my COPR and some standard letters with basic information.  Luckily I had been on the forums (oh love/hate relationship) and knew I had to fill out a B4 form (to claim anything I was bringing over) and that I had to write a detailed list of everything I owned and assign a value to it all.  Depending on how you are immigrating into Canada, there are limitations on what you can bring: because I was entering as a new resident of Canada, I was able to bring over a bit (any one item over $10,000 would be taxed, and all items, unless wedding presents etc. had to be used: i.e. you couldn’t buy a brand new computer just to bring it over kinda thing, and all items had to be meant for personal use and not re-sale).  I also imported my car into Canada.  You need to have an official title of the car, in your name, and fax that over to the border crossing you plan on going over AT LEAST 72 hours before you cross. Make sure you actually export the car once you get to the crossing.  We (brother and I) missed the lane for this and had to go through immigration on the Canadian side, just to turn around and go back to the US…to export the car…to enter into Canada.  The reason you need to export the car is because if you don’t and then you want to go back into the US with said car, you can pay heavy fines.  Once you land in Canada you need to pay your fee (roughly $200) to the RIV and have your car federally inspected.  You have 45 days from when you land to do this.  To do this, you go to a Canadian Tire and bring all of your documents and receipt along with you.  Make sure you phone the Canadian Tire to see when they are actually doing the inspections, just so they don’t turn you away.  You’ll have to pay an additional tax on the tires ($4/tire, including your spare, if it is a full one).  After you get your go-ahead from Cad Tire, you’ll need to bring in your documents to a Registration office to file the paper work.  That’s another $10.  Cad tire failed to write down the weight of our car (awesome…), so I had to take a photo and e-mail it over to RIV.  After your file is complete, they apparently mail you a sticker to put on your car to stat it has been properly imported.  Depending on the province you are calling home, registering the car will be different.  We’re in Alberta, so when I filed the RIV paperwork, they handed me the import for out of province inspection paperwork.  Apparently there is no deadline on when you need to have this done, however, when you DO get it done, you only have  14 days to file that paperwork, along with your insurance and change over your driver’s licence.  I am sure there will be more fees behind that too.

Once landed in Canada, you must keep track of the days you are outside of Canada, as you need to be in the country for so many days out of the year.  Also, if you’re aiming to eventually become a Canadian citizen, you need to be in the country for 3 out of 4 years, so it’s imperative to keep track of the time you spend away from Canada.  I’m using my google calendar to keep track of the days here/outside of Canada.  Before you can leave Canada, it is recommended that you wait till you get your actual PR card-this takes up to 90 days.  Now, you can request that they expedite your PR card, but you must have a pretty good reason why.

Anyway, applying for PR status has been the most arduous journey and you only do it either because you truly love someone or because you truly love (need to leave your old country) the new country. I’m still trying to find my footing as a PR of Canada (which is all a bit strange to me…!), but keep my American roots.  I’ll keep you posted on when my PR comes and how the process for eventually applying for citizenship goes! 🙂

To all of you who are applying for your PR status, keep your head it…it will happen. Also, if you have any questions, do feel free to drop me a note and I’ll try to help you, based on my experiences 🙂