If you’re a first time reader, a quick, 50-word preface:
I’m an American married to an Canadian. We moved to Halifax, Canada this summer from our last home in Prague, Czech Republic. So, we come here as new residents: one citizen and one on “visitor status.”
So, Here I Am, an American in Canada
Against common myth, Americans are not freely welcome in Canada. Sure, we can come to visit, -but not to stay. Americans: Canada is not your 51st state. (That’s worth repeating, but I won’t).
So, Here I Am, on Visitor Status
Visitor status -that’s what you get when you come to Canada and have no legal grounds to stay. For Americans, visitor status lasts 6 months. That 6 months puts me as valid until December 24th. Then I’m free to leave. In fact, I’m told to leave. All but escort my ass over the border – thanks. Have a nice day, eh?
If I seem gruff, it’s a tinge of bitterness. I’m married to a native-born Canadian and we have two kids, foreign born with Canadian citizenship. (By the way, yes, there is a difference between native and foreign born Canadians.) So, in my family, I’m feeling as much Canadian as American.
So, Here I Am, in Front of Immigration
When we arrived at Halifax airport late last June, we were sweating bullets. Over the flight (and often prior) we went over our “stories,” our angle, planning and rehearsing answers to any question.
We expected to be questioned on our intentions and we expected a little grilling. I had no reason to demand “I’m living here now” and it’s unreasonable to believe “Sure, my Canadian family is moving here, but I’m soon returning to Prague.”
One thing for sure we knew: Immigration is not our friend.
And we were right. Immigration can be that nosey but otherwise harmless neighbour. Immigration can be the crotchety bureaucrat that can’t seem to do their job twice the same way. And they can be the power-tripping, asshole cop who’s wife is cheating on them while they pull a double-shift and they just caught you doing 110 in a 50. But they are not your friend.
I Filed my Residency Paperwork
First, we saw an immigration lawyer. Well worth the $275 – he answered questions we didn’t know we had.
Second, we decided on the path to take – as a spouse.
It’s all footwork that we expected. We went through the same drill in the US for my wife who successfully got her US citizenship. Still, experience doesn’t make immigration paperwork any fun, nor prepare you for the idiocy that comes at every turn (or counter).
And, Here I Am. …Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock.
So we file my application. I just checked on the status last week. Thankfully they received it. Of course I know the application package arrived; I sent it by FedEx. But arrived doesn’t immediately mean “received” in the system. The nice lady confirmed “Probably be another 7-8 months before the reviewers get to yours.” Great.
Meanwhile, tick, tock, tick, tock. My visitor status expiry looms and I was told to extend it as soon as possible. But how?
We look online -there’s an immigration office downtown Halifax. Great!
I arrange babysitting and go downtown to the CIC office: “Sorry, can’t help you – by appointment only. Call this number.”
I step outside the office & call the number: “Sorry, but all agents are busy right now…please try your call again on our less busy days, Thursday and Friday.” Great.
I call on Thursday. An agent answers. After my “elevator speech explanation” to immigration officers, she offers “Sorry, but can’t help you.”
For the love of god, how is it a freakin’ Czech post office can have better customer service than any country’s immigration office?
Well, considerable investigation later – I find out I can extend my stay online. Most unbelievable to me is no one was able to say that.
Who knew their website has so much processing available all online? Certainly not Canadian immigration officers.
So, Here I Am, on Extended Visitor Status
All’s well that ends well. And we patiently wait the 7-8 months for my permanency residence application to be reviewed. Since 7 is more than 6, I guess I’ll be extending my visitor status again next summer. At least I’ll know what to do.