We received the letter requesting our passports for visa issuance on Friday, September 28. (The envelope was postmarked in Seattle September 25; why it took three days to travel 1.5 miles is unknown.) I don't know if the timing of the request with my email to the consulate was a coincidence or if it prompted them to action; my guess is the former. I'll spare you the complete text of the letter, but I do like to give details in case a newbie should find this, The World's Most Boring Blog. (I think I should have that trademarked or copyrighted or something.)
We have 30 days to send the passports; we, of course, sent them the same day. The consulate enclosed a 6 x 9 Tyvek envelope with a sticker in the top left corner (where the return address normally goes) that had our file number and a bar code of the file number. I'm not going to send something so important without a return address, so I enclosed the passports in the envelope provided and put it in a larger envelope. I also enclosed a self-addressed postage-paid Priority Mail envelope for the return of the passports to us. They made it clear that they would not use any other carrier than USPS (within the U.S.); one can use First Class, Priority Mail, or Express Mail and appropriate postage needs to be prepaid. They also said that they don't "do" registered mail, return receipts, etc. -- but they are also not responsible for lost passports. :-)
We thought about delivering the passports in person, but they seemed to imply that that was only for those without a mailing address and we didn't want to risk "bothering" them. Besides, the place is a zoo with tons of people waiting, even if you arrive before the office opens.
We have until June 7, 2008 to land -- the official border crossing that gives one permanent resident status. The visas in the passports are what allow one to do this. The date is exactly one year from our initial immigration medical exams. (I specify "initial" because we had a lot of follow-up.) If we do not land within that time frame, we must start over again from the very very beginning. (Newbies, remember that "landing" does not have to mean moving at the same time although they do not mention this in the letter. You must, however, have your household inventory in hand.) We should be ready to show proof of settlement funds when we land. I understand from others, although it is not stated in CIC's letter, that we will need passport-like photos when we land.
Perhaps they will give us more information about landing when they return the passports. In any case, "family" members, please be ready for lots of questions from me, The Anxious Would-Be Canadian (TM).
The letter indicated that the approval was based on all the information they had received up to that point; if anything has changed, it should be reported to the CIC, especially -- they stressed -- any changes in the accompanying family (marriage, divorce, pregnancy, birth).
QUESTION FOR THE EXPERIENCED: Does the permanent residency "clock" -- where one must have actual residence in Canada two out of five years in order to maintain status -- start from visa issuance or from landing? I know it wouldn't be from the time of moving/relocation. We thought we would get the landing over with ASAP, but might re-think that if we thought that a delay in the start of the "clock" would be beneficial. Not that we plan on dragging our feet on this; we just want to have all the information before making timing decisions.
Right now, we plan to move within April - December of 2008. Obviously we need to narrow that down at some point. One idea we're floating is for me to move up first to attend the community college program I'm interested in, staying at the Y, and using evenings and weekends to look for a place to live. Then Alan, the cats, and our worldly possessions could come up about a month later. We want to research the housing (apartment rental) market, the job market, and the availability of my educational program. We also have to consider our current situation in deciding when it would be best to exit/enter. A lot to think about.
I'm still in shock. Still nauseous when I think about it. I know this is a good thing, but it is also momentous and overwhelming.