Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Landing, with details

When we approached the booth at the Peace Arch border crossing, we explained that we were landing and our friend was accompanying us. After establishing that she was not being paid for her service ("she's just a generous friend with a car"), we were told to park the car and go into the building. The snow was in full winter-wonderland mode at this point -- on March 28 in a part of the world that doesn't get much snow any time of year. Welcome to Canada!

The only other "customer" was an irritated American who was upset that he had gone through this crossing many times before and had never received the further scrutiny he was today. The Canadian official was completely unimpressed and did not engage: "You're entering Canada and you're subject to questioning."

As you all know by now, landing is a very non-event. They looked at our landing papers and passports. They never asked about employment or settlement funds. They did not request photos (and I had them already done by London Drugs!). One person looked over our "goods to follow" list, but not in detail and there were no questions or comments. They stapled our household inventory spreadsheet to a form, kept a copy and gave us one.

They asked Alan and me, each in turn, the usual series of questions: Convicted of any crime? Ever denied entry to or asked to leave Canada? They asked us a few times to verify that we were, indeed, married. (I believe this had nothing to do with our being a same-sex couple, but rather issues of immigration fraud.) Sign here, sign there (don't touch the green box!), initial this, initial that.

The only glitch was that Alan's landing papers indicated that he needed to be under "medical surveillance" and there was no other documentation. We explained that we had thought that they would give us further direction (at the border) and they said, no, usually there was a specific form and an explanatory letter. We told them we did not receive anything other than what we gave them. Murmured consultation with colleagues. OK, let's fill out a generic medical surveillance form. You have to be seen within 30 days by one of these doctors on the Designated Medical Practitioners (DMP) list. But, they said, we were now landed and welcome to Canada.

We called the same doctor's office in Vancouver that we went to for our initial examinations in June of last year. I'll spare readers the back-and-forth of the following week. The bottom line is that we learned that we didn't have to see a DMP and that it would be a waste of time to do so. Alan needs to visit a provincial health clinic; the receptionist laughed when I said he needed to be seen within 30 days. "The CIC knows there is no way anyone can be seen in 30 days with our backlog. Don't worry about it." So we have an appointment in June and I'm going to see if we can push it to July. They really don't seem very concerned. ("Unless it's marked URGENT.")

When Alan is seen, he will have to do some more stuff and then come back in a few weeks for the results. At that time, the authorities will either clear him or ask him to come back in another year or something like that.

Now, gentle readers, you know that I do not like loose threads. But I am trying to let this one go. The clinic -- and, by the way, the woman was very nice, patient, and helpful -- was so un-concerned and no-big-deal. And we ARE landed.

After the border crossing, we did continue into Vancouver where we applied for our Social Insurance Numbers at a Service Canada office. The woman could not have been more pleasant. We left with our numbers and our cards would be mailed to the Canadian address we provided. (We now have them in hand; it only took a couple of weeks. Many thanks to Vancouver friend of "WEB" and "drf.")

Next, we rented a post office box as we use one here in Seattle and we thought it could be useful in Vancouver. (We did not use this address for the P.R. or SIN cards, though, because we didn't want them sitting in an unattended box.) An observation: It seems that post offices in Canada are usually attached to and run by private businesses (such as inside a drug store). I also need to get used to grams rather than ounces for weight and postal codes using letters. :-)

What took the longest was opening bank accounts. I don't know if this is standard in Canada, but we had to have appointments. We just showed up (as we would do in the U.S.); they didn't have a time slot available at that branch, but they arranged for us to meet with someone at another location. We were at that woman's desk for two hours, mostly because we don't have Canadian credit histories and they needed to remember how to check the U.S. system and translate the scores into Canadian. (I did ask -- very politely and out of curiosity -- why they needed a credit check when we were leaving our money with them and not borrowing. She said it was because we would be depositing and withdrawing funds from our accounts and there were situations that involved coverage and trust.)

Now that we've jumped through application hoops and landing hurdles, next up is the relocation dance ...