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Immigrant

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Full house

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThree months and eleven days have elapsed since I landed in British Columbia clutching my Confirmation of Permanent Residency (COPR) documentation.

In this post – dating from a few days before we left the UK in July – I mused upon the unsettlingly stateless limbo in which we found ourselves at that point, having divested ourselves of all of those accoutrements by which one’s existence is normally defined.

As documented a few days subsequent to our arrival in Victoria I had rapidly commenced the task of constructing a new Canadian identity. It has taken a while but I am delighted to report that the process is now pretty much complete.

Over the past few weeks a variety of critical markers – in the form of credit card sized identity cards – have dropped into our Community Mailbox…

A digression for non-Canadians… Until recently the majority of inhabitants of this brave young country were blessed – as we yet are in the UK – with a postal service that provided door to door deliveries. Now – for all of the usual painful reasons – that service is being curtailed. Even since we took up residence in our North Saanich home the familiar sight of the year-round shorts-appareled post person has been replaced by a roadside stack of ‘Community Mailboxes’ for which we have all been issued keys. In our case this now means a quarter of a mile trek up the road – in all weathers naturally – to see if we have mail. That’s ‘progress’… and indeed ‘service’!

Enough! Back to identity cards. I have recently taken delivery of the following:

  • my Permanent Resident card. Hooray! I now officially exist.
  • a permanent Driver’s License – to replace the temporary document that I have been toting around with me.
  • my British Columbia Services Card. This precious piece of plastic signifies that I have now not only met the residency requirements for eligibility but am a fully paid up member of the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP).

I think it is now safe to say that I am no longer a non-person.

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 Image from Pixabay“It’ll be just like starting over – starting over”

John Lennon

Wow!

This has been quite a week. Having stripped our lives right back to the bone in the UK before we departed those shores we are now frantically putting them together again here in Victoria. I don’t know when the relaxation part of retirement is going to kick in, but it sure as heck ain’t gonna be just yet.

The days have thus far been just too busy for me to be able to find the time to post, but this end of (working!) week catch-up will hopefully hold back the rising tide of impatience amongst those readers who want to know just what the devil is going on with the immigrants and homecoming queens here on the Pacific northwest coast.

Well – this is what the Kickass Canada Girl and I have done this week.

We have:

  • visited the Victoria Canada Service Centre to acquire for me a Social Insurance Number (SIN). This is necessary should one wish to work in BC or to be able to access other government services.
  • been to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) office to trade our UK driving licences for temporary BC equivalents.
  • paid a visit to the bank to set up a chequing account for me and to apply for credit cards.
  • commenced our search for somewhere to live (or rather, moved our previous online search onto the real streets of Saanich).
  • sent off registration details and applications for Health Insurance Cards (BC Services Cards). Though these will not come into effect for three months (meaning that we had to take out three months travel health cover before setting out) when the cards arrive they can be used as proof of identity to turn our new temporary driving licences into permanent versions.
  • completed and posted the application for my UK pension incomes to be taxed in Canada.
  • had a meeting with a mortgage broker to get some advice regarding the existing mortgage on the Girl’s son’s condo (apartment).
  • been to view – and shortly thereafter to purchase – a convertible for the Girl, to replace the much loved vehicle that had to be traded away just before we left the UK.
  • been to view a suitable 4×4 for me. The vehicle concerned had not at that point been staged, so a return trip is on the cards tomorrow.
  • viewed yet more houses – including paying a second visit to one that we liked a great deal and on which we subsequently made an offer! At this point we discovered that the real estate market in Canada is just as non-functional as that in the UK, though in different ways. At the point of writing it doesn’t look as though we will actually get this house, but this would appear to be because the vendors – although they have gone to the trouble of listing it – do not actually seem to want to sell it!

Well – I think all might agree that this represents rather a good week’s work. We – at any rate – are quite worn out, though at the same time really somewhat impressed with the progress that has been made.

Phew!

And so to bed…

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image…no, no – that’s just a little too obvious!

Let’s just say that the Immigrant is Imperceptible no longer (though I like the tag so much that I most certainly intend continuing my use of it).

When I last posted concerning my attempt to become a Permanent Resident of Canada I described to process to the point – which had then just been reached – at which my Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) had arrived in the post. All that remained – I wrote – was for me to ‘land’ in Canada.

The process is this:

The COPR document is essentially a temporary visa with an expiry date by which point the applicant must have ‘landed’ in Canada. Upon ‘landing’ the temporary visa is replaced by more permanent documentation and the applicant becomes a resident of Canada. This is done at the ‘port of entry’ into Canada.

Thus, when I landed on Sunday morning at Vancouver International I was directed to the Immigration hall, triaged by a very polite young man and then passed over to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for a brief interview and document processing.

Having heard that this might be a lengthy process we had arranged an hiatus in our journey at this point of some three hours before catching the connecting flight on to Victoria. Of course, when we entered the Immigration hall it was almost entirely empty, save for the helpful young man, a suitably stern CBSA lady and our good selves. As a result the whole operation was completed in around thirty minutes and we found ourselves with a considerable amount of time to kill before we could take the last step of our long trek.

For the record, the CBSA lady did not issue any new documentation – she merely stamped the existing COPR document. The final PR card will apparently catch up with me later. The stern lady also assisted us with our customs declaration which she need not have done, though as the centre was so quiet she seemed happy to do the leg work for us. She filled out Form B4 – ‘Personal Effects Accounting Document‘ (eschewing the copy that I had prepared earlier) – and stamped the printed copies of the spreadsheet that I had provided listing the ‘Goods to Follow’ which comprise the contents of our shipping container.

Now, I have to say that – compared to the preceding elements of the process – ‘landing’ could not have been accomplished in a more easeful and efficient manner. My thanks to the Canada Border Services Agency for helping to make my arrival go as smoothly as it did.

And as just about everyone has extended to me thus far – “Welcome to Canada”.

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officialOne of the last remaining obstacles to our impending relocation to the Pacific Northwest coast of British Columbia has been officially surmounted. Yesterday – in the post – I received the Confirmation of Permanent Residency (COPR) that marks the virtual culmination of the process of becoming a full time inhabitant of Canada.

Hoo – bloomin’ – ray!

All that now remains in this regard is for me to ‘land’ on the continent and for this temporary visa to be exchanged for the actual PR document. Fears that the expiry of my medical certificate at the end of April – the which is normally used as the deadline for landing once the COPR has been issued – might cause a problem have been excised by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) extending the visa period for a year – to May 2016.

The whole process – which has felt for much of the time as though it were indeed doing its best to live up to the ‘Imperceptible’ tag – has actually taken about two weeks less than a year. Given that the CIC website originally indicated that the expected processing time would be around eleven months, I guess I shouldn’t complain.

It has – however – felt like an eternity!

Well – this is it:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

One factor in our case for the process seeming quite as extended as it has is that we made a first abortive attempt to set things in motion back in 2012, when the Kickass Canada Girl had moved – temporarily as it turned out – to Victoria. For those with a predilection for completeness here follows the complete trail of my posts documenting the whole shebang…

  • A Tough OccupationMay 2012 – an introduction to the PR process
  • A Word from our SponsorMay 2012 – the part that the Girl would have to play in the process
  • PrerequisitesMay 2012 – a description of the documentation that would need to be gathered before completing the application
  • Doctor, DoctorJune 2012 – my first visit to the doctor to acquire a medical certificate
  • A Little Application-1June 2012 – details of the complete sponsor’s application
  • A Little Application-2June 2012 – details of my own complete application
  • Leave to RemainDecember 2012 – first attempt abandoned
  • Residency RevisitedFebruary 2014 – the process restarted a year on
  • Residency Revisited – RevisitedFebruary 2014 – further information gleaned concerning the process
  • Spot the DifferenceApril 2014 – second medical and police certificates are obtained
  • Momentous DayJune 2014 – the completed application is at last submitted
  • Cause for CelebrationAugust 2014 – the Girl is approved as a sponsor
  • In the SystemAugust 2014 – our first appearance on the Electronic Client Application Status (ECAS) site
  • The Waiting Game  – November 2014 – introduction to the London sponsored applicant spreadsheet on the British Expat website
  • Signs of LifeNovember 2014 – request for payment of the Right of Permanent Residence Fee (RPRF)
  • Glory Be!March 2015 – finally – the application appears as ‘In Process’ on the ECAS
  • Hallelujah!May 2015 – and now it switches to ‘Decision Made’
  • It’s Official – May 2015 – this very post – I have my COPR!

Phew!

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prNo more need be said…

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Image from PixabayWhen I started writing this blog in January 2012 at the ripe old age of 58 – with the intention of documenting my odyssey across the waters to Canada and into retirement in British Columbia – I knew even then that the process would not be an easeful one.

I chose its appellation carefully – the sense of danger, of striving, of progression and adventure implicit in the journey into a new world balanced carefully by the anticipated glacial progress of the process itself. The Kickass Canada Girl and I were about to embark on our short-lived experiment in living five thousand miles apart and – even though I was at that point expecting to retire in 2013 – I knew that this relatively brief span would feel like a lifetime.

I had – however – no idea just how imperceptible progress towards our ultimate objective would turn out to be.

Should you ever determine that you have a problem with impatience – an intolerance of prorogation – then let me recommend to you as a form of therapy an application for Canadian Permanent Residency (PR)… or an attempt to sell a ‘quirky’ property in a buyer’s market. As an exercise in having absolutely no control whatsoever over the outcome of said venture, neither of these can be beat.

To be entirely fair, when I submitted my application for PR at the very start of June last year the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website was indicating that the average time to process such would be around eleven months – which period is not strictly up until next week! Such details don’t help much for those having actually to endure this interminable wait. The fact that almost no indication is given at any point as to current progress only makes things worse.

Until my sponsor – the Kickass Canada Girl – was approved almost two months subsequent to the original submission there was no indication that the application had even been received. The listing on the Electronic Client Application Status portal (ECAS) thereafter read ‘Application Received’  for nearly eight months until it suddenly flipped to ‘In Process’ in mid March this year. Word on the various expat fora is that one might hope for a decision within three to five weeks thereafter, but it is now at the furthest extent of that range and there has been as yet no word.

Naturally I check ECAS daily. Naturally I pore over the London spreadsheet on the British Expats forum to see if anyone from the same cluster as me has heard the good – or indeed any – news. Naturally I rush to check the post to see if anything has magically arrived from CIC.

Nada!

We first placed our Buckinghamshire apartment on the market in the spring of 2011. Though it has been on and off the market since then, over that four year period we must have had dozens of viewings. We have yet to to receive a single offer! This is – of course – somewhat dispiriting… to put it mildly. We have taken much advice. We have adjusted the price diligently at the behest of our agents (realtors!) and thus far elicited only the reaction that no-one knows why it hasn’t sold…

Hmmm!

As the deadline for our departure for Canada approaches with all the subtlety of a runaway train we must keep our faith, our belief in our good fortune and our fingers firmly crossed. The universe is surely planning for everything to pan out just right – at just the right moment.

If nothing else we will have learned a heck of a lesson!

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Glory be!

Inf. an exclamation expressing surprise or shock. (A bit old-fashioned.)

Idioms – The Free Dictionary

Since paying the Right of Permanent Residency Fee (RPRF) shortly before the end of last year I have – with almost religious fervour – been logging on daily to the CIC’s Electronic Client Application Status (ECAS) portal to check on the progress of my application for Canadian Permanent Residency. The status routinely revealed thereby appeared to be stuck so obstinately on “Application Received” that I was beginning to wonder if the whole kit and caboodle had become lost somewhere in the machinery – or whether there might be some sort of un-revealed issue with my application – or if indeed we would needs make the journey to BC in July without having heard anything at all…

Then – all of a sudden – when I logged on yesterday the status had changed to “In Process“! As you can see from the screen capture below – processing actually started on March 10th.

In Process!

Whoopee!!

This is very good news. There is but one step to go, at which point the status will change to “Decision Made” and – all being well – the necessary documents will be sent out. Anecdotal evidence from the expat fora suggests that this might not take too much longer, and further that sometimes the documents arrive without the status on the ECAS being updated at all.

Well – this is all really quite unbearably exciting!

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Image by Frank Vincentz on Wikimedia CommonsWaiting for word from Citizenship and Immigration Canada regarding my application for Canadian Permanent Residency is a nerve shredding affair – the which is clearly also the case for the many who contribute to the fora of the various InterWebNet sites (several of which are linked in my blogroll) that are so very helpful to the putative immigrant. The situation is certainly not helped by the (perhaps understandable) total lack of information relayed to the eager applicant as things progress (or not!).

Way back at the very start of my first attempt at the residency process in 2012 I explained in this helpful post the various classes under which one can apply. I had but a single choice – to be sponsored under the family class with my spouse – the wholly admirable Kickass Canada Girl – as my sponsor.

Of course – it is actually more complex than that. Spousal sponsorship applications can be made under two further categories – Inland and Outland. Logic suggests that Inland applications are for those couples already living in Canada, whereas Outland applications are for those where the applicant is not yet resident. Inland applications can take longer to process – being considered less urgent since the couple are already together. As it happens many couples are actually eligible to apply under either category, and may thus choose the supposedly ‘quicker’ option. In practice – of course – it still doesn’t feel that quick!

Regardless of the type of application being made the paperwork is sent in the first instance to CIC in Mississauga, Ontario. CIC processes the sponsor’s application and – once sponsor approval has been granted – the norm for Outland applications (such as mine) is for the applicant’s paperwork to be sent back to his or her nearest visa office to be processed in full. That this does not always happen is dependant on the workloads on the various visa offices. Sometimes the whole application is processed in Canada, which is invariably the fastest option.

Sadly my paperwork was returned to London.

The timeline for my application – thus far – has been as follows:

  • Medical certificate obtained – 30th April 2014
  • Applications fees paid online – 31st May 2014
  • Application sent to Mississauga – 3rd June 2014
  • Application received by CIC – 6th June 2014
  • Sponsor approval – 31st July 2014
  • e-Client Application Status (EAS) online tool shows application and medical results received – 1st-Aug-2014
  • Request from London Visa Office for RPRF fee – 27th November 2014
  • RPRF fee paid online and receipt forwarded to London office – 27th November 2014

The CIC website has a guide to current processing times which covers the first part of the operation. For the second phase the applicant is referred to the local visa office website. Until very recently the London site has consistently shown a total processing time of 11 months, which figure is based on actual processing times over the previous 12 months.

About a week ago – to my absolute horror – the stated processing time shot up to 29 months!!!

The InterWebNet fora were – quite naturally – agog with anxious applicants seeking some sort of explanation for this abrupt escalation. The older hands at this mularkey offered the following:

Midway through 2014 the London office took over processing applications from that in Islamabad – where total processing times had reached 36 months, so swamped were they. The best guess is that the new 29 month figure is simply the result of combining those two sets of statistics, and the consensus seems to be that the times for UK applications are unlikely to change significantly from the previously quoted figure.

This remains, of course, to be seen – but I have to say that such shocks are not good for the constitution of us (near) pensioners!

Hmmm!

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No more than a few days ago – in a post generally bemoaning the lack of progress on our long road to retirement in BC – I wrote this regarding my application for Canadian permanent residency:

“My application is – however – approaching the average time to decision, and I am thus in a state of considerable anticipation.”

Yesterday the following popped into my inbox as I slaved away at my desk at School:

rprfNot only is this the first indication that I have had that London is now actively processing my application, but also – I feel – most convincing evidence that it will meet with approval in reasonably short order. I would not – after all – be asked to pay the Right of Permanent Residence Fee (RPRF) were I not soon to be granted that privilege.

Naturally I paid CIC immediately by credit card and forwarded the electronic receipt to London – so as not to delay the process further.

This is really most exciting!

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Image from Pixabay“It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”

Elizabeth Taylor

The truth of Elizabeth Taylor’s dictum is not lost on us, and it is a good thing that it is so. I would not want – for example – to be considering our impending move to a different continent were I still in my younger years – since every part of the process seems to require the patience of a saint.  I do not recall being particularly blessed with that virtue in my youth and I am fairly sure that the Kickass Canada Girl would tell a similar tale.

There have been a good number of viewings at our Buckinghamshire apartment but – as yet – not one by its next owner. It is difficult to remain resolutely positive regardless of the passage of time since we went to market. It is especially frustrating that there is little that we can do to move things forward.

Negotiations drag on regarding our respective retirement dates. Though we have fixed ourselves a definite cutoff point in mid-July next year we are both aiming to wrap things up significantly in advance of that date. Nothing – it would seem – moves quickly on this front either.

I am still waiting to hear the outcome of my application for Canadian Permanent Residence. Gut feeling tells me that I will hear something any day now – but I guess I could be feeling the same in a couple of month’s time.

The blogroll for this compendium – that list of InterWebNet sites (to the right of the posts) that, in my wisdom, I have decided might be of use to like-minded persons – contains a link for the British Expats website. This invaluable resource contains much information concerning emigration to a wide range of destinations including – naturally – a most useful section on Canada, the which comes complete with a thriving forum on which many going through a similar process to ourselves post religiously.

These include frequent updates on the current status of the posters’ sponsored applications for Canadian PR from the UK, and I have noted therein repeated references to a spreadsheet maintained by one of the members. This would seem to pull together detailed information – submitted voluntarily by those involved – concerning the dates that the various deadlines in the process have been achieved. This has clearly been in operation for four or five years now and has grown over time into a most valuable resource through which one might gauge the progress on one’s own application.

It took me quite some time to locate the speadsheet itself, but it was well worth  the effort. What is immediately clear it that the processing times for applications varies widely, and that the completion dates of clusters of submissions from around the same time can be separated in some cases by many months.

My application is – however – approaching the average time to decision, and I am thus in a state of considerable anticipation.

Fingers firmly crossed!

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