One of the less glamorous details about moving to Manitoba has been dealing with immigration. We've met U.S. citizens who moved before the days of increased security...and apparently, it never used to be very difficult to move here. Either that...or they've all blocked it out.
Most people apply for permanent residency before they move to this province. In our case, we had to wait until the professor was officially approved for his job. Then, we had to rush everything to get packed and moved in time. We were granted work permits, and so we're facing the complications of applying for residency while living here.
There are many stages. We filled out paperwork listing everywhere we'd lived since age 18. (a lot of places.) We made copies of all sorts of official documents. The professor had meetings with the appropriate university official who goes through the details.
On Friday, we went to the downtown police department--for fingerprinting. For us, this was sort of a fun adventure. It was snowing some, and we navigated ourselves through rush hour and got a parking space directly in front of the building. (After all, who wants to visit the police department first thing? Us!) The fingerprints are sent to the FBI. They check to see if we're upstanding citizens. In fact, if the powers that be warrant it as a secondary check, they can ask us to do this for every single state we've lived in since we were 18. For the professor, that's 3 states, for me, it's 4, and the professor did a graduate degree abroad, so that's... (never mind.) For 2 sets of fingerprints each, it was $110 Canadian. You can imagine, the costs add up.
I think we entertained the police clerk as we weren't in any trouble, and I even had previous experience being fingerprinted! I worked briefly during college for the U.S. Justice Department, so I'd been fingerprinted and even had a lie detector test at the FBI in Washington, D.C. once before.
The bureaucracy of all this is actually logical. There's no mystery to it, it's spelled out and clear. It is apparently harder to move to Ontario (a heavily populated province) than it is to move to Manitoba. We've been assured that as long as we are good souls, this isn't a lottery and we'll be welcomed to the province officially as permanent residents. Although it costs a fair bit, from what we hear, it doesn't cost as much as it costs to move to the U.S. This whole process has made us aware of how hard it is for immigrants and refugees who move to North America every year.
We're lucky. We speak English, we read English, and we're mostly capable of understanding how things work in this culture. We're educated, and we got to move here with warm winter coats and boots. We got to bring all our belongings, our cars and our dogs. We weren't escaping danger or hardship.
So, while the hoops we're jumping seem to take up a lot of time, we realize it's no worse and probably a lot easier for us than for many other immigrants we've met. In fact, when we compare it to our families' immigration stories, (dated anywhere from 1840 to 1950) who took boats to the U.S. and landed without a lot of English, well, we have it pretty ok.
We also now realize that the average person (Canadian or U.S. citizen, or whatever) doesn't have a good idea of what this is like. We're often asked if "We're all settled in now..." and we wonder whether to just say, "yes thanks" or explain what's really happening. The other immigrants just smile and nod knowingly and ask what we're up to in the process.
Each day we live here, we learn something new. Some days, we learn two things...On Friday, I learned 10 important details.
When I had my fingerprints done by the FBI, I seem to remember that the ink was permanent and I scrubbed like crazy to get it off. In Canada, at the Manitoba police station, the ink isn't permanent. They have a solvent nearby. That ink comes right off.
See? No one knew that I got fingerprinted on Friday unless I told them. That's definitely an improvement on last time.
Did you learn something new today? Do tell....seems like every day around here is a chance to learn new vocabulary, customs, or about fingerprinting ink!