Today, the professor and I are off to have our medical physicals for our Permanent Residency application. When we moved to Canada in July of 2009, we were granted work permits. The professor's permit is tied to his job. These work permits mean we're allowed to live and work here, but if something should happen to the professor's job...we'd need to leave. Of course, we hope that doesn't happen!
This is unsettling, as we've moved all our belongings here, bought a house, and set up our home in Winnipeg! So, we started the process to gain what's called "Permanent Residency." This step is much like a green card in the USA, but we don't have to compete in quite the same way to gain a place. (Immigration rules are different in different countries.)
Another thing is that the step of gaining "permanent residency" is a step along the way to gaining Canadian citizenship, if we want to do that. We could also keep our US citizenship in this case. When the babies are born here(hopefully healthy and full-term...), they will be both Canadian and U.S. citizens.
One thing most Canadians don't realize about this residency process is that it takes a while. It's also not free. We've been saving up so that we can afford to pay the fees associated with this application for Permanent Residency when the time comes.
Although Manitoba really encourages immigration--it's in the news here all the time-- I don't think the average local realizes how expensive this is for newcomers. For instance, it took us about a year to get access to a regular Canadian credit card. (with a very low credit limit...) That's because, even though we'd bought a house and came upon the invitation of the Canadian government... we didn't have any credit history in Canada! Instead, we had to pay a currency exchange fee both every time we used a US credit card, and more fees every time we had to move money from one country to the other to pay a bill. It was an expensive year. We paid for things in cash whenever we could.
Today, we'll need to pay something in the range of $400 cash just for these physicals (Not free as they are part of a residency application and not for our basic health and well being) and I will have to return later to follow up with another expense, an X-ray, since I can't do that today. (X-rays aren't ok for pregnant women who can avoid them...)
Why do I mention all this? Immigration is a fairly complicated (and expensive) experience. Lately, I've been thinking about all the political upheaval in the news. This causes refugees and immigrants to move every day. They do not all have the advantage of speaking the local language or having access to bank accounts...let's face it, they have very few advantages. Some escape with just the clothes on their backs.
Today, the windchill is -40 in Manitoba. I feel very lucky to have warm clothes so when I go out in a few minutes, I won't get frostbite. I think the North American "locals" --be they Manitobans, Canadians, Americans, etc. take their status, their safety and their citizenship for granted. Sometimes we need to be reminded of all the luck and privilege we've been afforded.
The professor and I have had to turn down a lot of wonderful invitations to the theater, fancy dinners out, etc. in the past year and a half when we realized we'd need to save up our money instead for all these expenses--and of course, fixing up our house so we'll have a roof over our heads. In the end though, we don't feel we've suffered...because actually, we feel pretty dang lucky most of the time...
(It's a "count your blessings" kind of thing.)