On the morning of October 28, 2007, by way of mamushka (from my article, “Are You Sure?”), we became permanent residents of Canada. And then there was more ordinance.
As we drove away from the border—again, we declared ourselves…deafeningly happy to be here. A rather attractive piece of paper is the visa, glued on its (mandatory) own page in the passport by a Canadian consulate. Ours arrived at our attorney’s office from the consulate in Buffalo. But before you can be deemed a permanent resident, you need to validate the visa, which had an expiration date of many months away, but we chose not to wait. One way to do this is to leave Canada and make, more or less, a U-turn. This was our attorney’s assistant’s suggestion. The idea of driving back into the U.S. at all to do this made me hiccup, but it really isn’t so much to ask. At the border, they do a short interview, check your passports and give you a slip of paper; ours had something like “5 for landing” written on it. Then they tell you to go into a building where they take your passport, Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CPR) document (we had five—for five people), and a financial statement, an issue which met with confusion, as neither our attorney’s office nor the consulate made this clear enough; besides which, the financial statement had already been handed over to the attorney some time back. The information from the consulate, on a separate paper, tells you, in advance, about the need for this financial information; but when they summarize in one spot, where it is really useful, what you need to provide at the border, finances are left out. The CPR document has a space for it, but the authorities don’t highlight it at all; therefore, it’s forgettable and you are reminded at the border. Luckily, there was an ATM very nearby and we got a quick piece of paper with the pertinent information to hand to the agent.
And still another potential misunderstanding stems from the paperwork involved with the work permit. If you come in on a work permit (skilled worker) as a family, with one spouse being the primary applicant through employment, it may well show up on your CPR documents as appearing as though one parent—the primary applicant—has kids and the other doesn’t. With our usual source being suddenly unavailable, I asked an official while we were getting our health cards updated. They really had nothing to do with that sector, but did feel they had any understanding of the situation, and told us that they didn’t think, when we asked about finances, that it was finance-related; but, rather predictably, once you’ve all “landed”, you’ve already shown that any of you have decreased your chances of sleeping on a park bench. Again, why?
The vine led to a phone number. Hallelujah! Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), which can seem obvious until you’re immersed. We discovered that “accompanying family members” on the CPR document serves to label who the primary applicant is. What does this really mean? I see it like this: Once you become a permanent resident, you can make like a spider and float as an individual, but, if somewhere down the line, someone were to ask you from whence you came, you can mention the primary applicant on the work permit.
Back to the immigration agent. You, then, initial and sign the CPR document. You are handed back your passport with the visa, a stamp with some markings, and a copy of the CPR document stapled inside. A copy is sent to the processing centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where they process your Permanent Resident Card—also called the Maple Leaf Card. Take note that, in making your way through the work permit-to-permanent resident process, you get used to having your mug shot taken—No grinning allowed, Mr. DeLay. The PR Card is good for five years and must be renewed. And it is strongly recommended that, until the card arrives at your home (in Canada), you hold off on leaving the country, mainly because it’s a heck of a lot easier to re-enter the country with it. Otherwise, you need to apply for a Travel Document (Permanent Resident Abroad) before returning. You’d be surprised, however, under such circumstances, at how easy it can be to wait the three to six weeks—depending on who you ask—once you’re here. I suppose being grateful has something to do with it.
In the meantime, our passports, with visas and CPR documents, sufficiently state our new status as permanent residents, which appears to, primarily, mean the permission to work anywhere in Canada. It also requires changing your health card numbers and Social Insurance Number (SIN), which is for employment and investment purposes. This time, it was prudent to not just get SIN Cards for Mom and Dad…but for everyone. Even before you get the PR Card in the mail, once you have the Immigrant Visa, CPR document, stamp and accompanying markings, you can get going. There is work to do between “landing and, actually, leaving the airport.” After you get your Immigration Visa processed (land), the SIN and health care cards need to be taken care of before you can rightly call a taxi to go home.
Are you landed? This was the question we were asked on the morning we first arrived on August 4th, 2006, by a friendly official who saw us approaching the Customs building. Unfortunately, the correct answer was “No.” “Landed” is understood by immigrants and natural-born Canadians, even someone on a work permit (I, personally, don’t know any others, but I’m sure they’re out there.), as meaning “a landed immigrant or permanent resident.” According to one permanent resident-turned-Canadian citizen, the only thing distinguishing a permanent resident from a Canadian citizen is politics; this isn’t completely true. It is true that you can’t vote unless you’re a citizen. I’d, actually, known this for a while, but I don’t remember having learned about it until after we arrived in Canada.
I know. Is she planning on ever voting as a Canadian? According to consulate information, as a general rule, you need to “accumulate three years of residence in Canada during a four-year period” before you can apply for Canadian citizenship. But, according to our attorney’s office, because we’ve already been in Canada for over a year on a work permit, we can apply at about two years from the date we “landed.” Canada allows for dual citizenship. And what is the law regarding U.S. citizens and dual citizenship? It depends on the window at which you ask. Some blog reports say “Yes”, but, of course, it’s prudent to check the dates of those blog entries; “2005” seems the most recent, which was among several others pointing to the affirmative. Web pages of official U.S. sites? When I got my passport renewed this year and took an interest, the website I checked for the consulate address said “No.” At least one official site said “Yes.” My best explanation for this: The law changes but the pages don’t, or they lie or are plagued with ill-worded “intent:” We’d rather you make up your mind.
The answer is “Almost certainly, yes.” It’s necessary, though, to look at the “for and against” of multi-citizenship with a sufficiently-powered microscope. Our native country has left few bones to be discovered, and, while Canada isn’t a perfect nation, its core beliefs have historically been and continue to be ours. We feel blessed to have been accepted here, and feel that the responsibility of our citizenship is what our new country is entitled to.
You can almost taste it while gazing upon the pre-validated immigration visa. In the meantime, I study the political system as though I could vote today. One might think the decision to become a dual citizen is obvious, in that you could be politically empowered as part of a nation that communicates so closely with the U.S., but there are stories available to all on the internet that urge further consideration when taking on the responsibilities of belonging to more than one nation. While weighing Canada’s place on the globe with regard to healthy repute—or not, I already see dual citizenship as a “risk” I could embrace.
Why not renounce my U.S. citizenship? It’s, primarily, because I have family in the U.S., and it doesn’t feel right to renounce my children’s place of birth. Although it, currently, isn’t so much an issue for mine, it could paint a negative picture for the kids if you really don’t “need” to. But my interest in dual citizenship is strong, and I feel blessed that it could be a choice.
Ask me in two years…but I think I’ll still be sure.