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olivia on immigration – month seven

October 31, 2010

Immigration: How long have you got?

-by Olivia Collette

Most of the immigration process is comprised of waiting. It’s a good chunk of it, anyhow. I mean, gathering papers and sending them? That only takes a short while. Sure, things like the police certificate and the clean bill of health take a moment to arrive. But once the package is put together, sealed and sent, all that’s left to do is wait for some news from the powers that be.

It takes months. Sometimes almost two years. It depends where you come from and what kind of application you’re sending.

We sent in a family sponsorship application. In immigration circles, it’s known as the “fast track.” It’s relative, of course. It means that immigration will take maybe 1 or 2 years to reunite families, where it might take much longer to approve a refugee claim or work permit. We can interpret that to mean that keeping families (or spouses) together is a priority, and everything else comes second.

When I explain my situation to anyone, I hear a lot of theories about “the problem with immigrants.” Obviously, they’re not referring to me or my husband, but it’s still odd that they feel comfortable launching into these tirades in our presence. According to many people, immigrants get lots of freebies when they enter a country like America, Canada or England. They get welfare, a $2000 credit limit, a house. Then they move into our neighbourhoods, abuse our system for a few years, and finally blow up our buildings.

I don’t recognize those situations at all. I’ve never seen them, in fact.

What I know is that it cost us a pretty penny just to earn the right to have Canada Immigration read our application and consider it for approval. Having considered immigration in other countries, I can safely say that it costs as much – if not more – elsewhere. And the truth is, not everyone has over $2000 lying around for what’s ultimately a “maybe.”

When families immigrate to any country to escape abject poverty and give themselves a fighting chance at a normal life, they have to fork over a few thousand big ones first. In most cases, it means they have to save every penny they can for at least a few years. I’ve even heard of some people saving up for 10 years just to do this. Keeping in mind that sending the application doesn’t mean it’ll be approved, and if it’s not, there is no refund.

I can’t think of a reason why anyone would go through all that just to collect welfare cheques in another country. Maybe life on welfare is more comfortable in Canada than it would be in a developing country, but when I had to be on it once, I barely made rent. Life on welfare is limited and limiting. I have a hard time imagining it as a viable objective or an appealing lifestyle. I’ve also never met a Haitian taxi driver who didn’t hope for a better opportunity at some point, even if it meant it would skip his generation and go directly to his children.

I earnestly believe that I want the same things other people want. And me? I just want to go home to Canada and live my life. No more being on hold. No more restrictions. I can’t wait for my husband and I to both have fulfilling jobs, freedom of movement and more options than what we have now. I can’t wait for the home I’m in to be well and truly mine. I can’t wait to see a doctor when I need to without justifying it to an insurance company first. In short, I can’t wait to get on with it.

Obviously, some people slip through the cracks. Some people can afford to go to a lot of trouble to move to Canada and freeload once they’re there. But they’re not just a minority; they’re an exception that makes up less than 1% of people trying to immigrate. The rest just want what any reasonable person would want.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. sallyrocks permalink
    November 1, 2010 11:09 am

    I totally agree. I went through the immigration process a few years ago to move from Canada to England with my English husband…. waiting for some complete stranger to decide if you can be with the person you love is definitely the hardest bit and something I don’t think people can truly understand unless they’ve lived it.

    As for people’s opinion of immigrants, unfortunately, like with lot of things, the actions of a few have tainted the whole group. I think there are very few people who travel around the world and leave their families and everything they know to scrape by in a foreign nation, but that’s what the news focuses on, so that’s what people focus on.

    The number of times I’ve heard people rant about immigrants is crazy, but because I have the ‘right’ skin colour and I speak the ‘right’ language, people don’t seem to think of me as an immigrant… or they’ll say, ‘not you, you work’ or ‘not you, you’re husband’s English’. Regardless of how I got here, I am an immigrant and proud of it.

  2. livvyjams permalink
    November 1, 2010 11:49 am

    I feel you, Sally. My husband’s English as well.

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