Congratulations, Welcome to Canada!

(7/16/2008)

I got home from work and checked my mail. There was a note from the post office in there which said I needed to go to the post office before to pick up a letter. I headed to the post office, signed for the letter and rushed back to my apartment to open it. Inside was a “Newcomer’s Introduction to Canada” guide and some information about settling in Canada. My passport was there with an Immigration Visa inside and a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CPR) form. I wanted to make the landing at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, but expected it to be busy. By going that night I would be able to avoid the crowds. I got all my paperwork together – basically grabbed everything I had photocopied for my application and set off.

I arrived in Niagara Falls as the sun was starting to set, and it looked amazing with the bright orange sun lighting up the Niagara Casinos, Hotels and Skylon Tower. I parked the car, next to the Rainbow Bridge and headed to the public walkway and a door that said ‘To the US’. Inside was a turnstile – it wanted 50 cents for me to cross the bridge. I didn’t have change, but luckily there was a change machine right there. How bad it would be to not be able to afford the toll! There was a door on the left for people who had come from the US side. I went in and the officer inside asked me for my ID, but I explained I was from the Canadian side! I think he thought I was trying to sneak in to Canada! He told me I would have to go the US side and obtain a form to say I was denied entry to the US first – “just the procedure”.

On the US side I went to the office there and was called up by a friendly border patrol officer. I was the only one in there. I explained that I wanted to be a permanent resident of Canada and that I needed a form to say I was declined access to the US. He told me he could give me a visa for the US if I wanted. I got the visa, which is valid for 3 months by filling in a quick questionnaire. He took my fingerprints digitally and my photograph. I paid $6 for the visa and headed back to Canada.

On the Canadian side, the man I spoke to earlier was gone and a strict looking woman was in his place. I explained that I was living in Toronto and had just headed across the border to get permanent residence. She asked me if I went to the duty free shop – I said no. She asked me if I had any goods to import into Canada – I said no. She filled out a white slip and told me to go out through the side door and across to the Immigration Section. I had to go across 3 lanes of traffic (people going to the US) to get there – wouldn’t want to get run over at this point I thought! I stood in line with people who had just stepped off a bus. The line moved really quickly and a woman spoke to me in Spanish. I was very confused, but walked to the next desk anyway. They asked me if I got off the bus – I said I was here for Immigration. A woman behind me said she saw me on the bus. Why would she say that? I wasn’t sure if she was joking, but I didn’t need that kind of humour right now in a serious place like this! I just ignored her and continued.

I got to the Immigration Section and was called over by an immigration officer. She asked me for the white slip and asked me for my passport, the immigration visa inside, my new US visitor visa and CPR form. She asked me for proof of funds and I explained to her that I didn’t have that because I had a full time job in Canada. She said she needed a payslip to prove I was still employed. This was the only thing I didn’t bring with me! I was very worried at this point, but luckily she believed me in the end. She told me to sign a copy of the CPR form and then she affixed it in my passport. She said I will receive the proper permanent residence card in about 60 days and to use the paper copy in my passport until then. She said ‘Congratulations, Welcome to Canada!’ and that I should celebrate. :)

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