donderdag 12 september 2013

How to obtain a student and work permit, Canada Style!

 To obtain a Canadian visa requires a lot of patience. In further blog entries you can read exactly how much patience is needed not to lose your mind. 

 In this post we will talk about our journey to obtain visas: what we did, how cumbersome it is, which things you need and how long it takes. This post can be boring for some, helpful to others, but a visa post belongs to an emigration overseas blog :D

An additional function of this post is so that we can laugh about the whole thing in a couple of years while reading it all back in our suburbian home near the woods in Canada (much more about our Canadian house in a following post).

We started the whole procedure immediately after we heard to news that Dirk could start his Ph.D. in Canada. In other words, in March 2013 we began. Our journey started with a lot of research. We knew that we had to apply for a student visa for Dirk and a open work permit for Marjolein.

To gain information a logical first step it to consult the Canadian immigration centre website:

But much better information we found on forums and blogs from other Dutch and Belgian immigrants to Canada. The CIC website is complex, chaotic and incomplete. So we read everything on these forums:

We found out that we needed the following stuff to obtain our visas.

1. A common law partnership (since Marjolein is coming with Dirk to Canada)

For this, we needed to collect proof of being together for more then a year. This proof can be pictures, common bank account, common insurance, rental contract and the likes. We found out that you can also use your address history as proof. Since we've live together for more than four years, obtaining a common law status shouldn’t be a problem, we thought. Wrong!

First we needed to obtain our address history. Since we lived in Belgium, we needed to ask the municipality of Maastricht (the Netherlands) to send the information in English to us. I can tell you that it wasn’t easy to get the right info at once. Several emails and wrong documents later, it was June when we received everything we needed. In Dutch... In short it took a month to receive the address history

As soon as we got all the documents we went to the municipality of Brussels to let them sign our statutory declaration of common law union (form IMM5409). Dead end. They didn’t want to sign the forms. First we had to apply for a common law status in Belgium before we could become common law partners in Canada. This would take up some time. After some research we found out that a notary could sign the form as well. We paid 30 euros for the signature.

For our common law status to be valid abroad, the address history needed to be translated by a sworn translator. Such a translator for non-business related inquiries is hard to find. Luckily, I knew a few people from university who study at the language faculty. Within a day we found the right translator: he would fix the job within a week and asked 120 euros for his work. As we opened the envelope a week later, just one out of eight documents had been translated. HORROR. We found out that the court had given the wrong file to the translator, meaning we had to wait another week and it was already June.

2. Student permit

To obtain a student permit Dirk needed:
- letter of acceptance from the faculty.
- proof of financial support.
- proof of being legally in Belgium, since we where Dutch immigrants.

Marjolein already obtained official status in Belgium for her study's but Dirk never officially registered. Dutch people moving to Belgium know how frustrating it is to register, especially living in Brussels. It takes up to a half year and is a complex procedure. Long story short: Dirk needed to register officially in Brussels to get the needed proof for his visum. This didn’t work at all, cost a lot of time, and made the whole visa situation a lot more complicated than it already was. We just gave up after all the trouble in Brussels. In June we officially registered ourselves as citizens of The Netherlands to avoid any more complications.

3. Work permit

Marjolein needed to fill in a lot of forms. A LOT.

No proof needed since she applied for an open work permit. This basically means that she can work for a period of four years (the length of Dirk's study) wherever she wants. Applying for an open work permit is much easier than a work permit. For the latter, you need to arrange an employer in Canada.

Within this whole visa process, Marjolein wrote her massive thesis (min. 30,000 words) and we needed to move to The Netherlands. The first of August. Can you imagine the stress level?

StressOmeter: We where in the red zone!

4. Further stuff we needed

- Photos with official measurements and restrictions (cannot really explain; we just took the photos ourselves and hoped for the best)
- Diplomas
- Lots of other documents

Finally, finally, finally! At the July 22 we obtained everything we needed and then we found out that we couldn’t directly pay to the Canadian visa office (which is located in Austria) for our application if we send everything in by post. After some phone calls, nobody could tells us how to pay for everything (120 euro's). This happened a few days before Marjolein's thesis deadline.

We decided to apply online, which would be a lot faster and easier. Plus, we could pay by credit card. July 23 was the day. (We are not joking on this one.) It was so complicated that Dirk worked a whole day on the online application. We had to fill in new documents, takes pictures of everything, make the stupid special photo's, upload all this, make an account, upload digital versions of the paper documents we already filled out and scanned... At night we were done and had paid for everything, What a freaking relieve! We calculated that we would receive our visas 30 days later, at the end of August. Just in time for Dirk's first semester.

BOY WHERE WE WRONG! We are still stuck in the Netherlands and its now September 12. More on the CIC and visa complications in another, specific post.
This image indicates our current emotion level

What's this all 'aboot?'

 This first post will be about how we got into the idea of moving from The Netherlands to Canada. But first a small introduction. Dirk is from Zeeland and Marjolein was born in Friesland. Both are 28 years old and Dutch. They've been in a relation for a gazillion years since they met in Maastricht via a common friend (we are still grateful for hooking us up Petra). In Maastricht Dirk studied cognitive neuroscience, Marjolein fine arts.

For his internship, Dirk moved to Cambridge in 2009. and there the idea for a Ph.D. was born. His promotor moved to Canada soon after his internship, so Canada became the obvious choice to apply for a Ph.D.

 The past two years we lived in Brussels, Belgium with our two dogsters: Welsh Corgi's Ein and Ponyo. We moved to Belgium so that Marjolein could obtain her master degree in Art Science and Archeology. We had an amazing, huge apartment in the middle of Brussels or, as Marjolein likes to refer it, "close to Manneke Pis". Although we met lovely people and obtained close friendships, Brussels itself wasn't a city we enjoyed living. It was not green enough to walk with the dogs, too big and noisy, too much French.

Ponyo and Ein
Brussels and location of our house
 In March 2013 we heard the amazing news that Dirk's proposal got accepted by the University of Western Ontario, located in London, Ontario, Canada. And from there, we started the huge, complicated procedure of obtaining visas and moving overseas. 

Ontario Canada

In this blog we will divide our post into topics such as visas, moving our stuff, the new house, saying our goodbyes, et cetera. Immigrating is so complex, we decided to update based on topic, as opposed to all updates in one post or updates per day.

We will see. Hope you will enjoy our blog!