Immigration officers say the darnedest things

If for some reason you have felt my blogging absence in your soul for the past week- don’t fret, children. I actually have a legit excuse this time.  As a lot of you already know, my never-ending immigration problems with Canada have been a constant source of bemoaned bitch fests on this blog.

Around this time last year, I wrote a very heartfelt letter to Canada making a pretty strong case of why this country needs to drop all this Bollywood-style drama and welcome me to the family already. Unfortunately, none of the big wigs in Ottawa read my blog or they would have seen that my love for Canada knows no bounds.

I’ve been living here as a foreigner for so long that I was sure the government must have either forgotten about me or has been using my application as a place-mat for their Tim Hortons’ coffee cups.

And then last week, just as I was in the middle of writing a miserable blog post about why Hallmark should hire me as their executive greeting card writer (I clearly have big dreams), I received an email from my immigration lawyer. It was an email I have been waiting a very very long time for.

I’m getting teary-eyed even writing this sentence: After 8 years, 3 months, and 21 days, my immigration application to become a permanent resident in Canada was finally APPROVED.

I was a little most excited about becoming immigrant than these people were about Canada winning gold at hockey in the Vancouver Olympics.

I was a little more excited about becoming an immigrant than these people were about Canada winning gold at hockey in the Vancouver Olympics. (Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com)

The past eight years of my time in Canada were probably the happiest and the hardest years of my life. I met some of the most amazing people whom I eventually called friends, I started this blog, I found religion, my first immigration application was denied, my status was incorrectly filed and as a result I lost my entire savings to the government in taxes leaving me completely broke. And then I broke my foot.

I laughed about it all till I almost peed my pants, and I cried about it all till I almost peed my pants…and eight years later, all of it came full circle as I stood in the immigration line clutching my confirmation letter- happy, proud, relieved and exhausted all at the same time.

But as much as I would love to tell you all more about my harrowing immigration ordeal, the whole point of this post was actually to tell you about the awesome immigration officers who marked the end of this chapter in my life.

Border immigration officers have always scared the crap out of me. They are stoic, expressionless fixtures who are trained to be suspicious of everything from puppies to empty tuna cans. Part of the whole charade of becoming a landed immigrant in Canada meant that I actually had to “land” in the country.

This required a drive to Niagara Falls, crossing the border into the States and then “landing” in Canada at the border on the way back. 

Crossing the US border is a feat in and of itself. I blame it on the fact that I was born in Kuwait. Names of Middle-Eastern countries stamped in your passport are never meritorious in these situations. We had a two hour wait in the line up in the immigration office at the US border.

The US immigration official dealing with my passport was a young man with the same stoic appearance as everyone else.

He asked me some questions, and then stared suspiciously back and forth between me and my passport. I almost shit my pants.

US Immigration officer: “How long are you going to be in the States?”

Karen: “Just a day”

 US Immigration officer stares at me again. I was sure I was never going to get out of here. 

US Immigration officer: “Do you know who Selena Gomez is?”

Karen: “Huh? Umm yeh.”

US Immigration officer: “You look like her”

Karen: “Thanks. I get that all the time”

US Immigration officer: “Sorry to hear about you and Justin Beiber”

Karen: “I’m not crying myself to sleep over it”

US Immigration officer: “Good to see you’re pulling through.”

Karen: “I do what I can”

US Immigration officer: “Here’s your passport. Have a good trip.”

When a US Immigration officer pays you such a high compliment, there's no other choice but to believe it.

When a US Immigration officer pays you such a high compliment, there’s no other choice but to believe it.

It was a relief to know that the Americans weren’t trying to link me to some terrorist ring…just to Justin Beiber. Clearly they already thought I was Canadian enough. Now no one can say that US Immigration officers don’t have a sense of humor.

_____________________________________

The Canadian border immigration officers also had an unusual sense of humor…which they displayed through this very cruel prank they played on me.

Our car pulls up to the window and we hand the immigration officer lady our passports.

Canadian Immigration officer: “Who’s doing their landing here?”

Karen: “I am!”

Canadian Immigration officer looks at me confused.

Canadian Immigration officer: Umm…were you told to come to the border to do your paper work?”

Karen: “Yes. I was told I could come to the border anytime.”

Canadian Immigration officer: “Who told you this? I’m sorry, but we don’t do permanent residence paper work on Saturdays. You’ll have to come back.”

For the second time that day I almost shit my pants.

Karen: “What?!? No!! Please. I was told I could get it done anytime.”

Canadian Immigration officer: “No ma’am, you can’t. Also, do you realize your visa here expired a couple of days ago?”

Karen: “NO IT DIDN’T!”

I was visibly on the verge of tears. The Canadian Immigration officer took one look at me and burst out laughing.

Canadian Immigration officer: “I’m so sorry. I’m just messing with ya. Come on out. Breathe. We’ll go in and do your paperwork”

I chalked this one down to the fact that maybe this woman was sitting out all day tired, probably needed a little entertainment and I was the perfect scapegoat.

The officers inside took all my forms, stamped all my documents.

They finally handed all my stuff back to me and said the words I never thought I’d hear:

“Congratulations, you are now a landed immigrant in Canada. Sorry you had to wait for so long.”

A declaration AND a quasi apology from a Canadian government official.

I smiled and walked out of that office feeling like I just won the life lottery.

184 thoughts on “Immigration officers say the darnedest things

  1. YAY! lovely news :)
    when applying for a medical visa here in thailand, the officer called me forward and looked me up and down.
    she asks, laced with skeptism,
    ” you’re too small to be nine months pregnant..are you certain? “

    • Lovely news indeed!

      I was under the impression that women in Thailand are all of a smaller frame. Was there really a lot of skepticism? Or were you actually ridiculously small? I have come to the conclusion that immigration officers everywhere say super weird things. I think it comes with the job.

      • I thought I was small for being nine months but looking back on photos-I wasnt as small as I thought! You’re right though, Asians do have smaller frame but because of that they end up showing earlier and end up having a belly that looks massive on them!
        So basically..conclusion is: immigration officers say weird things because it comes with the job! haha ;)

  2. Hoooray!!!! :)

    Congratulations Karen!!! :)

    Hope things go better from here – the immigration folks need a reality check!!! :(

    Love and hugs always my sweet friend! :)

    Prenin.

    PS. Yes, there is a resemblance – but she doesn’t have me as a friend! :)

  3. I feel your pain when it comes to customs officers, young lady. I avoided crossing the border intoi the U.S. for years because of cranky customs agents.
    But welcome to Canada, we’re lucky to have you!

    • I’ve always had way more problems at the US border. Maybe it depends on who you are. The US patrol usually cannot take the eyes off the word Kuwait in my passport. The Canadians usually act all cool but don’t really do anything.

      Please just run with this whole Selena thing. From now on I’m not Karen. I’m Selena

  4. Mad ups! I’ve never said that before so be proud.

    I never would have thought about you looking like Selena but damn you have me convinced. Halloween costume 2016? I know you’ve got the next few already picked out.

    • Mad ups! hahaha, there’s a term I always imagined you to be too cool to use. Thanks a lot Tim. This has been a long time coming.

      I know I have a string of Halloween costumes planned out but watch how I will follow through with none of them. I’m such a lazyass like that. I do hope Selena starts dating someone really cool in 2016 though. I don’t want to go around dressed as Selena with a cardboard cut out of Justin Beiber’s face on my shoulder. Even though he is now my fellow Canadian.

  5. Ok I have a confession,,,I found out that you had received your letter and that you were going to the states without asking me, so I called the immigration officers at the border and don’t them to screw with you!!
    Congratulations!!!
    Welcome Home Gurl!

  6. May I officially welcome you to Canada! LOL. Glad to hear the news. I went through very similar situations trying to get hubby his citizenship and papers. Thank goodness that nightmare is over.

  7. Haha! This post was just too funny. Thanks for the laughs, I needed it!

    I lived in Canada for ten years. You’re right, the officers are usually (not always) nice, normal people. I was always too cynical and nervous to appreciate it, though.

    And, Canada is a pretty good country to live in. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but I wish OHIP existed everywhere. Where in Canada are you living?

    • Canada definitely is a great country! I’m sure there are other health care systems in other provinces…there has to be! Otherwise EVERYONE would run to Ontario. Not that it doesn’t seem like half of Canada’s population is in Toronto already lol. I’m from Toronto too!! Nice to meet a fellow Torontonian :)

      • Toronto is enough of a densely populated area – it could be that a significant portion of Canada’s population is from Toronto (or Montreal). You’re right, there has got to be something in every province. Plus, why would Ontario decide to be Mr. Nice Guy (albeit with high taxes)? It’s probably a Federal requirement. :) Been a long time since I’ve met another Torontonian.

  8. Congratulations! I love Canada too (better environmental laws, better health care, some great universities), but as an American, I’m pleased to note that in this case the US official caused you way less stress than the Canadian official :-)
    And wow, if you still love a country even after it takes all your savings, then you REALLY love it!

  9. Congratulations – for the immigration status and being freshly pressed for an awesome post! :) I know what it’s like dealing with immigration in different countries, and what a relief it is when you’re done!

  10. As an American, I am under oath to respond to any sentence with the word “Canada” in it with a reflexive “Ridiculous”. But you, my friend are the exception. Great post, great freshly pressed, great blog. You’ve now been inducted into my circle of cool Canadians, among whom Robin Scherbatsky, Superwoman. That’s the whole circle.

    The Big Question: Canada or the U.S?
    (Keep in mind, the U.S has a FLAG on the MOON)

    • Hahahah I am proud and flattered to be bestowed this honor. As for associating Canada with ridiculous, I’ll let it slide, just to show you Canadians have a sense of humor (and we’re too polite to fight back).

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.
      As for your question, I’m still in a patriotic honeymoon phase with Canada right now so it won’t be a fair answer. Check back with me in February when this place becomes a tundra and I’m dying in bed with the flu.

  11. Congratulations for both becoming officially a Canadian citizen and for being Freshly Pressed! I have a friend going through the immigration process right now and it is ridiculous how long things take and how many hoops you have to jump through!

  12. What a great story! I have a few friends who are trying to get permanent residence in Australia and it is such a rigmarole you (probably do, actually) have no idea! The docs keep getting submitted then returned then resubmitted then the waiting game begins… until that application expires and more docs must be submitted… and eventually… well, I haven’t heard of an eventually yet from any of my waiting friends, but I’m sure one must be just around the corner.. or just over the hill.. or a few blocks away… :) Anyhoo, Congratulations on your new status!

    • Immigration anywhere is such a long and arduous process. Mine was the same, things just kept going back and forth and there seemed no end in sight. The waiting game was the most horrible thing of all. Its so much instability, not knowing whether you’ll get to stay or go home. Good luck to your friends. I really feel for them and can imagine what they’re going through.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Its so nice to see so many people able to relate! :)

  13. My most sincere congratulations!!! I know you’ve heard and read this innumerable times, and I hope it’s not getting old, but : WELCOME TO CANADA, CITIZEN!!! (now all you have to do is, like, take the Oath, eh?)

    • THANK YOU!!!

      Listen, you can say “Welcome to Canada” to me as many times as you want. I will never ever get tired of hearing it. :D I never thought I would hear those words.

      As for the Oath, unfortunately I still have to wait for two more years to become a citizen. Its kind of like a probationary period. I don’t get why, but if its anything I learnt from this whole thing, its that don’t argue with the government. Things go a lot smoother then.

  14. Wow, 8 years to become a permanent resident? I’m trying to get my PR in Australia and was told it only takes two years. Glad I didn’t move to Canada!

    TBH, I prefer border agents who have a sense of humour, even if it is a weird one. It’s the ones who just stare at you with a poker face, unblinking, that scare the crap out of me. I figure that if they are joking with me, they probably aren’t planning to deport me.

    • Canadian immigration is also typically 7 months-2 years depending on which category you apply under and how straight-forward your case is. Mine just kept getting snagged due to employment issues and miscommunication. That’s why it took so damn long.

      I was thinking the same thing about border patrol. I’d rather them have a weird sense of humor then no humor at all. That’s why I was so very pleasantly surprised when the American officer joked about Beiber with me. I actually didn’t think they were allowed to make any jokes lol.

  15. Congratulations on your citizenship and being Freshly Pressed. The second officer was def cruel. But now that everything is done, I am sure you are laughing at that orderal.

  16. Such a great story — and congrats! I am from Toronto and moved to NY in 1989 (thanks to my American mother, I got a green card easily.) I still remember the amazing sense of excitement I had when I moved to the U.S. and got my green card. I come back to TO many times a year to see family and friends, and count both my green card (and American hubby) and my Canadian passport as my most precious assets.

    Canada is lucky to have you. Now, missy….finish this sentence: “Oh Canada, terre de nos aieux…” :-) Oh, and you must also be able to portage a canoe and skate backwards. Then you’re really a Canadian.

    Delighted to see a Torontonian and new Canadian get FPed (again.)

    • Aw thank you!

      It really warms my heart when someone says Canada is lucky to have me. It goes both ways, I feel very lucky and fortunate to be here regardless of all the hassle it took to be here.
      Can you believe, I’ve never been on a canoe (does a kayak count? what’s the difference?) I’ve never been skating and I cannot finish that sentence unless I consult google. It’s a shame. But I have the next lifetime to learn :)

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. It feel so great getting freshly pressed for the Immigration post I’ve been waiting to write for so long.

  17. Yeeeeeeee! How exciting!! :D Congrats on “landing” in Canada and congrats on getting FPed! :) I love love love Canada so I’m so happy for you. Plus, I cracked up throughout the post. See ya on the flip side, Selena ;)

  18. CONGRATULATIONS! Trust me, I know how this must feel! I have been living in Spain for the past 4 years, and two years ago I was deported back to the US. Worst day of my life. So yes, I agree that immigration officers scare me! But I would be much more understanding of them if I had officers like you had! Now, I’m leaving Spain and my Spanish boyfriend is trying to get his visa for the US. I can only imagine how much of a hassle that will be. So, congratulations on becoming an official Canadian citizen! Go out and celebrate, you deserve it! :)

    • After having been through all this immigration crap, I’m always interested to hear other people’s immigration stories. Why were you deported to the US? Its so interesting because most stories usually talk about how people are deported FROM the US. Good luck with all your immigration troubles. I’m sending you good vibes. I know exactly how hard it is to go through.

      Thank you for your kind words. Everyday is a celebration :)

  19. The hardest border crossing I ever encountered was when we were leaving Canada after a lovely honeymoon to go back home and the stoic immigration officer didn’t believe that we had driven all the way from St Louis in our car.

    • hahahah wow! I feel like that’s all an act. I’m sure they ask ridiculous questions because if your story is false, you are bound to falter. Its too bad because they’re so intimidating that everyone falters. I read in an article today that they’re trying to get border immigration officers to wear name tags so there is some accountability. Border patrol is vehemently against this of course :/

  20. Congratulations on your immigration! And a secondary and almost as impressive feat of being Freshly Pressed! From one skinny jean Canadian girl to another ;)

    • hahaha I read about your passport woes. My passport photo was taken 10 years ago, but I look somewhat similar to my 16 year old self. All I can say is..I don’t know what’s worse…having the worst passport photo ever or the fact that you come from a middle eastern country is clearly stated in your passport. Both have its moments I guess.

    • You are most welcome, Erin. I took the liberty of checking out your blog and I have to say, you have a new follower. I love all your recipes and your gorgeous food photos!! I especially was interested in the pepper jelly one. I was looking for a recipe because I wanted to make gift jars of it for Christmas. What better recipe than the winner of the DC State fair jelly contest! :D

  21. Congrats! I would have been bawling, omg… Those officers probably know that the “good” people are the ones totally nervous, the “bad” people are too cool about it. You were appropriately nervous and flustered, well done ;)

      • I have to deal with the American boarder agents. I’m a US perm resident from Canada :) The only comment they made last time was after declaring I had chips in my carry-on bag, the guy smiled and asked “Are they ketchup chips?” I laughed a little, “Yes, you can’t find them in Texas”. The he asked my son if I was his mother, just to be sure. My son took his sweet time answering him, and I was sweating bullets!

        At least you are all legal now. You plan to celebrate?

  22. I’ve had to pass into the US several times as a temporary immigrant. It doesn’t help that I’m horrifically jetlagged by touch-down and then have to wait in a queue for several hours, swaying slightly from hunger/thirst.
    After my first stay in the US I returned for yearly holidays and tell the guards I’m here to visit friends. They were always surprised when I clarify that the friends are American and that I’d made them during my initial year here. Why do they think a British immigrant can’t make friends with Americans?!

    • Another commenter said similar things about immigration officers never believing your reasons for crossing the border. I honestly think they are trained to be skeptical of everything. This particular instance was the very first time the immigration was so chill. He didn’t try to get too specific and the whole process was relatively painless.

  23. Congratulations Selener! :P

    Canada is the best country in the world!!! And of course, I am super biassed, being a Canadian and all… Bienvenu au Canada!!! =)

    p.s. loved this article and ur writing style! ur funny!

  24. ~ gorgeous you and what nice piece to read! Me too, ive had my fair share of immig officers convo but it is the ones we dont wanna hear, still thinking if i shd post it or not,haha life abroad is really tough, right?! Congrats uve made it this far, 8 yrs myt be a long wait but then it’s worth waiting for and u got it. In d country wer im working for, being a passholder (worker) is hard and being a PR is even harder so I’m happy that u did it, i bet u felt euphoric when u finally got d PR stat. :-) kudos to u being FP! :-) hope selena gets to read this and she’ll get a good laugh! cheers!

  25. I am so happy for you :) I would love to live in Canada, my grandpa had to go there on business and said it is really nice, and brought back some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen. btw: you do look a lot like Selena Gomez.

  26. Omigod I never realized it all this time but you do sorta look like Selena Gomez!

    Congrats on finally getting that PR status in Canada! Next to Stanley Kubrick movies, government administrative processes seem to be the second slowest things in the world.

  27. congratz – i had the same problem in Australia – took me aaaaaaaaaages – 8 years actually, so i get it..
    you dont know if one day you need to pack your things and leave… or if you’ll be staying – it’s uber stressful and shit.

    Well, I’m glad that someone else out there who’s experienced what i went though appreciates it as much as I did! Well done!

    If i could share a beer, I would.. but i’m in Oz, so ill just have one for the both of us…

    • How true! Last year this time, I wouldnt have been able to tell you where I would be six months from then. So much instability!!

      Thank you so much. I love it when people are able to relate with this problem. Not many out there fully understand what a big relief it is and what a huge burden is lifted.

      Also, why share a beer when we can each have one of our own! Cheers to us and our long-awaited immigration successes! :D

    • YAH YAH YAH!!! THANK YOU! Can you imagine…I wrote this post thinking I FINALLY am able to write it after so many years and then a few days later WordPress achknowleges it!! It was the proverbial cherry on the cake.
      I`m definitely going through a patriotic honeymoom phase right now. I smile every time I see a canadian flag. Its sad and yet so happy :D

      • I was totally excited for you to see it on the FP page, but more so to know that you are STAYING HERE!!!! We gots to celebrate in the new year, girl!

  28. OMG If an immigration officer told me that “joke”, I literally would have just started crying. And drowned them in my salty tears. You are amazing for being able to handle that!

  29. Congratulations on being “Freshly Pressed” and freshly (officially) Canadian! Your experience really cracked me up. I get nervous when I think I might’ve left a grapefruit in the trunk when I go between Oregon and California…

      • You’re welcome — and yes, they stop travelers between Oregon (where I live) and California to check for certain types of fruit. They never tell you what it is, so I KNOW I have it somewhere. I, too, am one of those people who suddenly takes on unwarranted guilt and suspicion. Probably why my journalism experience has never expanded into undercover investigation :)

  30. haha that’s awesome!! congratulations. :D especially after what a long and frustrating road it’s been!

    actually, just last week, i visited Toronto for the first time and was so impressed with the city’s culture/atmosphere. i’m happy for you that you can now, officially, make it your home! i also went through the customs at buffalo last week, and i have to say, the Canadian immigrations officers scared the daylights out of me, haha!

    at any rate, congratulations to you again! best of luck. :D

    • Thanks a lot! :D

      I don’t know what it is about border patrol. I’m guessing you are from the States? A lot of Americans tell me Canadian border officers are scary. And then I hear Canadians talk about the Americans being scary. I’m from neither country and I find both sides equally scary. I’m hoping that changes now haha.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  31. Congratulations on your post! I’m actually a Canadian citizen that was born in Kuwait as well. Except I’m currently living in Kuwait right now, working. Curious to know your thoughts about Kuwait, or did you leave here early in your childhood?

    • Ha…well I was born and raised in Kuwait. I left Kuwait when I was 17. With the exception of my parents, I have no one and no ties to Kuwait anymore. All my friends are here. My job, my personal and social life is all here now. So I don`t really think too much about Kuwait any more.

      What do you feel about living there after living here? Do you have plans of coming back?

      • Oh definitely. I’m planning in coming back soon to purchase some real estate. Business here is great to be honest and I can’t complain. I haven’t been back in ages :( usually because my time off ends up mid winter and I keep saying “next summer” haha. I definitely don’t miss the intensity of the winters!

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