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.

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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.

Letter to Canada

My dear Canada,

This is my honest and sincere bid to make my case and convince you of why I belong in this wonderful country forever:

1) I speak English and appreciate correct grammar. That’s right. I’ll be the first one to tell my friends that their… they’re lucky to be Canadian. I’m not a big fan of people who take they’re …their citizenship for granted. And I’ll take all the English tests to prove it.

2) I am very polite. I understand that this is a Canadian stereotype, but it’s the most positive stereotype to have. In fact, just the other day, without even thinking I apologised to my toilet when I accidentally dropped my earring into it. And then I apologised to my earring.

3) I hate the weather here. But what you need to take from this point is that I’m honest, that the shitty weather is not your fault and that without frostbite weather, no one would have been compelled to invent fluffy socks and that  brain cell-murdering holiday song “Baby, its… it’s cold outside”.

4) I listen to and support Canadian musicians and artists that no one has ever heard of. And not just because they are far more attractive than their American counterparts.

5) I know the words to the Canadian National Anthem better than I know my own country’s. And just like a true Canadian Torontonian, I mumble along through the French parts.

6) I support the use of “Zed” and think that “zee” is just alphabetical propaganda. And much like how thousands of Canadians signed a petition to give Ryan Gosling his rightful title of “World’s Sexiest Man”, this wannabe Canadian will start a petition to change Jay-Z to Jay-Zed.

7) I proudly sewed the Canadian flag to my backpack. Then I remembered I’m not actually Canadian and politely apologised to my backpack.

8 ) My initials are the same as that of the ultimate Canadian delicacy: Kraft Dinner. You may think this is a silly reason but my Canadian friends will beg to differ. Especially the ones still in University.

9) I once tried to pay for a double-double at Timmies with Canadian Tire money. If you are Canadian, you will understand that it doesn’t get anymore patriotic than this. If you are not Canadian, that gibberish I just spewed out means I once tried to pay for a coffee with the second most respected currency in Canada.

10) I pronounce the word “Saskatchewan” correctly. I also pronounce the word “Regina” correctly. For my non-Canadian readers, Saskatchewan is not a brand of maple syrup; it’s a province in Canada. And Regina is not the name of Celine Dion’s pet moose; it’s a city in Saskatchewan that’s pronounced like “vagina”.

At the end of the day, I can think of a million more reasons to make the case for why I belong in Canada. But in reality, there is only one reason that really matters. I love living here. And I’m not just saying that to get what I want. I love this country no matter what the outcome of my immigration case will be.

While Canada undoubtedly has its flaws (high taxes, cold weather, longest grocery store lineups in the world, overdone political correctness…), it still remains the one country that taught me independence and a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the little things. Most importantly, it harbors some of the most decent and loving people on the planet. People that I have the honor to call friends.

Aside from this sentimental bullshit, I have also fiercely defended the nutritional value of poutine, beaver tails and funnel cake with my parents and non-Canadian friends. And I have done this as a health care provider. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

Love,

The future recipient of the “Best Canadian Citizen” award.