Life in Vancouver

Waiting for Visas Sucks!

I have an American friend who, before I met Tom, told me that I should make sure to marry English. She had been on a training program in the UK when she met her British husband, and the hassle they had been through with visas since getting married was vast.

I had other friends from elsewhere in the world (Asia and Europe) who had to do things like share all of their Facebook messages to and from their partner since the beginning of their relationship with immigration to prove it was legit before they could stay in England with their spouse.

Even now, years on, my friends have to reapply for visas, or go back to either their “home” country or their spouse’s “home” country to keep visas going every few years.

So when my friend told me to marry English she had a fair point – it’s much easier to not have to deal with all that paperwork! Luckily, I fell for a Brit so we didn’t have that headache. Until we decided to move to Canada…

I now have that first hand experience of visa stress, and I can confidently tell you – it is not fun.

Right from the beginning we had difficulty knowing if we were filling in applications correctly, even knowing if we’d applied for the right thing, then not knowing wait times, or being able to contact anybody for updates. We learned early on that a lot of visa stress comes from having to wait an unknown amount of time before you hear anything (could be a couple weeks, could be a year…).

I was accepted to study for a Masters when I was on a short trip to the UK back in March this year, so we applied for our visas at the beginning of April. (Yes – March and April, the months the world went into lockdown.) Within days we were invited to give Biometrics. Giving biometrics is going to a government/immigration office, having your photo taken and your fingerprints logged and going on your way to let them process your application further. Obviously these appointments are not COVID friendly, or essential work, so the biometrics offfices have been closed since mid-March.

You usually have 30 days to report to the offices and give biometrics. In March, they announced this would be extended to 90 days. A month or so later they announced nobody would be denied a visa because of hold ups from COVID and that your biometrics letter would still be valid when the offices re-opened. In July they announced they would not require biometrics in order to process visas because there was no sign of re-opening yet, and asked people to give biometrics at a later date, when possible.

Which means that since mid July, we have just been pending in the Canadian government’s processing visa pile. There is no word on expected wait times or processing times. (Surprise!)

My course begins with an orientation on September 1st & 2nd, with classes beginning September 8th. I’ve been telling myself for the last six weeks that I still have plenty of time for the visa to come through. With just 10 days left of August, it’s becoming clear that there’s a real possibility that it won’t.

So where does that leave me?! (I say me rather than us because Tom is able, as long as we are granted visas eventually, to carry on as he is during the transition of visas.)

I am not allowed to study on my current visa.

Once I start studying, it has to be full time – a specific visa stipulation. This means I can’t work my current job and study at the same time. The course load I would have to take on would also be too much to try to do both.

I can drop courses for full refund up to September 25th.

Apparently, from a loophole, I can audit courses on my current visa, and then once my study permit is granted, switch the courses to credit.

I could defer studying until January, assuming the visa will not come through early enough for me to commit to the courses, and continue working at my current job until the visa comes through. At that point, it means that I would not be able to work any more. (Visa stipulation…)

Considering I don’t know if it’ll be a matter of days or months until I hear it leaves me scratching my head as to what I should do. September is just a matter of days away now, and I have no clue what I’ll be doing.

I emailed immigration last week, they generally take a week to send you a pasted reply from their website, so maybe I’ll have more clarity tomorrow?

Something I have definitely learned through all of this is that growing up in the EU was a huge, unknown blessing. How incredible it is to be able to travel around, see and experience different places and cultures without ever having to worry about visas!

I do think that a lot of Brits are likely to have a stark awakening in the coming years of just how much of a ball-ache visas can be.

So back to my friend’s advice to marry English… visas are a pain. But love is love – you can’t help who you fall for, or in my case, where you fall for! If the love is strong enough, the visas won’t break down your spirit. So I’m forging on, trying not to let the unknown of visas break my spirit, and enjoy the fact that I love where I live so much!

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