People often ask me what I thought of the “whole international relocation experience.” I’ve decided to help in the best way I know how: by compiling a list of do’s and don’ts for a successful relocation experience. And so, without further ado, I give you my list. These items are in no particular order – but they do reference Canada. I’m not sure how helpful I can be if you are relocating to Madagascar…I say just ask the penguins!
DON’T: Try to be the Canadian Border Agent’s Comic Relief.
Border guards are not your friends, and it’s highly unlikely that they moonlight as talent scouts for comedy clubs. “Hey – we made it to Canada…the 51st state!” Yah….not such a good idea. Thinking back on it….I DO remember them mentioning that in Cultural Orientation class. Hmmmph. Neither is trying to “just wing” your work visa paperwork by being friendly and talkative. You pretty much have to know every little detail of your job…why you are moving to the country…what your spouse is going to do….confirm again and again that you are not going into a teaching profession or the sex industry….and know your 3rd unborn child’s middle name. Just saying. Please answer honestly if you have ever been convicted of a crime…or for heaven’s sake…if you are a criminal!!! And please, don’t take offense if the agent calls over two more agents to review your paperwork. More people in the audience to appreciate your Canadian jokes, EH?! And…you might want to try to refrain from answering when your agent asks for clarification if your spouse should be coded to “52 – Oil and Gas Management” or “51 – Agricultural Specialist.” WHAT?! He has a code??? That question was NOT in my work visa package paperwork. I think the death glare meant she was actually asking the previously mentioned two new agents at her side…….
DO: Read your Work Visa Permit Application that your company representative created for you. Word. For. Word. (If you are not so lucky…then read the package that you prepared for yourself.)
A little birdie may have told you to not “just wing” your application. We actually got VERY lucky and had a company representative prepare all of our documentation for us. It went something like this:
- Documentation to bring with you:
Original, valid passport
Letter of Support from Company
Copy of educational documents
Copy of Marriage certificate
*** Please read through all of your paperwork to familiarize yourself with how I have worded your job description and expertise.
- Step 2: Arrival at the Airport/Border Crossing
When you arrive, tell the officer that you would like to make an application for a work permit. You will be directed to the immigration office.
- Step 3: The Immigration Office
An Immigration Officer will interview you and assess the application package. They will want to ensure that the details of the documentation are correct and that you are qualified for the position. Answer all questions concisely and honestly. (<– I think I may have missed that part!)
- Step 4: What you should receive
DON’T: Let the cat out of the bag! Honestly, just don’t.
Unless you are going through security…which is a whole other story. Even if you think you are being nice and letting him out, it is actually more stressful to them when they get bombarded with noises and smells and shiny floors and kids with sticky fingers. Oh wait….that was the hubs after his Lucky Dog lunch.
DO: Buy a pet carrier on wheels.
Seriously. Amazing. Might be the best thing ever invented for traveling with a 16-lb cat!!! Trust me on this one.
DON’T: Bring prohibited food or plants.
There was a lil’ old lady walking behind us on the way to customs, and she was chattering on and on to other passengers around us about how she had to declare her beef jerky that she bought for her grandson…and that she read a person can only bring 20 KG. She couldn’t believe ONLY 20 KG. I’m not a rocket scientist…and I might have had to check a conversion website…but COME ON! 20 kilograms is approximately 44 pounds!!! There are relatively few restrictions on most plants grown natively in Canada or the US, but there are still plenty of restrictions on bringing food imported from the rest of the world across the border. But you shouldn’t be alarmed if you do have food. Unless there’s an enormous animal carcass hidden in your luggage, the worst that could happen here is confiscation. That being said, it’s probably better not to stock up on groceries right before you cross the border. And if you REALLY love beef jerky, please try to limit yourself to 20 KG.
DO: Declare all items that you are bringing with you…including pets!
On the other hand…you may not want to skim the Declaration Card given to you on the plane and just assume that you hold the Golden Ticket. For example – let’s say someone was relocating to Canada. From the US. And since they were moving to a new country, they brought their adorable, orange polydactyl cat, named Mario with them. And let’s say did not see the itty-bitty word “animal” (circled in red below) on the 3rd bullet of the “I am/ee are bringing into Canada” section…and they happily check-marked “No” – feeling all proud inside that they were not harboring any illegal goods. PERHAPS, if that were to happen to someone, it would go something like this: Said person would be merrily skipping through the concourse carrying a pet carrier, when a very stern looking Border Agent (#1) halts them and asks to review their declaration card. Said person happily hands it over, starts to say , “How are you d—” and gets ever so rudely interrupted with, “Why did you not declare your pet?” Umm….thinking wildly where the pet question was on the card – and finally decides to say, “I didn’t see a place on there.” Out comes a huge Green Marker, and suddenly the declaration card looks like Oscar the Grouch threw up on it. #1. “It clearly states Animals. Right here. Why didn’t you declare?” Umm….”I’m sorry. Again, I didn’t see that part. I thought it was referring to me visiting a farm.” #1 – “Did you visit a farm? You must declare that.” Umm…”Me? No! No farm! I just thought that sentence was referring to farm animals. No farms. Not since I was 12! And I didn’t even pet the goats.” #1. Very sternly, “Go to secondary customs. Explain why you did not declare your pet.” Umm….meekly, “I’m sorry. Again. I didn’t mean to mark NO!” Husband – with a glare, “I thought you knew how to fill these things out.” Hmmmph.
Border Agent #2. “Why didn’t you declare your pet?” Umm…”I told the other agent….I just didn’t see that part. I’m sorry.” #2 – Prepares my declaration card for a Mary Kay convention (he had a very large Pink Marker.) Umm…With a smile plastered to my face, “We are moving to Canada! I have his paperwork.” #2. “Go down that hallway, through the sliding door, and back through customs. And declare your cat.” Husband – with longest glare known to man, “I hope we make our next flight.”
DO: State your name clearly to the people you meet, carefully enunciating each syllable (or single syllable in my case.)
Our last name is Kunze. Like the 2nd syllable of RACOONS. It is not KoonTz. It is not KoonzIE. And it MOST certainly does not resemble the plural version of a vulgar slang word for a female.
Oh yah – and for those of you wondering about the cat? Luckily, he had all of his paperwork in order, including a notarized letter from the US. I think it mentioned something about the fact that his poo does not stink…that he would not eat moose jerky….and that he would limit his cat calls to Canadian Felines. Or something like that. Who knew they were so strict about cats crossing the border?! Hehe.