As I begin to write this, I am currently on hold with Immigration Canada. I have become exceedingly familiar with the voice of the Quebecois teleprompter, and have called enough times to just knowingly enter the appropriate numbers, so as to speed up the process and just get to the waiting. I have also become well versed in the generic gentle piano tune that plays on a loop, only to be intermittently interrupted by the English and French version of “Sorry to keep you waiting, please note that call center agents do not make decisions, cannot speed up the process, and do not have access to applications processed by visa offices “. And of course it goes without saying: PS–yeah, and if you yell at us, we won’t take it, and will disconnect the call. Well…maybe it is best mentioned, the whole immigration process takes me to a basket-case type of place, so I imagine that others reside in a similar realm of bureaucratic purgatory, and are ready to snap at any moment. At least I’m on hold–recently I have called, gone through the whole process, heard the phone ring, and my little french friend would inform me that no one is available to speak and then disconnects the call. Just like that–no call back option, no option of waiting. How frustrating! I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee, I’m prepared to muck about on the laptop, flip idly through a magazine or wander aimlessly around the house, phone in hand and wait. My husband and I have been very good at waiting, but the cracks are starting to show. All we want is to settle–make a long term plan and know that it is possible.
I am wishing I had a real-live person to speak to–to understand, to explain.. And all you get is a pitiless voice on the phone, a note pad with scribbles and phrases, and enormous sweaty pit stains drenching your bathrobe from the stress of it all. Ladies and Gentleman, if your partner is from the same country as you, consider that a huge blessing–to remain with your partner if you were born in different parts of the globe is an enormous trial. It’s rewarding, if it works, but it’s moments like this when you feel as though a resolution will never come and you’ll be in purgatory forever.
When I met my husband three years ago in New Zealand, it was love at first sight and we married eight months later. But from the first night we were faced with the niggling thought of…”how could this possibly work?” We faced visa issues for me in New Zealand, then left for Australia and lived there for a year. We came to Canada hoping to settle for a good long while. But the immigration process–the paperwork, my god, the paperwork! It took months to arrange and organize and piece together the components of a lengthy checklist before sending it, beginning a potentially six month to one year wait. Our entire relationship and marriage has been pressed under the thumb of bureaucracy–we have lived with the fear of separation from the day that we first met. Now we continue to wait, and face the unknown, as if we are holding hands on the edge of a great precipice, wondering just what exactly is out there for us.
When you are facing such a dark and foreboding abyss, when all that you want from life feels threatened and uncertain, the one thing I could absolutely do without is what I have come to know as the ‘Immigration Horror Story’…which people love to tell you. Ever since our whirlwind romance began I have discovered that people love to tell tales of friends, or friends of friends, and just how things didn’t work out for those who dared to fall in love with a foreigner. Divorce! Disaster! Depression! Fathers separated from their children, trapped in their home country, waiting for approval. Women being removed from their chosen country, detained by men in dark suits who arrive at your door to take you away. Marriages that crumbled because neither could attain a proper visa for each others country. Just a bunch of terrifying bird and fish situations where they have no mutual place to build a home. These stories make me extremely nervous. After talking to Immigration and Service Canada, and feeling more confused and hopeless than before. I called my best friend Evelyn, who is an expert at things like logic, reason and research. When I share with her my latest plight, she gently talks me off the ledge. Furthermore, she rationalizes that these horror stories are a sort of unfounded urban legend–like a woman getting pregnant while taking birth control. “There are too many variables that you can’t know, did she take the pill at the same time everyday? Did she ever miss a pill?” Same goes for the immigration horror stories, who can know why applications are denied, or people are removed–and those are not the things that people tell you. To continue with the pregnancy analogy, you wouldn’t listen politely to someone talking about their impending birth and then respond by regaling them accounts of stillbirths and SIDS. People need to just wish you luck, and keep their ‘IHS’ to themselves. Or…maybe, “it’s been a long road for them, but they managed to stay together”. Just once I want to hear that everything went well, I need to believe that there is the possibility of a happy ending.