Sponsored Application: Sent

So after spending the past couple of weeks traveling all over (mostly for work) I’ve now ended up at home (just in time to celebrate my birthday with my family!)  My goal had been to submit my application prior to my birthday.   Sunday and Monday were spent going over everything one more time.  I split apart my overview letter into a series of discreet documents.  I went through the checklist to make sure I had everything and to organize things.

The final application was likely a bit over-done.  Every page was inserted into a sheet protector.  These sheet protectors were in turn included in a 3″ binder.  The front of the binder had both our names and pictures on it.  Each critical section of the application had a separate tab, independently labeled to make it easy to find each document.  I also included a complete copy of everything in the application in a separate envelope – no staples, no paperclips, nothing.  Just in case they don’t like the binder approach to things.

Receipts for the fees are included (application fee plus right of permanent residence fee.)  Completed original applications, supplementary materials, original IMM 1017 EFC form (as completed by the DMP) and my original FBI clearance letter (which is printed on a special paper that when copied exposes a watermark saying “unauthorized copy” on it.)

The entire package was 5.2kg (11 lbs).  It was shipped out on Monday March 5, 2012 right at the wire – 4:45 pm (cut-off time.)  It was delivered on Tuesday March 6, 2012 at 10:35 am to the mail room of the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga, ON.

Currently, the CIC website indicates that it takes 55 days before they open a new application after receipt (8 weeks) although that’s certainly subject to change.  But assuming that schedule, they should open the application around May 1.  Hopefully we will hear that the sponsor has been approved by the end of May and the file then transferred to Buffalo, NY.  So, let’s hope they log it in by the middle of June.

In parallel, the judicial review should be moving forward.  Decision on whether to grant review or not would be due in roughly the same time frame: early to mid June.  At this point I’m not expecting review to be granted (it seldom is) and if granted a positive determination seems unlikely (looks like about 20% of review cases result in a determination for the applicant.)  So, 20% chance of being accepted review and a 20% chance of success would yield a 4% chance of success this way.  Not outside the realm of possibility, but not the kinds of odds on which one should base one’s life.


Spousal Sponsorship: A story of “how it really works”

When dealing with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) one is often presented with what seems like a Kafka-esque set of requirements.

In all fairness, for the vast majority of applicants, there are few problems because their case is straight-forward and can be quickly and easily evaluated.

Of course, those of us who find complications can experience what often seems like an impenetrable maze of highly subjective rules, regulations, etc. That certainly applies in the case of medical inadmissibility.

I had a great time meeting with an old friend yesterday.  Over drinks we caught up with each other’s lives.  He has just recently applied for Canadian citizenship.  An American originally, he went through the sponsored spousal category.  I was surprised when he told me that it required 24 months to complete everything.  I recall how nervous he was towards the end (he had a work permit, but his employer had laid him off.)

It turns out he ran into pretty much the same issue that I’m facing.  He found out about his condition shortly before he submitted his application for permanent residency (so at least not as part of the immigration physical.)  What surprised me is how many “hoops” he had to jump through in order to be successful.  This included a requirement that he be on medication and that he sign affidavits guaranteeing that he and his spouse were monogamous and that they would practice safe sex.  To be blunt, I was aghast at such requirements.  It seems highly invasive for any government to impose such requirements on a rather personal and intimate relationship.

Of course, I find this ironic – in the case of a skilled worker, a personal guarantee to pay for a public service is discounted.  So why would a personal guarantee as to sexual conduct between spouses be considered valid?

I have not delved substantially into describing my own research and opinions on the efficacy of the life saving drugs for HIV, but I am more skeptical than the press, doctors and ASOs are about their efficacy and the current treatment paradigms. I am not saying that I have the answers, I’m merely disturbed by the fact that there are so many doubts and questions to which I have not been able to obtain satisfactory answers.  It is an essential component of informed consent to understand treatment decisions. But I’ll save that conversation for another day.

Doctors, while certainly very learned, have been known in the past to collectively accept scientific conclusions that were later proven false.  For an example (but hardly the only one), do a search on Onanism for an interesting history on a common cause for a number of human conditions. We scoff now, but at the time this was all taken seriously. So I have proceeded with caution.

Bottom line: I find the idea that one can be forced to take medications to fly in the face of “informed consent” and I am amazed that any doctor would find it ethical to allow a patient to proceed in the face of such coercion.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what actually happens.


New forms!


immigration forms

Immigration Forms

So I was going over the forms (again) and found that the CIC website now has a new IMM1344E form (the “E” by the way means it is in English.  The “F” version is in French.)

What’s amazing is that this form changed in December 2011 (replacing the previous two form combination.)  I’m glad I caught this – I suspect sending the wrong form to CIC would lead to at least a slower processing time and more likely a return of the entire application back to us.

The big advantage to the new form seems to be that it generates a barcode cover page.  By using 2D barcode technology, it means that when it arrives at CIC they can simply scan it and all the data is entered.  Less chance for errors (the barcodes have error correction data within them) and faster processing.  While not new technology, I assume it’s part of trying to streamline the CIC application processing system.  The downside is it means we’ll be one of the first people to try it out.

I was also excited to see that my credit card was charged by the FBI, which means someone in West Virginia has opened the envelope.  This usually seems to mean that the application will be processed in the next couple of days.  So – assuming there are no issues with the fingerprint card – I should get back my “no record found” response soon as I provided them with my FedEx account number.

With my FBI letter in hand, I’ll have everything I need to submit the new application.  I’ll pay the “Right of Permanent Residence” fee (printing out the oh so critical receipt), go through the application one more time, get it externally reviewed and then pop it in the Federal Express Envelope (or more likely box at this point) and ship it off to Mississauga.  Then we wait; at the moment it is taking around 2 months for them to open the application package.  If they are happy with the sponsorship they will send it along to Buffalo.  If they are not happy with something the process will slip off the tracks and we’ll have to wait and see how long it ultimately takes.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but my prior experience suggests that this could be a long road.

Maybe I should start a betting pool as to which will happen sooner: spousal sponsorship will be accepted or judicial review will be granted (or denied).

Proving a marriage is legitimate


One of the interesting challenges in preparing a new application for spousal sponsorship has been to substantiate the legitimacy of our marriage.  I’m quite sure that, given my previous rejection by CIC, this will be an area of inquiry.  From what I’ve read in other forums (e.g. Canada Immigration and Visa Discussion Forum) an important aspect of speeding the spousal immigration process along quickly is to ensure that you document everything.  I’m not trying to be so exhaustive that I overwhelm them, but at the same time I’m trying to make sure that the immigration officer reading through the file has no doubts that ours is a legitimate marriage.

Complicating this a bit is that our marriage is hardly a traditional one.   We didn’t have a big wedding (my spouse had just returned from a family wedding and agreed with my assessment that big weddings are tremendously stressful.) We had actually discussed marriage before, but to be honest I had concerns – one of which was I never wanted my spouse to ever think that I’d used our relationship for immigration purposes (another is that there’s a bit of an age difference between us.)

Even though I expected to receive the fairness letter (I just went back and looked – I received it from my attorney on the 7th of April 2011) it was still a real shock to the psyche. Something that one cannot fully appreciate until in this position is the concern about losing your home and family because of the arbitrary and capricious nature of a bureaucratic process.  Of course, bureaucratic processes are, by their very nature, dehumanizing. They turn real people into files full of paper, with numbers attached and objective standards to which the decision maker must adhere.

At any rate, we agreed to marry on April 9, 2011.  After my spouse returned in May (recall there was a family wedding and my spouse is from Taiwan originally) we started discussing when and how to do it.  I had suggested low key (with a party afterwards, although we’ve procrastinated a bit on the party unfortunately.)  After going through a big wedding my spouse was in agreement and we agreed on the low key approach.  Indeed we treated the whole thing somewhat casually – we went to Dim Sum on Friday May 13, 2011 and I said “you know, we could just go get the licence” – and that’s exactly what we did.  We went over to the Jack Chow Insurance office in Chinatown that also happens to issue marriage licences.  After showing our identification and being advised that we had to use the licence within ninety days, we left – both of us were a bit giddy.

We went ring shopping the next day after my spouse got off work.  We’d done some online shopping up to that point, so we picked a shop that had a number of rings that we really liked.  After looking at a number of rings we narrowed it down to three different rings.  My spouse then wanted me to pick, but rather than do that I said, no you pick one and I’ll pick one and then we’ll see if we can accept one of those two choices.  We both picked the same ring, which as far as I was concerned was the best possible outcome.   It’s not particularly fancy, but it has a bit of “bling” to it (something my spouse likes) and really did represent a good blending of our own likes.

I contacted a marriage commissioner the next day (Saturday) and our first pick was available for the following Friday (May 20, 2011.)  So we drove over (along with two close friends) to Kitsilano (still part of Vancouver, but a specific neighbourhood and outside of downtown where I lived.)  The day was fantastic – beautiful weather (about 24 celcius), dry and sunny.  Indeed, it was the best weather day in the first half of the year!  The ceremony was poignant and we both cried at various points throughout it.  The whole thing took about 20 minutes.  We’d brought a bottle of champagne and I think I drank most of it.

It was an amazing day.  Simple, yet thoroughly memorable.  Even the lottery ticket I bought (for the 20 May 2011 lottery) won!  It was only $20 (exactly what I spent) but given that its the most I’ve ever won on the lottery here, I was pretty happy about that outcome.

At any rate, I wander.  I’m going to include pictures from that amazing day.  Plus I’ve asked the owner of our gym to take a picture of us and write a letter of support (and she’s agreed to do so – this is a Crossfit gym, which is definitely NOT your typical gym.)  I’ve also asked my doctor (who my spouse has seen twice as well) to write a letter supporting us.  My hope is that this will be sufficiently compelling (I mean, we work out together at the gym.  If that doesn’t say love, what does?)

Just for the record, my spouse has pushed for formal pictures and engraving the date in our rings.  I’ve agreed to both.  Plus we still have a party to throw – I’m thinking that May 20, 2012 would be a good date for it (it’s a Sunday.)  We shall see.


Taking the plunge: another medical exam


Doctor Patient Picture

Booking a meeting with the doctor

The process of obtaining a physical examination is a bit different for spousal sponsorship than it is for federal skilled worker immigration – in the latter, you wait until they send a form saying “go get your physical” while in the family sponsorship category they have you go get it up front:

If you are applying under the family class and being sponsored as a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, or dependent child, then you should complete your medical examination before submitting your application.

That’s actually encouraging since a medical examination is technically only “good” for a period of 12 months – suggesting that they expect the entire process to be done in a year. Let’s hope.  From what I’ve read, if one sends a complete file the processing can actually go quite rapidly.

I’ve spent the past couple of days filling out all the paperwork.  I’m now down to just a handful of things remaining to be done:

  • pay the right of permanent residence fee (not required but I’ve read that this will speed things up – assuming the application is successful.)
  • medical examination
  • FBI clearance (I sent that in already, just waiting for it to come back, which could be in February or March.  I COULD submit without it and then send it along when I have a file number, but there is a certain advantage to having it all done and complete in one package
  • Supplementary materials in support of the legitimacy of our marriage.  Maybe other people are good at remembering exact dates and places: “when did you first meet?” – I know roughly when and even where we met, but exactly?  Of course, one thing that I’ve enjoyed about this is thinking back to those heady initial days.  Not that a visa officer will care about that sort of thing, of course.  So the fact that the landlord still hasn’t returned an executed copy of our apartment lease (hey, it’s only been 7 months, why rush things?) is now a bit more than a minor annoyance.  We do own a car together and have bank accounts together, have traveled together and I’m off looking through telephone records (ugh!  we mostly text!) and pictures (call me a die hard romantic, but there are some that just make me tear up.)

It’s quite a pile.  Since I can’t seem to get a straight answer to almost anything I now have to mull over whether or not to send in this whole pile and request a temporary resident permit.  As I previously noted, a simple reading of the CIC website pretty clearly says that I’m not eligible for a spousal sponsorship, even though other people say that I am.  The only way to really tell is to submit the application and see what happens. Ugh!

I’ll keep going over the application to make sure I haven’t missed anything, but having my previously filed application has been immensely helpful in preparing the new one (try remembering everywhere you’ve ever lived since you turned 18!)