My Life in Canada – Entering the Country, Draft 5

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Feb 14, 2018 09:19
My wife and I came to Toronto via China.We had a two-hour flight to Pudong, China from our home country, South Korea, and then spent one night there at a hotel nearby the airport. And the next day we had a fourteen-hour flight to Toronto. Of course, there were non-stop flights from South Korea to Toronto, but it was way cheaper to come to this city by way of China. We didn't want to waste money on flight tickets. Our flight was one of the cheapest flights from Seoul to Toronto.

Fourteen hours on a plane was longer than I realized; before that trip, the longest flight I had taken was a four-hour trip from Seoul to Chiang Mai. I couldn't sleep on the plane for the whole trip, maybe because I felt thrilled to live abroad for the first time, or because I felt anxious about living there as a foreigner, or because of both of them. It was impressive to see the sunrise and sunset from the air. I also remember the beautiful scene of the American continent after I came across the Pacific.

After the long flight, what welcomed us was an Immigration Officer. I was spaced out because I couldn't sleep at all, and it was the first time that I had been to an English speaking country. I didn't think seriously about the immigration process. My wife's study permit had already been approved before we left our home country. I had no problem entering Canada, because as a Korean passport holder, I was able to stay in the country on a visitor permit for six months at the most.

When my wife showed her study-permit-related document to the border official and I told him that I was her spouse, he sent us to another office maybe because we were not just travelers. That might have been a regular process for people who wanted to enter the country as a study permit holder like my wife. We prepared everything to be approved to enter the country: She already had the permit approval letter validating that she was able to be given her study permit. She and I also prepared some documents showing our financial status.

There were three to four officials in the office where we were sent although there were more desks in there. It seemed like fewer officials worked that day than usual because it was Sunday. We had to wait for about thirty to forty minutes in line until it was our turn. The border official who examined us didn't look very happy somehow. I had heard that border officials sometimes were aggressive to immigrants on purpose so the immigrants would become irritated and blurt out something they had hidden.

The official started with asking the purpose of our visit to Canada. My wife told him that she was there to go to college and that I would stay with her for a while as a visitor. I had planned to enter the country on a visitor permit, and then to apply for my resident permit as a spouse of my wife, who was on a study permit. I had been able to apply for my resident permit, too, when my wife had applied for her study permit, but that had been a bit risky because I neither had a secure job nor owned any real estate, which I needed to show my ties to my home country.

"When does your school start?" he asked my wife. "In September," my wife replied. "The school starts in September, and you've arrived here in May? It's too early!" He looked incredulous. "There are a lot of things to prepare before the school starts. I have to find an apartment to live in, and most of all, I have to get a criminal history check before the school starts. It takes more than three months," she replied as she had prepared. "You came here FOUR MONTHS before the school starts! International students usually get in JUST A MONTH before their schools start!" We had expected he would ask why we came so early, but we hadn't expected he would get mad at us.

"Like I said, I need to get a police check that takes more than three months," she said. "I've NEVER heard international students have to take that kind of a police check," he said. "I'll study Early Child Education, and one of my school programs requires students to take a criminal history check," she said. "That DOESN'T make sense AT ALL. I've seen so many international ECE students so far, but I've NEVER heard of something like that before," he said. My wife showed the school curriculum and pointed to a program requiring a criminal history check. "This is a field placement program! You won't go into the field placement as soon as the school starts, right?" He was authoritarian. I saw my wife start shivering as I did.

"Why did you come here?" he asked me. "I'll help my wife prepare for her school and travel in this country with her. This is the first time that we've been here, and this time I have a long holiday," I replied. "You have a three-month holiday? Huh. What is your job?" he asked. "I'm a freelance graphic designer. I'm self-employed," I replied. "You are a FREELANCE graphic designer, which means you can work anywhere, EVEN IN THIS CITY, right?" he said. "I won't work here. This is my holiday. Why do you think I'll work here?" I said. "You NEVER ask me. I ask you, and you only have to answer my questions, okay? Furthermore, you'd better answer properly, or I'll send you back to your country," he said.

"I'm very suspicious of you guys. I'm NEVER convinced why you came here so early at all. I'm afraid you work here illegally," he said. I had things to talk to him, but I didn't. I was afraid that it would make him more upset and that he would send us back to Seoul. "ANY international student doesn't come here SO EARLY LIKE THIS unless they take a pre-language course," he said. "I have a language course!" my wife said. When she said that, I thought we would be sent back to our home country by him, because I knew she lied. "Oh, you do? You have to prove that," he said. After the fact, I asked her why she lied, and she said, "I didn't know he would check in detail."

There were several reasons why we came here that early. Most of all, it was the cheapest-flight-ticket season. Once summer starts, the price significantly went up because it is a travel season in Toronto. Second, we didn't have any reason to stay in our home country; our lease on the apartment was up and we had been staying our parents'. Third, we thought it would be easier to find good apartments, because it could be competitive once the school started. Finally, my wife really thought she had to come here early to get a criminal history check. She believed she had to submit the document before the school started. We didn't have any bad intentions, after all, but it was very hard to prove intention.

In the end, he found my wife lied. I was being worried about what I had to tell to my parents and friends when I went back home while my wife was apologizing for her lie to him. That would be embarrassing. I had heard that only one to two Koreans were rejected and deported per a year. I had never expected we would be the two deportees of the year. I was afraid that I had to have another a fourteen-hour flight to Seoul, that I wasted the flight tickets, and that we wouldn't come to Canada again because this accident would be recorded on paper. I got upset at my wife. When I had brought up the early-arrival-issue, she was sure that we could enter the country without any problems; she believed the police-check-excuse would work.

I lost my mind. My wife still was shivering and even sweating. She kept trying to convince him. My last hope was that he would give her a visitor permit so we could enter the country for the moment. If so, she could later apply for a study permit again before her visitor permit expired, and I could apply for my resident permit when her study permit was issued. It would be a hassle because it would take more time than we expected and we had to go to a border to get them. But it would be much better than excursion order. The border official apparently decided to not hear our explanation any longer. He kept grumbling and shaking his head. It seemed that he made a decision. In the end, he stamped on our passports.

He gave our passports back to us and said, "Welcome to Canada," with a blank look on his face. I was happy that he didn't deport us, but on second thought, I got pissed off because he didn't issued a study permit for her. It felt it was unfair somehow. She could stay in the country only for six months at most on a visitor permit, while for two years on a study permit. She had to apply for a study permit, again, to go to school. I didn't understand what the point of the study permit approval letter was. Because she didn't get a study permit, I couldn't apply for a resident permit in the capacity as a spouse of a study permit holder, either.

I checked how long I could stay in the country. A visitor permit holder could usually stay for six months, but I had heard that I could get the bad luck of receiving shorter expiration. Fortunately, my visitor permit expired in six months. I told my wife to check her visitor permit's expiration. "My permit expires in July," she said. "We've arrived in May, and he gave you a permit that expires in July? What the fuck!" I said. I couldn't believe he allowed her to stay only for two months. "Is that true? Let me look at your permit," I said. On her permit, the expiration date was written on the 28th in July as she said, but the year was 2019 which was two years later.

He, after all, issued her a study permit that she could stay in the country on until her school ended. Also, I could apply for a resident permit as her spouse.With the permit, I could stay in this country for the same period as she could, in other words, until her school ended after two years. We were grateful for him issuing her a study permit back then, but with hindsight, the official didn't issue the permit with his generosity. I believe that was beyond his authority as a border official. He issued her the permit because she didn't have any critical issues for it even though she didn't account for her early arrival.

It was his job as an immigration official to decide whether immigrants were appropriate to enter the country. The official pressured and irritated us on purpose so we would give away something we had hidden, if any. It was one of their methods I guess. Furthermore, our case was definitely not common. As he said, international students usually arrive here a month or two months at most before their school started. Thus, it makes sense that he was suspicious that we had inappropriate intentions to enter the country that early. Eventually, he didn't figure out any other bad intentions from us during the interview and issued her the permit.