To everyone that’s wondering why we left for Canada nearly two months ago and still haven’t arrived, I thought I’d explain a bit about our visa sitch.
To cut a complicated story short we thought we’d have our visas by now and we don’t. But if you’re interested in a more detailed account, here goes…
We are applying for an IEC ‘International Experience Canada’ visa that allows 18-30 year olds to live and work in Canada for up to a year. For the last however long, this IEC Visa application process has opened during early December. With a maximum process time of 8 weeks, we expected to be in Vancouver by February 25th at the very latest, making the 90 days allowed in the US on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) more than enough time to accommodate our stay with Ben’s Dad in Seattle over Christmas, having flown out on December 10th.
This plan would have been perfect if the Canadian Immigration Office hadn’t decided to change the application process for 2013 to a fully electronic application. It’s February 2nd and the application process still hasn’t opened, despite having been notified (after being provided with numerous open ended time frames and delaying tactics) that it would definitely be open before February 1st. Hmmm. Traditionally the process takes a maximum of 8 weeks, though we’re unsure whether this is now accurate. As we’re only allowed in the US until March 9th, you can see how this is becoming increasingly problematic! Hopefully the electronic method is quicker to process than the old postal system. We’re looking into the possibility of extending our US Waiver Visa for 30 days or something but I’m not too sure on whether we can yet.
If we prove unlucky then we’ll have to travel into Canada as tourists when our time in the US is up. The only problem with this is money (we can’t afford to dig into our savings as we need certain amount money to qualify for the IEC) and the fact that you have to re-enter the country in order to activate the work visa. It’s a bit complicated but we cannot re-enter the United States from Canada until at least 30 days after leaving. This is because under the terms of the VWP, travelling to Canada doesn’t count as ‘meaningful departure’ from the US, and therefore still counts towards the 90 days allowed. You have to stay for 30 days for it to be meaningful departure.
One alternative option I am looking into is something I discovered last week called ‘flag poling’ – in which you leave Canada but do not enter America. This would mean we wouldn’t have to spend 30 days in Canada before re-entering if our visas came through before then. Apparently you have to tell the people at the border that this is what you are doing. They then give you a form and send you to some office where you show your visa and documentation. They give you a paper refusing you entry to the states (I have read that this refusal is only administrative, in order to show the Canadian Border Patrol that you have left Canada but I’m not sure) and send you back to Canada. This would be great but I feel we need to know for sure that the refusal does not affect our permanent record, as we would like to be able to come back to Seattle in the future. Anyone that’s ever been through any kind of US immigration or border control knows that these guys aren’t warm & fluffy so I’d like to be sure on where I stand!
Anyway we’re trying to arrange a meeting with US immigration or the embassy or something to see if we have any more options. I’ll let you know the outcome but please keep your fingers crossed for us in the meantime!
Sorry for the lack of blogging, I’ve a lot to write about the last week or so and hopefully will start on it tomorrow :)