Saturday, August 20, 2011

Crossing the Border

Aka: A Lesson in Over-Preparation

Hello faithful followers!  Sorry for the delay in updates, we went out of town last weekend, and apparently, I left my motivation in the states.  It finally found its way across the bridge and back to me!

I won’t bore you with too many minor details of packing and moving.  But let me tell you this, planning and organization is everything.  We had a small window of time in which to make this move and so things had to be just right.  When our parents arrived on Saturday, everything was in boxes and ready to be loaded.  We had two large trailers, and all of our things fit beautifully.   

We decided that crossing the border on a Sunday morning would be the best timing.  Turns out it was even better than expected.   The Monday after our move was a civic holiday in Canada, which meant that traffic on the bridge was even slower on a Sunday morning than it normally would have been.

Now here is the kind of scary part.  Many people have asked us what kind of visa or permit we would need to live in Canada.  Well, since we had both been admitted into the university, we could apply for study permits for the duration of our education.  Since my program is significantly shorter than Doug’s, I will have to apply for a work permit later to remain in the country and get a job.  After perusing the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website, checking the UWO international student handbook, and even visiting the Canadian consulate in Detroit earlier this summer – we decided that the easiest way to get the permit was to apply at the border when we were crossing.  Now since this is what everyone was telling us to do, we knew it was our best bet and it was unlikely that we would be denied.  But there is still this nagging voice in the back of your mind saying “you are here at the border, all your stuff in trailers, no where to live in the US, and technically they could deny you entrance and turn you away.”

So yes, I was a little freaked out.

We crossed over the bridge in record time, and approached the booth as a convoy.   They directed us over to the immigrations and customs building, were we all went inside.  Doug and I were prepared with work permit forms, letters of acceptance and financial aid from the university, passports, passport photos, a list of everything we were bringing into the country, and our fees.  We had gone over the CIC website repeatedly, and were sure we were all ready.

The guy at the desk asked for three things: our letters of acceptance, letter of financial aid, and the list of all our stuff.  As it was a slow Sunday morning, he spent half the time he was helping us talking to the person sitting next to him and ordering fresh Timmy's.  Half an hour later, he stapled a piece of paper inside each of our passports, showed us where to pay and told us to have a good day.  I was puzzled.  What about our forms, photos, and all the other stuff I had spend hours completing and compiling?  Didn’t need it.  As US citizens, they only needed letters from UWO and the inventory.  He didn’t even read it, or check the trailers!  For all they knew I gave them a list of our stuff, but the trailers actually contained guns and drugs! (For any Canadian government officials reading this – trust me, it was just our stuff….)

So after less than an hour total we were cleared to go and off for the last hour of our drive from the border (we crossed at Port Huron/Sarnia) to London!

Although we weren’t given any trouble at the border, Doug’s parents were actually stopped on their way back the same day!  Apparently, the boarder guards didn’t believe that they could have moved us and not needed to take anything back in the trailer with them.  They were flagged, pulled off to the side, and asked to open the trailer.  Who knew it was harder to get out of Canada with an empty trailer, than into it with a full one!?

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