Thursday, 26 July 2012

Life - the long game

So amongst the house moving events, which are moving along - more on that in another post - last Wednesday I received an email which changed the way our lives will be from now on...

It was an email from the Canadian High Commission in London, asking me to send in our passports to have Permanent Residency visas issued.  Olga and I chose to keep this application a secret from everyone but close family until we knew for certain that we would be successful. Given that we sent the initial forms off at the start of January 2010, it's been two and a half years of trying to not talk about it with friends, which hasn't been easy at all.

I've been looking back at old emails, and found that the earliest one I have relating to my thoughts of moving to Canada go back as far as November 2008, when I registered with a website promoting businesses for sale - my plan had been for us to buy a turnkey business over there. This email related to buying a convenience store in a suburb of Vancouver!  It was nearly a year before I actually discussed it with Olga, it was just something I looked into in my spare time and daydreamed about. Once I had discussed it with Olga though, it was immediately obvious that she was in favour of the move, and had considered Canada as a possible destination when she decided to leave Russia (I'm lucky she chose England!).  So we started to investigate more seriously how we might move there, and it turned out that at that time, around the end of 2009, that my occupation of IT Manager - the role I was effectivley doing, and had been for two years or more - was on the list of 38 "in-demand" occupations in Canada, and that meant that I was entitled to apply under their Federal Skilled Worker programme. It required me to have at least one year of experience in one of the 38 in-demand occupations (check!), be fluent in English or French (check, just), not have any recent criminal convictions (check), and a few other considerations, each of which was given a points score, such as my level of education, my age, Olga's education and whether we'd have enough cash in the bank to support us for six months if we moved over there. So long as I achieved a score of 67 out of 100, I could apply. I scored 71 I think, so we decided to take the plunge, and over the Christmas holidays in 2009 we put our initial application together and sent it off to a government department in Nova Scotia on the 4th January 2010.

This initial application was checked, and once they agreed that I appeared to be a suitable candidate for Permanent Residency under the Federal Skilled Worker programme, they sent my application to London, who then contacted me in March 2010 asking me to prove my background, which meant getting hold of work contracts proving I was an IT Manager, and that I did the jobs they expected an IT Manager to do; I couldn't really supply any references, as I had been working for the same company for 10 years and I didn't want to tell them we were thinking of leaving (Olga and I worked for the same company then, too!). We had to get two estate agent valuations of the house, to show that we had equity in it, so if we did move, we'd have enough money to live on initially (now you know why we've sold the house!);  I needed transcripts of the university degrees I'd done, in sealed envelopes; Olga needed certified translations of her work experience and education achievements..; we both needed UK Police Certificates to show we had no criminal records, and Olga had to get one from Russia;  I even had to write a letter to show that I was fluent in English! We had a maximum of 120 days to get all this information together and sent back, we sent the full pack to London on 17th May, after 75 days.
Then the waiting really started!
They acknowledged receipt of our documents on 8th July 2010, then we had no further news until after I'd sent them a "do you remember me?" email in February 2011 - to be fair, they had said in July 2010 to not bother them for 8 months, so I waited nearly 8 months. They acknowledged me, and that was it. Nothing more for the rest of 2011! Luckily we were busy getting on with our new jobs with Flare, and happy to let this bubble away in the background.
So, after virtually nothing from them for nearly 18 months, on 24th January 2012 our status changed from "Documents received" to "In Process", which meant a human being was finally looking at all those documents we had sent in. Things really motored from then on. On 4th February we were asked to send in updated information about our application, which basically meant we waited until Olga had Danil, then we got his UK passport and sent in information about him, and about Dad passing away (they want to know everything!) and fresh UK police certificates - we sent all this in April 2012.
A month later, in mid-May 2012 we were asked to have medical examinations and send in yet more money for to cover processing fees. All this was good news, as you don't get this far unless you have passed all their background and work experience checks, so we were delighted, and I managed to get us an appointment to have a medical examination at a hospital in Manchester when we were up visiting Mum at the end of May. Even Danil and Lara were examined, albeit briefly. We were very pleased to find out that Lara could read letters on the eye test chart, proving not only was her eyesight OK, but that she could identify certain letters when a strange man asked her to!
So the medical examiner sent those results in the Canadian High Commission, and we just waited a bit more. Until Wednesday 18th July 2012 (which would have been my grandad's 100th birthday) when I received an email asking me to provide my and my family's passports "for visa issuance"!
And here we are....
On Tuesday this week we received Lara's freshly renewed UK passport in the post, which was excellent timing, as it meant Olga and I could take out passports in person to the High Commission today to deliver them in person. We'll go back in two week's time to collect them; this happens to be the day when we are going to London anyway to watch the Women's basketball semi-finals at the O2, so the timing was perfect.
Here is Olga and Danil in the queue at the HC on Grosvenor Street in London, we only had to wait 15 minutes, and the passports were dropped off in 5 minutes, and I have a receipt (somewhere!) that I have to show when we go to pick them up:

The way things work now is... once I've collected our passports, with a PR visa in each one, we need to visit Canada before one year elapses from the date of our medicals (30th May), to "activate" them. We don't need to move over then though, we can go on holiday to activate them, which is what we're planning to do, either in Lara's October half term or maybe around New Year.
Once activated, we need to spend 2 years out of 5 in Canada to retain our PR, which effectively means we have 3 years from the date of activation to move over permanently. We're planning to move over in Spring 2014, the reasons for which I'll explain in another post - this one is getting too long!
So for now, we're really looking forward to spending 18 months to 2 years living in Bury, planning the big move, which will be to somewhere in the vicinity of Calgary.

I know this post hasn't even touched on the more emotional aspects of why we're going to a country that Olga and I - even as seasoned travellers - have never visited, and why we're moving the children away from friends and family, but hopefully we'll get chance to explain in person that to those of you who read this; otherwise I'll just post it up on here sometime if I ever get a week or two to explain it!!

Phew, time for a beer now!