Carrie's Adventures

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Government Bureaucracy

After Akis' landed, we took to task on getting his other paperwork done ~ in particular, getting him a SIN card. I had sent out his paperwork for his medical plan late January, and now that he was a Permanent Resident, he was eligible to get both his SIN card and his BC drivers license.

Knowing that Akis needs his SIN to work, we made this our top priority. Monday after he landed I went with him to the Services Canada Office, armed with his passport, PR visa and his Confirmation of Permanent Residency. The office opens promptly at 8:30am and we got there early, forming a queue outside of the building. Once we got inside, we stood in line, got to reception and were given a form to complete. As they reviewed Akis' paperwork, there was some concern over the big 'VOID' which was written on Akis' entry visa. The supervisor was called over and we were asked to explain how the word 'VOID' came to be on his visa. It was a bit ironic as Akis and I both commented on how unprofessional it looked to have the visa marked in this way when his passport was returned to us, but let it go, figuring they knew what they were doing. Turns out, they did not.

After much inspection and discussion about the 'VOID', we were called to speak to a representative. She began to look at our paperwork and got no further than Akis' visa before she looked at us and said ~ I don't think we can issue you the SIN number. Just to be sure, she got on the phone to the head office in New Brunswick and they said that visa must be valid and if the word void was written on it, this was not acceptable for purposes of issuing a SIN number. She told us we needed to go back to Immigration Canada, request a new visa or documentation that the visa was valid and then return.

Discouraged and annoyed with the officer who processed Akis' papers, we got on the bus and Akis took me to work. We arrived at the office and my next hour was spent on the phone with Immigration Canada. The conversation was not overly productive and was somewhat circular in nature. The flow of the conversation went something like this:

Woman: Thank you for call Immigration Canada, how can I help you.
Me: Hi. My husband just landed, the Immigration Officer wrote VOID on the visa and now Services Canada won't issue a SIN.
Woman: Well there is nothing that I can do. You can wait 6 weeks until your husband gets his PR card and then you can apply for the SIN
Me: Are you kidding me? I have to wait because the guy at the border made a mistake
Woman: Guy at the border didn't make a mistake ~ let me check.

I'm put on hold.

Woman: OK, the reference department has reviewed and there is nothing in the procedure manual that says they can't put 'VOID' on the visa. Unless it was proved to be a mistake CIC won't re-issue or do anything for you.
Me: Can I get this in writing?
Woman: No
Me: I need something from you to show to Services Canada that you won't fix or change the visa. So when I call Services Canada to tell them what you are able to do, and we need to call you back, who am I talking to and how do I reach you.
Woman: My name is XXXX, and you call the 800 number.
Me: Do you have an extension where I can reach you?
Woman: No
Me: How will I be able to get a hold of you?
Woman: Our phones don't have the capability of being able to transfer a call.
Me: OK, so I just want to be able to speak to the same person to get this resolved. I don't want to have to speak to 8 different agents and explain my story over and over again, can I please speak to your supervisor?
Woman: No, we don't have the ability to transfer calls.
Me: Can you get your supervisor, I wish to speak to them.
Woman: No, they don't take phone calls
Me: How am I going to get this fixed?
Woman: You can request an investigation, or wait 6 weeks for the PR Card
Me: OK, I'd like an investigation.
Woman: It will take up to 10 business days to get an answer.
Me: Are you freakin' kidding me? My husband needs to wait because it takes CIC over 10 days to get an answer to 'Did your guy screw up???'
Woman: Yes

Needless to say I didn't get very far with CIC. However I must have left an impression as it was only 60 minutes after my conversation that the investigation was complete and I had received a phone call from someone who left a name and number that I could call back. She provided me with a reference to CIC's Operation Manuals ~ and go figure, the link she gave me was not valid as they were updating the manuals.

I called Services Canada and spoke with someone there. She said there wasn't anything that they could do other then let me wait for 6 weeks for the card to arrive. I said this isn't good enough, and could I speak to her supervisor. She put me on hold and then came back and told me to write a letter with all the details and go back to the Service Canada office and fax the paperwork to the head office. She said it would be reviewed but she couldn't guarantee me that they would issue the SIN number.

I wrote the letter, and Akis and I returned to the Service Canada office Tuesday morning. As we walked in, we apparently had been the talk of the town the day before. More people reviewed the letter, Akis' passport, and referred to a more Senior member of the team. As the conversation went around, I described the scenario they were coming to the consensus that they would issue the SIN. Akis offered a couple of comments and I needed to grind my heel into his foot as he wasn't realizing that they were going to give us the papers, and he was going on about how they had to follow their rules, etc.

As it turned out, we left the office 25 minutes later with a SIN in hand, but I tell you ~ for those who are a bit intimidated by the government, with both agencies giving an answer of 'wait 6 weeks for the PR card', I can understand how someone new to the country might not stand up for themselves. In fact, Akis was a bit nervous the whole time wondering if my big mouth was going to get us in trouble. In the end, it all worked out OK, but I tell you ~ makes you love the bureaucracy of Government!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gosh it's been a long time!

Where does the time go? I was looking back and realized, hey it's been over a month since I have written ~ and while it's not that we haven't been doing anything, I sometimes struggle when people ask you the question 'What's new?'. I'm not sure there is much, but I'm also not sure that is a bad thing.

Since landing Akis has been getting himself into the 'search for work' mode. It is incredibly unfortunate that his experience with looking for jobs here coincided with a rough economic patch. The effort that is expended to send out one job application is significantly greater here in Canada ~ you need to fix your resume, you need to write a cover letter, you need to email off your applicaiton and then you wait. Alternatively you apply on the company's website and fill out all kinds of web forms, repeating everything you had put in your resume. Akis has received some calls from recruiters and is still playing the numbers game. Eventually if you put out enough resumes, someone is going to call you for an interview.

I have managed to get my letter saying that I have passed probation. So there is a certain comfort in knowing that I won't be subject to 'you didn't meet our expecations', and will continue to have a paycheque. Life has been a bit tight on one salary, however it is doable. We don't go out for dinner that often, going to the movies are treats that we may have otherwise taken for granted. It makes you appreciate what you have.

Akis does spend a lot of time doing 3D graphic arts. He was even approached by someone from Heritage Canada looking to see if he would be interested in doing some freelance work. I have always said that if this is something he loves to do, he should get some classes and look at making this his career. We went to BCIT 2 weeks ago to look at the courses which are on offer. They have a 3D modeling course which is a year. Akis is on the fence in terms of wanting to provide financially and yet being interested in learning more. The next session starts in September so we may have a student in the house.

I also would like to be going back to school. I have been looking into PMP (Project Management) courses and there is a certificate course which is being offered by UVic here in Vancouver. There is some workday commitments so my first attempt at looking at this course was not overly successful. I had approached my boss and mentioned the course ~ he took it to the owner of the company and they balked at the fact that I would be out of the office for 2 or 3 days a month. The course runs for 5 months, and would like to see myself enrolling this fall. The price tag is a bit steep, so if the company is willing to compensate for some of the course, that would be fantastic. En route to the designation, I need to take a specified number of course hours, then I need to provide around 4500 hours of project work. This is just to be considered as a candidate ~ from there you need to then sit an exam to get your designation, but the work is worth it once I can get those additional letters behind my name.

On the horizon, I hope to continue my greek lessons. I have just finished Level 2, and should be looking to take Level 3 with another student from my class. I have started to pick up on the grammar, so I understand and say more now. Aunt Tula called the other day from Greece and I actually understood what she was asking! Go figure. Akis and I will also be back in ON in August to host a gathering for family and friends, so we are working on planning the details ~ way less work than planning a wedding. Thank god for that!

Other than that, Akis and I are moving through the weeks ~ happy to see Friday, sad to see Sunday night. It looks as though we have settled into being regular working folks.