The dreaded Canadian visa process

After a failed start last Thursday*, Maggie’s application for a visa to go to Canada with me this Christmas has finally been submitted.

Why is it that governmental bodies, no matter of what nation or for what purpose, always have the ability to make even the most innocent person feel like a criminal?

For something as simple as trying to visit my homeland with my wife and I feel like I’m under a lamp and hooked to a polygraph. To get to China, I showed up, walked past the FLG pamphlet dispensers, gave them $60 and came back the next day and got my visa.

For Maggie’s application best we could figure from the mountain of obtuseness that is the Canadian Immigration system was that we needed to prove our marriage was legitimate, and she hadn’t just married me for the money (hahahahaha)/ticket to Canada and that she would indeed return to China.

That’s a whole lot easier to say than to do. I mean, Maggie’s not exactly a tycoon. She had never had a bank account before we got together, and her tied-to-China assets pretty much amount to a yoga mat, a library of yoga books and DVDs, and far too many shoes.

The result was that we ended up putting together a binder full of information thicker than an encyclopedia in hopes that our sheer commitment to getting this done would impress the decision makers. For anyone that’s curious, here’s what we included:

  • Her application form in duplicate
  • Her family details, education and employment history
  • Her financial records (a copy of her bank book – though this wasn’t what was really required, a Statement of Secured Savings/Funds was, but the fee for the statement would have halved the funds, and it wasn’t expensive)
  • An explanatory letter from me outlining the purpose of the trip
  • Six months of my financial records
  • A letter explaining our pathetic finances (I’m a student and she’s… well… Chinese)
  • Both of our passports and wedding certificates
  • A history of our relationship (excerpted from this blog)
  • A letter granting a leave of absence from her employer
  • A letter of invitation from both my father and my sister
  • Six months of bank records, pay stubs and letters from their respective employers from my father and sister

Additionally, the Canadian Consulate in Shanghai requires that you pay with a bank draft, something their site misleadingly states can be got “conveniently” from any local bank. It took us three. The first two had no idea what it was and told us we had to go to a bigger branch.

We ended up at Suzhou’s main Bank of China branch, the sheer size of which would make some of the King St. crew blush. In asking them for a bank draft the girl stopped and I swear I watched as her eyes glazed over. She snapped out of it and confirmed we actually asked for a bank draft for 520 RMB. We confirmed. She again confirmed, this time the emphasis being put on the 520. We confirmed. She again confirmed, this time with the emphasis on the RMB. We confirmed. She reglazed.

After banging on the Plexiglas between us, she came to and said she’d never heard of anyone requesting one for RMB before. Usually they were done in foreign currencies. We asked if it could be done. She again returned to her happy place. Snap. Back. She wasn’t sure.

After watching her ask half of the completely disinterested staff, she pulled out a form (from her desk) and we were on our way. Honestly, if ever there was something to fear in China’s rise, it’s that their banking “system” might catch on (rather than the presumed other way around).

Anyway, it’s done. Now all we can do is hope. Wish us luck.

* The first attempt last Thursday saw us go all the way to Shanghai (me skipping school and Maggie taking off work) to be told in the first five seconds that Maggie was required to have an official residence permit for Suzhou before the Canadian Consulate could help her. Back to Suzhou, 1 RMB and five minutes later and we had it. What a waste of time – China seems to love red tape like it loves red underwear.

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