It’s official: after quite some time I finally became a dual United States/Canadian citizen. I moved to Canada in 2007 (married a Canadian girl and decided to take the plunge) and didn’t look back.
The process was actually a bit lengthier than I thought. First, one needed to live in Canada for 3 out of 5 years (now they’ve changed it: it’s 4 out of 6), pay $200 for an application fee (now it’s $400), pass an exam and interview exam and interview with an immigration officer.
The application was interesting in that you really needed to supply everything. It took a long while to get everything in order, from school records to ID photos to entries/exits, among other things. In the middle of the process was what was called a “questionnaire,” which essentially amounted to an application on steroids. The purpose of that “questionnaire” was to trip you up in causing you to answer different information than the application which could/would delay the process. I soon would find out that no one was immune.
Then there’s the citizenship exam. You are supplied with a booklet that you need to know cover-to-cover. On the day of the exam you are given 20 multiple choice questions, of which 15 need to be answered correctly. Should you not pass you will need to retake it. If you fail after the second time you need to have an oral exam by a judge at a much later date. My advice is to not mess around with this and take as many practice exams as possible. One site I found especially helpful was “V-Soul” which has a ton of free exam questions. I strongly suggest to take the exams online, download/utilize the desktop software for additional questions, and purchase, yes purchase, a digital package of six practice exams for $16. It’s all worth it, though you will need to put in the study effort!
In my case, I found the material so helpful that I scored a 20/20 on the exam on Feb. 24, 2014. Then there was waiting for an immigration officer among hundreds of other people. As an aside, I found it interesting that after taking my cap off due to it being warm, my yarmulke underneath which was exposed caused someone sitting next to me to not be as helpful to me before as he once was (I asked to make a quick phone call using his phone and they way he answered “no” bothered me). Interesting.
When it came to my turn to meet the immigration officer, the lady looked through my records and asked me a bunch of questions. Among them that I remember:
a. IO (Immigration Officer): Why did you make a trip to Israel for such a short amount of time in 2009. Why?
RH (Rafi Hecht): I went to visit my grandmother who was unfortunately dying of pancreatic cancer.
b. IO: I see your salary is $XX,XXX (yes, they require that in the application). Why are you making so little given your title as Director of Search Marketing at (your company)? (She actually asked that.)
RH: I know, it bothers me as well. I’ve looked into making more money and am realizing more now that I need to seek opportunities for a higher salary. I’m currently looking into that actively.
c. IO: How many children do you have, and are they registered as Canadian Citizens?
RH: I have two at home (I wasn’t going to mention the one that sadly passed away in 2012). I registered them as dual citizens so that they would have more options in the future. (She acknowledged that point as a smart move.)
d. (This was what tripped me up)
IO: I see you are missing two New York travel dates from one application to the other between the questionnaire and application. Why is that?
RH: Well, being that I have family in New York I travel frequently, and when it came to the list, Canada doesn’t always stamp your passport. I was going based off of passport stamps, emails and itineraries. I must have missed a couple my mistake.
IO: Well, this may present a problem with the judge. Everything else seems to be in order. All I need you to do is request a list of entries/exits from U.S. Border Services from a period of 4 years as we cannot get it from our end. Once we receive it we can move forward. You have 45 business days to supply it or else we’ll need to consider it “abandoned” and you’ll need to reapply. Good luck! (she made it sound so easy.)
I went home (I took the day off from work for this) and Googled ways to get that record as I wasn’t supplied anything. I found FOIA and applied – three times. The first two times were rejected based on filling one field incorrectly (if it says urgent and they determine it’s not urgent, they reject the application) and their customer support was abysmal. They claim it takes between 2-3 months to process any application. In my case it was six months. It is what it is. For good measure I contacted the immigration officer by mail with updated FOIA screenshots and explanations on why it was taking so long. Fortunately my application wasn’t discarded.
The next (final) step was the swearing in. I received the wonderful news early November, 2014 for a November 29 swearing-in date. The problem in my case was that it fell out on a Saturday, which is my Sabbath. I called up to reschedule and was explained that in order to do so, I would need to send them a letter by mail (they don’t accept emails) and ask them to reschedule it for any other day in the week. I would then be moved to the back of the queue and was told that 2-3 months was a fair wait time. I sent in the letter mid-November, got confirmation that they received it, then received a letter late January on a revised swearing in date for February 4th.
In short I applied in 2012 and got it in 2015. Don’t think it’s easy for just anyone to get in. But hey, there are benefits. I now no longer need to renew my permanent residency every five years. I can now vote for people I hear on the radio. I can apply for a Canadian passport. Also, in the event we’re overseas, I can join my family in the same consulate rather than being in separate ones. There is also the benefit of socialized health care, though a permanent resident can get that as well. These are all wonderful perks.
Oh, and I can now say “eh” with conviction 🙂 For example, this was quite a long process eh?