Returning To Farangland Part 2
Getting my family to Canada for a look-see was not easy. I thought obtaining a TRV (travel visa) would be relatively easy and I read everything I could on the government website and online forums. A TRV to Canada is for 6 months and Canada’s main concern is that a person will stay on past the six months. Canada, unlike Thailand, does not track people leaving, so they have no idea when a visitor has left.
Fool that I was, I thought that the good folks at immigration would see that I had a retirement visa in Thailand, and that we were going to visit friends and family and would be returning to sunny Thailand. The Canada website stated you usually got an answer in 6 days, but I received a refusal in 120 days. My overall outlay in funds was about $1,000 (mostly translation fees plus government fee).
Feeling somewhat discouraged and wanting to get to Canada quickly, I hired a top immigration lawyer in Canada. The process started off with an hour phone interview ($100). The lawyer told me that I had wasted my time applying for a TRV because of the age difference between my wife and myself. The Canadian government does not seem to think that a well-educated and wise (comes with age) person can tell, whether some young lady is conning him and just wants to get to Canada. I know of 1 man and 2 women who have been scammed and dumped once their sponsored person has entered the country, but I figured after being together for over 5 years and raising a child for the past 4 years, and being married for 2 years, that my wife was in the relationship for the duration, or was a great (and desperate) scammer.
The one-hour phone interview concluded with the lawyer stating that he was 95% sure we could get a PR (Permanent Resident) status for my wife. That status gives her the right to work, to receive healthcare etc., just about everything but voting rights and a Canadian passport. She would have to spend 2 out of the next 5 years in Canada to keep the PR intact for renewal. The bad news it would be $6,000 plus costs. It eventually worked out to be $8,000.
I figured if I was refused, I could call the prime minister of Canada and complain. Justin Trudeau is the child of Pierre Elliot Trudeau who married his wife Margaret Sinclair at the age of 54 and she was 22. I may be off by a couple of years but there was a 30-year difference in their ages.
I will eventually recoup the costs as I can now do pension sharing with my wife and my son qualifies for the Canada Child Benefit (clawed back to $200 a month).
We decided to travel to Canada in February, which most of my expat friends thought was quite cruel, as it is one of the coldest months in Canada, but I figured go big or stay away. It turned out that my wife and son were fascinated by winter. I eased the transition by flying into Vancouver (one of the top 3 cities in the world) thinking that it would be warmer, but Vancouver had one of their coldest winters (with snow on the ground) in the past 10 years. In fact, the temperature was the same in Ottawa, the nation’s capitol, where we will call home for the next 6 months. We stayed in Vancouver for a week and then flew to Ottawa.
The biggest problem we encountered was finding a place to stay. Thailand spoiled me with furnished, inexpensive rentals for any duration. In Canada most landlords want a 1-year lease and furnished short-term rentals are very expensive (over $2,000 a month). I had no property in Canada as my divorce forced the liquidation of everything I had previously owned. Minimalism is now an ‘in thing’ so no harm done ?
I eventually turned to AirBnB and obtained a great condo for 6 months at a reduced rate of $1,650, which includes everything (phone, utilities, pool and fitness, internet, parking, and cable TV). I only have to buy food. Buying a car for 6 months would be stupid and everything we need is within walking distance, just like downtown Bangkok, except no naughty bar areas.
We are about 2 months into Canada and our health coverage kicks in next month (3 months wait) and I applied for Term Life Insurance, and confirmation that I was accepted for a 10-year policy. My medical was extensive and went well. I had a resting heart beat of 64 beats per minute and my blood pressure was 122/80 which compares quite favorably with the younger punters in Thailand that often ridicule the older guys with younger Thai ladies. Working out daily definitely helps. The life insurance ensures my Thai wife and son are looked after if I drop dead in the next 10 years.
I renewed my driver’s licence and I can rent a car for $85 for a 3-day weekend whenever I choose. My wife has received her social insurance number and can now work in Canada (not this time around). We are home schooling our 4-year-old and that is working out well.
My wife and son talk to friends and family back in Thailand via LINE video and that keeps them in touch which is necessary. It must have been hard before the internet. My wife shocked me yesterday by stating she would like to live in Canada fulltime. I asked her why, and she said, ‘To give our son opportunities he would not have in Thailand’. However, I am not ready to give up my time and friends in Thailand, so that scenario will have to wait for a few years. I envision us doing 6 months in Canada and 5 months in Thailand for a few more years.
Canada has changed in the 10 years I have been overseas. It is much more multicultural and there are so many old farts around! Canada is an aging society. The good news is, the visible minorities (not for long) are adapting well to Canada and taking on Canadian values. I had told my wife that Canadians were more polite, holding doors for you, stopping their cars and waving you across, and treating pedestrians as first-class citizens unlike crazy Thai drivers. She now believes me.
So far, so good. More to come as we adapt to Canada.