On Thursday of this week, Sean was sitting at his desk in Toronto when the following message came over the transom from Shea: “GREAT call with CIC this morning :-)”
“YAY!” responded Sean (who is, apparently, a 17-year-old American high school girl), “Should we leap on the magic IM Wurlitzer machine?”
“Oui!” wrote Shea.
So they did.
* * *
Sean: Is that my favorite fugitive?
Shea: You know it. O Canada… how I love thee.
Sean: What’s going on?
Shea: At 8:15 this morning, I got a call from a most wonderful immigration officer.
Sean: Wow. I’ve never seen all of those words together. “Wonderful,” “immigration” and “officer.”
Shea: I, too, was beginning to lose faith in the mythical creature. But he exists, and he’s French-Canadian. Of course (en francais).
Sean: Did he coo in your ear with Gallic endearments?
Shea: No, no… though at that hour, it’s completely possible I dreamed all this. You may remember that in our last installment, our hero (c’est moi) had just faxed a complicated letter to the CIC asking them to reconsider their denial of my request to extend my visitor permit.
Shea: I kinda figured that a mailed or faxed letter to an office like that wasn’t going to get rushed service. I thought, maybe we’ll get a letter in a week or two, or a fax at some point. But the guy who denied my request rang me up.
Sean: Yeah… ?
Shea: And the best part, he was full of clear and concise information and advice. Which was…
Sean: Jeezum, I think you DID dream this.
Shea: 1. He’s sorry about the denial, but it’s just their policy when they don’t get a second interview with someone. but it’s not big deal, because…
Sean: He said he was SORRY?!!!
Shea: Okay… maybe I made that up.
Shea: He explained that it was just their standard practice and had nothing to do with my particular application.
2. And I should know that application looks fine and he mostly wanted to bring me in to offer some immigration counseling.
Sean: Wow! Counseling. Maybe you’ll do like little immigration trust falls.
(And they would sound like this: Stop in the name of the laaaaaaaaaaaaaaw.)
Shea: Hysterical. Have I mentioned that an above average percentage of CIC officers I’ve met are kinda hotties? (Both male and female. Especially the ones in Montréal.)
Sean: I think you have. Or maybe you said that about the cops.
Shea: It’s true on both fronts. Okay, so I haven’t gotten to the good parts. He said I should just “demand” (I’m sure he meant it in the French sense of “to ask,” but it sounded great when he said it) he said I should demand a 1-year visitor permit when I get to the border.
Sean: Ha ha ha! That’s great!!!
Shea: I was like… um, can you repeat that very slowly.
Sean: I can just see you there at the airport: Now listen here, Pierre!!! You make quick with the rubber stamp and you make quick now!
Shea: You’re f’ing hysterical. I’m cracking up. And I haven’t even had my caffeine fix.
Sean: I’m glad to be your morning pick-me-up.
Shea: Oo la la!
Sean: Yes ladies and gentlemen… This IM chat is not yet rated.
Shea: If you’re listening with children, you might want to turn the dial. I kid. The story keeps getting better, by the way. I’m just getting warmed up. It shouldn’t be a problem getting back in to the country. And worse case scenario… when they stamp my passport, it’ll count for a new 6 months of visitor’s status. That’s what it means each time they do it (if they don’t want to give me something longer).
And so if I’m leaving the country every few months, how big a deal is it anyway?
Sean: This gets fabulouser and fabulouser.
Shea: (I’m paraphrasing what he said, but you get the idea.)
Sean: But wait… like… how much power does this guy have and not have? Can you take his word as gospel? (Or dogma? Or… Godspell?)
Shea: Well, that’s got a two or three part answer. He has lots of power, but he’s also not really using it to give me anything, because that train already left the station when he denied my request. And the next agent I speak to has just as much power and can decide whatever he wants, too.
Sean: Hmmmm. Now I’m getting confuseder and confuseder.
Shea: Basically, he’s giving me advice. I realized… he’s finally giving me clear advice. He’s telling me what an immigration attorney or really any other agent could have told me if they’d had been able to step out of their jargon-laden, behind-the-desk perspective long enough to advise me on what to do. Not that they were in the wrong, but someone who can really do that is rare… and he called me this morning.
Does that make sense?
Sean: Wow. This is amazing.
Shea: Sorry if I sound overly smitten with this dude, I’m just in shock still.
Sean: No. no… you have every right. This kicks the Stephen Slater story in the ass.
Shea: (Merde… who’s Steven Slater, again?)
Sean: No problem. You’re…
Sean: Right… right.
Shea: That dude! (Did a quick Google.)
Sean: The hero.
Shea: I don’t know. If this guy had brought me a cafe au lait and croissant from Kouign Amann on Ave Mont Royal… that might add up to Slater’s awesomeness. I mean, he grabbed a beer before he jumped on the escape slide!!! That guy’s my hero.
But back to bidness.
So while I had him on the phone, I asked him a bunch of questions to get all of this info and more. He clarified that every time you leave, the visitor permit is implicitly revoked and every time you re-enter, it’s implicitly re-instated. If they don’t give you a piece of paper to say when you have to leave, you should sort of assume that it’s 6 months from when you were stamped in. And if they don’t stamp it, you should just show documentation of crossing the border then and that’s just as good.
Sean: Ohhhhhh! Okay!
So now this is coming together for me.
Because I have a piece of paper saying when I need to leave… which, again, I will explain eventually… (That was not a dig by the way.) So I guess whenever I re-enter. They see… Oh, April 30 2011. Okay, move along. This is not the fugitive we’re looking for.
Shea: Right! That’s right. Man, I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to on this front.
Sean: I’m telling you it’s not nearly as exciting.
Shea: So I was like… I’m sorry, could you say that again… very, very slowly
Sean: Right! Like when your significant other says “I was wrong.”
Shea: Wait… what? When did she do that?
Sean: Ooooo. You’re gonna be in trouuuuuble. I meant ONE’S significant other.
Sean: In the general sense.
Shea: Right. Okay, so back to Pierre.
Sean: Back to Pierre.
Shea: So I got him to restate that a few different ways, and then I said, “Can I ask you something… ?”
I said… “Some of the CIC agents I’ve spoken with have echoed this idea about the restarting of the imaginary 6 month clock every time you re-enter. But others have suggested that my coming and going so much violates the spirit of the law. Is that right, too?”
Sean: (He moves toward edge of chair.)
He paused, then said…
Sean: (Eyes widening.)
Shea: (…something close to, but that I might slightly embellish…)
Sean: (Breathing has stopped.)
Shea: “Some agents have… [pause]… There’s a word in French… “zeal.”
Sean: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!
Shea: EXACTLY!!!! At which point I cracked up on the phone.
Sean: Oh my GOD that’s amazing!
Shea: I was laughing my ass off on the phone with the immigration agent.
Sean: Wow! And then you both cracked a couple of Sleemans.
Shea: Dude, I would buy this guy a bucket of Sleemans. He went on to say, “There is the ‘ideal’ situation, and there is reality.”
Sean: He’s a real philosopher!
Shea: (Or some other word besides “reality” that I can’t remember, but he did use “ideal.”) Truly. He was amazing. He then looked back over my application and said the fact that I’m traveling back and forth for work along with the rest of my application is a good indication about my intentions and how he thought they should see me.
Sean: Really! That surprises me. I figured it would work against you somehow but… I see his point.
Shea: Me, too! Then I started thinking I had just been getting all paranoid.
Sean: Y’know… and I’m not totally joking… you should have just asked him if you could evoke his name every time you re-enter. Like… Well PIERRE says… You know? “Hey Pierre can I record this conversation and play it for the border guards every time I cross?”
Shea: I know… I kept thinking, “I wish I was recording this.” Well, I’m not dropping it here, but I do have his name on a letter and I’ll be recounting his advice, fo’ sho’. He did want to confirm that I still have an address in the US. And thanks to my parents in Alabama, technically I do.
Sean: Right. Same with me. I mean… not YOUR parents but… you know what I mean.
Shea: I was wondering how your undies ended up in my laundry the last time I was home.
Sean: How did you know they were MINE?! (Oh that’s right they say Sean Douglas in the waistband.)
Shea: (Cracking up.) He further added that he guessed I’d be getting to “step one” in the residency process (that’s the name he gave to the point when I’m eligible for a provisional work permit & provisional health care)… that I’d be getting there soon enough (read – sometime in the next 3 to 6 months). So this might not be a real issue for me for very long. He wasn’t looking at that application or anything. He was just basing that on when we submitted it. So that was nice to hear, even if incredibly unofficially.
Sean: I feel like sighing a sigh of relief on your behalf. A Corsican sigh. For my frère in expatritude.
Shea: Thank you. Me too. I’ll fully exhale after I get through customs on Monday. But I’m feeling pretty well-armed with optimism and better arguments to make at the border after I politely “demander” to enter. What a way to start the day!!!
Sean: Seriously. That’s WAY better than Nutella and toast.
Shea: Hey, let’s not get all crazy here.
Shea: I’m still existentially depressed that Ben and Jerry’s doesn’t make their Nutella-laden Wavy Gravy flavor any more. Damn, that would be a nice breakfast.
Sean: Jesus, that WOULD be a great breakfast. And HEALTHFUL.
Shea: Yes… full of dairy!
Sean: And hazelnuts. Protein. And full of delicious.
Sean: Delicious is a very healthful ingredient.
Shea: Yes. Very important.
* * *
Join us next week for the fourth and final installment of Bring the Boy Back Home, when Shea crosses the border and Sean, at long last, sits us down by the fireplace and regales us with languid tales of his own Canadian immigration status, while puffing on a cherry wood pipe and tickling the ears of his cat named “Thunder Bay.”