Today I started my day early. I woke up at 4:45, ready to go. It was not unlike how it feels on Christmas morning as a kid. Except this time, Santa would only be giving me presents if I passed a test. If not, There would be six more weeks of waiting – and another test.
Though it was my day off from work, out of habit I checked my email. A message from my usually reserved boss was waiting for me:
I made some breakfast, helped someone in India practice their English and practiced a little Hindi and then tried to distract myself with a little mindless television with Sage. Eventually, it was time to head out.
We live about an hour from the testing centre so I had a while on the subway. I started to get nervous. Yes, I studied, but did I study enough? Who was the current Governor General? How about the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario? Who is the leader of the opposition in the province? How many members of parliament are there?
Finally, I got to the location. There were so many people there. Culturally it was a cross section of our city with people from all over the world speaking many different languages. I imagined, for a minute, trying to take a citizenship test in Hindi or French and had so much respect for the people there.
Everyone was met by a security guard who looked over our invitation letters to make sure we were in the right place at the right time. They didn’t give me the same joke as they gave Sage and Daegan:
It’s a good day for two reasons! First, you’re taking your Canadian citizenship test. And second, the first couple of indictments of the Trump administration were handed down yesterday.
Yes, there are many reasons we live here now and this is one of them.
I was given one more form to fill out. This one required that I swear again that I haven’t committed any crimes (including war crimes), falsified any immigration documentation or failed to disclose important information. Fortunately that was the case and I signed it and waited a little longer before we were ushered in to a test room filled with one-armed desks the likes of which I hadn’t sat in since I was last in school in 1989. On each was a number two pencil and on each desk was a test form. Family members were requested to sit at opposite sides of the room from one another.
We were then told to sit down and we would fill out our test forms together. If the last time I sat in a desk like that was 1989, the last time I filled in a form like this was 1986. I put my last name in – one letter per square and then coloured in the circle corresponding to the letter below. “OK, I got this and the rest of the info is up on the board above. Easy peasy!” and off I went to fill in my case number. That was a mistake. I was busted. “Don’t skip ahead!” I was told.
Then test booklets were handed out. We were told to leave them face down on our desks and not open them. Now I knew they were serious but a couple others tried to start and were told to stop. Oops! We were nothing if not an excited and enthusiastic bunch.
Finally, at 10:29 AM the test officially started. We would have thirty minutes to answer 20 questions. Most of the questions were fairly simple, a few were so simple that studying wasn’t required, only a knowledge of English and a little logic. Still, a few threw me. I had no recollection of ever reading about the tallest mountain in Canada or who it was named after. It seemed unlikely to be named after a scientist (I’m not sure why I thought that). That was just a true/false one and I got it wrong. (Mount Logan is named after Sir Edmond Logan who founded the Geological Survey of Canada.) After about 5 minutes I was done. I went back again and read them over again slowly, looking for tricks. Then I counted how many questions I wasn’t 100% sure of. There were 5. So, I think, no matter what I’m good to go. I hand in my test and go in to the next room.
The next room is where we all wait for interviews. During this step we each meet case workers, have our English (or French) skills evaluated to make sure they’re up to par, and find out if we passed our tests. If everything looks good we’re given a date for our citizenship ceremonies.
I was the first one out and so we didn’t yet have any case workers in the room. Soon a few more folks arrived along with a few case workers. Finally my name was called. I sat down, handed my two pieces of ID, record of landing, all the passports I’ve owned since moving to Canada, and the new affadavit I was given when I arrived. It was time for the verdict:
“Well, Todd, all of your documentation is in order except….”
“…except we need another FBI background check. You mailed your application in four months after receiving the one you attached.”
Oh no! So I got the background check. Then I was sent out of town on business. Then I couldn’t find my high school transcripts to prove I could speak English. Then I looked for them. Then I went on a bike trip for 2 weeks. Then I came back. Then, refreshed by a nice long vacation, I looked around and found a PDF I had made. Yay! I have everything. Now let’s find Sage’s and Daegan’s. Oops. They weren’t where I put them after the move. Hmmm…. Oh wait! Here they are.
Four months. I’d be lying if I said that all of the above took four months. The actual effort of searching probably took a couple of solid hours. I could’ve managed it. But it was hard and there were more fun things to do. And the Instant Gratification Monkey had some great ideas. Just look at them!
BUT! The good news is this, the woman I spoke to said that everything else was 100% fine. I passed the test (17/20 – stupid mountains – and whatever other questions I got wrong) I need only get that background check done and (provided it is clear – which it is) then they will schedule our family’s citizenship ceremony.
So not only did I get the great news that basically we’re all on our way to becoming citizens, I got an excellent object lesson in why one should not procrastinate. As someone who thinks of responsibility as one of the most common traits of Canadians, this was a very appropriate thing to happen to me as a soon to be Canadian. “Yes, everything is in order, but we would appreciate it if you procrastinated less.
Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I immediately walked over to the place where my last fingerprints were taken and within 30 minutes I had another card made. They had the appropriate FBI forms and envelopes already addressed. Next I took the completed forms, fingerprints, and envelope to the mall next door where I immediately went to a Canada Post office and sent them out – with tracking enabled. I want to know that they got through OK. Apparently not including time for mailing the forms, each way the processing time is 12-14 weeks. So sometime in March I should have the final puzzle piece for a citizenship test to be scheduled after that. At this rate we stand a good chance of a fancy Canada Day citizenship ceremony.