Government, Immigrants, Immigration Process, Politics, Speaking from Experience, The World We Live In

Immigrants: Fact vs Fiction

Due to the vast amount of misinformation that continues to be regurgitated for as long as I can remember; I thought sharing the FACTS might help put this topic to rest. Not only will I share the FACTS, but I will also supply the source(s) so that you can see for yourself, not just take my word for it.

The first point that should be clarified is that there is a difference between illegal/undocumented immigrants and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR). For far too long, many people have been assuming and making snap judgments that these two groups are the same. They are not.

Illegal/Undocumented Immigrants aka (Illegal Aliens): is a person born in another country (for example Mexico) an enters another country ( for example the U.S.A ) with the intent to live, work, raise a family without going through the proper immigration process. In most cases, they have fled their country due to war, violence, fear for their safety and just want a better life. Their choice to enter illegally may be due to not having the funds to pay for the proper paperwork or perhaps their circumstances are so dire that they have to flee and can’t wait several months to be processed properly. They take that chance.

Any person that does not go through the proper immigration process will not have a social security number. These people will work under the table, seek jobs that pay only in cash, not on an official payroll. Bank accounts can’t be opened in their name, they can’t pay into social security.

If you don’t believe me, check out this link:

https://www.politifact.com/facebook-fact-checks/statements/2019/feb/27/facebook-posts/no-undocumented-immigrants-dont-get-medicare-free/

It’s not to say that some illegal immigrants haven’t tried or were not successful in gaining benefits they were not entitled too. The point is, the federal government isn’t handing out a FREE Welcome package to all non-residents as they cross the border. The government isn’t doing their best Oprah impression giving away cars, drivers licenses, housing, medical/dental insurance plans to all that enter. Not to say that errors have not been made, mistakes fall through the cracks for years before they are detected.

There are programs that undocumented immigrants are eligible for.

Which federal public benefits are available to undocumented immigrants?

In general, undocumented immigrants, meaning people from other countries who do not have a legal right to be in the United States, are not eligible for any federal public benefits.

However, there are instances where undocumented immigrants, including those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, may be eligible for some benefits that are considered necessary to protect life or guarantee safety in extreme circumstances.

Those include:

  • Emergency medical treatment under Medicaid if the individual meets the other eligibility requirements and the medical condition is not related to an organ transplant procedure.
  • Immunizations for immunizable diseases and testing for and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases.
  • Free public education for grades K-12.
  • Federally subsidized school lunch and school breakfast programs for those eligible for free public education under state or local law.

Undocumented immigrants in some cases may also be allowed services or assistance that were laid out in a 2001 U.S. Attorney General order.

That order included child and adult protective services; programs addressing weather emergencies and homelessness; shelters, soup kitchens and meals delivered to individuals; medical, public health and mental health services; disability or substance abuse services necessary to protect life or safety; and programs to protect workers and other community members.

Here’s the link to the site that I copy/pasted that last bit from.

https://www.boston25news.com/news/trending-now/immigration-can-undocumented-immigrants-get-federal-public-benefits/936951998

For the most part, an undocumented immigrant is going to do their best to maintain a low profile, stay under the radar to avoid being deported. I know that there is also a misconception as to how illegal immigrants are “criminals.” Looks to me that 80% of the prison population is made up of Americans.

Here’s the most up to date data to confirm my statement:

https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_citizenship.jsp

Who’s to say that the entire 20% are all illegal immigrants? I’m betting it’s not many since illegal immigrants tend to be deported and sent back to their country of origin. If they are not being deported, that is on the government to straighten out, not the inmate.

 

Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR):

Lawful permanent resident (LPR) is a classification for people who are not citizens of the United States but who are authorized to live and work in the country.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, people classified as LPRs “may accept an offer of employment without special restrictions, own property, receive financial assistance at public colleges and universities and join the armed forces.”

They are also eligible for certain federal benefits after they have lived in the United States for more than five years. They do not have access to all federal or state benefits and are subject to some limitations on other benefits.

After five years of living in the United States, those who have maintained their LPR status are eligible to apply for the following federal benefits: (These benefits are means-tested, meaning the government determines whether the person applying has the financial means to do without the benefit)

  • Medicaid
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicare
  • Public housing

For LPRs to become eligible for Social Security benefits for both retirement and disability, they are required to have completed 40 quarters of work (10 years) in addition to having maintained LPR status for at least five years.

Here’s that link again:

https://www.boston25news.com/news/trending-now/immigration-can-undocumented-immigrants-get-federal-public-benefits/936951998

Here is what I suspect is happening. Many Americans are very quick to judge without taking the time to ask/confirm or even really care to find out if a person with darker skin, bilingual, speaks with an accent, wears non-traditional clothes is an American citizen, or a Lawful Permanent Resident and assumes they are all illegal immigrants.

There are too many videos of this exact type of harassment, these snap judgments being made purely based on hate and racism. This type of behavior is disgusting! Stop feeling threatened by people that look different; chances are, they DO have the right to live, work, raise a family, seek an education, own property, and they are paying taxes just like the rest of us. Here’s a tip, if you do happen to inquire and ask a person about their status and you find out that they are in fact a legit citizen, let it go. There is no need to call immigration to confirm, no need to get in their face and scream racial slurs or insist that they “go home” as if to suggest that they do not belong. Just get over yourself and mind your business.

Please stop sharing those memes and posts that suggest that all illegal immigrants are getting better benefits than the rest of us. These posts only show how racist and uneducated that YOU are. You continue to share such misinformation because you think it makes you more “Patriotic” and feel like a “real American.” Newsflash!!!! The only true Americans are the Native Americans, if you are not 100% Native American, then you too come from a line of illegal immigrants. You know the Europeans (White Men) with their slaves that claimed the land as theirs.

You are no different than the children that are born in the USA (legal American by birth) whose parents are illegal immigrants, just a different generation. Think about that.

Anyway, I hope that you learned something useful as that was the whole point of putting this together.

It costs nothing to be kind, the world needs more of that right now.

 

 

 

 

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Immigrants, Immigration Process, Living Abroad, Moving, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, What to consider

My Immigration Process, Part 2

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Welcome back blog readers,

Here is the continuation from yesterday’s blog post. I left off just having received my Visa that was permanently affixed to my passport and I was getting all of my ducks in a row before making the big move across the border.

I feel like I have to make this point again, you can’t just show up at the border with your belongings and expect entry and start your life in Canada without having gone through the proper process.

Here’s the link that I shared in the previous post, it’s the link I highly recommend that you use as your main resource for information.

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada.html

There is so much to consider when you now have the OK to move to another country.

  • Finding a place to live, establishing a permanent address.
  • Updating your address with the government, IRS, Banking, Social Security, Credit Card companies.
  • Having your mail delivery put on hold for a couple of weeks while you get settled/established.
  • PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS! I chose to consolidate all of my debts into one easy monthly payment. Back in 2008-2009 online banking and e-transferring was not as popular. I had to figure out how I was going to pay my debts in US funds while in Canada. I ended up creating two PayPal accounts, one attached to my US bank account and one in Canada attached to my new bank account. I was then able to transfer myself money back/forth until I no longer needed my US bank account (about 2 years later). I had to keep it open for pending tax returns and making automatic monthly payments to pay off my credit card debt in the USA.
  • Make sure you have enough money to cover you for a few months as you look for work and wait 2 weeks for your first paycheck. Most jobs pay bi-weekly in Canada, something to keep in mind. My first job up here paid on the 1st and the 15th, that took a bit to get used to after being paid every Friday. You’ll also have to show proof of the funds in your bank account(s), so have a print out of your last statement handy.
  • Downsize, sell or donate items that you can live without. If money is no object, then rent a U-haul or POD. In any case you will have to figure out which is the best way to move your belongings across the border. As for me, I was on a super tight budget and chose to sell the bigger furnature items. Actually, my husband was down with me helping me pack during this process. While I was at work, he was at my apartment wheeling and dealing selling just about everything that wasn’t nailed down. In fact, I came home on day from work and found that he had sold my bed, curtains for the bedroom window, my microwave and the cart, my TV and my couch. While the extra money was needed, I still had 2 weeks left before I was ready to move. We ended up sleeping on a twin air mattress and a pile of folded bath towels on the floor.
  • Schedule to cancel your utility services, Internet/cable/phone and make sure you pay your last bill.
  • Cell Phone: While I didn’t own one at this time, I suspect that you may want to look into an International Plan or buying a new SIM card once you get into Canada. Roaming charges will add up quickly unless you’re using skype, magic jack or a messenger app.
  • Tax Returns: Make sure that you have a copy of your tax returns (going back at least 7 years). I didn’t have the luxury of having them saved onto a USB drive as they were paper copies from H&R Block. In any case, make sure you can access them as you will be asked for that information when you apply for any line of credit in Canada.
  • Important paperwork: Birth cerificate(s), Social Security card(s), Marriage Certificate(s), Adoption Certificate(s), Divorce or other court documents of proof, Driver’s Ed proof of completion, Diploma(s), A copy of your medical history and refill your prescription(s), Vaccination record(s).
  • Pets: If you’re bringing your pet(s) they also need to go through the Import/Export process. Have their Vet/Medical history, make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations and refill their medication(s).
  • Vehicle insurance: Get a copy of your driving record as proof of your driving experience as you will need to have vehicle insurance in Canada. If you have a Drivers Education certificate, make a copy of that as well as that will be handy when applying for your new Canadian drivers license. Inform your insurance company of your intention to move and coordinate with them as far as making your last payment, returning your plates and cancelling your policy once you’ve established yourself in Canada, especially if you plan on driving your vehicle across the border.
  • Import/Export: While I did my best to research this before I packed up my car, there is a lot of misleading information as well as information that was not clear at the time. Learn from my experience and take from it what you will. You will need a complete itemized list of everything you are bringing across the border. Keep a copy for yourself and you will turn in a copy to the Customs agent. I chose to pack small boxes and with each box, I numbered the outside. I wrote down the contents, on the outside of each box I attached a copy of the contents, the second copy I kept together with the rest to hand over to Customs. The same thing with any backpacks or luggage, I attached a copy of the contents to the bag for my records and another copy of the contents was placed in the packet of the other lists of contents to be handed in to Customs.
  • Import/Export of your vehicle: Please keep in mind that this took place in November 2009, so it’s possible laws may have changed since then. I was able to find information about having to IMPORT my car into Canada, but I didn’t find anything solid about EXPORTING my car from the USA. I learned quickly once I arrived at the border. Canada did not require that I EXPORT my car from the USA before IMPORTING it. I was warned that the USA prefers that I do EXPORT my car and the issue that may come up from not EXPORTING my car from the USA is that if I cross the border (driving) into the USA and happen to get an agent that specializes in the IMPORT/EXPORT of vehicles after they notice my US passport with Canadian plates on my car, I may get fined and may be denied entry into the USA until I follow the EXPORT process. So, I simply didn’t cross the border in that car, crisis averted.

Here is the website I was directed to use from the Canadian Border agent to properly IMPORT my car.

https://www.riv.ca/importingavehicle.aspx

You may have more things to consider, especially if you have to sell your house, have other real estate or own your own business that you may have to dissolve. I can’t offer any advice on those concerns.

Now that we’ve successfully crossed the border and are ready to start our life in Canada, we’re not done yet. We still have to apply for a Permanent Resident Card which is mandatory to carry with you and have to show with your passport anytime you reenter Canada should you leave for any reason. This form of identification expires in 5 years and you will need to reapply/renew before it expires.

Being a permanent resident grants you all of the same rights as any Canadian citizen, with the exception that you can’t vote or be summoned to serve jury duty. You also can’t serve in the Canadian military and there are some government-funded benefits that you may not qualify for.

You also have to apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) which is the equivalent to the US Social Security card. You’ll need your SIN card to apply for jobs, open a bank account, apply for credit just as you needed your social security card for similar things. Keep your social security card as you will also need that, or at least the number to file your tax returns.

There is another important piece of information about filing taxes that needs to be clarified. Many Americans living abroad are under the misconception that they don’t have to file a tax return to the USA. This is only true if you renounce your American Citizenship and by renounce I mean you have to follow the process, file the paperwork pay the USA a hefty fee (close to $2,000 last I checked), and receive confirmation. Then and only then will you be exempt from filing a US tax return.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/us-citizenship/Renunciation-US-Nationality-Abroad.html

Now it’s not to say that you actually OWE anything. If you are like me (most of us, middle class income) and you don’t own property, you don’t work in the USA, you don’t live in the USA, you don’t conduct business that results in income in the USA, then all you have to do is file a ZERO return. Filing basically states just what I mentioned above, you made nothing, you claim nothing, you owe nothing. This MUST be done when you file your Canadian (T4) taxes as a means of keeping the IRS informed, keeping them off of your back and remain in good standing with the USA because you are still a US citizen.

You are still a US citizen even if you apply to become a Canadian and obtain a Canadian passport. You will still have to file a zero return for the USA and file your regular taxes for Canada. You are now considered a DUAL citizen and hold 2 passports. You can stop renewing your permanent resident card at this point, but as long as you hold on to your US citizenship, you will be expected to file a tax return each and every year and yes, it’s still due April 15th even though you have until the end of April to file with Canada.

Renouncing your citizenship is a lengthly process as the USA wants to retain as many tax paying citizens as possible, even those living abroad. So they make the process long, costly and brutal. It’s just easier to file a few extra papers along with your Canadian taxes just to keep the peace.

As for me, I have thought about applying to become a Canadian Citizen as it makes sense to me. I don’t have any ties to the USA (besides a few family that I can visit whenever), I don’t own property, I don’t have financial ties (besides filing a zero return). Yes, I can still cast my vote for US Presidential candidates, but otherwise considering the state of the USA under its currant leader, I don’t see the point in maintaining my US citizenship. On the other hand, I don’t see the point of paying $2,000 (more like $2,600 if you consider the conversion from CAD to USD at today’s rates) just to get out from filing a few pieces of paper once a year. Even the cost of renewing my 10 year US passport is cheaper ($110 USD) considering that I might renew it 4 more times before I die or stop traveling to the USA. I’d rather pay the lesser fee and become a Canadian citizen, but that is my choice and not one that you have to make for yourself.

If you are a US citizen living abroad and would like more information about renouncing your citizenship, what it means, what are the pros and cons for your situation, if you are behind on filing your US tax returns then I encourage you to click the link below and contact a representive there.

https://www.moodysgartner.com/blog/

Since November of 2009, I have had to renew my Permanent Resident card once and renew my 10 year US Passport once. I am allowed to travel outside of Canada as long as I follow the same rules as Canadian citizens, we have to remain in Canada at least 6 months each year to maintain our status. I have to carry my permanent resident card with me along with my passport when I travel or when I expect to show proof of my status.

Now I have 2 US passports, both of which I have to carry as the first has my VISA and immigration landing document and the new passport, well it hasn’t expired as I just renewed it a few months ago. I will have to continue to carry both until I become a Canadian citizen; at which point I’ll only have to carry that one passport going forward.

That about sums up the immigration process if your going from the USA to Canada. I had no idea what I was getting into, what the process entailed or how long it would take. Knowing all of what I shared would have been super helpful because the not knowing was more frustrating than the waiting.

I’m happy to answer any questions or clarify if something I mentioned didn’t make sense. The link for the Canadian government website is truly a great resource to help you find work, answer questions about living in Canada and reassure you that not all Canadians live in igloos. That was a running joke from my former co-workers before I moved.

Actually most of the people live close to the border up to 2 hours away. Unless you live further North, then you better like the colder weather year round. Research the different Provinces, what the climate is like, what jobs are available, what the tax rate is (Ontario has a 13% sales tax while Alberta has a 5% sales tax) before you decide on which Province to settle in. Canada has so much to offer and if you have the means of coming up for a visit or a few visits, you should.

With that said, that has sparked another topic for a blog post… I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to come back to find out.

I hope that my experience has helped you to make your choice on whether immigrating to Canada is for you. At the very leas,t I hope that you have learned what the process is like for those of us that go through it legally and you know it’s an on going process to maintain our status. Please feel free to share, like, comment especially if you know someone that may be considering such a big move as they will have a better idea as to what to expect before going into this blind, like I did.

Have a great weekend!

Hannah, the international traveller.

 

 

Immigrants, Immigration Process, Living Abroad, Moving, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, What to consider

My Immigration Process

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Welcome back blog readers,

Today’s topic is about immigration, what you need to know and consider should you be thinking about immigrating from the United States to Canada. I will share my experiences and tips to help you get through this process. But first, here’s a link that will get you started. Most of your questions will be answered here, so please use this website as it is verified by the Canadian government and other websites may contain misleading information or may be a scam.

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada.html

There is so much information that you need to know before applying as an immigrant. First, How do you plan to apply? Do you have family in Canada that are willing to sponsor you?  Are you married to a Canadian citizen that can sponsor you? Are you coming to Canada to study in which there is a special student/study Visa required? Do you have a special trade skill or work experience that may qualify you to be sponsored by an employer? Are you a refugee seeking a safe place for you and your family to live?

Again, I will refer you to check out the link above. I was able to immigrate by means of meeting a Canadian citizen and falling in love. I did look into the special skill process, but my set of automotive skills/knowledge wasn’t enough to qualify, even though I had an employer that was interested in hiring me.

The first thing I should make clear is that you can’t just show up at the border and expect to be allowed entry and start your life in Canada. There is a process, there is a ton of paperwork, there is proof and documentation that is required, there is a medical exam that each member of your family will have to go through, there will be fees costing up to $1,000 and most importantly, you need a valid US passport. Expect this process to take up to 9 months to complete, maybe longer.

There was a packet of paperwork that we printed off, one set for me (the applicant) and another set for my husband (the sponsor).  Both applications, various forms of proof, and payment were all sent in one large envelope to begin the immigration process.

Here are some things that needed to be answered or required more documentation (proof).

  • All names (aliases) I have used, last names, maiden names, legal names
  • All addresses where I lived for the first 18 years of my life
  • Copies of my birth certificate, marriage certificate, copy of the picture page of my passport
  • I needed to obtain a copy of my fingerprints, FBI clearance to prove I didn’t have a criminal record or any outstanding warrants in any of the 50 states.
  • I had to seek a doctor (one approved by Canada which ended up being 2 hours away) to clear the medical exam, which was basically a physical, blood work and a “womanly exam” to ensure that I was not infectious and free of serious diseases and not trying to abuse the Universal Health Care that Canada offers.
  • Proof of our relationship, the marriage certificate was not enough, we needed to include photos, chat logs from skype and MSN messenger (2008), copies of emails that we exchanged, proof that our families knew/had met the other person. We sent in boarding passes and ticket stubs when my husband came down to visit me. We sent in receipts to prove that we bought joint items or gifts that we bought for each other. All to prove that we were in a legitimate relationship/marriage and weren’t trying to scam the government.

I suspect that if the proof we provided wasn’t enough to convince the immigration officer, that we would have been asked to come in for an interview. We were able to avoid that part of the process. Once we finally mailed out the large application packet and it was received, we were able to check the status online. My husband was approved to be my sponsor within the first week. Going through the paperwork (which we put in order, using paper clips as they requested) took them about 4-6 weeks. I did get a notification in the mail asking for me to resubmit my fingerprints as the first set were smudgy and there was a hiccup on one of the dates on the application. I inverted the last two numbers by mistake and had to correct it. Once completed, I sent that back to the immigration office. Another 4-6 weeks would pass before we received another notification in the mail, I was to send my actual passport in so they could affix my VISA to one of the pages before mailing that back to me.

Ladies, here’s a tip: Make sure that your passport is updated with your legal married name (if you took your spouses last name or hyphenated it). You want to send that updated version to have your Visa attached. Also make sure you get the correct sized passport photos taken. My first set were not taken properly and I had to get them retaken, wasting more time and adding to my frustration.

If my memory serves me well, I want to say that we started (mailed in the application packet) in February 2009 and I received my full passport back with affixed VISA in early October 2009, so about 8 months. Once I received that, it was a sigh of relief but it also meant I had a limited time to get my affairs in order, tie up loose ends, sell my belongings, seriously downsize and pack before actually crossing the border to live in Canada.

There is more information to share, but sadly the world of retail insists that I show up for my shift. I’ll come back tomorrow (on my day off) to share the rest of my experience.

Happy Friday! ~ Hannah