A lot of you know from a previous post that I’ve been having trouble getting permanent residency in Canada so I can buy the tiny house of my dreams (which would be movable, but it’s already exactly where I want it). I stated before that it didn’t have anything to do with my disability, because I really thought that. It wasn’t until I was writing my response letter to their second terse blowoff that it became clear to me what’s going on.
Here’s a quick 101 on the immigration process—if you go as a visitor, you can stay 6 months of any one year. My friends all say “Stay 6 months, visit the US for 2 weeks and go back.” It doesn’t work that way. You are limited to 6 months of the calendar year, and they do check. The border stations share information about your crossings now and they know when you cross to either side. If you overstay, they can deny you re-entry, even if your home, your pets, and all your stuff is there.
You must qualify under one of their “programs” to get permanent residency, which can be a status equivalent to the US “green card,” or a precursor to citizenship. There are two sets of programs, the federal programs and the Provincial Nominee Programs, by which the provinces can invite applicants using their own criteria for selection. The federal set of programs is pretty narrow, but that’s the way you have to go if you’re self-employed. You send your applications with a $1450 CAD fee to an address in Nova Scotia. They only accept people who are self-employed in sports or cultural activities, and they do not define cultural activities. I think they’re looking for pro athletes and actors or big-time artists—celebrities they can claim.
For British Columbia’s Provincial Nominee Program, you get an Express Entry score. This score is based on your age, occupation, and net worth. There are Express Entry categories, including Entrepreneur (you arrive with the intent to invest $200,000 in a Canadian company or employ at least two people in your own new company), Live-in Caregiver, and In-Demand Occupations. They recruit for occupations that are not sufficiently staffed by Canadians, and only those. You can be invited by any company that wants to offer you a job, but it is illegal for them to offer you that job if any qualified Canadian wants it.
Then there’s the sponsorship path—having a relative in Canada who will sponsor you, or you can marry someone. (I contend that friendship is a far more stable relationship than sexual partnership, and I hate that my friendships are less worthy in the eyes of the law. We still say “I love you.”)
I spoke to two attorneys about representation (most people use a representative), and both said my situation is hopeless and declined to represent me. One charged me $475, the other wouldn’t take my money. They advised me that if I choose to try on my own, I must never mention any disability. I looked into why this is, and there is a medical inadmissibility threshold based on how much you spend on medical care in a year (I wrote about that here https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hidden-disabilities/2018/08/emigrating-to-canada-with-a-pre-existing-condition-maybe-not/). I’m so far below the threshold, it’s ridiculous. Chiropractic care is not part of the national network, so if you subtract that out, along with the massage and acupuncture (also not covered), I don’t spend any more than the average person at the doctor now. Still, it could prejudice them about my economic viability.
I wrote to both the Provincial Nominee Program and the Office of the Prime Minister to state that I don’t fit in any of their “boxes,” but their process does not take into account love of country or participation in community, which are vital parts of immigrant life. I have several close friends in Canada who would help me if I ran into trouble. I already feel I fit into several Vancouver Island communities. I moved to the town where I live now with far less of a support network and I’ve thrived here.
My response from the Office of the Prime Minister was polite, and said they had forwarded my letter to the Minister of Immigration, The Honourable Ahmed Hussen. I waited 3 weeks for his response, then wrote a second letter. That one got a response in a week, and basically said I could apply through the normal channels or forget it. The Provincial Nominee Program said the same thing—come on down to our office and apply, but we can’t answer any questions or make any statement in support of your application. This, after at least one Canadian friend wrote a letter on my behalf.
I filled out all the paperwork for the self-employment program and was pleasantly surprised by how good I looked on paper financially. The web site admonished me that my self-employment must be in sports or cultural activities, and there was no way to spin that, even if you consider writing this blog as cultural. That is maybe 10 percent of my income. I didn’t want to spend $1,450 (around $1,100 USD) to wait the projected 25 months to be told I’m not eligible, that is, if they didn’t throw it out right away. I couldn’t maintain the 6-month split for 2 years, even if I passed.
I checked one more time to make sure I didn’t fit in any “box,” and then I had my Eureka moment. I don’t fit in any category because of my hidden disability! I can’t be a live-in care giver, I can’t lift a person who has fallen down or even help them upright. What would my poor client do when my rib slips out of joint and I can barely care for myself for 3 days? I won’t be invited by any company; I can’t work a scheduled, on-site, full-time job, and they’re not going to invite me into Canada so I can telecommute from there when I could just as easily do it from here. Same with the in-demand professions. Never mind that my training is in US environmental law and not of any use in Canada (though I can help my Seattle-based clients just as easily from Vancouver Island as I do from Bellingham). Even if I practiced Canadian environmental law, the same thing applies; they’re not going to make that a reason for me to be in the country if I’m still going to work from home. Even my low net worth is because of my disability—if I were still in the job I had before I was hit, I would have no trouble meeting their income and savings thresholds.
I checked the Canadian Immigration web site for information on applicants with disabilities. The only information they have is for care givers! Last week I wrote to both the Minister of Immigration and the Minister of Sports and People With Disabilities, The Hon. Carla Qualtrough (sports and disabilities are a combined ministry position), and pointed out the hole in the immigration policy for people with disabilities. I said many, if not most, people with disabilities live independently and can apply for themselves, and we deserve to be evaluated fairly against the overarching goals of the immigration policy, which I listed.
The thing that makes me keep at this is, my home would be paid for upon arrival. My annual housing expense would be less than $5,000 CAD, for rent on the land where my home currently sits. I am a low risk, and they reserve the right to send me back at any time. I want to live in that tiny house, right where it is. The seller has refused to sell it to anyone else; I’m the one who wants to live in it and not tow it someplace to turn my backyard into a B&B.
I’ll keep you posted on how this goes. Meanwhile, I read yesterday that the US government (Trump specifically) is now proposing to turn away immigrants with disabilities if they “are likely to need public assistance at any time in the future.” How can you possibly predict who is going to need public services? You can’t know how long anyone will live independently. The athlete they recruited for the Olympic team can get hit by a car just as easily as I did. The ACLU is fighting this, and you can sign a petition on their web site.
When I started writing this, I thought permanent residents were not eligible for things like national health care, therefore their concerns about me burdening the health care system were silly. I’ve since learned that 3 months after arrival, I would be eligible for the national health care system and other services. That helps me understand their stance, but I would be delighted to sign an agreement abnegating my rights to services if it meant I could have my tiny house near my friends and all my favorite places.
Sorry to run long today, but this is an important issue for this audience and I needed to cover it adequately. Feel free to comment, but please don’t make suggestions about buying the tiny as a vacation home or anything like that—I don’t live on the same planet as people who have two homes. This audience will probably appreciate that better than most of my local friends. I’m also aware that my situation has nothing in common with that of refugees, so please, no grousing about how they get in and I don’t.
ACLU. 2018. American Civil Liberties Union web site. https://action.aclu.org
British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program web site. 2018. https://www.welcomebc.ca/immigrate-to-b-c/b-c-provincial-nominee-program
Canadian Immigration web site. 2018. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/immigration-citizenship.html