An open letter to Justin Trudeau

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

I have a bone to pick with you, obviously, why else would I be writing an open letter to you? But before we get into all that, let me firstly introduce myself. My name is Rachel Keogh, 30 years old, living in Toronto with my boyfriend, Phil, and my fur baby (some people insist on calling her a cat) Ruby, and I come from Ireland (insert leprechaun joke here). Myself and Phil moved to Toronto 3 years ago, after we tried and failed to get permanent residency in Australia, but don’t take that personally, I mean Australia has summer all year round, who wouldn’t want to live there? But with the Australia plan failing pretty quickly, and us not wanting to move back to Ireland at that time on account of the country falling apart, we thought “where else will give us a Visa with relative ease?” “ah yes, those friendly Canadians will”. And three years later here we are and we’re permanent residents (take that Australia).

Now, while I love your country, with your friendly and polite people, and your funny accents (aboot, eh?), your quirky words (tooque) and strange ways of selling milk (in a bag?? I have so many questions about that) and your ridiculously cold winters that literally freeze your nose hairs, I do have one VERY big problem with Canada. And it’s an issue that I am sure many others will agree with. It’s an issue that keeps me up at night, tossing and turning, it’s the one thing that prevents me from falling totally in love with Canada and it’s the reason why so many of my friends at home in Ireland ask me”why the hell would you live in Canada?” I know you’re on tenterhooks now, Mr. Prime Minister, so I’ll tell you – it’s your country’s despicable policy on vacation days.

Yes, you heard, me vacation days. When I moved here I was full of hope and dreams, full of ideas that I would get a job, save money and spend my time off travelling around this amazing country. When I look back I think “ppffff what a foolish girl I was”. I’m embarrassed now when I remember how I was planning to use my 4 weeks of vacation time, what was I thinking? Why would I dream that such a progressive, forward thinking country would give its people decent vacation days?! You’ll have to forgive me, I was young and innocent, I didn’t realize that the Canadian government had come up with a plan to reduce its poplulation by working it’s people to death. But now I understand, I mean, how else are you going to kill off all the middle-aged people so they don’t add to the aging population?

You can imagine my absolute shock, when, in my first (and only) job as I sat down with HR to go through the usual boring HR policies and such, and the HR representative said “the legal minimum vacation days in Ontario is 10 days”, “but we give 11” she added, with a twinkle in her eye. 11 days???? Well let me write a letter to my parents to tell them that I have finally made it in life. 11 vacation days. I can’t, I don’t.. I don’t even like thinking about that day as it reduces me to a blubbering mess every time. I must admit that when I was made permanent in my job, I was bumped up to 15 days and that sir, has been the happiest day of my life to date. But really, there’s not a lot that Ireland can brag about, but in Ireland, the legal minimum annual leave that every worker is entitled to is 20 days. Yeah. I’ll just leave that there for you.

Mr. Trudeau, I know your care about your country, and it’s people, and I know that you want Canada, and Toronto specifically to remain a place that is attractive to immigrants. So, for the love of god, please give us more vacation days. Days that us immigrants can use to go home and visit our families, days that we can use to travel this stunningly beautiful country, days that we can use visiting your neighbors to the south and realizing how glad we are that we moved to Canada and not the U.S., days that we can use shovelling all that snow out of our gardens, days we can spend walking around the city saying “sorry” to everyone we bump into. And it’s not just us immigrants that would be thankful of the extra vacation time, I’m sure our Canadian colleagues would also appreciate some extra annual leave given that they are worked into the ground already.

Now, I appreciate you have far greater things weighing on your mind Justin, (can I call you Justin?) really, I do. But I thought this would actually be a good one for you, nice and easy, I mean, you increase the legal minimum annual vacation days and your supporters love you even more, and your opponents, well what can they do? They aren’t going to openly oppose Canadians getting some well earned time off are they?? Do it for us, for your country, for your people and for your buddy Leo Varadkar. And if you don’t do it, you’ll have to deal with a very angry Irish mammy when I keep telling her “I can’t come home this year ma, I don’t have enough vacation days”. And let me tell you, there is nothing scarier than an angry Irish mammy. Seriously, google it.

So i beg you, please give us more vacation days, I really don’t want to go back to Ireland but you’re not making it easy to stay.

Yours truly,

Rachel Keogh

Peru in 10 days

Myself and Phil just go back from a 10 day trip to Peru, and it was amazing. It was our first taste of South America, and boy was Peru a good ambassador for the rest of the continent! It truly is up there with some of the best trips we have ever taken. Peru is full of so much history, culture and tradition and there is so much to see and do – and eat! We would have loved to spend longer there, but unfortunately with limited vacation days, 10 days was all we could manage, so here’s how we did it!

Day 1 & 2

Arrive into Lima, it was a direct, 8 hour flight from Toronto. I must mention here that we

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Lima

got a great deal on our flights through YYZ deals – for anyone who lives in Toronto and isn’t signed up for these deals, do it now, they are AMAZING: http://www.yyzdeals.com/

We got to our hotel in Lima at about 4am. We stayed in Miraflores, as after doing some research this seemed to be a good area of Lima, with plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes. We sayed in Hotel Runcu, a very small but nice hotel. It was in a great location and we were about a 20 minute walk to Ave Diagonal which has numerous restaurants and cafes. The rooms were small and basic, but perfectly nice and really clean, and the shower was great. There’s nothing worse than arriving to a hotel after a day of travelling and hopping into a horrible shower with no water pressure! The staff was all really friendly and helpful and very willing to recommend restaurants. We liked it so much that we decided to book in there for our last two nights of the trip aswell.

Day 2 consisted of us walking around and making our way down to the water to Larcomer Mall, where we had to collect our train tickets from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The mall is right alongside the beach, it’s pretty high-end but has some cheap food options in the food court. There are also some nice restaurants in there where you can sit and enjoy a drink by the ocean. We then did the bus tour which is a great way to see Lima, especially if you have limited time there. It’s not a hop on hop off bus like in many cities, you only get off the bus once – at the monastery of San Francisco, which is really interesting and you do a tour of the catacombs. On the tour you see different neighbourhoods of Lima, the historical site of Huaca Pucllana and the Plaza Mayor, which is the core of the city.

Day 3

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Main square in Cusco

We got our flight to Cusco, it’s only just over an hour to fly from Lima to Cusco, however, when we got to the airport that morning (3 hours befoRe our flight was due to leave), we were informed that the flight time had changed to 9am (it was 8.45am when we were checking in) so needless to say we missed the flight. I had read that this happens a lot with internal flights in Peru but didn’t really think anymore about it. Luckily, the guy checking us in was able to get us on another flight that had two spare seats on it, and it actually left earlier than our original flight was supposed to leave.

Our hotel in Cusco, Los Apus Hotel & Mirador, was also really nice, again, it was a small hotel but the rooms were really nice and the cost very reasonable. Our room had a small balcony which had fantastic views of the Andes and the location was great, it was a 5 minute walk away from Plaza de Armas – the main square of Cusco. After we checked in, we spent the day wandering away the cobble streets of Cusco, stopping in random bars for drinks, it was great! The main square is really nice, but of course the restaurants and bars around there were expensive. There’s also a cathedral on the square which you can do a tour of and walk up into the bell tower and get a nice view out the window.

Day 4

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Machu Picchu

Our train for Machu Picchu was leaving at 6.40am the following morning, so we were up a little early for my liking – 4.45am. The hotel organized a taxi to the train station for us. We were staying in Machu Picchu that night and then returning to the same hote in Cusco for 2 nights so we left our big backpacks there. The hotel also provided us with a packed lunch for the train journey! We booked the midrange train to Machu Picchu through Peru Rail and it was great. The scenery was stunning as we were passing alongside mountains for most of the journey. The train had huge windows on each side and also in the ceiling so it was perfect to capture some pictures of the scenery. We were also given snack on the train consisting of some fruit and a sandwich along with tea/coffee/water -this was included in the price. 3 and a half hours later we arrived in Machu Picchu Pueblo which is the gateway to Machu Picchu. We arrived at 10am and were greeted by a member of staff from the hotel we were staying in – Taypikala Machu Picchu Hotel. The hotel was about a 5 minute walk from the station.

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llama selfie!

Once we checked in we went to get our bus tickets up to Machu Picchu. There was a queue for the bus, about 30 minutes long and then we were on our way! The bus takes about 20 minutes to get up to the top and it consists of crazy hair pin bends – not for the faint hearted!! Once we reached the top and saw Machu Picchu for real, it is stunning. Pictures you see online do not do it justice, it’s simply amazing! I can’t fathom how the Incas built it, and I highly recommend it as a must see for everyone. We got some fantastic pictures up there and my personal mission was to get a selfie with a llama, which I’m glad to say I accomplished!

We stayed in Machu Picchu Pueblo for one night – in Taypikala Machu Picchu Hotel, which I cannot recommend enough. Our room was fabulous, complete with hot tub and stunning views out the window. The small town itself is very cute, surrounded by mountains and amazing scenery, but is there purely for tourists and therefore one night there is really enough.

Day 5 & 6

We got the train back to Cusco for 2 nights and just enjoyed Cusco, the cobble stone streets

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Me, absolutely wrecked at Machu Picchu from the high altitude!

and the food. Unfortunately we both got colds and were feeling really crap our last day in Cusco so we didn’t do much, we just relaxed and tried to get our energy back before we went to the jungle. We did eat in a great restaurant one night – called Kushka Fe, it was away from the main square and actually just across the street from our hotel and the food was great. The owner’s boyfriend had great English and was really chatty and friendly. They also serve cuy there – guinea pig! It’s a great restaurant and if we were feeling better we would have stayed longer and had some drinks there.

Day 7 & 8

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On the way to our jungle lodge!

On day 7 we left for the Amazon jungle. We flew from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado and from there we had about a 2 hour boat trip to reach our jungle lodge. The flight to Puerto Maldonado was really short, about 40 minutes. A lady from our lodge met us at the airport and then we got the boat to Amazon Planet. Our two days in the jungle were fantastic. The lodge is set up really well; there’s a main area for all meals, along with a small bar, and then everyone has their own wooden cabins consisting of your bed, a table and couch, a small veranda that you can sit out on and a bathroom complete with shower and toilet. When we were booking our jungle lodge we did pick  a nice one rather than a budget one as we wanted some level of comfort. Amazon Planet is not at the top end of the lodges in there but would follow petty closely behind the most expensive (which can be more than $1,000 a night). The lodge had electricity for a few hours in the morning until about 9am, then for a couple of hours at lunch time and again in the evening from about 6pm to 10pm. Once the lights went out at 20161013_093134_110 that was it, no lights until the next morning s needless to say, everyone wanted to be back in their lodge before 10pm so they could turn their fans on and try to cool the place down! Your days are jam-packed in the jungle, you usually have a morning activity, a lunch time activity and an evening/night-time activity with free time in between. It’s exhausting as you are constantly walking and it’s really hot and humid in the jungle. We did a night walk of the jungle, which was great, we got up close and personal with a tarantula! We did a canopy walk up on top of the trees which was really fun, we visited a rescue centre within the jungle where volunteers are doing amazing work to re-introduce and re-populate animals into the jungle and we went caiman searching along the river at night. We also rafted down the river – just myself and Phil, which was horrific and frankly I thought we were going to end up floating to Bolivia!!!

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Just before we took off down the river in the raft

Day 9

After our jungle experience, the holiday was drawing to an end unfortunately and it was a flight back to Lima to enjoy our last two nights. W Due to flight delays, we didn’t get back to Lima until about 7pm that night so we were exhausted and just went out for dinner and a few drinks. We had amazing food this night and when in Lima, you should definitely visit this restaurant. It was in Miraflores but it was somewhat off the beaten track. The restaurant was called Santa Pez and it was amazing. The menu was completely in Spanish and none of the waiters spoke any English, but don’t let that turn you off. Luckily for us, the manager (or she could have been the owner) had excellent English and she was so helpful. We knew we wanted to try Ceviche so she explained the different ceviche dishes they had and made recommendations. Both of our ceviche dishes were excellent! When it came to desert, she brought out each dessert and showed it to us and again explained everything. It is slightly on the more expensive side but for the food and the service we got, it was actually very reasonable.

Day 10

This was the last day of our trip (sob) and we wanted to get some presents and souvenirs so we went to a market in Miraflores – Mercado Indio or the Indian market. It’s great for any little trinkets you want to take home to remember your time in Peru – just remember to haggle!!!

 

Top Tips for Peru

  1. Check your internal flights the day before you are due to fly. As mentioned above it is pretty common for flights to change very quickly and without any warning.
  2. Buy your tickets to Machu Picchu  in advance. They only allow a certain amount of people into Machu Picchu per day (I believe it’s around 2,000) so make sure to buy your tickets in advance, especially if you are travelling there during high season.
  3. Bring bug spray to Machu Picchu. There are flies up there that will eat you alive if you don’t have bug spray on. I had a tiny gap between my sock and my leggings and they feasted on my ankles but once I put the bug spray on, they left me alone. When waking around Machu Picchu we saw numerous people who were covered in bites.
  4. Be prepared to queue to get the bus back down from Machu Picchu. When we were finished walking around and wanted to go back down to Machu Picchu Pueblo, the queue was crazy and took over an hour to get on the bus. Keep this in mind if your train is leaving that day as we came across many people who missed their train because of the queue.
  5. Take altitude sickness pills. We hadn’t even considered this until I spoke to a few people who had been there and were effected by the altitude. We took the tablets so thankfully we didn’t experience the headaches or nauseousness, however, we both experienced shortness of breath when walking around.
  6. If you’re going into the Amazon rainforest, have a smaller bag that you can bring with you instead of your big backpack or suitcase. Most of the lodges don’t want guests bringing big suitcases on the boats and offer for you to leave your big bags in their office before you go on the boat. That’s what we did and it was so much easier just having a small bag each, after all we were only going into the jungle for 2 nights.
  7. Drink Pisco Sours, it’s the drink of Peru and it’s delicious!!!

Applying for PR in Canada: A How to Guide, Part 3

Last time I left off, it was February 2016 and I had just submitted my PR application on December 22nd and had heard nothing except for a ghost email on January 22nd. Now let me fill in the gaps between then and now.

It was mainly radio silence, a couple more ghost emails and then on May 18th, I got a letter (through my CIC account) advising that PR had been refused. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken. However, when I read the letter and read why it had been refused, I was outraged, not heartbroken. CIC said that I had indicated on my EE profile that I had a degree, but when they looked at my WES assessment, I only had a post grad, therefore, I should have never gotten the points for a degree and should not have received an ITA. I do have a degree which is why I was so outraged, also, my WES assessment clearly stated that I had a degree AND a post grad. I understand human error, but really, when it comes to immigration, they really need to be carefully when checking documents. I can also only presume by this error, that it means there is no second level of review, which is crazy to me. Anyway, after I calmed down, i submitted a Case Specific Enquiry (CSE), re-attached my WES assessment, reiterated that I have a degree and asked them to re open our PR application.

They are supposed to respond within 10  business days, and low and behold, on day 10, I get an automated response saying my email had been forwarded to the correct department. Then, they proceeded to do what they do best, ignore me. After about 4 weeks, I tried calling (1-888-242-2100) and the guy I spoke to told me that an application for reconsideration of the decision had been submitted for me a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, I know, would be nice if someone had dropped me and email to provide me with that update, but hey, it’s CIC. Then once again, I waited. After 10 long weeks since my PR was first refused, it was eventually re opened. No apologies, no acknowledgement of error on their part, it was just simply re-opened and once again I received a letter via my CIC account to let me know. That was on July 26th.

Then on August, I got the long-awaited “Ready for Visa” email. And once you’ve got that, then end is in sight!! Once you get that visa you have to send a copy of the bio data page of your passport (the page with your picture and info), along with two pictures of yourself – they give you a link to the photo specs in the email. One of these pictures must contain the following info on the back: your name and date of birth, the name of the photo studio who took the pictures, the studio’s complete address and the date the photo’s were taken.

You then send all that stuff by Xpresspost to Ottawa, along with a copy of the “ready for visa” email. You must also include another Xpresspost envelope in there which must be self-addressed so that they can return your Confirmation of PR (COPR). We mailed our stuff on August 22nd and received COPR in the mail on August 30th.

The COPR is valid until mid-December, so you have about 3 and a half months to activate your PR by leaving and landing in Canada (flagpoling). Most people enter the US and come straight back accross the border. We are going to Peru in October so we will just activate PR on our way back in. Apparently once you land in Canada as a PR, it takes about 56 days for your PR card to be mailed to you.

So the marks the end of my PR journey, thankfully. I’ve documented it in a 3 part blog and this is the final part. Hopefully others going through the PR process will find my blogs helpful and good luck to everyone, it may be a long and arduous process, but it’s worth it once you get that COPR 🙂

Why I left Ireland and why I still haven’t moved back

I’ve written a blog before on emigration and the positive aspects of emigrating, but this time I want to delve into why I emigrated, why I left Ireland in the first place, and why, six years later, I still haven’t moved back.

I still feel that a lot of the time, the Irish media portray the whole idea of emigration in a very negative light. The stories are usually about the people who were forced to leave Ireland in search of work when the recession hit, or more recently, the stories focus on the people who left during the recession but now want to return, but can’t because the Irish government aren’t offering them enough support. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take away from those issues, and they are issues, I recognize that. But we are aware that thousands of people left during the recession because they lost their jobs and couldn’t find work in Ireland (although Fianna Fail still did pretty well in the elections this year, showing that the Irish electorate has a short memory). But my point is, we know that, it’s been covered, and we don’t need to constantly read about it. And again, it is an issue that the Irish government are trying to encourage emigrants to return to Ireland, but are not doing much to help those said emigrants settle back into Ireland, or even attract them back. But what about those of us who left Ireland of our own free will? What about those who were forced out by the recession, but as a result found new opportunities in greener pastures and are now happy they left? Those stories are not covered nearly enough in my opinion and as a result, emigration seems to be something to fear and hate in Ireland, becoming just another thing to hold against the Government.

I left Ireland when I was 23. I packed my suitcase and headed to South Korea by myself and I haven’t looked back since. I had a job, a good job at that and one that I enjoyed, and one within the area that I had studied – marketing. Many thought I was crazy to be leaving a job during the height of the recession and many thought I was even crazier to be going to South Korea – sure who goes there? I also had a boyfriend. We were together a year when I headed off to Korea, but I didn’t let that stop me. As hard as it was, I knew I had to leave, it was something I had to do for myself, and it’s worth noting that we are still together, 6 years after I left for Korea! I knew since I was a teenager than I wanted to travel, get out there and see the world. My sister had lived in Poland for a while, my brother had travelled, and one of my uncles had travelled a lot, so travelling was literally in my blood. When I was 23 I knew it was a case of “now or never”. I was settling into a job, settling into a nice life in Galway, settling into a relationship, and I knew if I didn’t leave then, I would grow comfortable within my life, and I’d never go. Now, I’m not saying it was easy. I had to say goodbye to all my friends, my family and of course, Phil. I was an emotional mess the week before I left – after I had said my goodbyes to Phil. I would literally burst into tears for no reason. But I still went, why? Because, even though it was hard, I knew that I would regret it forever if I didn’t at least give it a go. So off I set on May 13, 2010, with my bulging suitcase and a heart full of excitement, sadness and fear. I cried the whole time on my flight from Dublin to Heathrow!

Fast forward six years and I’m living in Toronto, and have been here almost two years and have applied for permanent residency here, I lived in Australia for 2 years, before that, South Korea, and I’ve done a lot of travelling in between. These 6 years have been amazing; I have seen so much, done so much, and learned so much and as corny as it sounds, I truly believe that travel is the best education you can get. I have made so many friends along the way, from so many different places and my eyes haven been opened so much. There is a whole world out there and you cannot let your life pass you by without seeing as much of it as you can. So anybody out there who wants to travel, or wants to emigrate, but has something holding them back, I urge you to go, just do it, do it for yourself. There will always be a reason not to go; a job, friends, family, a boyfriend or girlfriend, but you owe it to yourself to at least try. You might not like it, you might go back to Ireland after 6 months but who cares, at least you will always know you tried. On the other hand, you might love it, it might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you and it might set you on a path that will change your life forever, do you want to risk missing out on that?

Applying for a Bridging Visa (BOWP): A How to Guide

I just applied for a bridging visa (BOWP) last week and must admit, I found the whole process quite confusing, if it wasn’t for the good people who are members of the Irish & Applying for Canadian PR Facebook page, I would have been completely lost. As is usual with CIC, nothing is very well explained on their website, so I decided to put together an easy step-by-step guide to help others with the BOWP process.

Firstly, what is a bridging visa? A Bridging Open Work Permit is for those of us who have applied for PR but whose work permits are going to expire in four months or less. This means we can keep working while waiting for a decision on our PR. You can read more about BOWP eligibility here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/work/prov/bridging.asp

Right now, processing times for online BOWPs are 38 days and paper applications are taking 93 days. You can check processing times here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/times/ Usually, people will wait until a couple of weeks before their work permit expires to submit the bridging visa application. Once your bridging visa application is received before your work permit expires, then you automatically go onto Implied Status – again, this is so you can continue to work until you have a decision on your Bridging Visa. I submitted our bridging visa applications (online)  last Thursday (April 21st) and our work permits expire on May 5th. Also, it’s handy to note here that you can also submit a bridging visa application online for your common-law partner.

How do I apply for a bridging visa? As I’ve already mentioned above, you can apply online through your CIC account, or you can submit your application by mail. Many people chose the one with the slowest processing time to give them longer on Implied Status – especially if they know their bridging visa application is going to be denied. I submitted mine online and if that’s what you’re doing, there are two options. Option 1 is to use the “Come to Canada Wizard”,  you can find that tool here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/ctc-vac/cometocanada.asp answer the questionnaire and then you’ll be given a personal reference code which you then input into your CIC account, or option 2 is to log into your CIC account, and under the “What would you like to do today” section, choose apply for a visitor visa, study and/or work permit. At this point it will ask you for your personal reference code, if you don’t have one (I didn’t) then look under “I do not have a personal reference code” and click on determine your eligibility and apply online for a visitor visa, and/r work permit. It will then guide you through the questionnaire.

A few things to note about the questionnaire, as it can be slightly confusing, and if you don’t answer some questions in a particular way, it won’t lt you apply for the bridging visa. When it asks “What would you like to do in Canada?” you should say work, and not move there, as I did at first. For how long do you plan to stay in Canada, you should answer temporarily – more than 6 months, and not permanently (I also made that mistake the first time round). The next tricky question is when is asks about your current immigration status in Canada, you need to say here that you are a worker, rather than a temporary resident permit holder (which is exactly what we are, but who knows why CIC make these things so confusing). Then you will be directed to a page which lists lots of different situations broken into three groups and you have to answer “yes” or “no”. Make sure you answer yes under the section which contains the following statement “I applied for permanent residence to an office in Canada and was determined to be eligible for permanent resident status (first stage approval)”. Even if the review of eligibility is still at “review in progress” for your PR app (as mine is) because if you say no, it won’t let you proceed with the BOWP application.

Capture

Once you’ve answered the questionnaire, the option to apply for a visitor visa and/or work permit will disappear, so if you answered any questions wrong, and it didn’t guide you to a checklist of required documents, then delete that application and start again. Once you answer all the questions in the questionnaire, you will be given a list of documents that you have to submit, most of them will be things you already submitted as part of your PR application; copy of passport, digital picture, proof of your medical exam, statutory declaration of common-law relationship (if you’re common law). If you are common-law then you’ll have to upload Form IMM5713: Use if a Family Member Representative for Online Applications. You will also be required to submit Form IMM5710: Application to change my conditions, extend my stay or remain in Canada as a Worker. This form again asks for a lot of information that you already supplied as part of your PR application such as education, work history, and to note any other countries you’ve lived for more than 6 months in the past 5 years. There is also space to upload a letter of explanation, I uploaded my AOR for PR here. The fees you pay for the bridging visa are $155 for the work permit and a $100 fee for an open work permit holder fee.

Once you submit everything and pay, you will receive a submission confirmation. I believe this can be used to show your employers if they need proof that you are legally allowed to work here after your work permit has expired, you can also print off the information on the CIC website about Implied Status and that along with the receipt should keep employers happy. You can find information about Implied Status here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/visa/validity/implied.asp

I hope this helps when applying for your bridging visa, and if you’re not already a member, join the Irish & Applying for Canadian PR Facebook page – it is a life saver!

Until next time 🙂

Easter Weekend & A Trip to Blue Mountain

Hi everyone, happy Easter to you all. I thought I’d do a quick blog post about my Easter weekend and what we got up to, and what we ate!

Myself and Phil decided to get away from the city for a day and Good Friday was the

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The ice made everything beautiful

perfect day to do it as we had the day off. We rented a car on Thursday evening and hit the road early Friday morning (8.00am). After a lot of humming and hawing the previous week about where we would go, we settled on Collingwood and Blue Mountain, only a short 2 hour drive from Toronto. We had an ice storm last week but as we got near Collingwood we realized that they had got hit far worse. There was still some snow on the ground and they had got a lot of freezing rain. *Side note, for those of you who don’t know what freezing rain is let me explain, myself and Phil had not heard of freezing rain until we got to Canada. It’s precipitation falling as rain but because the ground surface temperature is so cold, the rain freezes immediately on impact, resulting in everything being covered in a thick layer of ice*.  That thick layer of ice covering everything made the place look spectacular, as the sun shone down, everything glistened and sparkled, it really was beautiful.We headed straight for the Scandinave Spa as we wanted to try out the baths, when we first arrived they told us there was a four-hour wait (you can’t reserve a spot at the baths) so we went back into Collingwood to grab a coffee and decide what we would do while waiting but luckily they text us within an hour saying that a spot had opened up….yipppeee!

I was very excited about the baths, and with good reason as it turned out they were 20120101_032203amazing! The baths are all outdoors and as soon as you step outside you feel relaxed. It’s totally quiet as you are surrounded by wilderness, except for the quiet relaxing music they have playing on speakers all around, and you are told to keep the talking to a quiet whisper. We picked the perfect day for it because although it was cold, and there was still snow and ice on the ground, that made it all the more beautiful. There are three hot baths, all of varying temperatures, three cold baths – or plunge pools, again, each one is a different temperature, a steam room and a sauna. You can also have massages there but we just stuck to the baths (you pay extra for the massage). It was $55 per person for the baths, and once you’re in you can stay as long as you want. We were there for about 2 and a half hours. The idea is that you spend 10-15 minutes in a hot bath, steam room or sauna, and then plunge into the freezing temperature for 3-10 seconds, then relax and repeat as many times as you want. They have relaxation rooms where you can lie down and chill out. It was glorious, so relaxing and my skin felt amazing after it. The eucalyptus steam room was the best steam room I have ever been in, it was so steamy you literally couldn’t see anyone else in there (be careful not to sit on anyone’s lap when you enter!) and it was seriously hot in there. Plunging into to the freezing baths was so refreshing after bringing your body temperature up so high, although it’s very difficult to dunk your head under such cold water! I would highly recommend the Scandinavian baths to anyone who hasn’t tried them, if you fancy a few hours of serious relaxation then get yourself there ASAP! You can check it out here:http://www.scandinave.com/en/bluemountain/scandinavian-baths/

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Float room

While I’m on the topic of relaxation I must mention something I recently tried, and LOVED – Floating! Floating is exactly what it sounds like, you float on water. Most places that offer floating have floating pods or private rooms, I went for the private room option. The room is pretty large and has a shower and your bath for floating. Everything is set at body temperature; the room and the water. The bath is like a giant tub, only it’s filled with epsom salts so that rather than sitting into the water, you lie back and float on top of it, like a mini version of the dead sea! You can dim the lights or plunge yourself into complete darkness, listen to the relaxation music playing in the room, or bring your own music, lie back and float into oblivion for an hour. It was fabulous, one of the most relaxing hours I have ever had on this earth. Because the water is the same temperature as your body, and you’re floating on top of it, after a while you almost forget your floating and your body and the water seem as one. It’s a very hard feeling to describe but I loved it, and again it’s excellent for your skin as well as your entire body. I went to H2O float spa and for anyone in Toronto, I highly recommend it. It’s $79 for an hour of floating, and while that may seem expensive, it is definitely worth it. Also I think they offer float packages for $49 Monday – Friday: http://www.h2ofloatspa.com/

 

The rest of our Easter weekend was a quiet and lazy one filled with eating nice food. As

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Easter dinner!

part of my #3030vision I have been trying to learn how to bake new things, and I must say I’m progressing nicely. Before I started my #3030vision I could only bake chocolate chip muffins, now, my repertoire includes brown bread, toffee chocolate gems and lemon square biscuits. I just tried the lemon square biscuits this weekend and they came out beautifully! I have lots more baking to do though, but I must say I never knew how enjoyable baking could be. Next on my list is to learn to make chocolate mudcake… but when I learn to make that I will have to limit it to special occasions because otherwise that’s all I’ll want to eat!

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Lemon square biscuits for Easter!

For Easter dinner I wanted to make a nice roast, something I haven’t done since we moved to Canada. We bought silverside beef roulade with spinach and swiss cheese in the middle and I cooked that along with roast potatoes,veg and gravy. I’m always worried about making roast potatoes as it’s so hard to get them just right, but they turned out perfectly; deliciously crispy on the outside and beautifully golden and crumbly on the inside. The dinner was a success overall and it washed down nicely with a glass of red wine. Of course for desert we had some chocolate bunnies that we bought at the Belgian chocolate shop Leonidas, and as usual, the chocolate they produce is melt-in-your-mouth wonderful.

That’s all for now. Until next time 🙂

Applying for PR in Canada: A How To Guide Part 2

So I last left off informing you that I had received a notification of interest of provincial nomination from the province of Ontario. This was on November 13, 2015. I decided to remain in the pool for a couple of weeks to see if the points would drop and I could get an ITA, as it was going to take longer to go through the PNP route, not to mention it’s more expensive. Once you receive that Notification of Interest, you have 45 days to submit your application. Luckily, there was a draw on December 4, 2015 and the points came down and I got an ITA! The points were 461 and we had 469. Needless to say I was thrilled. I had until February 2, 2016 to submit my application.

I was pretty organized before even creating my EE profile and was in the process of gathering all of my employment reference letters, police certificates etc. So once we received our ITA, I was almost ready to submit everything, except for the medicals. For obtaining police clearance from Ireland, it’s all outlined online regarding what you should submit to them http://garda.ie/Controller.aspx?Page=2742&Lang=1 . Like all of us, I had to submit a police check from Ireland before I got my 2 year IEC Visa so my sister just brought in a copy of that to our local garda station and asked for an updated one and it came back within a week.  For the medical, you must see a physician that is on the list of approved panel physicians. You can find that list here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/pp-md/pp-list.aspx . For anyone in Toronto, I went to Dr. Li Francis, near Pape Station. No appointment is necessary, they do the medicals every morning between 9-11am, however, if you go on a Saturday morning, be prepared to wait. We arrived at 8.45am and there was already a queue outside. The full cost of the medical is $260 including the x-rays. I think it was $200 for the medical and $60 for the x-ray and we were there for a total of 2 hours. Please don’t forget that if you are applying under common law, both you and your partner/spouse must undergo the medical. As you are leaving the clinic they will give you a print off with a bar code on it and that is the document that you upload with your application. The clinic will then send the results directly to CIC (online I believe) and it takes about 2 weeks.*UPDATE* This doctor has been removed from the approved list of physicians as he has been charged with sexual assault of one of his female patients. If anyone has any information or if there are more victims out there you should call police at 416-808-7474 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477. http://www.insidetoronto.com/news-story/6724918-toronto-doctor-charged-in-connection-with-sex-assault-of-female-patient-in-pape-danforth-area/

The other thing that I hadn’t considered was the common law union declaration, this appeared in the list of required documents. You can print the form off online, you should get a link to the form in your list of required documents. You must get it signed and stamped by a Notary Public. We used David Mrejen located at 2 Bloor Street East, and it cost $89 in total, although I’m sure there are cheaper ones out there. You also need to provide evidence of cohabitation for at least 12 months. This can included copies of lease agreements, evidence of joint bank accounts, utility bills.

You also need a letter from your bank detailing when you opened your account and how much you have in there, along with copies of statements for the past 6 months. I used statements for my chequing account and also provided statements for our joint account for the past 6 months. The banks should be aware of this letter, I’m with CIBC and went I asked about it they knew exactly what it was and I had it within about a week.

You need to provide employment reference letters for all employments which you got points for in order to get your ITA. If you need to collect a few of these letters, I advise that you start gathering them early, even before you get the ITA. The employment letters have to include very specific information:

  • should be an official document printed on company letterhead (must include the applicant’s name, the company’s contact information [address, telephone number and email address], and the name, title and signature of the immediate supervisor or personnel officer at the company),
  • should indicate all positions held while employed at the company and must include the following details: job title, duties and responsibilities, job status (if current job), dates worked for the company, number of work hours per week and annual salary plus benefits;

If possible, I would also have the relevant NOC mentioned in the reference letter. I’m not sure if it’s necessary or not, but my NOC was in my reference letter for my current role. As part of the application you have to give you personal history, travel history and work history for the past 10 years or since you were 18 (whichever is most recent). I found the travel history section particularly difficult as I’ve done my fair share of travelling so I had to go back through all my stamps in my passport to get the dates of entry and exist to different countries. I didn’t include any EU trips as I had no idea of dates of those trips and there are no stamps in my passport relating to them, so I’m hoping that will be okay. For US trips there is a website that you can use to get your entry/exit days. I didn’t know about this until after I submitted my application but I think it will come in handy for many:  https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/consent.html;jsessionid=7K5LW2wQD4rv0Vj216dLw1nGRLhF3th0d5WnDYwvJT0qRLp7Dnqh!1808615784

The address history was another one I found tricky as I have lived at so many addresses both in Ireland, and in other countries. I couldn’t remember my address from when I did my J1 Visa in San Diego and then also there have been times when I’ve been travelling for a couple of months with no fixed abode. In these cases I reverted back to my home address in Ireland. If you are having trouble remembering all past addresses in Ireland, be sure to at least cover those that are mentioned in your Irish Garda clearance letter. Make sure when filling in the address history, travel history etc that it is all in chronological order and that you leave absolutely no gaps.

For the photographs you can provide a digital photo. I used Photo Imaging at Yonge and Bloor and I have to say they were great, they are well used to doing pictures for people applying for PR and knew exactly when I needed. He saved the pic onto my USB key. It’s located at 2 Bloor Street West, I can’t remember exactly what it cost but it wasn’t too expensive.

When uploading the documents, there is a section that asks for your education – degree certificates. I scanned my degree certs along with my WES ECA as all one document so that I could upload them all as one document. I think sometimes people have only uploaded their degree cert and then they are contacted later to provide their ECA, so it’s better to just upload it in the first instance to save time. Also, in the required documents section they don’t ask for your English test results. I uploaded my IELTS results along with my letter of explanation to save time so that I won’t be asked to provide it later. My letter of explanation was in relation to my South Korean police certificate, as I mentioned in my previous blog I had a hard time trying to get that, and in the end I’m still not sure it was the right one so I just included a letter explained everything I did to try to obtain the right police certificate.

I submitted and paid for our application on December 22, 2015. It was $2,080 in total for the two of us, although I believe if your application is denied, you are refunded the right of permanent residence fee ($980 in total – $490 each). Also, you aren’t required to pay that fee when you are submitting your application, you can pay it later but I decided to pay everything at once.

I received the AOR (Acknowledgement of Receipt) on December 22, 2015 (the same day that I submitted the application) and since then it’s been radio silence. I did get one of those ghost emails that tell you that your application has been updated but when I checked nothing had changed. That was on January 22, 2016. Right now, when I log into CIC my application status is as follows:

Application Status as of Feb 12, 2016

Once again, I will do another post once we get PR (fingers crossed) outlining the process from now until actually receiving PR. Until next time 🙂