What it Feels Like to Be a New Immigrant
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
2019 has flown by. When I look at my calendar and see it’s July, I can’t help but wonder where time has gone. I used to think I had so much time to prepare for summer, but now I wish things would just slow down.
My immigration application has been driving me crazy. I wish I could say that as a figure of speech, but I meant it in the literal sense of the term; I have had moments - we’ll leave it at that. I have been watching with fear as the deadline on my work permit is coming closer, powerless while I wait for the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Department to confirm my permanent residency. I wake up at night, breathless and incapable of going back to sleep. My imagination runs wild then, as I picture myself without a legal status. I panic when I think about how I might be refused re-entry, how I could lose my job, how all the efforts and money I’ve invested into this permanent residency would end up being for nothing.
I hate feeling so powerless over my own situation. I wish there was something I could do. I’d take a test, I’d testify under oath, I’d do anything to remove the uncertainty. However, that’s the reality of legal immigration processes and I know there’s nothing else I can do but wait. I wait and I pray, knowing that somewhere in the middle of Mississauga, a random federal government employee holds my life in their hands.
It almost seems unfair. I struggled to get where I am today. I worked my ass off just to get a little bit of Canadian experience on my resume, knowing very well that without it, I’d have a hard time finding a job in my sector. My situation wasn’t half bad, all things considered. My French-speaking abilities are valuable in the Canadian job market and I’ve been able to capitalize on it. Not every new immigrant has that chance though. It can be tough for new immigrants to land jobs in their field because companies and organizations don't automatically recognize your education and professional experience. Brilliant people that used to be doctors, nurses, academics or experts in their field now find themselves having to accept the most menial jobs because what they’ve accomplished prior to entering their new country is worth nothing.
Do you know how frustrating it is to be constantly faced by rejection when you know deep down, you’d be great for the job? Do you know how frustrating it is to find amazing job opportunities and then quickly realize that even though you may well be the perfect match for the job, they’ll *unfortunately* only accept applications from Canadian citizens?
It gets even worse for protected professions. While the Canadian Government is massively advertising for qualified workers to come and work in Canada, they fail to tell foreign doctors, engineers and other professionals that in order for them to obtain a secure position in their field, they may need to join trade associations - and to enter said trade associations, they may need a Canadian degree… In other words, a qualified engineer with a university degree from Germany might have to go back to university and retake a full undergraduate program just to enter an engineer trade association, which will then grant him a license to work as an engineer.
Of course, not all immigrants are equal. For instance, I recently discovered that Canada used to have an Immigrant Investor Program that aimed to attract wealthy foreign investors to settle and invest in the country. The program allowed immigrants with a net worth of $1.6 million permanent residency in exchange for providing the government an interest-free five-year loan of $800,000. Yep, you read it right: permanent residency used to be up for sale.
Did you hear me talk about frustration?
This immigration process has slowly been driving me crazy, but I’ve been hanging on. I’ve finally gotten to a place where I feel good and where I know I can develop professionally. I’ve earned my place with no one to thank but myself. This should make me proud, but the truth is that it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye.
I’ll be honest, I’ve cried. In those instances, all I can do is hope my partner country’s administration won’t screw us over. The rest of the time, I pretend everything will be fine. What else can I do? So I plan my life as if I was going to stay. As if it was a certainty, as if nothing could go wrong. But I don’t know, I just don’t know. My life is on pause. Will I stay or will I go?
I decided to share my feelings because I still find we’re too quick at negatively judging immigrants. Don’t get me wrong. Many Canadian citizens are incredibly progressive and believe that immigration can be a good thing. However, it always remains a sensitive topic, even among the most progressive people I know.
Immigrants are expected to struggle. They’re expected to face hardship, to fight for a better life. It’s almost as if immigrants were supposed to deserve a second chance. There’s nothing that drives people crazier than the idea that an immigration might receive more benefits than a born citizen. You want in? You better prove your worth.
To an extent I get it. This merit-based mentality is present everywhere in North America. It doesn't only apply to immigrants, it's in all aspects of life. But who’s asking born citizens whether they’re worthy? As if being born in a country had anything to do with fairness. Nobody’s earned their citizenship. Nobody deserves to be American or French or Chinese. You didn’t do anything; you were just born. Let that sink in for a minute.
Immigrating is no fun. The legal route to immigrate into a new country is lengthy, burdensome and expensive. It’s stressful, isolating and degrading at times. I chose to immigrate and as such, I have to accept whatever is demanded of me. I do accept it. It doesn’t mean it’s easy.