Friday, 27 February 2015

I'm legal!

For the past 6 months I have been working without a work permit. Today I finally received it. Let me explain how it took 6 months to get the proper authorization to be in Grenada and how we came very close to being persona non grata!

We got the work permit!!
When we arrived in Grenada, the boys needed to start school the next day. So day one was a whirlwind adventure of getting school supplies, uniforms and adjusting to the heat. In fact the whole first week was a blur as we set up banking, phones, internet, shopped for a SUV and figured out where everything we needed was.

My second week I started at both PAM and NEWLO. Learning new names and realizing that in Canada when you are introduced to someone you listen to the first name and in Grenada you need to listen for the last name.  Week two is also when Brent got sick with Chickungunya, only we didn't realize it at the time.

By the third week I had contracted Chickungunya and unlike Brent who bounced back really quickly, I ended up with it twice! It thus settled over me and is only now releasing it's grip. Everything except my work was on the back burner as I would be sore and tired after every day.

In late October Brent noted that we really should be getting the work permit documents together. I had to agree and went to where I thought the documents were. You needed an original security clearance from your country to obtain your work permit. I must have checked that I had this document 20 times before leaving to come here. When I went to find it, it was gone.

Needless to say we tore the house apart looking for it. No luck. It seemed we would need to get another done up, which I thought should be fairly simple. Only it wasn't. We got our security checks done as soon as we knew we were coming in May, we were now more than 6 months since they had been issued and the OPP could not reprint them.

Trying to deal with a police service when you are in another country is not fun. In Canada when someone passes you along to the next person, and then they pass you along to the next you usually have something you are working on while they wait to find the person who is needed. However calling an international number on a cell, I was in constant fear that before I spoke to the person we would get disconnected. In the end it was all for not because turns out "Oh he's not in the office today, surprised the secretary didn't tell you." This was my fourth person who I had spoken to!

It didn't get much better when the OPP wanted a military police officer to submit our paperwork to them. In the end we found a copy on file with Cuso and decided to give it a try. The worst that could happen is they say it has to be original and we find a way to make it work.

Turns out when we submitted it the person receiving our application didn't seem too concerned about it not being original and told us it would take 2-3 weeks. So right about Christmas time. Great! All this drama for nothing. My favourite saying is worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due. I had been worrying for no good reason I would have my work permit by the new year... Well NEWLO would have it and then they would give me a copy.

I patiently waited until the first week of January before I made my first inquiry. Yes it was in progress, no there didn't seem to be a problem.

By the first week in February I was starting to get concerned. The cause of my concern was that the entire families visitors visas expired Feb 28th, after which time we were all in the country illegally.

When we extended the visitors visas the first time the Immigration Officer was none too happy with my lack of a work permit and now I was in danger of returning without one again. It didn't help my level of anxiety that my sister has gotten me hooked on watching "Border Services" on Youtube; so now I know this could be a huge problem if the government decided it wanted to enforce its immigration rules.

Brent filling in the boys visitor visa paperwork
I settled on a new plan. This time I went back to the Work Permit Office in person, so they could put a face to the file. My inquires were met with blank stares. When I asked with whom the file was with the woman looked like she didn't understand the question. I tried again. Do you have a system that shows you at what stage the file is at? That too was not dignified with an answer. In fact the sum total of her response to me was "it is being worked on". Since I didn't want to upset the apple cart I left feeling really frustrated and helpless.

This week I talked to Sister and Mrs. Douglas because it was becoming desperate!  We only had this week to get the paperwork. Mrs. Douglas made a call to the Ministry. You'll not be surprised to learn the status was "in progress" not done as of yet but they understood the urgency with the visas expiring they would have it ready this week. Mrs. Douglas called back on Wednesday and Thursday, still no permit.

Mrs. Douglas thought Sister Margaret should accompany me to the Ministry of Labour  and hope to get the permit and if it still was "in progress" she could speak to Immigration on my behalf.

Today Sister, Brent and I headed into the Ministry of Labour and we were all met by blank stares this time. "You just need to extend your visa." I explained they would not extend my visa because I am not a visitor I am working. Well you need to go to Immigration and take it up with them. Brent chimed in at this point that I would need to pay for an extension which I would not have  to do if Labour had the work permit ready. Blank stare. So we all turned around and went back down the stairs, less than 3 minutes after we had come up them. Sister and I signed out and headed across the street to Immigration.

I must admit we were giggling about this, it just seemed so crazy. Three weeks had turned into three months and no one could tell us anything! As we were crossing the street Brent called us back to the building. Someone had come down to find us, they did have the visa. A lovely young woman in a bright yellow blouse apologized and ushered us back up to the third floor.

We went back to the Work Permit Office where all of us were again met with blank stares, nope we needed to go next door they couldn't help us. Now next door is the actual Ministry of Labour so that made sense. Instead we walked into the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Religion. They had the visa, they had received it from the Ministry of Education. Sister and I gave each other a look- the Ministry of Education?? So we sat and waited while people made calls and looked through drawers.

Finally I heard the secretaries trying to get a hold of Mr. Andle.... And my heart sank, Mr. Andle is the manager of Myriam and Linda. Myriam still did not have her visa either- they were searching for Myriam's visa. I told sister my concerns and as a good nun would, she told me "have faith". So I sat as hopefully and faithfully as I could with my heart sinking rapidly.

It turns out they did indeed have my work permit. (Never doubt a nun) For some reason it says I am with the Ministry of Youth not NEWLO, but hey at this point who wants to split hairs?? It is close enough.

So I now have my passport stamped until Feb 2016. Don't worry I am coming home June 30th, just in time to celebrate my home and native land on her birthday!

I am so happy to be able to continue the work I am doing here and have a renewed sense of hope and purpose as well as a renewed passport!

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