Congratulations to the United States for preparing to move to a merit-based immigration system, which Canada and Australia have used for decades.
As an immigrant to Canada myself, I have first-hand experience of the thoroughness of the process. It was stressful and nerve-wracking; but it also makes me appreciate the work that goes into vetting legal immigrants to Canada.
This is not an unkind process: organizing a productive and prosperous society allows Canada to take good care of its citizens. We contribute considerable sums of money to international programs; we take in a lot of refugees.
I’m dismayed to hear media pundits in the US claiming that a merit-based system is racist: it is exactly the opposite of racist. An engineer from India or Africa who speaks English or French and has a relative living here will quickly move to the front of the line ahead of an applicant from England or Ireland with less education and no relative living here.
An applicant from China who plans to start a business and create jobs will be considered before an American simply looking for a job.
Canada’s immigration program is not perfect, but it’s one of the most successful on the globe.
My family moved to Ontario from Michigan when I was 13 years old; I arrived as a Landed Immigrant.
I got married and had three kids, started a business and was hard at work and paying taxes. Imagine my shock when, returning from a trade show in San Francisco, I got pulled out of line at airport Customs and moved to a small room where I was grilled for what seemed an eternity.
Officers wanted to know where I lived, what I did, and most importantly, why I had never applied for Canadian citizenship.
Eventually I was told: “OK. We believe you live in Toronto. But, you should get your citizenship. You have been here for 20 years. Canada expects you to make a commitment.”
I applied, and thus began the most nerve-wracking six months of my life. I almost never slept, wondering what would happen if I failed the test: would Canada make me leave?
The test was 50 questions long, but there were five different tests you could get, so I tried to memorize all 250 possible answers. I kept a copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the bathroom so I could review it on every visit.
I had to do two interviews, one with a bureaucrat and one with a judge. I was so nervous at the first interview that I actually lost my vision, walked off of the curb on St. Clair and stepped directly in front of a car – which fortunately stopped before it hit me.
When I passed and was sworn in as a citizen, we had a giant family celebration.
After the 2008 recession, my American nephew asked me about immigrating to Canada. I went onto the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website to check it out, and was thoroughly impressed: there is actually a pre-questionnaire to fill in, to determine if you should bother applying for the full process.
Why do you want to come to Canada? Which French or English test have you passed? Do you have a relative in Canada? Do you plan to work or start a business?
Canada’s merit-based system has served it well. It is hard but fair, and it works.
Good luck, America! Welcome to the 21st century.