Monday, July 10, 2017

2.5 Weeks Left

Over the past couple of months I've been to Vancouver twice to find a place for us to live, and to get the process of moving in started. It seems to be working: the house is mostly packed, the sale papers are signed, the new home is rented, classes are signed up for, and the dogs are freaked out by the changes.

Yup... it's progress.

But how did we get to this point? Some of the back story:

Back when we decided that we wanted a change, and that Canada was where we wanted to go, we figured that it was time for me to go back to school. I've been thinking about going back to study art for quite some time. After all, I've been teaching art for nearly two decades without any formal training. Wouldn't it be nice to know if anything I've told my students is right?

And the Pacific Northwest is a very appealing part of the world, with wonderful indigenous culture that I may be able to draw on for inspiration. Add the fact that Vancouver is a very nice, livable city, with working transit & lots of culture and the destination decision was made.

So after some research into art schools in the area I applied to Langara College. Why there? There were three main reasons:

  • Their program appealed to me.
  • They don't require a portfolio from new students. Instead their goal is to graduate students with a portfolio so they can go on to the big art schools for a BFA or MFA.
  • Their cost for international students wasn't quite as high as that of some others I looked at. We could afford other places, but I am more comfortable on that front here.

They got my application and said yes pretty quickly.

Next I applied for a student visa. The Canadian immigration system made that pretty easy, though I do admit a couple of things they asked were less than clear. But an hour on the phone with an immigration attorney and those were cleared up. Not quite six weeks after submitting the application (all done online), I got email saying my visa was approved. In addition, Canada is happy to give spouses of students an open work permit, and Anne's visa was approved as well.

A side benefit of Anne's work visa is that she can work for any company. Often when people cross an international border to work, their employer sponsors them, effectively getting their visa written. Between the US and Canada such visas are apparently pretty easy to get thanks to provisions of NAFTA, but should you quit working, be laid off, or in any other way lose your job, you have limited time to find a new job before having to go back home, and your new employer has to sponsor you again. Our arrangement means that for the duration of my studies Anne can work for any company that wants to hire her, and they don't have to sponsor her in any way. It's more flexible in the crazy world of high tech, and that's good.

The visas are good for the duration of my studies at Langara. It is my understanding that I can extend the visa if needed to finish my studies, which is good because it takes 6 courses a semester to finish the diploma I am seeking in 4 regular semesters. Even using summer sessions it takes 5 courses during each regular semester and 2 each summer semester. That's a heavy course load.

In addition, once I graduate I can apply for a post graduate work permit. As the rules currently stand that would be good for 3 years after completing my studies, which keeps us in Canada for a minimum of five years, or a bit more if I extend my student visa to finish the diploma.

Of course, we're also working on getting permanent residency (PR) - the equivalent of the US "green card" - but that's harder to to achieve because we are oldish. If we were in our mid thirties it would be simple with our technical and educational backgrounds. As it is, we have to work a bit harder to make that come about, but more about that later.

For now, we're on track to cross the border in a couple of weeks and start setting up our new digs.