Monday, September 14, 2009

A few notes about boarder control....

A post based on a recent chat with my roomie. I was talking about how hard it was to pass boarder control in the US and then into Canada. Well, not hard, but time consuming, an opinion based solely on the amount of questions you get asked when coming into the country.

Compare with Europe, where all they do is stamp your passport, no-one cares if you have a return ticket, or if you know anyone, or even if you've got a place to stay. In the US, they wont let you in unless they know you're leaving, you need to present evidence that you're not going to overstay your visa. The reason being quite simple, they don't want you to overstay your visa.

Canadians take a different approach. They want to know that you're leaving too, but the exit tickets are not 100% required. Canada is a huge country, the second largest in the world. And with one of the most relaxed immigration policies. Or so I've heard. It's easy to disappear in Canada, so the focus of boarder control questions is more like 'If you do end up staying, are you the kind of person we would want in our country'. Take for example a story my flatmate told me, a woman's husband got a letter saying he will be deported in 48 hours, his visa had expired. He moved into the local church for a week (they can't arrest you while you're in a church) but no-one ever showed up. He now has his citizenship.

Two very different approaches, from two of the most amazing countries I have visited. I can easily see myself living in the States, or in Canada, and being a very happy little vegemite while doing so.

Friday, September 4, 2009

'Welcome to hell' OR 'A stroll through Quebecois Bureaucracy' OR 'Why is getting a metro pass harder than going through boarder control'

Insanely long title for an insanely long day.

Yesterday, I thought I'd be clever and get all my cards and papers sorted out. I registered at uni and worked out my health insurance the day before so it was time for a student ID and metro pass. I thought I'd skip the lines and arrived at 8:30 when the ID card production starts at 9am. I was only 4th in line. I was out of there by 9:10am. Oh, how industrious I felt, a precursor to a smooth day... how wrong I was.

I asked the lady at the ID card booth how I get my metro pass now (also known as a personalised OPUS card). The instructions were simple, download and fill in the form off the STM site, get it stamped at the Birks centre then go to the Magill station for your photo and your card. Simple, right?

It took half an hour of fruitless searching on the internet until I gave up and figured they'd have a copy of the form in the Birks Student Services Centre, where I'd need to go anyway to get it stamped and signed. It was 9:40am, Birks only opened at 10am, so I waited in an already staggeringly long line to get to into Birks, to then wait in line some more only to be told 'we don't have any forms here, go to the Berri-UQAM metro station and pick one up from there if you can't find it online'. So, off I go, annoyed as hell already, towards the Latin Quater and the Berri Station. Strangely, you actually have to exit the metro to get to the place with the forms. Then, you have to buy a new ticket. Bye-bye $5.50 and useless waste of an hour. The woman gave me the form in French, and I misread and mis-translated and signed in the wrong space. FUCK.

Back to the library to (now that I had the official title of the form) google stupid form which is meant to prove I'm a student, because a student ID won't do. When I found stupid form, it wouldnt print. GAH, one must first buy a printing card to print at concordia, but, a small ray of luck, the librarian printed it for me for free! So, back to Birks to get it stamped and signed. Hideously long line at Birks by this time, at least I bought a novel.

Finally, form completed and signed. Another $2.75 for the metro to get to Magill to get the bloody pass. But, alas, there is a mile-long line of people OUTSIDE the photo place, and the photo place itself is as packed as a tin of canned fish. 'Mademoiselle, prenez un numero, sil-vous-plait'. I prenez un numero 756. Now serving 345. Only ONE register. OH. MY. GOD. Ok, novel out, I'll survive somehow.

But soon, the monotony of useless lining up is broken when STM information officers walk past, asking to see everyone's documents. (What the hell, is this Russia!?!). I show my completed papers, student ID and passport. 'Preuve d'Address, Madame?'.... QUOI?!?!?! Oh yes, the form doesn't mention you need a proof of address, to prove you live in Montreal. How does one get such proof??
'Go back to Concordia and get them to print out your details, stamp them and sign them.'
Ok, another $2.75 and a good hour at Birks. Another $2.75, back to Magill. Thankfully the information guy remembered me and let me go straight into the photo place. Great! How foolish I was, thinking I was almost done. Another 2 hours pass, and a lot of swearing under my breath at the people infront of me, who didnt have the right papers, who wanted to pay half on card then half by cash, oh but then they wanted a plastic cover for their metro pass too. When there are 300 angry students and pensioners behind you, trust me, you don't need a plastic cover for your metro pass.

So, it's 3pm. All I have acomplished was a metro pass and a student card. It cost $16.50 in metro tickets and 6 hours of my time. Not to mention the $13.50 that you need to pay for the card, nor the $37 that will now last me untill October. Today, I refuse to stand in lines.