Friday, December 21, 2007

Take a look at the Lawman...

Now for part three of my ongoing adventures in Canadian immigration. I'm giving so much information on this topic because the number one questions I get asked about Canada by my American friends is, "How does one become a Canadian anyway?" My main point is that it's actually pretty easy, but you want to know what you're doing.

Today's Topic: Fingerprints

You've seen this done in a million movies where criminals get taken downtown. It's actually harder than it looks to get fingerprinted. I drove the guy nuts due to my inability to get fingerprinted well. More about that later.

(Incidentally, since I'm on this Bowie kick, that mugshot is of the thin white Duke getting booked back in the 70s.)

Most countries do a criminal background check of people who are immigrating. I'm not sure if Claire would get checked to move to EU countries, as she's a citizen of the commonwealth, although I'll have to check. But anyone moving to Canada has to show that they've never been convicted of a felony. They don't care about misdemeanors and minor traffic violations, and they might actually allow people with felonies. Everyone has to get run past the boys in the crime lab though.

If you're an American, your fingerprints have to be given to the RCMP, the FBI, and the police departments in every state that you've ever lived in. They run them through their computers and contact Canadian immigration. Obviously, you can't take your own fingerprints, so you have to go to an office that is licenced to take fingerprints. Look this up- it's much easier than driving around to all those different police stations. It's also fairly cheap: $65 Canadian in my case for all of the fingerprints.

Okay, so we all know that I'm a bit absentminded, and I was dealing with a guy who was very nice, but who had as little sense of humor as Hank Hill. The first thing I did was to approach the table and put down my stack of paperwork... on top of the ink slab! You don't want to do this: it is covered with ink. He was not happy with me.

After he rolled more ink on the ink slab, he took my prints. Again, this is not as easy as it looks in the movies. The person taking the prints has to guide your fingers through the process. You are not supposed to press down in any way or do anything to move your fingers on your own because it screws up the print. It's very hard not to do that and I, apparently, kept pressing down with my fingers. He was not happy with me.

Finally, he suggested that I stare out the window and ignore what he was doing. This worked much better for the prints, but not so well for my body position. He kept having to tell me to stand in different spots. Fingerprinting is a lot like dancing and I'm not the best partner for that. Also imagine what it's like to dance with Hank Hill. He was not happy with me.

After some time, we had two sets of prints each for the three places I was sending them to. I cleaned my hands with a baby wipe. The prints were given to us in an envelope and Claire and I went home. As we drove through the cold, grey morning, I thought to myself that, even if the weather is lousy, we're going to remember this process and these months for the rest of our marriage. It is a strange experience being quantified by a state, and for as uncomfortable and awkward as it can be, it's a bit like having a clean slate as well.


Holly said...

I am shocked that they GAVE YOU the prints. Instead of sending them direct. You can't even get handed a legitimate copy of your academic record that way!

Rufus said...

Yeah, everyone's fairly trusting in this whole process. On the other hand, it's a very official form with a number of stamps and photos of me, so it's probably pretty hard to fake. I forgot to mention that I also had to bring my passport and driver's licence with me to get this done.

But I was expecting them to at least be in a sealed envelope. What can you say? Canada is a trusting country.

Hiromi said...

I had to be fingerprinted for my alien card when I lived and worked in Japan. It is much harder than it seems. I had to angle my body different ways and give over control of my hand to the clerk who was in charge of that. They were extremely polite during the whole process, but I agree with you -- it was still disquieting. I felt like I'd been assigned a bar code or something. And the Japanese clerks kept apologizing, so they also seemed uncomfortable with it.

I see Blogger put the URL space in for us non-Blogger-bloggers.