What’s in a Name?

This morning I called Canadian Immigration about my work permit.  This was just LOADS OF FUN, let me tell you (automated phone systems that use both English and French take forever to navigate).

Here’s the issue, folks, and I realize it would probably not be a big deal to most people (and compared to yesterday’s events they are just downright trivial).  Canada’s work permits only allow for a certain number of characters in the name field of their paperwork.  As a result, if you have a first and middle name that are longer than 15 characters, your name gets cut off.  And even though my correct name is in the immigration system, it looks like my middle name is three letters shorter than it actually is.  This wouldn’t bother me so much except that apparently everything I do here is tied to that work permit, so when I apply for a driver’s license, etc., they go by the name on the permit and not by the name in my passport.  Even though the permit is stapled into my passport!  I’m particularly nervous about this because I don’t want any issues when I’m eligible for the national healthcare plan in June.  But I’m also pissed about this because my name is MY NAME and I think it’s crazy to only allow a certain number of letters on immigration paperwork ESPECIALLY if the name on that paperwork dictates your name everywhere else in the country.

I think I’m particularly sensitive to this because changing my last name after I got married was kind of a big deal to me.  I had always planned to change my name (I like the idea of sharing my husband’s name, plus it will just be easier when we have kids), but the name change issue was particularly hard on my dad.  He doesn’t have any sons and I think he felt like the family name was dying in some way if I let it go (the fact that he’s a son of Holocaust survivors also played a role in this).  So I’ve made my maiden name my middle name, partly for him and partly because I’m attached to it.

Changing your name in the US is a pain.  There are so many pieces of the process and it took at least a month for me to feel like everything was in order.  I had to rush my passport so that my new name would be used in the immigration process.  I just wanted everything to go smoothly and I’m annoyed that this piece of paper in my passport has stripped me of part of my name.

I know this is ridiculous and in the scheme of all the things that could go wrong, this is microscopic.  I just feel far from home and my family and every time I look at that permit I feel cut off from them like those three letters that are absent.  I have fixated on this, researching ways to have it fixed and going through pages of message boards for hours.

So I finally called Immigration and spoke to a nice Canadian customs agent who told me there was nothing he could do and that my full name appears in their system even if it’s not on the hard copy of the permit.  I could tell he was annoyed that I was wasting his time, but in the Canadian way even his annoyance came off politely.

“Miss, we deal with millions of people each year and there are bound to be hiccups like this.”

So I’m dealing with the hiccup.  And I’m hoping that I’ll stop obsessing about this because it kind of scares me how much time I’ve spent thinking/talking about it.  I’m going to move on to more important things.

Like figuring out how to watch this show from Canada.

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2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Hi, just came over to your blog from Cassie’s! I just wanted to tell you that I SO understand the visa thing, how complicated every tiny thing can be, and how even the simple, easily fixable problems are somehow turned into impossible to fix nightmares when navigating the labyrinth of foreign visa laws. I’m on a student visa in the US, and I have undergone many issues — some minor and some life-stopping what do I do now moments. Even little things can seem like very big things when you’re trying to figure out your life somewhere new.

    I also understand the attachment to your name. Try not to be consumed by the worry though. I try to remember that I can only do so much, and after that it really is beyond me. Then I just hope that everything will be okay 🙂

    • Thanks, Shannon! This is just what I needed to hear. I’ve been way too consumed by this sort of thing lately . . . having to deal with all of these logistics in addition to adjusting to a new place is really overwhelming. I’m going to try to take your advice and just deal with things as they come 🙂

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