Planning an International Move
August 10, 2012
Updated June 26, 2018
7 comments 121 views
Back in 2000, my wife Sandy and I moved from Michigan to Canada to pastor Neerlandia CRC. Sandy is a Canadian citizen and had a "green card." I am a US citizen and I got a visitors record, and eventually obtained permanent residence in Canada. Now we have accepted a call back in west Michigan, and I can see the headaches and hassles on the horizon. Some of you may have extensive experience with this and so might have some advice (or at least sympathy!) for us. Some of the things we have to consider include:
1. Finding a moving company that is competent and experienced with cross-border moves.
2. Immigration, or more specifically, re-establishing legal residency for Sandy. Her permanent resident status expired in 2005, and if we had been more savvy about such things, we would have done things differently, but we weren't. We have filed US taxes every year for the past 12 years while in Canada. Our children are all US citizens.
3. We bought a vehicle at the beginning of the year, and we are getting conflicting advice about whether it can be taken across the border while we are still making payments. We also have an older (2002) vehicle and we have to look into whether it can be imported to the US of A.
4. Language Rehab. We've been living in rural Alberta for over 12 years, and now there are certain words that we say regularly among our farmer congregation that we have to avoid in west Michigan.
Any advice or resources on these issues would be most welcome!
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This article is not encouraging:
Hey Randy and Sandy, congratulations! I was just logging on to update my saga, which you should probably read in preparation. It will strike the fear of paperwork (wrt coming from Canada into the US) into you if you didn't have it already.
One quick thing to mention, I know our chair of council has had contact with an immigration lawyer who helps CRCers out in such situations. Consulting someone like that can save a LOT of time and hastle.
Thanks, Pete. I already read your saga, which put the fear of God (or the Department of Homeland Security) into me. Our situation is different, in that most of us are US citizens, and Sandy is not applying for that religious workers visa (though as a youth director for over 20 years, that could be a possibility). We have contacted an immigration lawyer in Grand Rapids. I am a bit timid to ask whether we or the calling church are responsible for legal costs, however, and I don't know if there's any denominational policy in this regard.
I would like to see more resources and help from the denomination, particularly because we are a bi-national church. Pastors and people with other church-related vocations are regularly moving across the border. It could be that there are more resources from the CRCNA that I dont' know about, but everyone is on holidays this time of year, and I'm getting piles of "out of the office" responses to my emails. One immigration lawyer who specializes in pastors and religious workers hasn't even responded to my emails. I wonder if there are resources like: recommended moving companies who have lots of experience with international relocations (I think the CIA calls this secret renditions or something, but they are not for hire). Lists of dos and don'ts. Helping children transition to a new home and school. How should a pastor transition from one congregation to the next; should s/he take some time between ministries, etc. (If this were Facebook I would at this point "tag" Pastor-Church relations to alert them to my questions). There will also be a big learning curve financially, because taxes etc. are quite different between Canada and the US.
Time to call up the resources of our faith and rely on God's providence, but also to call on the Christian community to help each other out in our time of need.
I'm saying this not as a representative of my employer, but just as a personal musing...I wonder if helping with this type of issue would fall under the umbrella of Pastor-Church Relations? I agree that it would be good to have some kind of support in place, although I'm saying that with basically zero knowledge of the ins and outs of all of this.
As you kow we went the opposite direction a couple of years ago, so our experience won't be much help to you, but what was helpful was talking to US citizens who had recently taken calls and moved to Canada. Probably the most helpful thing for you would be to do the same with Canadians that have recently come to the US. The denom. office will likely have a list of Canadians that have made the move recently. You likely won't be a problem since you're a US citizen and (for better or worse) we have to take you back. Sandy might be tougher. She likely won't have a problem getting in since you and the kids are US citizens but getting a work permit might be a longer process. If the church is willing to, you might want to ask them to hire an immigration attorney to give you some advice. Can't say about importing the vehicle, we had to pay off ours (purchased in the US) and have a clear title in order to bring it into Canada, as the bank wouldn't sign off on the title without having it paid off. I don't know whether it would be the same going the other way, but my guess would be that it is similar. But good to get a clear answer one way or the other.
My one suggestion would be that you have as much paperwork as possible relating to your move and employment (even stuff you don't think you need). Our experience was that if you make them go blind on paperwork and give them the impression that you've got all your ducks in a row and aren't hiding anything they're just a lot less likely to give you a hard time. I would suggest that you and the family go to the US customs and immigration with your paperwork a week or so before your actual move and get any potential difficulties taken care of, because the last thing you want to have happen is to get stuck at the border with a truck full of your stuff and have them turn you around. We had a gret mover recommedned by an American who had moved to Ontario recently, but they probably wouldn't be much help to you in Alberta.
I hope everything goes well.
Grace and Peace,
One more thing. About covering the costs of the immigration attorney, it's best to figure that out before you accept a call and have it spelled out in the call letter. Even without it being explicitly spelled out, I think you could reasonably read it into the phrase in the call letter re: "paying for the costs of moving, etc." Hope that helps.
I want to know the list of words you are concerned about! I'm a former New Yorker living in West Michigan, and I've had my share of foibles...
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