I just happened across this piece of writing from June of 2018, when I interned at Google in Waterloo Canada. It’s a fun piece, so I figured it was worth collecting here. I’ve lightly edited it for typos, etc. Otherwise, I’ve left it as it was originally written, including the tenses.
Personally, I love this story, but it’s one I don’t tell that often. When I was first telling it, I couldn’t find a way of explaining it without including too many details. People would grow bored trying to keep track of the hairball of logistics I was spewing. Five years later, I’ve told it so few times that I don’t remember all of the details clearly. Thus, finding these words was a nostalgic surprise.
It was my mistake buying a ticket from Raleigh to Toronto that had layovers in both DC and NYC. I admit that. Plus, I’d been dropped off at the airport extra early. And my flight from NYC to Toronto was canceled due to a tornado.
Anyway, by the time I’m off my rescheduled flight in Toronto, it’s around 10:00 PM. I’ve been in travel mode for about 14 hours. Note that it takes 12 hours to drive from Chapel Hill to Toronto… Because I’m here to work in Canada, I eventually get shuttled to Immigrations. The Immigrations Officer tells me that I need to get a work permit, which he can issue me. That sounds find. Then he asks for my Work Permit Application. My what?
“For me to give you a work permit, you have to have filled out an application. It has several parts, including an official offer letter, and an Employer Compliance Fee number showing that Google has paid the necessary fee” the Immigrations Officer tells me.
I have no idea what number he’s talking about, and dread starts to set in. I did, however, bring the offer letter with me, so I hand that to him. The officer realizes pretty quickly that this offer letter isn’t going to be enough, but continues flipping through it anyway. He’s particularly interested in the job perks.
“That’s pretty good pay… Medical, cool, cool. And they feed you too?! Hmm… you really don’t have an ECF number? Why don’t you go sit over there and see if you can find it or contact someone.”
At 10:30 PM, I don’t think I’m going to have much luck contacting Google. But, I’m part of an intern Facebook group, so I post my situation on there. One awesome intern responds immediately, and after a little back and forth, we realize that I should have been contacted by a law firm working with Google. This should have happened months ago. The weirdest part about the conversation is that he shows me the email he received giving him a list of things he should do and keep an eye out for. I show him that I received the exact same email, but the section mentioning the lawyers is missing from the middle. The intern tells me good luck and signs off for the night.
I return to the Immigrations Officer and tell him I definitely don’t have the application. At this point, I’m pretty sure I’m spending the night at the airport. But he’s a chill dude, as far as officers go, and he tells me I have until Saturday to figure something out. He signs some official paperwork, is about to let me go, then casually mentions that if I fail to return by Saturday, a warrant will go out for my arrest.
Turtles all the way down
If you’ve ever played an RPG like Skyrim or Fallout, you know those annoying side-quests where you’re just an errand boy and you have to talk to NPC-1 to find a gold cup, and deliver it to NPC-2 who wants you to gather 10 deer skins to bribe NPC-3, etc.
That’s exactly what I have going on. Let me lay it out for you. I need:
- all my paperwork for next week’s orientation.
- That includes a Social Insurance Number (SIN).
- To get a SIN, you must apply in person at a Service Canada location.
- Service Canada is open Mon.-Fri. until 4:00 PM (and it’s already Thursday at this point).
- To get a SIN, I must have a work permit.
- This will be given to me by an Immigrations Officer, at the airport.
- To get a work permit, I must have a Work Permit Application.
- This is given to me by Google’s law firm.
- I’ve been told this usually takes on the order of weeks.
- To get the application, I have to establish contact with Google.
- And I’ll have to help fill out whatever this application is.
At this point, I don’t even have a working cell phone. I manage to make it to my Airbnb a little after midnight, and spend a night that’s mostly filled with nightmares of misplaced emails. Shortly after I wake up, I receive emails from both my recruiter and Google’s immigration team, telling me they’re working on my situation as fast as possible. While I’m waiting on them, I make it my morning’s mission to get a cell phone plan. By the time I have data again, I have an email from the law firm. Unsurprisingly, they want a lot of paperwork. It’s pretty standard stuff, things like a scan of my passport and copies of my transcripts. I get lucky and am able to scrounge together everything by the end of Thursday afternoon. My recruiter tells me that there’s no way that everything is going to get done by Friday, so she’s going to move my start date by a week.
- Things will be less stressful for the next couple days.
- I’ll have a week in Toronto with nothing to do.
- Counting lost wages, I’m out several thousand dollars
- I’ll have a week in Toronto with nothing to do…
I wake up Friday morning to two more emails. The lawyers want official versions of my transcripts, and my recruiter has officially moved my start date. I work on getting the updated paperwork, calling the travel agency to reschedule both my flights and hotel, and beginning planning for the upcoming week. Where should I stay?
Around 4:30 PM, the lawyers email me to notify me that they’re done with the application. They’ve done however many weeks worth of work in two days. Impressive. Too bad that my start date is already changed and the Service Canada office closed 30 minutes ago. That means that there’s no way I can get my SIN. I’m feeling proactive, and decide to go talk to IO anyway.
Off to see the wizard
I walk the 25 minutes to Staples and print off the 30 page application the lawyers have thrown together. Then I uber to the airport and spend the next half hour looking for the immigration office. Turns out I was looking in the wrong terminal. I finally find my old friend. I tell him I have my application, we get situated at his desk, and he gets straight down to business.
In literally less than a minute, he’s scanned the application. He finds the ECF number he was looking for on Wednesday and says, “Yep, this is all I need. Let me fill out your Work Permit.”
Five minutes later, the officer is pretty much done with the Work Permit, and I joke, “Man, I wish this could have happened a few hours ago. That way I could have gone to Service Canada and gotten my SIN too.”
“What do you mean,” he squints at me.
“Well, it doesn’t really matter now, because my start date has already changed, but if I could have magically had a Work Permit at 2:00 PM, then maybe I could have traveled to the Service Canada office, gotten my SIN, and kept my original start date” I reply.
“The Service Canada in the airport is open until 9:00 PM.”
What. The. Hell.
- Google Maps doesn’t show a Service Canada at the airport.
- Service Canada closes at 4:00 according to everyone and everything.
He points across the room. “These guys will get you set up.”
By around 7:20 PM, I have my SIN, which is what I originally came to Canada for. I immediately call my recruiter, despite the time of day.
“Hey, so this is crazy. But the airport has a late night Service Canada, so I have both a work permit and a SIN. And there are probably a hundred reasons why this won’t work but -“
My recruiter cuts me off in her excitement, “What?!?! That’s crazy! You need to call the travel agency right now. Tell them what your situation is. I’ll change your start date. Call them now.”
After another 30 minutes on the phone with the travel agency, it was a little after 8:00pm on Friday. More importantly, I had everything I needed to start my orientation on Monday.