The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional, and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
If you want to move to Canada, you need to read this #AbroadLife. This week’s subject started the process in 2017 and eventually left in 2021. Why? Drama everywhere. At some point, she even received a provincial nomination and said no. Big mistake.
When did you first decide to move abroad?
2017. I was frustrated.
My job didn’t appreciate me. They passed me up for many promotions, and I felt stagnant. It was a multinational company. People with the same job description in other country branches had higher roles.
I had a church member who kept telling me he was working on his japa to Canada via their skilled worker Express Entry program, and I should do it too. Even random people I met through work told me they were doing it, and I should too. I’d also been praying, and God told me I would travel abroad.
When did you start the process?
2017. I wrote the IELTS, verified my university degree and put some money in treasury bills for proof of funds. In 2018, I entered the pool of applicants waiting to be called by Canada based on points. At the time, more people from around the world were looking to migrate to Canada, so the average point total suddenly got higher.
One week after I got in the pool, I got a provincial nomination from Ontario because of my science background and profession. I didn’t take it.
See, it haunted me for years. But I didn’t take it because it came so easily, so I felt like another would come. The nomination had a two-week validity period. I needed to pay some money and rush some processes. I didn’t have the money at the time, but I could’ve borrowed it. I could’ve made the entire thing work and gone in 2018. But I was just like, “They’ll call me again joor.”
They didn’t o. I now had to stay in the pool of applicants waiting for their scores to be called. But my 438 points were not good enough. I just stayed, praying and waiting. But the limbo was crazy.
Tell me about it
First of all, I stopped looking for other jobs because I didn’t want to invest my energy in a new one. I also stopped hustling for promotions because I didn’t think I was staying much longer. I stopped making new friends and wasn’t looking for potential partners, didn’t change my terribly old car, and even put my dream of owning lots of land in Nigeria on hold. I’d bought two plots sometime in 2016, but didn’t want to continue buying. I was saving money to settle in my new country.
When did they call your points, please?
January 2019. After a series of strong prayers, they suddenly called scores lower than they’d been calling for a while. And guess what? They haven’t called scores that low since. Definitely a miracle. That’s how I got my Invitation to Apply (ITA).
It means you’re qualified to apply for Canadian permanent residence. That’s when you do biometrics and medicals and submit documents like proof of funds, criminal records, education and work history, and so on. When this process is done, they stamp your passport as a Canadian permanent resident.
How long does it take?
Typically, about six months. But those six months coincided with me meeting the love of my life, so by the time they requested my passport for stamping in September 2019, I was already married. I rejected the passport request and added my husband to the process.
You had to start again?
Oh, no. I just put it in the application that I was adding a partner. First, it was silence from Canada. But after some more prayers and emails disturbing them, they eventually asked for proof that it was a long-term relationship and not an arranged marriage for visa by December.
What kind of proof?
Pictures and old texts.
Not Canada getting all the tea. What happened next?
COVID. In February 2021, we finally got our Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) and were eligible to travel. It was valid for two months. But there was a problem. Because of COVID, Canada said people shouldn’t come to their country. So there was the danger that the visas would expire in our hands if we couldn’t make it into Canada by April.
Because of the travel ban, no airlines were leaving Canada from Nigeria. But some airlines were lowkey flying from other countries like Cameroon and Egypt. I didn’t know how they were letting the aircrafts land, but once you were in, Canada wouldn’t turn you back.
So one hot afternoon in April, I left Nigeria for Cameroon to sneak into Canada like many people were doing. Only my husband knew about this. Once I was in Canada, he could come legally. Those were the rules.
It didn’t feel right in my spirit. The bible passage I read on my way said something about waiting for God’s time. But I went anyways. I was desperate.
At the airport in Cameroon, there were even more Nigerians than Cameroonians. Everyone was there for the same reason. We bought our tickets in cash at exorbitant prices and waited for our flight. As we were at the boarding gate, 20 minutes away from our flight, one airport official came out of nowhere and started shouting that no more flights to Canada were leaving the airport.
It was like a movie. Apparently, someone had flagged that an unusual number of Nigerians were coming to take the flights, and they didn’t want to get in trouble, so that was the end of their lowkey trips to Canada.
If you see grown men and women on their knees, crying and begging. Pregnant women, women with children, everyone. Me, I was in a corner with some other Nigerians, praying. In the end, they didn’t let us go, I didn’t get my money back, and I had to return to Nigeria. That’s when I told my family the story.
By the end of April, our visas expired. In my life, I’ve never cried as much as I did during that period.
November 2021, we got another visa.
You left the next day, right?
LMAO. This time, borders were open, so there was no fear. We wanted to leave in January 2022 because there was a family event in December. But one morning in December, we woke up and saw that the Omicron variant of COVID had been discovered in Nigeria. What that meant was Canada could say flights from Nigeria were banned. Omo, we bought our tickets and left that day. Our boxes had already kuku been packed for almost a year. We didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to family and friends, but it is what it is. I was pregnant and didn’t want to have my baby in Nigeria.
Expectation vs reality: Canada edition
The family that received and housed us our first few months in Canada already told us we shouldn’t expect to get to Canada and immediately get a job in our career, making sweet money, get a nice house and everything. That’s why people get frustrated. They don’t understand that no matter how far you’ve gone in your career, you most likely have to start from the bottom in Canada. But things’ll move fast.
Also, I found out that information is very important here.
Give me an example
Because there’s a big Nigerian community where we live, we could make friends and get good information about the types of jobs to apply for, houses to rent, taxes, driver’s license… just everything we’d have struggled to find out if we were here on our own.
Instead of going out to look for jobs, foreigners who can speak English can get customer service representative jobs from home. It was the best kind of job to get during winter because we didn’t have to go anywhere. After a few months of living with the family friend, we got our own apartment, and my husband got a job in his field. Me, I had my baby, and thankfully, I qualified for government-paid maternity leave.
How do you qualify?
By working at least 400 hours in the year you have your baby. It’s something God did for me. The customer service job made us work overtime, so by the time I was having my baby, I’d just passed the 400-hour mark.
Thanks! The healthcare here is premium. I now understand why Buhari travels abroad for his health.
My delivery was traumatic. We had to switch to a C-Section, then I had a seizure, and they had to put me to sleep so my brain wouldn’t have permanent damage. I was so, so close to death.
I was treated with so much care, I thought I was a special patient. I had to stay in the ICU for nine days after delivery. The nurses were so great. They even came to my house to check on me and the baby. At the end of the day, I didn’t pay a dime because healthcare in Canada is free.
Is there anything you miss about Nigeria?
I have no help with my child. It’s just the both of us. For some strange reason, my mum didn’t get her visa to come and take care of the child. If I were in Nigeria, I’d have so many people to help me. I had a maid to help me do stuff around the house, go to the market and cook. If you’re used to comfort and not doing a lot of domestic work, moving here will make you adjust.
But after many years of trying, I’m happy to be here. Life is sweet.