Her Canada Dream Cost ₦8.8 Million

November 11, 2019

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.

She’s 28, currently living in Canada with the love of her life but this wasn’t always the plan. This is a story about how it unfolded.


Let’s start from the moment you knew it was time for Canada.

That would be 2017, precisely. I’d applied to yet another Masters’ program and gotten accepted. The tuition became an issue as I couldn’t afford it at the time.

My brother suggested I take the immigration route, saying it was cheaper than paying so much for school and then getting a job later. I wasn’t really interested because I felt immigration was going to be tedious. But I’d been on the Masters’ waka for five years at the time, and I just wanted to reach my goal. 

Then one day –

Ah, the one day

One day, I heard people shout “UP NEPA” after being without light for almost a week. 

I just lost it. 

Hahaha. It just had to be NEPA. 

I realised I’d known this phrase since I was a kid and was wondering if I’d like my kids to see it as a norm.

Then I logged on to Twitter and all the frustrating things about Naija just rushed at me. I messaged my brother and we started researching how I could move. Right now, my entire family is on the track to moving out hahaha. I have a sibling in the U.K. also looking at a permanent move to Canada too.

Ha. Japa Clan.  

Hahaha. Just my siblings actually.  

Tell me about the first money Canada collected from you. 

IELTS, in 2018. ₦65,000. The first time I wrote it, I didn’t get the score I wanted. By the time I was ready to write it the second time, it was already ₦75,000. 

Wait, what do you mean you didn’t get the score you wanted?

IELTS is made up of four parts: speaking, reading, writing, listening. 

Each part carries a total score of nine. They’ll also have a cumulative grade for you. Since the express entry was a point-based system, it works very well for you to score at least 8-7-7-7 (8 in speaking, 7 in the rest). These scores carry weight when you’re trying to see what cumulative score you might get on the Canadian immigration ranking tool. The ranking tool is to calculate points ranging from education to work experience to marital status, to age, to English language proficiency. 

So whatever your cumulative points sum up to here determines if you’re qualified to enter the pool of people that will be eligible to apply for the Canadian express entry. 

I scored 6.5 in writing, which messed up my entire result. 

You were working while writing these exams, right?

Yeah, at an advertising agency as a client services executive. ₦80k a month. So I saved some of my income for a couple of months, while my brother sent me the balance.

Okay, what else did you pay for on this highway to Canada?

I had to pay ₦15,000 to have my transcripts sent to an evaluating body in Canada. That took a while, because of ASUU strike. 

Oh, look at Nigeria fighting back to keep you. 

Hahahaha. If I hear. 

Anyway, I paid for that, got a reference number, and that reference number is what I used to create a profile. The evaluation money cost ₦88k when you change it to naira. It was actually paid for by my brother because the money was too much for me at the time. Also, you get a police certificate to confirm that you have no criminal record in Nigeria. That one cost me ₦3,500.

Ah, clean slates only. 

Yep. Also, my husband and I were already dating at this point, and our plans aligned perfectly. 

Hmm. Holy Canada. Holy Matrimony. Hearing husband for the first time in this conversation. 

Hahaha. Remember that second IELTS that I wrote? I got 6.5 again. So my husband suggested that we merge our applications together and be on the journey as a unit. 

Wait, did you just say unit, like a Voltron? Please explain how this works. 

Hahaha. Yes, they let you do this. Apart from individuals applying, you can actually apply as a unit. Whether with child or not. For unit applications, there has to be a primary and secondary applicant. So if I’m applying with my husband who has better qualifications and IELTS scores, he’ll be the primary applicant, while I’ll be the dependant. 

There are a few benefits to being the primary applicant. Like, the application profile, and correspondence. If you get permanent residency too, the secondary applicant can’t go without the primary applicant. So if the primary applicant dies, everything done burst. 

Two seconds.

If you’re married, it increases your score. If you have a Masters’ Degree, it increases your score, if you have a PhD, even higher score. Then there’s the proof of funds part. For a single person, you need to have $12,000 CAD. Basically, they want you to be able to fend for yourself for at least 6 months, in case you don’t get a job immediately. As a couple, we had to keep $15,772 CAD. Applications for right of permanent residency cost us $550 CAD per head. 

More payments.

My husband had money saved for years from work; God bless him. He was pretty frugal even though he earned a lot, so he covered most of the expenses. 

There’s the medicals part. Basically, you need paperwork to show that you’re medically fit and you won’t be showing up in Canada with diseases that will require quarantine and stuff. That cost ₦28,000 per head. 

The thing about the process is, the money can be overwhelming. But as each one came, we knocked it off. I had help from family, and of course from my husband. 

Then one day, you just get a response and everything changes.

Slow down. How long did it take you to finally get a response? 

The entire processing time took five months and eight days. The entire journey from that UP NEPA, took one year and 4 months.

On the 8th day after the five months, we got a request asking us to submit our passport. Then we had to wait two weeks for the passport to be returned to us. 

The waiting. 

Ah, it was hell. Anxiety. Anticipation. Prayer. Everything. Doubt, because what if we didn’t submit all the documents? Constantly calling to check the status of our application. And the theoriesss. 

Theories?

Yes. We started formulating theories based on how long it’d take to get a response time, based on everyone else we’ve heard about. Some people waited three months, some three weeks. Others, a month. Some people even waited for a year. We heard people were refused for the tiniest reasons. When you’re not in control of a situation, it makes you over-analyse. You put in so much thoroughness into this process, and you just want a positive response. 

Must have been crazy.

When the email finally came, it was at 5 am telling us to go and submit our passports. My husband worked out of Lagos and had to travel back to Lagos. We tracked that passport every day because people could still get rejected after sending their passport. 

When we went to pick up the passports, it was there, stamped. Our visas to Canada. I cried, ah, that moment. 

Ahhhhh. 

We hid it in weird places. I first hid mine inside Garri then –

You what? 

Yes now, hahaha. Then I started panicking that the Garri might erase the visa. Then I hid it in one tiny part of my box.

Tell me about the first day at work after collecting that passport. 

Hahahaha. I didn’t even feel like working. Our salary was actually late, and my boss was cranky. I wanted to tell them ‘bye bitches’ but I had to calm down and resign properly, so I don’t burn bridges. At this time, I was earning ₦150,000.

Did you get a raise?

Nah. New job. Here, I was working comms proper. 

At this point, how many jobs had you worked in Nigeria? 

Chai. Four. 

I’m wondering how you must have felt at your first job, and how you felt when you knew it was time to leave.

I got my first job two months after NYSC, I was so excited. I saw myself breaking boundaries. But you see, by the time I resumed at my last job in January, I was already done with working in Nigeria. I was already imagining carving a wonderful career for myself outside Nigeria. 

In fact, I resumed at my new job with the singular goal of saving as much as I could for the japa goal. 

What will you say was your true final act here? 

A wedding. 

Married in Nigeria, happily ever after in Canada. I’m assuming that this wedding money didn’t come out of the $15k CAD. 

Nah. Family chipped in. Friends too – they covered most of the costs in a sense. But we made sure everything was on a low budget. It ended up costing a total of about ₦2.5 million. 

I’m adding this wedding costs as part of your road-to-Canada money. Filed under send-forth party. What were the other last-mile costs on this road to Canada?

First of all, the money we spent between the wedding and when we travelled, came from what people sprayed us mostly. They sprayed about ₦370k. Mostly just running costs for living, going to see friends, buying stuff, etc. 

Exactly one month after the wedding, we travelled.  

And your flight tickets?

₦996k.

Muritala Muhammad Airport scenes must have been lit.

The usual – overweight bags. The final bye-byes. The tears. 

Bye-bye, bye-bye to mummy. Bye-bye, bye-bye to daddy. 

We got on our flight. 10-hour layover at Frankfurt. Another 12 hours to Canada. 

Is there like a housing block when you enter Canada, where they’re like, “Ah welcome o. While you’re trying to get your life together, take this bunk space and pillow.”

Hahaha. We booked an Airbnb before we left. $30 CAD per night for two weeks. That money came from that $15,772 CAD that Canada wanted us to have. 

Also, people stay with relatives while they try to get a place. Others find kind Nigerians that offer to house them till they get a place. Some even get their accommodation before leaving Nigeria. 

There are Whatsapp Groups for this thing yo. 

Mad o. How long does it take to burn through $15k CAD in a new, strange country?

Depends on who’s spending. We haven’t burned through ours. 

It’s incredible, all of it, and now I’m wondering; what does this future look like? 

My husband is taking a licencing exam so he’ll be able practice in Canada – he works in healthcare. I’m currently enrolled in an IT program that will expose me to amazing employers. It’ll also let me get a prestigious certificate for free. Something that would have cost $600 CAD. You know, I used to be scared of life in IT. But look at me. I’ve mostly found it fascinating. 

What about healthcare, covered?

All the privileges of a Canadian citizen, except voting and joining the army. 

Amazing. Wait, one more thing, I did the math about how much this journey cost. 

Okay. 

This is including your wedding cost because that was your send forth party as far as I’m concerned. And including the proof of funds, which is still getting to you. 

Yeah. 

All of this, the money that made this possible was about 8.8 million. 

Ehn? Hahahahaha. Wait.

I just told my husband, but he doesn’t believe. I think he’s in denial. He said his brain isn’t calculating it properly. 

Remember, you still get to keep almost half of it – the proof of funds. Have you ever thought about how much all of it cost? 

Nope. We made sure not to. Because it’ll drive us crazy. 

Oopsy, sorry to ruin it for you. 

Hahaha, it’s okay. 

In truth, it looks like the actual fees and processing costs a little less than 2 million when you take out your proof of funds.

Yes. That’s true. Not bad at all. You calm down better when you take everything step by step and keep your eye on the price. You never know where help could spring up from.

This is a formality, but on a scale of 1-10, what’s your happiness –

– 12. I can basically dream without fear of my dreams not coming to fruition because the system/environment is against me. 

I can literally change my career and there’s already help in place to help me take the new leap. No fear. No hassles. 


Fu'ad Lawal

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