How long does this take, anyway? It feels like it’s been an eon since I started my process. Here’s the breakdown:
First attempt to acquire grandparents’ birth certificates from Italy. Sent letter by mail, failed.
Got distracted and forgot about it.
Poked around public records and found marriage and death records
Second attempt to acquire birth certificates. Sent email.
Went to Toronto consulate for first time to ask questions. They confirmed requirements.
Received birth certificates from Italy
Made appointment online to go to Toronto consulate (10 month wait at the time; got way longer, well over 1 year now)
Requested grandmother’s immigration record from Canadian government
Received original passports & misc. official docs from uncle in Montreal
Got passports & docs certified at Montreal consulate
on the spot
Received grandmother’s immigration; had error, government corrected it quickly
Requested & received apostilles for USA documents
Requested and received Quebec documents; initial failure & issues with typos
Requested and received translations of Quebec docs; went to Montreal for pickup
Got translations certified at Montreal consulate
on the spot
*March 16, 2016*
Appointment at Toronto consulate; 90% of paperwork submitted & fee paid
Sent USA documents to Chicago consulate
Received USA documents back
Brought USA documents to Toronto consulate; problem with marriage certificate
Requested new translation of marriage certificate
Received new translation
*Feb 1, 2017*
Submitted final paperwork. Application processing
May 11, 2017
Application processed – I am a citizen!!!
Here is a list of the errors I’ve had to fix throughout this process (some were my fault, and others weren’t):If we consider April 2015 the official start, then the process to complete my application took a total of 1 year and 9 months. If I had cut out all useless steps (*ahem* sending documents to Chicago) I would have had this done in 1 year and 4 months. And if I had done more in between setting my consulate appointment and actually going to it, I could have theoretically gotten everything done in 10 months – the time between booking & attending the appointment. But remember that no matter how fast you go, there will always be unanticipated errors that you have to work to fix. Especially in Canada.
Wrong dates on immigration record
Misspelled names & typos on certificates
Wrong format of birth certificate
Wrong copy of marriage certificate
…which I guess isn’t that bad, but all of these caused their own delays and headaches. Requesting corrections from the Quebec government was the worst.
Today was an important day — I officially submitted all of my paperwork. My application is being processed! I can’t wait to be officially recognized as a citizen 1 year from now!! (hopefully I didn’t just jinx it)
But wait, let’s back up. My last post was about getting my stamped documents back from Chicago. I believe this was a completely unnecessary, totally time-wasting step. But it’s okay!
I went back to the consulate with these papers, and they told me two things:
“You didn’t need these stamps…why did you get them?” (because you insisted last time….)*
“Your marriage certificate doesn’t match the translation.”
Yeah…..OOPS. I had an official marriage certificate with apostille. But the copy I gave to my translator was a “souvenir copy.” It was what I had in my lockbox, and I never once thought that it was different from an official copy. (Why did the state even give me this useless document?) They look nearly the same, but the official copy has signatures and a lot more boilerplate text.
I had the correct version translated and brought that to the consulate today. And that was it. Yay!
*take home message: if something sounds out of whack, it probably is….don’t trust them! Just go back another day and speak to a different person.
Today I finally got my self-addressed fat envelope back from Chicago!! It took 5 months to get the final stamps of approval on my marriage licence and certificate. That’s a long time, but I’m happy it’s done! (I thought for sure my documents were goners by now, and was about to replace them…)
Now, back to the Toronto consulate to get this citizenship ball rolling!
I just wanted to add a few more notes about this process. For the translations, I ended up contacting two translators – one in Toronto for English documents, and one in Montreal for French documents. The English translations (and originals) are being sent to Chicago, as I described in my previous post. The French translations (and originals) were brought to the Montreal consulate for legalization/certification.
Here’s a cost breakdown:
English translations: Marriage licence & marriage certificate – $125
(these were only 1 page each, but filled with tons of boilerplate fine print)
French translations: 2 birth certs, 2 marriage certs, 1 death cert – $95
(these were 1 page each, most fields empty)
Legalization* @ Montreal: ~$230
*legalization of original documents and certification of translations
Certification of translations @ Chicago: $32 USD (plus many stamps)
In terms of process, the English translations were easy. I just had to travel a few neighbourhoods to go pick them up. For the Montreal documents, I had to coordinate carefully. In the end, it worked out very well – I arrived by train on a Thursday, picked up the translations, and then on Friday morning headed to the consulate. The certification process took about 30 minutes total (including the wait). I worried about coordinating this final step for weeks, but it turned out to be incredibly easy and painless.
I went to my appointment (two weeks ago – March 16)!! It was fairly quick and easy. I showed up, sat down in the waiting area for about 2 minutes, and then submitted all my paperwork. The consulate started a file for me, and I paid the application fee (300 Euros, which amounted to $437.50 CAD).
My application is not complete yet, because I was told that I needed to do one final thing: submit my US documents to the consulate in Chicago for legalization. When the documents come back, I can stop in at the Toronto consulate anytime to add them to my file; at this point my file will begin processing. The staff member who assisted me estimated that the process will take 8-12 months.
For the final legalization, I will need to send my two US marriage documents (licence & certificate), along with their apostilles and translations, to Chicago. I’ll be honest – I don’t understand why this step is necessary. The original documents bear the county’s stamp. They both have apostille, an international legalization. And the translations were done by a certified Ontario translator, right off the Toronto consulate’s list of recommended translators. If they wanted to know that the translation (from English to Italian) was legit, they could look at it themselves and quickly verify it. I don’t understand bureaucracy, but at this point I will just do what I’m told.
Now to highlight the good news: I showed up with an almost (but not quite) complete application package. They accepted it. Processing won’t begin until it’s 100% complete, but I was not turned away, and I will not have to make another appointment. I’ll take it! 🙂
So this is where it gets a bit tricky. Everything has been fairly straightforward so far; this is the part where I get to deal with three (3!) consulates’ sets of requirements. This is what happens when you move and have life events in multiple places. Don’t do it. :p
Almost all of the documents I have “belong” to the Montreal consulate. Two of my own documents “belong” to Chicago. What I mean by this is that these are the consulates in charge of certifying these particular documents (based on where the documents originated). In the case of the Chicago documents, I have apostilles so I can just bring these to Toronto (although Chicago still determines the requirements for these documents). In Canada there is no such thing as apostille, so instead the consulate takes care of legalizing the documents. However, you can’t legalize Quebec documents in Ontario (which means I am taking a little trip to Montreal).
The language the documents are written in complicates things a bit too. The Toronto consulate only accepts translations by Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) members (here is their official list). I chose a translator from the list who could do English->Italian as well as French->Italian. However, the Montreal consulate requires translation from someone on their own list (here). This means I will need to hire two translators.
The next step is certification of the translations by the consulates. Translations of the English documents will be certified at my Toronto appointment. Translations of the French documents need to be certified by the Montreal consulate first before they can be accepted at my appointment.
In sum, that’s two different processes going on:
legalization of the documents
certification of the accuracy of translations
sigh. Complicated! (But not hard…just a lot of coordination.)