Canadian Bureaucracy Part 2 – About SINning for credit and first ride with SkyTrain

In the previous part I discussed the immigration procedure at YVR. Now as I successfully became resident of Canada, time to get all other necessary formalities done. In order to proceed, I started with SINning.

SIN stands for Social Insurance Number and is a 9-digit number, something similar to Social Security Number in the United States. Similar to the U.S., it used to be issued on plastic cards, but Canada moved on and no longer does it this way as they do not want SIN card to be used as a form of (non-photo) ID. SIN should be produced only to the employer, federal offices and banks, as far as I understood during my visit to Service Canada.

To get SIN, I had to go to Service Canada. Canadian Federal Government provides easy way to check out where is your closest one. For me, it was one next to Coquitlam City Hall. I went there next day after my arrival, still fighting jet lag. My uncle gave me a lift (oh, if you don’t know, currently I’m staying at my relatives’ place in Coquitlam) and went inside with me, precisely at 8:30am when they opened. Very nice and cheerful lady at the reception asked how she can help me. I said I need SIN and directed me to counter 5.

Also nice gentleman took my passport and work permit and asked me whether I need SIN for myself, probably seeing I came to the office with my uncle. I responded him positively, and added “my uncle is already a citizen of Canada for 20 years”.

“Don’t worry, you’ll become one soon too!”, the official told me. I found his approach quite surprising.

He was verifying all the information, asking difficult questions (“What’s your date of birth?”), we also had a bit of small talk. He asked me about my plans for future and recommended me postgraduate in Canada instead of England. I told him it is a bit more expensive and got recommended studying in Quebec, which is free or very cheap and I do not even need to speak French (I told him I know zero French), as at Montreal universities they also use English.

So, I got another letter-sized piece of paper with my SIN and confirmation of address, as well as information leaflets on privacy protection and instructions regarding who can request SIN from me (mainly employers, banks, federal government institutions and credit rating agencies). I have also received a welcoming handshake.

When I was done, me and my uncle moved towards exit, when we were approached by the cheerful lady at the reception, asking me “So you got your SIN?”

“Yes, ma’am”, I responded.

“Congratulations!”, she said and gave me another handshake. She seemed so happy and cheerful that, I think, if she could, she would have hugged me.

Since, despite our discussion with the official who issued me SIN, it was still early, we had to wait a bit before second important thing could be arranged, that is a local phone number. We approached BestBuy once it opened as first customers on that day. I did my research on mobile providers in BC, but even though, I ended up with different one than I expected. BestBuy offers all providers and it is possible to easily compare the offers and pick the most suitable one.

Important to mention, unlimited worldwide texting is rather a standard for any mobile plan in Canada. Still didn’t get used to that…

To sign my contract, they needed to verify my credit rating and that meant I had to give consent to, ehm, Equifax to make a check on my credit score. This meant I had to give my SIN to Equifax. Remember, first get SIN, then your SIM card (opposite to alphabetical order). I was lucky to get a number that is easy to remember.

Since now I had access to cellular data and could check public transit, after getting a Compass card (public transit card for Metro Vancouver) at the nearest ticket machine, my uncle was no longer afraid to leave on my own. I returned home and started researching banks.

Conventional banks charge monthly fees here. I find that ridiculous, as why should I pay the bank to keep money with them and let them, in fact, invest them for their own profit. There are many online banks and FinTech banking start-ups in Canada, where there are no fees. Unfortunately, very few of them wants to open an account without Canada-issued photo ID, which I do not have yet. Gentleman at Service Canada told me to apply for B.C. Services Card, a form of photo ID, after three months of living in the province. The only bank I found that could open me an account using my passport and work permit is being restructured at the moment and was not accepting new customers until November.

I had to look deeper and found some banks give discounts to the new residents. I finally decided to open my account with a conventional bank, which gives first year free of charges for people who just arrived to Canada to work or became permanent residents.

I have found the nearest bank office and went there, this time alone, to open the account. I was received by Johnny, who turned out to be born in Vietnam. He brought me through the whole process of opening the account, gave me a debit card on the spot and together we cashed in some money I had, which Johnny used as an opportunity to show me how to use the Instant Teller machine and set up PIN for my new debit card. Honestly speaking, they are a bit outdated, compared to Europe, which he admitted and said the new, more modern one, will arrive soon.

In Canada, it is also very important to build your credit score, if you want to e.g. to rent an apartment. For this reason, one needs a credit card. In opposition to Europe, it is very easy to get credit here. Johnny offered me $500 limit just like that, but to issue me a credit card, he needed, well… Canada-issued photo ID.

Fortunately, he has given me a better hint than gentleman from Service Canada. Apparently it is possible to get one within a month, instead of three, for $35. He told me to pay a visit at ICBC, a crown company of British Columbia insuring cars and issuing driving licenses in the province, and request B.C. identification card.

Since it was already too late, I went there next day. The closest ICBC office was in Metrotown, where I had to get with SkyTrain, entirely autonomous (yes, completely unmanned) metropolitan rail of Metro Vancouver, or, as called by my friend Deby, “very very slow rollercoaster”.

SkyTrain, or world’s biggest and slowest rollercoaster. Source: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/skytrain-commuters-face-delays-due-to-mechanical-issue [last access: 17 September 2017]

The office was in huge mall called Metropolis. I have never been in so big shopping centre before. I managed to get lost few times, admired how many shops and institutions have been brought in a single place, and paid a visit to ICBC. With my passport and work permit, I was able to apply for the photo ID against the mentioned fee. I did not even need a picture – they were taking pictures at the place.

Using the occasion, I have asked about exchanging my driving licence to local one (I have to do that within six months, if I want to drive) and was given a free preparation book for the exam (I need to take the theory and driving exam again).

That’s enough bureaucracy for now. The only thing left is to wait for the BCID (arrives within 30 days) and apply for the credit card with it. Then I can fully enjoy life in Canada.

On working with technologies and paradigms

In my “Hello” post, I declared this is going to be an IT blog. I think it is high time to write something about IT then.

Most people, once they hear about IT-people, they often perceive all of them as coders, hackers and BestBuy’s Geek Squad employees at once. This is very hurtful, once you realise your friend who works as a programmer might be unable to fix your laptop and another who is able to break into your smartphone is not able to help you with your blog. Understanding of this issue is even more important these days, when global demand for IT professionals largely exceeds their supply. In case of the Netherlands, each junior or mid-career on the labour market has 12 job openings to choose from!

Labour market for junior and mid-career IT professionals in the Netherlands.

Since my goal for now is to become a programmer, in this post I will explain what this one is about.

These days, coding bootcamps are popping up one after another, charging money or not for preparing you for your dream job of a programmer. They either require you to attend classes and workshops offline, or conduct their operations entirely online.

The companies behind bootcamps promote the idea coding is for everyone, regardless of social background and education. Furthermore, they claim everyone should know how to code and that everyone, sooner or later, will. Promoting coding as the crucial skill for every decent job position in the near future, they attract future participants, who do not want to lag behind their colleagues.

Very often, it is assumed that the knowledge of programming languages is enough to be a programmer. In this article, I will explain why this is not the case, thus what programming is actually about. Personally, I find it annoying when people I told I am programming ask “Which languages you code in?”.

In my previous job, I have not sticked to a single programming language. Furthermore, I have not known them before starting this job! So how did I get it? During the interview at Yorizon, my future (at that time) boss asked me whether I know JavaScript and jQuery. I responded I do not. He followed up “From your CV I see you have experience with C++ and Java. Can I assume it should not be a problem for you to learn JavaScript and jQuery then?”. “Of course, sir” was my response.

Why did I respond like this, if I have never dealt with JavaScript and jQuery, never did anything about developing web apps other than installing and configuring WordPress? To understand this, let us forget about programming for now.

Welcome to planet Earth, where every human being is using a language on everyday basis. Each of you reading this article knows English, and probably many know some other languages as well. Furthermore, if English is not your first language, you are more fluent in some other language than English. Multilingual people can tell you certain languages are easier to learn than others. They also know that ease of learning a certain language depends on the already known languages.

In Europe, where multiple languages are used within small area, and often within the same country, such relations between languages are commonly known. Most Europeans are aware it is easier for German-speaker to learn Dutch and Swedish than Polish, for Polish-speaker to learn Russian and Serbian than English, while Romanians and Moldovans are eager to emigrate to Italy, since Italian is closely related to their mother tongue. For this reason, linguists split languages spoken around the world into language groups. Each language group shares similar assumptions and patters, which we can call, for the purpose of this article, paradigms.

Language tree is a good way to compare how languages relate with each other. Source: sssscomic.com [last access: 17 September 2017]

Because of differences between paradigms, multilingual people admit certain thoughts are easier to express in one language rather than another. I have observed this myself during my stay in Malta this year.

Malta has two official languages: English and Maltese. Very little related to each other. Local population is fluent in both. I was taking pictures in the park just outside Valletta’s old town, where two local teenage girls were sitting on a bench having a talk. Every few minutes they kept switching between English and Maltese. They were so fluent in both languages that these switches happened without notice. Conversation I was able to overhear became not understandable for me within a second, to become understandable again after a minute or two. Paradigms come from cultural differences between the nations using certain language. This should not be surprising that issues not common among the nations using one language are easier to be explained in another, if more advanced social development of the nations using that another language resulted developing issue-specific vocabulary.

Computer scientists are aware of paradigms too. They apply them when describing programming languages. Some computer scientists also draw trees. Unfortunately, they do not look as pretty as those from linguists.

Language tree for programmers. Source: http://www.aistudy.com/program/images/programming_language_family_tree.gif [last access:
17 September 2017]

This brings us to the conclusion that the programmer needs not to know the languages themselves (even though, it is a useful skill to certain extent). To become a programmer you need to be a quick-learner and be able to find which technology will be the most optimal for desired solution. Given how dynamic technology is evolving, including programming languages, people who know certain technologies now but do not follow their evolution are not able to succeed in the long run. This means:

quick learning + understanding technology > knowing technology

I hope this post gave you a picture why not all IT professionals are the same, what actually is expected from the programmer and contributed to the global peace by increasing the mutual understanding between technical and non-technical individuals.

Canadian Bureaucracy Part 1 – Landing at YVR

There are many immigration stories on the web, but there is not much I could find on what happens after landing on Canadian soil, what precisely you need, how long does it take etc. I hope this post will help all the people who consider participation in International Experience Canada programme. So, this post is not going to be about technology. Maybe I will make Sundays non-tech days? Who knows…

Last Tuesday I have arrived at YVR, after 15 hours in transit, with two-hour delay. According to IRCC website, on arrival I should say I have come to work to the border officer and present whole bunch of documents – originals of all the documents submitted in the online application, insurance and bank statements I have enough funds to sustain myself at the beginning and buy a return ticket, if I do not have one already (I did not) and a landing card. You have to fill a landing card out in the airplane, except for Vancouver, where you can easily get a prefilled one printed out from the kiosk, after arriving at the airport.

No one was able to explain me, even after sending an inquiry to IRCC, whether I need to print out a photo, which I uploaded to the online application. How the work permit would look? If it was some sort of an ID card, then photo could be useful.

I know all of it now and I will explain it to you.

I have prepared all the required documents, as well those that I was not sure whether they are required, like e.g. a photo. After arrival, I took out an envelope where I kept everything, my passport and then… realised I still have long way to go.

I had to climb the stairs up. Escalator was out of order and I did not feel like waiting for the lift. Then I had to walk all above the surprisingly empty departures. After that, stairs down brought me to arrivals. I have been carrying my backpack, carry-on suitcase, blanket from the airplane, my coat (it was too warm to wear it) and the envelope with documents, which I was focused on not losing… This added to my natural clumsiness brought me close to disaster.

After getting the landing card from the machine (btw, machine communicates in multiple languages, so no reasons to worry if you are not comfortable with any of the official languages, i.e. English and French), not sure what did they mean as liqour (like, how many alcohol content percentage?) I proceeded to the queue. I have lost grip on my carry on suitcase, which obviously fell on the floor and it took me a minute or two to get everything back in order. During this time, the queue was obviously blocked. I have said an f-word, to which a female officer somewhere responded “Move on people! You’re in the goddamn customs!”.

So after reaching the first desk, I have been moved to another queue, from which I have been asked to pick up my luggage from the carousel and… move on to the third queue at immigration. So I found a cart, picked up a luggage and proceeded to immigration, where I was asked to park my cart in a designated spot. It was hard time for me to fit in that spot, my bags almost fell out of the cart and the nice lady who was in charge of keeping an eye on the parked carts had scared eyes. It seemed she was wondering whether she should escape.

I have proceeded the room with another queue. Even though I am very far from being racist, I have to admit it felt somewhat uncomfortable to be the only white person in that queue. When my time came, I was asked to come to one of the counters. Behind it there was an immigration officer, which turned out to be really good looking lady.

Here I need to make a disclaimer that someone’s looks do not affect my business decisions and the previous comment serves only informative purposes.

I tried to smile, despite tiredness, and said politely “Good afternoon, ma’am!”. I have produced my passport, landing card and Port of Entry Invitation Letter (a print-out of a pdf you receive once IRCC accepts your permit application). I have been asked to sit down and wait, while the officer went somewhere out with my documents. She returned after few minutes with my passport and work permit printed. She asked to check whether the information on the permit are correct.

Work permit is nice looking, letter-sized (slightly wider than A4) piece of paper. Unfortunately it does not have a form of ID and no, it does not contain a picture. For some reason, she did not ask me for any other documents I was requested to prepare, but it does not mean you would not be asked too! I take no liability!

All details were correct but my mailing address. Since my application I have moved two times and informed IRCC on that. After pointing this out to the officer, she responded “It doesn’t matter. Now you’re resident of Canada anyway. Just be nice and that’s it.”.

I kept reading the permit and arrived at the following disclaimer:

Not valid for employment in businesses related to sex trade such as strip clubs, massage parlours or escort services.

Multiple hours of transit hit my brains, I guess, and I responded “I promise, I won’t work in sex trade.”. She gazed at me, together with her workmate, who just came to her counter, and, after few seconds, said “Well, we were actually wondering about that. It could be quite problematic for us if you did.”. For some reason I fired “No worries, I’m not really good at it.”. The officer and her workmate burst out laughing and kept doing so for few long minutes, getting attention from all other officers at their counters.

“Thank you for making my day”, she said and I was let to go. Both officers waved at me when I was leaving the room. I managed to safely pick up my cart with luggage, left the baggage hall (on exit, I needed to return stamped landing card).

I hope this helped you understand what is going on when you land in Canada to start your IEC adventure! In the next post on bureaucracy, getting necessities to start enjoying your life in Canada, i.e. sinful SIN, SIM card, bank account and local ID. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Medium to be up to date!

Hello World! Hello Vancouver!

Four days ago I have arrived at Vancouver International. Being issued one-year work permit, my adventure with International Experience Canada programme officially started that day.

Now, I will be looking around for jobs. Difference between this blog and plenty of others I have seen about IEC is that it is not going to be focused on travelling around Canada, but rather getting IT job and professional IT experience in this country. It is going to be even more interesting, as programming has been my years-long passion, but I do not have any actual academic credentials in this field. I have earned my undergraduate in Economics and Business Economics and I have one year experience in technical support at Yorizon, where I have also done a lot of front-end development.

The blog will be mainly technical, but not purely technical. Of course I will share with you all interesting things about Canada and my Canadian experience, cats, as well as important things about IEC permit and getting settled here. My long-term plan is to continue it also after my period is over, just as an IT blog. So even if you are a non-tech person, and not even interested in life in Canada…

…follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Medium! And wish me lots of luck!