Especially when dealing with the Federal Government.
Two weeks ago, I mentioned that our application for Canadian citizenship had finally been processed. After twenty months of waiting, we had a letter asking us to come and take our citizenship test.
Now, I'm not complaining about the waiting. We know they have a vast backlog, they post the expected waiting time on the website, and we've been here before. It took eighteen months to process our immigration application in the first place. We are used to the long waits.
The test was last week, and was a slightly surreal experience.
We arrived a bit early, and grabbed a drink while we lined up and waited to be let into the examination room. There were about thirty of us altogether taking the test. Only people taking the test are allowed into the room.
The officials were very strict about people sitting in the chairs with the clipboards, and carefully moved anyone who inadvertently sat in one of the many free seats. I guess the idea was to ensure people were spread out through the room with a reasonable distance between them.
The test itself was twenty multiple choice questions. You need fifteen or more correct to pass. It was a pencil-and-paper exercise. Haven't seen anything like that since school.
We were allowed half an hour for the test. Most people finished much quicker. I think it only took me a couple of minutes to rattle through, then I went back at least twice more to see if I could improve on my "educated guesses" to some of the questions.
A tip for anyone taking the test: Read the book they send you very carefully. Even what seems like a throwaway snippet buried in a paragraph somewhere might be the subject of a question. You don't necessarily need to learn it off by heart, but if you've read the words a few times, your memory should be jogged when you read the question choices. It is also worth trying practice questions on one of the many websites available. They helped us tune in to the gist of what they were looking for.
We also discovered that not everyone in the room was taking the same test. Ali had a whole different set of questions to me. I think they have several different sets to hand out, so you can't cheat by seeing which answers your neighbor has circled.
Then, more waiting. People got called up to the front of the room to be quizzed by one of the officials. We had about an hour wait before our turn.
Where you have a joint application, like we had, you got called together. They went through every little detail that might get questioned by the immigration judge. For example, all our passports other then mine had expired, and we got grilled on why we hadn't renewed them. It costs way more to get British passports renewed in Canada than in Britain, we've had no need to travel, we were holding on until we became citizens and could get Canadian passports ... the official scribbled down everything we said.
While there, we learned that the Victoria immigration office is about to close down - funding cuts. The officials testing us only learned a few days ago, so they were struggling a bit.
This means we don't know where, let alone when, we'll be called to the citizenship ceremony.
Assuming we pass.
This is the bit we're struggling with now.
We'd been looking forward to an end to the uncertainty, and speculated on what would happen if we didn't pass. But they don't mark the exam there and then. We think we've done OK, but we just don't know.
The one thing we weren't prepared for was not knowing.
All we can do is wait. We'll either get a letter inviting us to a ceremony, or asking us to meet with a citizenship judge. Even that may not mean we failed, it might just mean that they have more questions about our application.
So, we wait.