Days to departure for São Paulo: 1
Days to departure for Vancouver: 4
Visa status: mum's the word
Packing status: 98%
Mind you, 2 of those 4 "days to departure for Vancouver" are the weekend when the Consulate isn't open, and Friday is a half day, so if there were ever an example of down to the wire, this is it...
I'm really surprised that they would make visa decisions so late like this... I was wondering whether they just didn't know about when classes start, but I'm 9o% sure that I put September 1 (the day before orientation) on my application forms, although UBC puts September 7th (the day classes start) in the acceptance letter. Even with a September 7th start date, however, two weeks seems like pretty last minute notice for a two-year international relocation, especially since they've had our basic application since June 2nd and our additional documents since August 3rd...
I checked in with Air Canada this morning about changing our tickets. If we had to change our flights to next week, we'd lose more than $1000 (no fees, but it's the difference in ticket prices) -- and that would be for a flight next Tuesday (which doesn't give the Consulate any more time, but effectively makes me miss orientation) or next Sunday (which arrives in Vancouver the day before classes start, which would be pretty nuts); flights are sold out during the rest of the week.
I also made the mistake of being almost totally packed already, so I have very little to concentrate on. The one good thing to look forward to is our São Paulo hosts and friends, and I am very much trying to think about that.
Update: this morning was hard, and it didn't help that Leo's mood matched my own. The entire fiasco culminated in an early-afternoon meltdown on my part, after which Leo was the much bigger man and sat me down, saying:
"I know you want to keep fighting," (I did.) "but today is going to be hard enough without us making it harder, so I'm sorry for not handling the situation well earlier. Let's make peace and get this work done." Since then, he's been a model husband: cleaning, taking out trash, packing up our sold items, etc..
Meanwhile, I've completed our packing aside from the shampoo and whatnot that won't go in until 4 am tomorrow (we've got an early flight). As we worked, though, I kept an eye on my email inbox -- nothing from the Consulate.
One reason why I've been hesitant to really push my case with the Consulate is because I don't want to start off my time in Canada reenforcing American stereotypes of "now," "I want," "I deserve," and "gimme." There was a time that I chafed at presenting myself as a modified, moderated American, but nowadays I figure that if dealing with the US is making me -- an American -- gag, imagine how everyone else feels.
It's close enough to our deadline though that I thought "to hell with it," and at 3pm, I started calling.
At around 3:45 I got through. I've usually spoken in English with the official who answers the phone even though she is Brazilian (by the accent) and picks up in Portuguese. As good as my Portuguese is, I'm still more organized, eloquent, and polite in English, so I figured that I'd be at less of a deficit that way. Today I tried Portuguese because it dawned on me that an American starting off the conversation with "do you speak English?" is not that endearing at all.
And what do you know? I got considerably more attention from her and some new information. No, they've made no decision. No, they can't make any promises. And yes, I still look very likely to miss my flight, BUT:
"You're welcome to come in with a letter or send an email to the visa officer explaining your circumstances," she said, giving me the email address.
Hot dog! Who knows if it will work, seeing as how the visa officer probably knows quite well when school starts in Canada (I can't be the only person in Brazil going to study there, which begs the question: is everyone else missing their first week, or am I just a unique snowflake?!).
Still, it was just the glimmer of light I needed. I banged out the following email (which will also be delivered personally tomorrow in the form of a letter):
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to ask for expeditious consideration of my student visa application (Corin... #...) and open-ended work permit for my husband (Leo... #...) to accompany me to Canada for the duration of my Master’s studies at the University of British Columbia.
I understand and respect that the Consulate’s Visa Section has established procedures for deciding visas; however, my first school-related activities begin next week, the week of August 30th. For that reason, we also purchased tickets for a flight this Sunday, August 29th. I am worried about getting a visa in time for these events and meetings as well as our flight.
I respectfully ask therefore that all possible discretion and urgency be exercised in our favor, and I apologize for any inconvenience that this might cause.
Thank you very much for your time and attention.
Will it work? Will anything work at this point? We'll see...