The Job Ain’t Over…   1 comment


The job ain’t over until the paperwork is finished.

– Graffiti commonly seen above rest room toilet paper dispensers

Moving into Canada from outside the country requires preparation of reams of paperwork for presentation upon arrival at the border.  Getting started in Canada heralds a fresh batch.

British Columbia imposes a 30 day deadline for registration of all motor vehicles and 90 days to apply for a new drivers’ license – not too onerous for persons moving into the province from within Canada.  New arrivals from the U.S. must act extra fast.

Canadian vehicle safety requirements are strict.  Equipment considered optional in the U.S. (e.g. daytime running lights (DRL) and engine immobilizers) are mandatory in Canada.  Before owners can license a car less than 15 years old with the province, it must be enrolled in Canada’s RIV (Registrar of Imported Vehicles) program and inspected for safety and recall compliance.

Newer cars made for U.S. distribution after the effective date of Canadian equipment requirements are importable if – and only if – they can be retrofitted to meet the Canadian safety laws.  Expensive!

What if the car cannot be retrofitted or was made for distribution and sale somewhere other than in the U.S. or Canada?  It cannot be licensed in Canada.  Case closed.

Americans can blame Canada for those DRLs included on every car sold by GM since sometime in the 90s and the ever-increasing numbers of engine immobilizers (reducing the likelihood of car theft) offered since 2008.  Additional blame can be heaped for those dual miles and kilometers per hour indicators on speedometers.   Canada runs on metric.

Paul’s diligence three years earlier paid off handsomely.  He planned for the future aware we are gentle with vehicles and hang on to them longer than most Americans.  Whatever SUV we chose when replacing our old non-importable conversion van had to meet existing Canadian regulations.

Donovan, a 2008 Toyota 4Runner Limited, has nearly every optional tool in Toyota’s 4Runner woodshed.  Only a couple of creature comforts are missing, namely the ceiling-mounted DVD player and optional jump seat in the bed.

RIV requires owners to comply with all recalls issued on their vehicles before import.  Initially this was a hinderance.  Toyota announced a recall on 4Runner floor mats only a month before our move; replacements were not yet ready for dealer installation.  Soon we learned it applied only to standard-issue floor mats.  Our upgraded all-weather rubber mats went unaffected.

Owners must research the vehicle’s branding history if it sustained serious enough accident or flood damage to write-off.  This requirement didn’t pertain to us; our only accident from a rear-end collision – requiring repair to Donovan’s trunk and back bumper – was not enough to warrant a write-off.

Kicking off the process requires presenting the exportation paperwork filed by U.S. Customs and importation paperwork received from the Canada Border Services Agency at the border in person at the RIV office along with a recall clearance letter from the vehicle’s manufacturer, its bill of sale and title.

That meant a return trip to the Pacific Highway Crossing in Surrey to pay the fee and acquire the papers needed for the next stage – RIV’s mandatory vehicle inspection, conducted by appointment at any Canadian Tire store, (which despite its misleading name, sells much more than tires).  “Cajun Tire,” (as Paul and I like to call it), is like Sears on a budget, sans large appliances.

Donovan passed with flying colors.

Ditto the process for Leo, Paul’s Honda Reflex maxi-scooter.

Finally, we could get our BC license plates.  The province’s policy of confiscating existing license plates was a bummer.  They took away our colorful Minnesota “Critical Habitat” plates with their colorful Northwoods lake and common loon theme away, swapping them out with standard-issue plates.  Had we arrived before the end of 2010, we could have opted for the 2010 Winter Olympics design.

Moving also required immediately establishing a new auto insurance policy to replace our existing policy, set soon to expire.  Getting car insurance in BC is like buying a Model T during the earliest days of the Ford assembly line.  Henry Ford famously said you could buy a Model T in any color you wanted, as long as it was black.

Newcomers to BC can sign up with any auto insurance company as long as it is ICBC – the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.  Policies are sold through BCAA (British Columbia Auto Association) or Autoplan offices.

BC’s auto insurance plans spin heads of Americans accustomed to getting their entire policy under one roof.  Signing up for comprehensive accident coverage with ICBC is mandatory.  Private competitors offer collision and other optional coverages.  Tandem coverage is common.  Buyers can choose collision coverage through ICBC too.  Not going that route saved us $160 per year.

Severing ties with State Farm was painful.  Throughout my entire adult life, they were my insurer of choice.  They served Paul and I well, but do not operate in BC.

Getting a BC drivers license is especially crazy.  Regardless of where an applicant has lived outside the province, he/she must satisfy strict requirements to obtain a full-privilege license under provincial law.

Translated, applicants must prove they held a full-privilege license in another jurisdiction for at least 2 years before moving to BC.  Failure to do so relegates one to the province’s graduated licensing program.

You do not want this.  British Columbia brands you as a newbie by issuing a 2-year provisional license.  They slap a big “N” magnet on the back of your car or motorcycle warning the driver behind you of your lack of experience.  Everyone sharing your road laughs at and avoids you.  I know this; we do it all the time.  Cars bearing “L” (learner) magnets earn an especially wide berth.

If stopped by police while tagged with the ‘N’, drivers can count on being breathalyzed.  Any trace of alcohol results in immediate revocation of the provisional license.

Chatting on cell phones while driving is not allowed.  Bluetooth and other hands-free devices are useless – they’re banned.  Only one unrelated person can ride in the car at a time.

New drivers become eligible for a full-privilege license after driving without mishap for two years, but only after passing a second road test.

For most drivers, even American ones, proving driving experience is easy.  However, those from Minnesota, Wisconsin and a dozen other states have to provide a written letter from their state motor vehicle department verifying the number of years licensed and type of license held.

ICBC warns license applicants from those 14 states to obtain a Letter of Driving Experience before leaving for Canada.  Not all states allow drivers to request this information by mail.  Thankfully, Minnesota is not one of them.

Paul’s Letter of Driving Experience arrived in the mail about three weeks later.  Mine, requested in the same letter sent to Minnesota’s Department of Motor Vehicles), took weeks longer.

Just after Paul’s letter landed in our mailbox, Canada Post locked out its unionized carriers in a labor dispute, leaving my letter somewhere in the bottom of a sorting bin.  It arrived over two weeks after the strike’s end.

The final immediate paperwork matter concerned Canada Customs.  Before delivery of our belongings still on the North American Van Lines truck, everything on board must be declared as required to Customs.  We presented the Bill of Lading, other specific lists of items on NAVL’s truck, Leo’s title and U.S. Customs/RIV papers, passports and other required identification to a bonded warehouse in Burnaby, an eastern suburb of Vancouver.

Importing personal items requires owners/importers to meet the moving truck and its driver at the warehouse.  Principals must participate; agents cannot be hired as stand-ins.  During the interim between NAVL’s departure from Minnesota and our arrival in Canada, we kept in constant touch with our driver, Kevin Atkins, by email and phone as he continued his route to Denver, north to the border crossing at Sweetgrass, Montana and into Calgary before heading west to Vancouver.

Hiring NAVL paid handsome dividends.  We were fortunate to have Kevin and Rick, who probably delivered American households to Canada too numerous to count as our driver and load manager.  Customs can pull any box(es) they want for random inspection.  Honestly, we don’t know if they checked anything.  Inspections happen in the truck, where owners are not allowed.

Customs counts the number of items and boxes within a load and compares it against the itemized bill of lading copies supplied by the driver and importers/owners.  Discrepancies sets off a red flag.

Temporarily, our load got the red-flag.  One box went missing.  NAVL’s inventory system requires load managers to affix a sequentially numbered sticker on every item during loading.  Rick (the load manager) and Kevin ran out of green stickers and switched to blue ones using a different sequence.  Kevin forgot to scratch a non-existent green number off the bill of lading.  A quick recount and comparison of numbered items against the itemized list confirmed the error.

After answering questions about our computers, TVs, stereos and other large electronic items, we were free to go.

Elapsed time:  one hour.

Another hour later, Kevin and crew met us at the house in Langley.

My labeling system for delivery paid off handsomely too.  A delivery code system marked every box bearing my labels.  Boxes designated  “LR” went into the family room, “BR-1” into the master bedroom, “BR-2” (our computers and desk stuff) into the living room, and “K” into the kitchen.  “BA-1 and BA-2” boxes (bathroom items) went into bedrooms too.  All we had to do was direct furniture traffic, stay out of the crew’s way and start unpacking.  Kevin, Rick and crew loved it.  Move-in was easy; they knew exactly where to drop everything.  Boxes arrived in the kitchen faster than I could unpack them to create room for more.

Rick profusely thanked us.

Within four hours, the truck was empty.

As Kevin prepared to go, I told him Paul and I needed to discuss something important with him.

“Is there a problem?” Kevin asked.

“No problem.  Everything is great, peachy and awesome.”  I replied.  “Thank you and to Rick and the crew for all your hard work and professionalism on short notice.  We want to give you guys a little something in appreciation and wish we could do more to show our gratitude.  You guys saved our bacon.  Have fun at The Keg tonight on us.”

On that note, I extended my hand, holding in it a large stack of U.S. $20 bills – $2,000 in all.

The Keg is an upscale Canadian steakhouse chain.  At roughly $30 – $40 CAD per plate, it is not cheap dining.   Two grand still buys an ample supply of prime aged Alberta beef for an awfully long time.

Yet the job was not over, the paperwork still not finished.

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One response to “The Job Ain’t Over…

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  1. you’ve an awesome blog here! would you like to make some invite posts on my weblog?

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