Traveling outside the country is not something that most people in Asia would do. But with the growth of middle class, the interest in permanently relocating to developed countries have increased significantly. While some may argue that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” is not always applied in countries like Canada. But if you are not willing to be flexible in your new adopted country, you will find it difficult to live. In 2012, majority of immigrants to Canada identified their motherland as Asia (including South Asia).
Asians have a rich heritage. On top of that South Asians are very proud of their culture and history. In most communities we use the names to identify our cultural background. This is why you would come across South Asians with long names. These names are not random. They have a structure. I found this can be an inconvenient in the Western society.
The South Asian Buddhist culture have the following name convention. HISTORICAL_FAMILY_NAME YOUR_NAME_1 YOUR_NAME_2… SURNAME. The first name has historical significant and has nothing to do with identifying a person. For example, my dad, my brother and I all have the exact same first name. The last name, also known as surname is also common to family members. Therefore in my Buddhist culture it is a combination of middle name and the first or middle name and the last is the identifiable unique name of a person.
Now let’s look at Canadian legal documents and general conventions. Official legal documents in Canada will provide you with enough space to include the entire name. But the subsequent correspondence will only include your first and last name. This is a major problem because three of us in my household have the exact same first and the last names (HISTORICAL_FAMILY_NAME SURNAME). If someone send us a letter addressed to one of us, it can be confusing. This is what exactly happens when we get letters in the mail. To solve it, I decided to switch my middle and the first names around. But since I did not change it before we came to Canada, I had to go through the process of requesting the name change from the government. I highly recommend officially changing your name before entering an another country to avoid extra paperwork. Having three names or even more is OK, as long as the first name is your unique identifiable name. I recommend the following format; YOUR_NAME_1 YOUR_NAME_2… HISTORICAL_FAMILY_NAME SURNAME, which will translate into YOUR_NAME_1 SURNAME in most official documents.
Your Documents and Drugs 🙂
All documents from your native country either must be in English or the official language of the country you are immigrating. These documents must be translated by a respected and approved translator. In other words, the validity of these documents depends on the authorized translator’s accreditation and therefore go to the embassy and request for a list of translators. Do not discard the original documents. The translated documents must always be accompanied by the original for future comparison.
If you are bringing in controlled materials such as pharmaceutical drugs, do not remove the materials from their original containers. Such containers also must be in one of the official languages. It is better if you can bring them with the manufactures sealed caps(eg. without opening bottles).
While in Asia it is a common practice to include dependents (children) in parent’s passports, please get individual passports even for the children. Countries like Canada and US will specifically inform you to have separate passports. But even if it is not specifically told, I recommend obtaining individual travel documents to avoid any unforeseeable issues.
Photocopy all your travel documents including the air ticket and leave that copy with a relative. This is for in case of an emergency and / or loss of the documents.
Regardless of if you are going to be a Permanent Resident(PR) or not, write down the information on embassy of your birth country.
Do not hesitate to ask questions… lots of questions from border security personals when you arrived at your destination.