Sunday, June 24, 2012

Getting the car back to the United States from Canada

a.k.a., realizing that no one importing/exporting cars from the U.S. to Canada and v/v knows what the hell they are doing.

You may have remembered me writing some helpful posts about bringing my car to Canada and what documents that entails, and also finishing off the whole long process.  I paid my overpriced insurance and my overpriced registration, but that was ok, and I just dealt with it.

And then it was time to bring the car back to the United States.  And literally, the guards at the border in Detroit thought I stole my own car because I was an American citizen moving back to the United States, and I had Ontario plates.

Jean-Luc, you're so applicable.
Really.  I got hit with "failure to import a vehicle," after I showed them my title, which is still Pennsylvania-based (remember how they stamped "REGISTERED IN ONTARIO" to my title and then gave it back to me because I was only taking it temporarily to Canada?).  They did not like that at all, even after I explained the situation.  Sir, I have a Ph.D.  Sir, this car is 12 years old.  Sir, my family and I have owned this car since it was first driven off the lot in 1999.

"Well where is it originally from?"


Oh my goodness, it's like people don't understand that some people have moved states at least once in their lifetime.

After demanding to see the title, the registration, my passport, and my Pennsylvania plate (which was on the moving truck and not with me), they asked how much cash I was carrying on me and directed me to go inside their little hut.  I wasn't allowed to take anything.  I was to leave my keys on the dashboard and take only my wallet inside.  Windows were to be completely rolled down.  As I went inside, I saw 2 guards converging on my car.  I thought that was it.  I was going to come back to all my stuff stolen.

Inside the importation office, I explained the situation to the guard who eventually laughed it off, told me I had done nothing wrong, but to get a Michigan title, plates, and insurance, which I was of course going to do anyway, as that's what you do when you move states.  I got out of there really fast before they changed their minds.  

The thing is, I still don't even know what it was the border guy wanted me to do, especially since I had a bunch of wordly goods with me in the car and was obviously moving.  How can you have a license plate already for the country in which you're not yet a resident?

Fast forward to the Michigan Secretary of State office, where you get everything changed over.  This place is... an interesting place to people-watch.

I brought everything.  Michigan no-fault insurance.  My passport.  Both work visas.  My lease.  2 bills. My title.  My registration.  Everything was ok, until she looked at that problematic title.

"You need an import form for this car."

Even though it was never exported from the United States?  "Yes.  It's registered in Ontario."

But it's titled in Pennsylvania.  You're telling me I have to drive to Detroit, hop the border, then hop the border BACK again, pick up the import form, and pay $10 in bridge fees?  "Well.... we MIGHT be able to look at your border crossing record.  Take a number."

The lady who helped me next blinked not a single eye at the Ontario registration, but ran through the transfer of license, registration, title and plates efficiently with no questions.  So now I'm 100% Michigan, and the only remnants I have of Ontario are the plates, which are now hanging up on my wall along with the GA and PA ones.

A common thing I've done every time I've had to do something with international nonsense and the car: If they give you what you want, get out of there before they realize they've messed up, if they have.  Just goes to show you how little faith I have in people who do vehicle imports/exports between the U.S. and Canada.

The times, they are a-changin'.

So.  I know it's been 3 months (eek).  There is an important reason for my absence, however.  It was called The Job Search.

Postdocs don't last forever, and I was at a good stopping point with mine.  A major point of me doing a postdoc was to branch out from what I did from my Ph.D. and try some new techniques.  I felt I had the training I needed, so I set out on the job hunt.  In this economy, you probably know what this meant.

I applied for 36 jobs and kept track of them with an Excel spreadsheet.  That meant 36 tailored resumes/CVs and cover letters.  From the start of the job application process to the start of my new position was almost 3 months, and I consider that pretty fast.  Most positions to which I applied, I did not hear anything back.  About 7-10 gave me rejections.  Luckily, I got 2 of them and chose one to go with.  So where am I now?

Well, gentle reader, I am actually now in Michigan.  I am an American scientist in the United States, and this hardly makes for an interesting blog title.  So after a couple more advice posts, I'm going to put this blog to bed.  It has served its purpose well, but now its purpose is done.  I hope you have enjoyed reading and have gained some insight (if you are in the U.S.) into our neighbo(u)rs to the north!