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Seven years in waiting: Canadian immigrants hoping to reunite with relatives sooner

It has been three years since Raj Man Dangol and his family have seen his aging parents. In 2006, Raj made his way to Canada from the USA. At the time when he decided to immigrate to Canada he had no idea that it could take as long as seven years for his parents to join him in Canada.

Originally from Nepal, Raj sought the opportunity to study business in the U.S. Living and studying with a visa permit for 10 years, he thought it would take too long for his immigration papers to be processed to stay in America. He knew that Canada could process an immigration application much faster than the US and saw Canada as a great place to live. His wife and two children made the journey to Surrey, where he now works at Canada Post as a supervisor. The only piece missing in his life now are his parents.

“I check the internet every week to see if there is an update on my parent’s family sponsorship application”, he said. “I miss my parents and I know they need me as they age."

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) permits Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada, to sponsor their parents or grandparents to become permanent residents. The processing time can vary depending on which country the person files their application from. In some cases, the entire application processing time can be as long as seven years.

On November 5, 2011, the Canadian government announced no new applications to sponsor parents or grandparents would be accepted for processing for up to 24 months. The Canadian Government has stated that the temporary pause will allow them to focus on those applicants already awaiting a decision and reduce the backlog in the parents and grandparents category.

Raj and his family rely on weekly Skype visits with his parents to keep their family together. In the meantime, bringing his wife and children to visit with his parents in Nepal is too costly.  “It could cost us around $8,000 to fly the whole family to Nepal, which is just not realistic for us,” he said.

Raj carries a great sense of loss from the time he was away from Nepal and his mother died of a heart attack. Now he hopes that one day he will be able to bring his father and step mother to live with him in Surrey.

In the summer of 2011, Raj and his wife had hoped his mother-in-law would be able to spend the summer with their children. The mother in law’s first visitor visa was denied by Citizenship and Immigration Canada based on her lack of travel history. Shortly after the first application, they applied a second time with the same results. Frustrated, Raj approached his local MP Nina Grewal office and spoke with MP Grewal’s secretary. He had hoped he would be able to get the change needed to bring his mother-in-law to Canada. After explaining his situation, he said he felt discouraged: the office told him nothing that he hadn't already known before. 

“I have several friends in Surrey and they also have waited several years to bring their parents to Canada, we talk about this a lot when we get together and how sad it is to be separated from our parents,” said Raj.

The government's response is that it has already been doing enough to meet the demand of family reunification.

“Since 2006, Canada has welcomed on average 254,000 permanent residents each year," Citizenship and Immigration Canada media relations advisor Bill Brown, Media Relations Advisor. "That’s an increase of 14 percent over the previous average and, in fact, last year we admitted 280,000 permanent residents – the highest number in six decades. Part of that generosity extends to parents and grandparents.”

Over the course of the past several years, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has been receiving almost 40,000 applications per year for the parents and grandparents program. But over the last two decades, CIC has, on average, admitted 17,000 people in that program. Citizenship and Immigration Canada receives twice as many applications as admissions.

The government is also introducing the new “Parent and Grandparent Super Visa,” which will be valid for up to 10 years. The multiple entry visa will allow an applicant to remain in Canada for up to 24 months at a time without the need for renewal of their status. The Parent and Grandparent Super Visa will come into effect on December 1, 2011, and CIC will be able to issue the visas, on average, within eight weeks of the application. This means that instead of waiting for almost eight years, a parent or a grandparent can come to Canada within eight weeks. 

Wary since past experiences, Raj still holds off from being too hopeful about the new Super Visa.

“The people whose application has gone through the system will be granted a Super Visa. I hope this is true,” Raj said.

“However, my in-laws will still have to wait two more years for us to even apply. With all the parents and grandparents pouring here to Canada on the super visa, will new applicants ever get the chance to visit their family in Canada, I have a doubt."

Faced with parents in their late 60’s who live halfway around the world, together with a substantial wait time for their immigration application to be processed.

Raj still clings to hope and feels very fortunate to be living in Canada, but longs to be able to share that life with his entire family.


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