International permanent residency holders running out of time to come to Canada
From left to right: Chirag Rathod and his wife, Isaac Bello and his family and Fauzia Karim and her family (Submitted)
TORONTO -- Immigrants waiting to come to Canada have been speaking out about the COVID-19 travel restrictions denying them the chance to start their new lives.
Last March, the federal government updated their exemptions to the international travel restrictions, which included “permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 18, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada.”
- Read more: Heartbreak, confusion, frustration: Applications for permanent residency are stuck in pandemic limbo
Almost overnight, families and individuals around the world who had been approved for permanent residency (PR) in Canada after March 18, some of whom had been waiting years for their approvals, were no longer allowed to begin their new lives.
Applicants with a valid confirmation of permanent residency (COPR), but without immediate or extended family members in Canada are not included in the list of essential or exempted traveller lists.
In a statement emailed to CTVNews.ca the IRCC said that if an applicant has an expired COPR that was approved on or before March 18, 2020, the IRCC "would have contacted to them to see if they are ready to travel."
In cases where they are ready to travel, the IRCC "extends the validity of the COPR with an authorization letter. If the COPR was approved after March 18, 2020, is now expired and they are trying to reunite with immediate family members, they cannot travel at this time using that expired COPR."
The IRCC said they will contact them with further instructions, which for some will coincide with the lifting of travel restrictions when it is safer to travel. The IRCC said they will have to re-issue new documents.
Now, almost a year later, those who hold COPRs approved after March 18, 2020 are facing their visas expiring – COPRs cannot be extended – leaving families desperate. Many say they have not been contacted by the IRCC despite being ready to travel.
Many have quit their jobs in anticipation of immigrating after receiving their COPR, sold their properties, taken their children out of school and incurred expenses in preparation for travel – booking hotels, flights and other accommodations.
Others have been lobbying the government; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC); and the media to allow an exemption for those who received their COPR after the cut-off date.
These are some of their stories, in their own words.
(Disclaimer: replies have been edited for length, clarity and brevity)
CHIRAG RATHOD – INDIA
“My wife and I are in great mental depression as we were all set to start our new life after getting the COPR. We had all our bags packed. It did not happen. Now, my wife has started feeling suicidal. I shut down my company thinking that I would be travelling soon and now we have no source of income. We are in such a limbo about restarting our life in India, as we do not know when the Canadian government let us in; it may happen in a month or in a year we have no idea. We are clueless about what will happen to our COPRs after they expire, will it be honoured or will we have to go through the entire PR process again?"
ISAAC BELLO - NIGERIA
“It has not been easy time emotionally and psychologically for me. The security situation around where I reside is deteriorating by the day. A lot of kidnapping for ransom takes place regularly. This tension is exacerbated by the fact that my family (spouse and children) are not accompanying me. I will have to land first, settle in and then apply for family sponsorship for them.
It would be nice and helpful if the government of Canada takes into consideration COPR holders irrespective of whether they have family in Canada or not, since they will have adequate quarantine measures in place. We should be able to land and confirm their permanent residency status since students and temporary workers are allowed in. We should also be exempted from travel restrictions as well since we are coming to stay permanently, unlike students and temporary workers. Many of us are stranded not knowing what our fate will be. Should we keep waiting, hoping that our peculiar situation will be addressed or should we try to pick up our lives where we left off?”
MAMTA SHARMA – INDIA
“I have two teenage daughters and I am a single parent taking care of all their emotional & financial needs.
I had informed their school about the withdrawal of their admissions. Now, in a limbo, I have to plead to the school to admit them back. I worked hard to provide them a better life and good future but currently it seems like a distant dream with lots of uncertainty. I am having sleepless nights and going through tremendous stress and trauma. It is affecting mine and my daughters’ mental health.
I am a valid COPR holder and should be given the right to enter Canada, my new homeland.
Being a single parent is itself a challenge in my community, I had worked hard for the Canadian dream for me and my daughters. We saved each and every penny wherever we could, I am emotionally strained but I have to appear strong in front of my daughters. It’s not only me, there are many people across the world who are facing the same issues. I know COPR visa is a privilege not a right, but understand how hard we have worked to reach for this position. “
FAUZIA KARIM - BANGLADESH
“We are family of three, I am originally from Bangladesh but living in India with my husband and 3-year-old son. We researched day and night about how things work in Canada; starting from transportation, housing, weather, daily life, job search, grocery and day care. Being a Bangladeshi citizen married to Indian man, I am already staying in India on a dependent visa and couldn’t work for the past four years. We invested a good portion of our savings in securing an invitation to apply for PR. My husband served his three months notice period to his employer, sold our car, home appliances and moved to his hometown.
We planned to travel to Calgary on Feb. 21 2021, travelled 800 km from our hometown to Delhi Airport, took a pre-departure COVID test, arranged a proof of funds letter from the bank, booked accommodations etc. We were denied boarding by Air Canada staff stating that our COPR was issued post- March 18 2020, and we aren’t travel exempt, we need to have an authorization letter from IRCC - which is only possible if we have an immediate or extended family member in Canada.
Apart from the financial and emotional stress, there is a lot we are going through. Every now and then are being questioned by family, relatives and several other people “When are you moving to Canada,” and now with no job in hand we are breaking down financially and on the edge of spending money from proof of funds, which was supposed to be for initial months for survival in Canada.”
GURPREET SINGH - INDIA
“When my COPR was approved I was so happy that my dream is going to be true, and I started preparing for the travelling with the hope that soon they will allow us to enter Canada. I resigned from my job, as I needed to serve a three month notice period and booked the tickets and accommodation to complete a 14 day quarantine.
I was not aware that a nightmare was on the way. I am scared because I have resigned from my job, I have my three-year old son who is ready to start school and I am the sole bread earner for my family. I really don't know how I will fulfill my families basic necessities without a job. As of Feb. 2021, no exemption has been granted to us and our COPR will expire in upcoming months. Now getting into these situations all doors are locked for me, and every night I cry from my heart which has also raised our stress and anxiety. As an immigrant I always wanted to settle in Canada permanently so that my spouse and son would get a good future. Being a skilled worker I feel that hard work pays off in Canada and eventually I will contribute to the Canadian economy.”
KESHAV SHARMA – INDIA
"After getting my COPR, I was very happy and started to prepare to move permanently to Canada. I resigned from my job, as I was speculating that approved COPR holders will be able to land in the country without much hassle. Then we found out about the 14 days quarantine rule, which was sensible to me and I am happy to arrange that as I can understand completely how critical it is to be safe. We later found out about the three day hotel quarantine rule which again I understand the point of view from the Canadian government. I thought because they had issued COPR to us eventually they will allow us to enter Canada. In short, the situation has become so frustrating and heartbreaking that I am kind of starting to feel emotional trauma. I don't know what is in the future, as there is not a single clarification provided about the agenda of travel restrictions and files processing by IRCC. Life has become miserable for me. I have been postponing my future plans about my family and my career in hope of migrating. Canada is our country now and we must be given a chance to enter our own country.”