sikh-name-letter

Immigration Canada sent a letter to Jaspal Singh stating "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada." (Click the link, right, for a larger, PDF version.)

A Calgary woman waiting for her husband to arrive in Canada is upset by a long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names.

Tarvinder Kaur, who is pregnant, said her husband Jaspal Singh's application to become a permanent resident has been delayed for well over a month because of his last name.

He has no choice but to legally change his name in India so he can get to Calgary before she gives birth next month, she said.

CBC News has obtained a copy of a letter sent from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to Singh's family stating that "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada."

"Why are we needing to makea different last name?"said Kaur. "You choose what your last name is going to be and if it's always been a certain way, then why should you have to change it?"

Traditional Sikh names

Singh and Kaur are common names in the Sikh community. In a tradition that began more than 300 years ago, the name Singh is given to every baptized male and Kaur to every baptized female Sikh.

The names are used differently by different people. Some use Singh or Kaur as middle names, while others use them as their last names.

Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the policy preventing people from immigrating to Canada with those last names has been in place for the last 10 years.

"I believe the thinking behind it in this case is because it is so common. [With] the sheer numbers of applicants that have those as their surnames, it's just a matter for numbers and for processing in that visa office."

Citizenship and Immigration Canada says there is no such policy against other common last names.

Kaur, who was born in Canada, says that's unacceptable.

"If it's going to be a standard policy it should be standard with all common last names. Why is it that it's only Singh or Kaur that's being attacked by this?"