Visa denial leaves family scrambling ahead of McGill University graduation

The mother of a McGill University student fears she won't make her son's graduation after she was denied a temporary resident visa.

Amelle Liazoghli plans to apply again for visa, but worries she will not receive it in time for ceremony

Ach Gaddes says it's disappointing that his mother, Amelle Liazoghli, was denied entry into Canada and may miss his graduation ceremony at McGill University. (Submitted by Amelle Liazoghli)

Amelle Liazoghli was the one who encouraged her son to study at McGill University, and after waiting four years to see him cross the stage to receive his diploma, she may not be there at all.

The mother of two planned to be at the ceremony in June, but now no longer knows if she can even enter the country after her visa application was denied by the Canadian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

"I feel frustrated, I feel very sad," said Liazoghli. "I feel that I have no power in a situation that was a complete surprise, and I feel that it is so unfair."

Both Liazgohli and her son, Ach Gaddes, are Tunisian. Since she lives in Dubai and carries a Tunisian passport, Liazoghli applied for a temporary resident visa, also known as a visitor visa, more than a month ago and was surprised to see her request was denied. 

I will stare at the pictures of the graduation and probably cry.- Amelle Liazoghli

While his family and other loved ones will be there for his graduation, Gaddes hoped that his mother would be there to witness one of his most important achievements.

"I was already visualizing getting on the stage and waving at both my parents and enjoying the moment," said the finance student. "I guess I have to visualize another sort of way or scenario right now and it feels really disappointing."

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said they could not comment on specific cases due to privacy laws.

Never happened before

The rejection letter she received stated Liazoghli was denied based on the following reasons: family ties in Canada and her country of residence, immigration status, personal assets and financial status, as well as her travel history.

"Anyone with a little bit of wisdom would look at this and in two seconds see there was a big mistake," said Liazoghli.

A physician by trade, Liazoghli is a permanent resident of the United Arab Emirates who travels far and regularly for work. Apart from her passport, she also holds two visas, which allow her to travel freely in the European Union and United States as part of her job.

Liazoghli said she had been looking forward to Gaddes' graduation. (Submitted by Amelle Liazoghli)

She said she also submitted the necessary documentation, ranging from bank statements showing proof of funds to a letter from her employer that dictates her salary.

Liazoghli has travelled without any problems to Canada before to see her son, as well as her sister and brother who live there.

"Each time I stay maybe 10 days and then I go back," she said. "I never had any issue with Canadian immigration or any immigration in the world."

While Liazoghli plans to apply again for a visa, she worries she will not receive it in time to fly to Montreal for Gaddes' June 1 graduation.

'There will be everyone except me'

The unexpected situation has left Liazoghli wondering if she will be the only one of their family missing Gaddes' graduation since her other son and ex-husband, who live in Tunisia, were approved for travel.

"He will send me pictures and I will be here alone in Dubai," she said. "And I will stare at the pictures of the graduation and probably cry."

After the ceremony the family was supposed to celebrate, but plans may change if Liazoghli cannot travel.

Liazoghli is worried that, even if she were to reapply for a visa, she'd still miss the ceremony. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Felix, File)

"There will be everyone except me," she said. "We planned that evening to go to a restaurant and have a nice family dinner, but now I think they will not go."

It would also be the last time the two could see each other until at least the fall. Gaddes was accepted to a graduate program in London, and is moving there right after his convocation at McGill.

"I'm very close with my mom and it meant a lot for me that she would come and see me graduate and obviously it's really saddening news," said Gaddes.

With files from CBC's Daybreak