Cha Baa Thai head chef allowed to stay in Canada
Aphinan Nochit brought in from Thailand to cook authentic food
The head chef at a popular Thai restaurant in Halifax who has been embroiled in an immigration dispute has gotten word that Citizenship and Immigration Canada has approved his work permit application.
Aphinan Nochit and his wife were brought in from Thailand six years ago to help Cha Baa Thai serve its customers authentic Thai cuisine.
Three weeks ago, Nochit's work visa renewal was denied because Immigration Canada said he didn't leave the country when his previous visa expired. He was supposed to leave by March 31.
Now Nancy Caron, speaking for CIC, said the immigration department has decided to renew Nochit's work permit. Once the visa office receives his passport, the necessary documents will be issued.
Nochit said this is very good news.
"So good, very good. My wife and I — so happy to receive this letter," he said.
The visa renewal gives Nochit and his wife the chance to remain in Canada for a few more years. He said eventually he would like to bring over his 10-year-old son, who stayed in Thailand to study.
He also said, one day, he would like to apply to be a Canadian citizen.
Wen Prathumma and his wife May Dao own all three Cha Baa Thai locations. He said the news comes as a huge relief for his business.
"The last couple of weeks I couldn't sleep, because I'm worried about what I’m going to do," he said.
'Thank you Canada'
The last few weeks have been a bureaucratic nightmare for Prathumma and Dao, before they decided to go public on CBC News.
Prathumma said having to worry about running three restaurants — on top of taking care of a new baby — would have been too much stress for him to bear.
He said it's very hard to train qualified people, saying it can take as much as five years to train a skilled Thai chef.
"He is the best guy to have working in three locations. He never complains," said Prathumma.
Without Nochit, he and his wife would be forced to close at least one of their locations.
Prathumma said he knows first hand what it's like to live in a new country.
"I know what they think and what they feel," he said. "Thank you Canada, thank you for letting me stay in Canada to let me grow my family."
Prathumma said one thing in Canada — the weather — took some getting used to, especially when Hurricane Juan and White Juan hit Nova Scotia in 2003 and 2004.
"I thought, 'Oh my God, what am I doing here? I came to the wrong spot,'" said Prathumma.
"It takes time but you get used to Canada. Now, hot, cold — we've got everything here. Four seasons — rain, snow, cold, winter — we've got everything. I feel like I’m in paradise."