Grenfell rallies to support German couple anxious to stay in Canada
Family hasn't been able to work for almost a year
People in Grenfell, Sask., are doing what they can to support a couple who have settled in the community, from Germany, but lack the appropriate documentation to stay in Canada.
Mario and Martina Schulz have built a life in the community where they found work and have even paid taxes.
We live same as Canadian people, only without insurance number.- Mario Schulz
They arrived in Canada on vacation, from Germany, in 2003. They were first in Ontario and then B.C. before settling in Saskatchewan.
"We want [to] live in freedom," Martina Schulz, 44, told CBC News. "We want better life."
The couple say life in Germany — they are from communities in the former Eastern Germany — was hard, even years following reunification.
The couple claims a B.C. lawyer told them they could return to Germany or stay in Canada illegally because many people do that.
They have been working on a Grenfell-area farm since 2005 and say appropriate EI and CPP deductions were made on their pay. They said the paperwork included a note that they did not have social insurance numbers, but that did not immediately catch the notice of officials.
They also hired an immigration lawyer to work through the process to stay in Canada, but ran out of money for that.
Mario Schulz, 53, said they live — essentially — like anyone else in the community and have always paid their taxes. They have only used medical services once and said they paid the doctor for the treatment themselves.
"We have everything," he said. "We live same as Canadian people, only without insurance number."
Ordered to stop working
Almost a year ago, however, immigration authorities learned of the situation and put a stop to them working. That move — cutting off their earnings — has led to them selling their car and other belongings to get by while they sort things out.
"Work. We want work," Martina said. "We don't want to rely on the government. We want work for our money."
Their situation has attracted some sympathy from people in Grenfell who have donated groceries and other items to help the couple.
Currently the couple are hoping to be granted work permits while they apply for residency status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, although it was not entirely clear how their circumstances meet the criteria for such a status.
CBC News was able to learn more about the case, from immigration officials, once a consent to disclose information was provided by the Schulz's.
In a written response to CBC questions, officials said the couple are in the country illegally and have been so for over ten years.
"They made no attempts to regularize their status during that time, whether as visitors, workers or permanent residents," the response said.
Officials also said the couple's application under humanitarian grounds requires them to show "that their circumstances are such that to leave and apply for immigration from outside Canada would constitute an unusual and undeserved or disproportionate hardship."
The process for that application takes 30 to 42 months.
There is also a hearing coming up to determine if the couple can stay in the country while the process is underway or face deportation.
If they are allowed to stay, that is when they could apply for work permits.
With files from CBC's Roxanna Woloshyn