British Columbia

B.C. couple separated from son in India struggle to get answers on immigration delay

Nupur and Ajay Soin have been waiting more than two years for Nupur's teenage son, Shaurrya, to join them in Maple Ridge. They say his permanent residency visa has yet to be approved, and they don't know what the holdup is.

Nupur and Ajay Soin say they have no idea what is causing delay for 15-year-old stuck in Delhi

Nupur and Ajay Soin with their daughter Atishi hold up a picture of Nupur's son Shaurrya and his grandmother, at their home in Maple Ridge, B.C. The family has been waiting two and a half years for Shaurrya and Nupur's permanent residency visas. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

When Nupur and Ajay Soin got married in India in 2018, they pictured a perfect family life together in Maple Ridge, B.C.

Instead, more than two years after they moved to the Metro Vancouver suburb, they are still waiting to reunite with Shaurrya, Nupur's 15-year-old son from a previous marriage. 

"I get overwhelmed," said Nupur, sitting in her yard with her husband and 16-month-old daughter nearby. 

"Not even a single day goes by when I don't cry because, I mean, I'm losing hope." 

Nupur moved to Maple Ridge, where Ajay had been living, shortly after they got married. At the time, wait times for permanent residency visas from India were about one year. 

Nupur already had a visitor visa and joined Ajay in B.C. Shaurrya stayed in New Delhi with Nupur's mother so he could finish the school year and join them once the newlyweds had settled in.

Nupur and Shaurrya. Nupur says Shaurrya, who remains in India, is looking forward to moving to B.C. (Submitted by Nupur Soin)

It's been two and a half years since they applied for Nupur and Shaurrya's permanent residency, and the Soins have no idea what is causing the delay. They were told by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) they were eligible.

Their application still says "in process" when they check online.

But despite advocacy from their local MP and multiple attempts to reach out to IRCC for answers, Ajay says they've heard nothing.

Shaurrya is excited to move to B.C. and meet 16-month-old Atishi, Nupur says. In New Delhi, all of his schooling has been online and he barely leaves his room. She says she wishes she could continue to keep a close eye on him, as she as since he was a baby. 

Nupur is Shaurrya's sole custodian. She last saw the boy's father in 2007, when they divorced, and she has heard through mutual friends that he has died. 

'Somebody needs to make this a priority'

The couple's immigration lawyer, Alex Stojicevic, says this is a straightforward visa application that should have been rubber-stamped months ago.

"This is a case where they should issue the visa and allow the child to come as soon as possible," he said. 

Health workers attend to COVID-19 patients at a makeshift hospital in New Delhi, India, on April 30. (The Associated Press)

Stojicevic says the delay seems to be coming from the High Commission of Canada in India. He says the situation there has been made worse by how the pandemic is playing out in New Delhi and across the country, leaving the health-care system in crisis and thousands without treatment.

"Really what needs to happen is somebody needs to make this a priority," he said. "If the Canadian staff in India can't do it, well, they have to do it from somewhere else." 

Family reunification prioritized

IRCC did not respond to requests for comment. On its website, the department says Canada's "immigration policy and legislation have a long tradition of supporting family reunification." 

The family reunification program allows Canadians and recent immigrants like Ajay, who is a permanent resident, to sponsor family members like spouses, parents and dependent children. The sponsor remains financially responsible for the family members for at least three years, or until children are 22 years old. 

The program accounts for about a quarter of all immigrants to Canada, according to IRCC, but demand routinely outstrips demand. However, changes made in 2016 kept wait times at a steady average of 12 months, the site says. 

Ajay and Nupur were married in Delhi in October 2018. (Submitted by Ajay and Nupur Soin)

'Things are so scary'

Nupur says she is worried sick about her son and mother in New Delhi. She has told them not to leave their home, and she orders everything for them online. 

The stress has been keeping her awake at night, to the point where her doctor prescribed anti-anxiety medication. 

"That's the only way I can sleep at night because things are so scary," she said. 

Ajay says he feels guilty about having brought Nupur to B.C. He had been living in Maple Ridge when they got married, working remotely as a designer for the software giant Cisco Systems. 

"When we got married, I thought, we're going to have to have a nice little family and a great place to live in," he said. "What I'm worried about is I put Nupur in a really tough spot." 

But also, Ajay says he's sad to be missing out on Shaurrya's "wonder years." 

The delay has caused him to question how welcome he and his family truly are in Canada. 

"This community, Maple Ridge, has really accepted us. We really like it here. But I sometimes I wonder if Canada has really accepted us as a family," he said. 

Nupur, Ajay and Shaurrya. Nupur is her son's sole custodian. (Submitted by Ajay and Nupur Soin)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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