Manitoba

'You have no help': Winnipeg woman frustrated with long wait times for visa application from Iran

Saeideh Mirzaei has been waiting eight months for her sister-in-law's visitor visa application to be processed and her patience is wearing thin — an experience that community members say is common for Iranians.  

Immigration expert says delays could be caused by lack of staff and security clearance

Saeideh Mirzaei, PhD candidate at the University of Manitoba, has been waiting eight months for her sister-in-law's visitor visa to be processed. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Saeideh Mirzaei has been waiting eight months for her sister-in-law's visitor visa application to be processed and her patience is wearing thin — an experience that community members say is common for Iranians. 

Mirzaei applied for her sister-in-law in Iran to come to Canada in May last year to help Mirzaei with her six-month-old son. The visitor visa would allow her sister-in-law to stay in Canada for six months. 

"We have no one around, no one from close family and when you have a child … it becomes very hard," she said. 

Her sister-in-law completed biometrics — fingerprints and photo — by May 31, and she hasn't received status on her application from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada since, Mirzaei said. 

Mirzaei said she wanted her sister-in-law to come to Winnipeg to help care for her young son. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

In October, when she visited the IRCC website, it recommended that people who submitted a visitor visa application before Sept. 7 with certain conditions to apply again. Mirzaei says she fell into that category so she has to submit a new application. 

At the time, the IRCC said on its website that processing would take 200 days, and in November, that number changed to 300 days, she said. 

"I feel very desperate, very disappointed, and it's depressing, because you feel you have no help. Like, sometimes I'm so tired," said Mirzaei, who is also a PhD candidate in civil engineering at the University of Manitoba. 

In an email statement sent to CBC in November, IRCC said it can't comment on specific cases, but application times vary due to a number of factors, including how quickly applicants provide biometrics and medical examinations and how easily IRCC can verify information.

Delays could be caused by security: expert 

As of January this year, the processing time for a visitor visa application from Iran is estimated to take 43 days, according to the government's website. 

Despite the shortened estimate, Mirzaei says she still hasn't heard word on her new application she submitted on Dec. 13, which cost her another $100. 

Randy Boldt, president of VisaMAX and an immigration consultant who worked in the industry for two decades, said a typical visitor visa application should take no longer than two to four weeks. 

"I don't understand why it should be longer than that," he said. "If you don't want it for somebody with a visa, then say no."

Randy Boldt is an immigration consultant and the president of Visamax. (CBC)

Boldt says delays for Iranian applications could be caused by lack of staff and security clearance, although most visitor applications shouldn't require one. 

He said typically applicants who have connections with Iran's military, paramilitary and police require a security check before coming to Canada, but that's nearly impossible to verify without a Canadian embassy in Tehran — which shut down in 2012

"The entire process in Iran is delayed because it's hard for us to process the people and make a distinction between who is a risk to the Canadian government and who's not," he said. "But we should have a system whereby those who are clearly not should be approved quickly." 

Mirzaei says her sister-in-law doesn't have connections with the military or police; she works as a housekeeper in Iran. 

The Canadian Embassy in Tehran was shut down by the federal government in 2012. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

In a statement, IRCC said factors like travel and border restrictions and limited operational capacity overseas have created barriers within processing. 

"Country conditions and local restrictions also impact how quickly applications are processed, since this impacts the availability of services. This hinders IRCC's ability to finalize applications, creating delays that are outside IRCC's control," the statement said. 

Problem common in Iranian community

Arian Arianpour, events manager with the Iranian Community of Manitoba, said he's been hearing more stories of visa application delays in the community, which causes much disruption, stress and grief in people's lives. 

"I heard that the situation is even worse and I heard many sad stories," he said. 

Arianpour said many Iranian students are affected by the delays and some spouses haven't seen each other for two years. 

In other cases, people who applied for the parent and grandparent super visa have waited for years to reunite with their family, he said.

Arian Arianpour is the event manager of the Iranian Community of Manitoba. (Submitted by Arian Arianpour)

Boldt said applicants for the super visa have been told to wait 450 days. 

"This is true for so many nationalities. They can't come and visit their friends and families, children, grandchildren because our visa processing is so bad, it's just atrocious," said Boldt. 

Pouya Farokhzad, a master's student in civil engineering at the University of Manitoba, said he feels extremely lucky his parents' visitor visas got accepted in December.

He waited two months for it to be processed and applied to have his parents, who live in Iran, attend his graduation ceremony this spring in Winnipeg. 

"That means a lot. They were not able to participate in my previous graduation ceremony because of COVID-19," he said. 

"To participate in the ceremony, that would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience having my parents beside me," said Farokhzad.

The long wait for a visitor's visa

9 months ago
Duration 2:08
Saeideh Mirzaei has been waiting eight months for her sister-in-law's visitor visa application to be processed and her patience is wearing thin — an experience that community members say is common for Iranians.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peggy Lam

Reporter

Peggy is a reporter for CBC News, currently based in Winnipeg. She's interested in stories about medicine, health care and accountability. She has a master's degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in human geography. You can reach her at peggy.lam@cbc.ca

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