Nova Scotia

Halifax man's permanent residency application derailed by COVID-19

While Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has promised leniency for people trying to get their permanent residency amid COVID-19, Murat van den Born and his lawyer believe mistakes are being made by those people processing the applications. 

Murat van den Born says he's surviving on savings because he can't legally work in Canada

Murat van den Born first came to Halifax in 2011 to study at Saint Mary's University on a student visa. (Murat van den Born)

The clock is ticking for Murat van den Born.

The Turkish-Dutch citizen, who's lived in Halifax since 2011, has one month left to get his immigration status sorted out or risk losing his IT job with the Nova Scotia government for good. 

Van den Born has been on leave from his job for the past two months, living off his savings, as he tries to navigate an already complicated bureaucracy made worse by a global pandemic. 

"I do not know if my work is going to extend that leave. If I lose my job over there, then I will be in even a worse situation where I have no job, I have no status, I can't apply for anything. I would have to start from scratch," he said. 

While Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has promised leniency for people like van den Born who are trying to immigrate during COVID-19, he and his lawyer believe mistakes are being made by people processing the applications. 

"I wish Canadian immigration would keep in mind the devastating impacts of incorrect returns and not just ... the increased workload it puts on IRCC itself," van den Born said.

How COVID-19 delays cost a Halifax man his job and shut down his immigration path. 7:46

Van den Born first applied for permanent residency in May under Canada's express entry system. As part of that application, he was required to submit medical and language certificates. 

His medical certificate had expired, but van den Born was unable to get an appointment with a doctor due to COVID-19. With his language certificate also about to expire in June, he decided to submit the application with the expired medical certificate anyway.

In July he found out that his application had been cancelled.

Work permit also revoked 

His lawyer, Thiago Buchert, said it's common for IRCC to reject applications based on wrong or missing documents, or simply by mistake. 

In one case, an application was returned when IRCC falsely claimed it did not include a marriage certificate as required.

"They returned the marriage certificate with the application saying that they didn't have a marriage certificate," said Buchert.

When van den Born's permanent residency application was rejected, so was his work permit. It means he can no longer work with the health authority. 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has promised leniency for people trying to immigrate during COVID-19. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Buchert's attempts to appeal that decision and reinstate van den Born's work permit have gone nowhere.

On Tuesday, van den Born received an email with his name misspelled stating his work permit extension request had been denied.  

Van den Born contacted MP Andy Fillmore for help in August. This week a representative from Fillmore's office said they're trying to do what they can but didn't have any updates.

An essential service?

Because of COVID-19, IRCC says it's automatically giving people more time to get their paperwork in order, and will keep extending the deadline until it has all the necessary documents.

The department acknowledges people may not be able to get a medical exam or a police certificate due to public health restrictions. Priority will be given to vulnerable people and those providing essential services, it said.

While van den Born considers his job an essential service, IRCC doesn't. Van der Born works for the province as an on-site IT technician at Nova Scotia Health facilities.

"In the provincial government, my job is considered essential because we pretty much support the health authority, like doctors, nurses, all that stuff," he said. "There was an assumption that I was an essential worker."

What IRCC says

In an email to CBC News this week, a spokesperson for IRCC said permanent residency applicants must provide a full and complete application for it to be processed, and that van den Born failed to do that.

"If applicants are unable to obtain all the required documents, we request that they wait to apply until they can get them. Once we have received and accepted a complete application, COVID-19 processing measures allow for flexibility where additional documents or further information is requested," Béatrice Fénelon wrote. 

The only thing left for van den Born to do is start the permanent residency application over. He now has a new medical certificate, but said the earliest he can get a language test appointment is the end of October.

Buchert said it could be at least six months until van den Born's new permanent residency application is decided.

Until then, he will likely be able to stay in the country as a visitor, which means he can't work. 

"The issue is that he won't be able to support himself and provide these valuable services to Nova Scotia while he's here as a visitor," Buchert said.

With files from Vernon Ramesar and CBC's Information Morning