Saskatoon

Sask. man yearns for family to visit Canada

Patrick Kongawi has a big dream: to see his parents in Canada. Since the age of 19, he has led a fierce battle to give his family the right to visit him at home.

Patrick Kongawi's family denied visitor visas after he is granted refugee status

Patrick Kongawi and his son Eli. (CBC)

At 31, Patrick Kongawi has a big dream: to see his parents in Canada. Since the age of 19, he has led a fierce battle to give his family the right to visit him at home.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kongawi moved to Saskatchewan at the age of 10, and lived with a couple in Prince Albert, Sask.who are friends of his biological parents.

Kongawi wanted to return to his home country at the end of his studies, but his plans changed when war broke out in the DRC in 1998.

Young refugee and full citizen

"When the war happened, it changed everything. In those days, if you were a certain age, you would be forced to become a child soldier. I had to ask for refugee [status], I had no choice," he explained.

Canada granted him refugee status in 2001 and he became a citizen five years later.
Patrick Kongawi and his parents. (Patrick Kongawi)

Applications for visitor visas still rejected

Today, married with a 16-month-old child, Kongawi still feels the weight of history. Both biological parents, who are still in the DRC, have been trying for 13 years to visit him, but struggle to get their visas.

"I just want to see my family, even if it's for two weeks," he said.

His father wanted to see him receive his late high school diploma in 2003, but did not get a visa. His mother made ​​a visa application in 2008 in hopes of attending Kongawi's wedding, and in 2015 to see his little son.

Their applications were all rejected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Patrick Kongawi (R) with his two brothers. (Patrick Kongawi)

Rejected applications

In its rejection letters, CIC maintains that Kongawi's mother did not convince the immigration agents that she will leave Canada before her visa expires. Several reasons are cited: limited employment opportunities in the DRC, her employment status and her family ties in Canada.

Kongawi maintains he has ample funds to provide for his mother during her visit and that she has no intention of staying once her visa expires, since she has always lived and worked in her home country.

"If I did not have the funds to pay the ticket and accommodation for my mother to come to Canada, I can accept that. If it says simply, 'No you do not have enough money,' I can understand that. I work in a bank and my wife is a pharmacist and we are making a very good living. [CIC] cannot really give that answer," he said.

The young father said he spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and repeatedly submitting visa applications.

His brother, who has lived in the U.S. for several years, was accepted as a graduate student at the University of Regina but he was denied a study permit in Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada argues in its rejection letter that he did not convince the agents that he will leave the country at the end of his visa.
Patrick Kongawi at his citizenship ceremony in 2006. (Patrick Kongawi )

Family visits

The Kongawis are forced to leave the country to meet up with each other. They visited the U.S. where they spent their first Christmas together in 2013, a first for the family since 1994.

Kongawi has lived in Canada for 22 years and says that the repeated rejected visa applications make him feel apart from Canadian society.

"You realize you do not really have the same rights as Canadians and still you feel like a stranger," he said.

Kongawi has not lost hope that his relatives will one day be able to visit him in Canada. In the meantime, he and his wife will travel to the U.S. in order to see their families. 

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