Couples separated for more than a year by stalled immigration paperwork
Toronto-area facility hit harder by pandemic slowdown, spokesperson says
Spouses waiting for their loved ones' immigration paperwork to be processed for over a year are speaking out after they say applications sent to a Mississauga, Ont., processing office have stalled completely.
The spouses who spoke to CBC News say they expected delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic — but nothing like this.
"Each passing day, just sitting and waiting and hoping that something would happen is [getting] more and more depressing," said 31-year-old Ravdeep Singh Khanna.
Khanna, a permanent resident, married his wife Chamanjot Kaur, 29, in India in December 2019, and says he began the paperwork for her to come to Canada right away.
But despite repeated calls to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada case processing centre in Mississauga, and to his member of Parliament, and even protests outside the building, Khanna is now one of several who say they have no choice but to speak publicly about their wait.
At first, he says, things went smoothly.
"I was very hopeful she would be with me within a month or two because of the process, the speed at which the process was going. But then the pandemic happened and everything got shut down," he said.
Khanna says the last update he received from the processing office was over a year ago, on March 9, 2020, saying his wife had passed IRCC's medical requirements.
The stress and anxiety caused by the silence since then, he says, is starting to take a toll.
"I've been suffering through depression, and I was diagnosed with gastritis induced because of stress," he said, neither of which he had before.
Mujibasharaf Dabgar is facing a similar problem with the Mississauga processing centre.
"From February 2020 until now, we haven't received any single news or update from that office," he said.
Dabgar married his wife in November 2019. Like Khanna, Dabgar says things went smoothly until the pandemic hit.
"I called the office, and they gave the same story," he explained. "Because of COVID, less people are working."
After repeated requests by CBC News, the IRCC said the pandemic has had different effects on its offices "depending on geography."
"The in-person work at Mississauga was limited sooner and for longer than other offices. However, we have put in place initiatives to allow for remote work when possible and client service initiatives to help address the effects of the pandemic for clients. We are continuing to streamline processes and find efficiencies where possible," said spokesperson Rémi Larivière.
The statement also said the holdup appears to be isolated to the Mississauga facility.
But as for how long families will be waiting for their papers to be processed, the department wouldn't say.
In a Facebook group discussion, some facing similar waits at other processing locations now say their delays are beginning to clear — despite having submitting their applications after Dabgar and Khanna.
"'I'm happy for them getting approval," Dabgar said. "But at the time I'm feeling hopeless."
For now, they say, there's nothing they can do but wait.