Frustration abounds for immigrants stuck in backlog
Would-be immigrants applying under the Canadian Experience Class are forced to quit their jobs and return home due to delays in processing.
Satya Dash, 39, came from England for a post-clinical fellowship at University of Toronto in 2011 after finishing his medical degree from Cambridge. He applied in August 2014 and his new job as staff physician at the University Health Network and teaching at University of Toronto is on hold. British endocrinologist Satya Dash has lived in Toronto for four years and loved his job and the city so much he applied for Canadian permanent residency in August 2014.Lucas Oleniuk / TORONTO STAR
With his work experience in Canada, the Cambridge-educated physician applied under the old Canadian Experience Class or CEC, which at the time took less than 12 months to process.
In July, Dash was supposed to start as a staff physician at the University Health Network and teaching at the University of Toronto, but a backlog has put his new job on indefinite hold.
Across Canada, the backlog — said to be the result of Ottawa’s deployment of much needed resources on the new Express Entry system — has wreaked havoc on the lives of thousands of CEC applicants.
Compounded with a four-month wait in obtaining a bridging visa to extend their stay and allow them to continue to work legally, some are forced to quit their jobs and return home while their applications are processed. The wait time is now at least 14 months.
“I am not asking for special treatment, but I just find it very frustrating,” said Dash, 39, who came in 2011 for a post-clinical fellowship at U of T. “It’d be nice to have more transparency. It’s hard to contact immigration and get an update on anything or find out what the actual wait time is going to be.”
Immigration officials said there are about 6,000 CEC applications in the backlog, but their goal is to process them all within six months. Meanwhile, faster processing under Express Entry “allows the immigration system to be more responsive and better meet labour market needs across the country,” said department spokesperson Jessica Seguin.
“Processing applications in tandem gives Canada the benefits of the new approach, while still working through applications under the old system,” she added.
While Dash can still remain at his fellowship job until 2016, Ukrainian 3D graphics artist Illia Guliaiev’s work permit with Gameloft in Montreal expired in June, and he waited 145 days for a bridging visa toward a new job at a computer game developer in Toronto in November.
“This is devastating for a great number of skilled workers from around the world who chose Canada as their new home and who are willing to give their best to become a driving force of Canada’s economy,” said the 27-year-old from Kyiv, who applied for CEC in June 2014.
“People who applied under CEC have already proven their ability to become valuable members of society through their hard work, taxes and community involvement,” added Guliaiev, who borrowed money from his parents and couch-surfed at friends’ homes to survive because he couldn’t work without the bridging visa.
Many attribute the CEC backlog to the new Express Entry program, which the previous Conservative government launched in January to create a pool of pre-screened immigration candidates for employers to pick from and promised a processing time under six months.
Kevin Hegarty, a chartered accountant from Ireland, believes the government redirected its resources to the new program’s processing at the expense of those in the backlog.
“I know permanent residency is a privilege, not a right, but it is not fair to just ignore those of us in the old system,” said the 28-year-old, who came to Toronto to work for one of the world’s top accounting firms in 2013 and applied for CEC in October 2014.
Murtaza Sapatwala came from India for his master’s degree in food sciences at McGill University in 2011 and stayed on to work as a quality assurance manager at a Guelph food manufacturing plant. He applied for CEC in July 2014 and is still waiting.
“In the past month, I’ve missed at least three business trips because my work permit has expired, and I don’t have my bridging visa yet. It’s stressful to say the least,” said Sapatwala. “I’d like to buy a house and do a lot of things. But being in limbo, you can’t make any plans.”
Zuri Powell, 26, left his job in project management at a Toronto engineering firm in May and returned to his native Barbados after his visa extension was rejected because Citizenship and Immigration Canada failed to issue him an acknowledgement of receipt in time for his CEC application.
Although he and other CEC applicants could have withdrawn and re-applied under the new Express Entry, they risk losing their $550 application fees, and must retake the English test and get a Labour Market Impact Assessment, which proves their skills are in shortage in Canada.
“It will be unfair to ask candidates to reapply under a new system, incur additional costs and continue to wait,” said Powell, who applied for CEC in September 2014. “We feel we’ve been forgotten.”
Ji Eun Ahn, 28
Came from Korea in 2006 to study accounting at LaSalle College and Concordia University;
Four years of accounting work experience in Montreal;
Ji Eun Ahn first came to Canada from South Korea in 2006.
Applied in September 2014;
Current work permit expires in mid-November and pondering returning home.
Satya Dash, 39
Came from England for a post-clinical fellowship at University of Toronto in 2011 after finishing his medical degree from Cambridge;
Applied in August 2014;
New job as staff physician at the University Health Network and teaching at University of Toronto on hold.
Fabio Fantuzzi, 35
Came in 2011 from Italy with wife, Laura Ferron, for a commercial helicopter licence and stayed on as a pilot in Calgary;
Left Canada in May 2014 after work permit expired and bridging visa was refused;
Applied from overseas in August 2014 and the couple is still waiting in Italy.
Fabio Fantuzzi, 35, came in 2011 from Italy with wife, Laura Ferron, for a commercial helicopter licence and stayed on as a pilot in Calgary. He left Canada in May 2014 after his work permit expired and bridging visa was refused. Applied from overseas in August 2014 and the couple is still waiting in Italy.
Illia Guliaiev, 27
Came from Ukraine in 2012 for a job as a 3D graphics artist at a computer game developer in Montreal;
Applied in June 2014 after work permit with first employer expired;
Got a job offer in Toronto in July and waited 145 days to get a bridging work permit Nov. 4 to start his new job.
Illia Guliaiev, 27, came from Ukraine in 2012 for a job as a 3D graphics artist. He applied in June 2014 after his work permit with his first employer expired. He got a job offer in Toronto in July and waited 145 days to get a bridging work permit Nov. 4 to start his new job.
Kevin Hegarty, 28
Came from Ireland in 2013 on a work-holiday visa for a job in Toronto at one of the world’s top accounting firm;
Applied in October 2014 and is still awaiting a bridging visa.
Kevin Hegarty, 28, originally from Ireland, works in one of the top accounting firms.
Nguyen Huong Nhu, 27
Came in 2010 from Vietnam for a post-graduate hotel management diploma at British Colombia’s Douglas College and stayed on as a store manager in Burnaby;
Applied in June 2014; the work permit is expiring in June 2016.
Nguyen Huong Nhu, 27, came in 2010 from Vietnam for a post-graduate hotel management diploma.
Zuri Powell, 26
Came from Barbados in 2007 for an undergraduate civil engineering degree at the University of Toronto and stayed on to work as a project manager for an engineering firm;
Applied in August 2014 but had to leave Canada in May after his bridging visa was refused because immigration officials failed to issue an acknowledgment of receipt in time for his CEC application.
Zuri Powell came from Barbados in 2007 to study engineering at U of T.
Murtaza Sapatwala, 26
Came here from India in 2011 for a post-graduate degree in food sciences at McGill University and stayed on to work as a quality assurance manager at a food plant in Guelph;
Applied in July 2014; work permit expired in September and has already waited more than 140 days for a bridging visa.
Murtaza Sapatwala, 26, came to Canada from India in 2011 for a post-graduate degree in food sciences at McGill.
By: Nicholas Keung Immigration reporter, The Star