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Canada’s immigration backlog leaves Calgary family ‘in limbo’

Click to play video: 'Canada’s immigration backlog leaves Calgary family ‘in limbo’' Canada’s immigration backlog leaves Calgary family ‘in limbo’
While many spend Canada Day celebrating what it means to be Canadian, others are still waiting for an opportunity to call Canada home. The federal government is currently processing immigration documents for an estimated 2.4 million people. Sarah Offin speaks with one Calgary family now caught in an unprecedented immigration backlog – Jul 2, 2022

While many spend Canada Day celebrating what it means to be Canadian, others are still waiting for an opportunity to call Canada home.

The federal government is currently processing immigration documents for an estimated 2.4 million people.

May Ellen Lim is one of them.

She spent Canada Day, celebrating her anniversary at the same park and community hall in northwest Calgary where she was married on this day, seven years ago.

“We get the fireworks every time we celebrate our wedding anniversary,” joked Lim.

May Ellen Lim and Michael Quinlan were married at a community hall in northwest Calgary, July 1, 2015. Supplied

Both teachers, Lim and her husband, Michael Quinlan, met some 10,000 kilometres away from the Canadian soil, where her husband was born.

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“I was living overseas for about 21 years teaching at international schools, with my last post being over in Manilla, in the Philippines,” said Quinlan.

And while they had always planned to resettle in Canada, the pandemic expedited their return.

“The Philippines wasn’t handling COVID-19 very well and we have a six-year-old,” said Lim. “So, thankfully, we had the opportunity to move here, since my husband is Canadian.”

May Ellen Lim, Michael Quinlan and their six-year-old son moved back to Canada in September, 2021, months after filing Lim’s application for permanent residency. Supplied

They submitted Lim’s application for permanent residency in June 2021, before moving to Calgary in September.

“We tracked it and saw that it was received and, from what we understand, we are supposed to get an application number not long after it is received,” said Lim.

“We haven’t got that. And it’s been a year.”

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Lim has repeatedly attempted to contact Service Canada for an update on her file, receiving little indication whether her application is even still in queue.

“They said that they can’t find my application in their system, so we don’t exactly know what that means: whether my application is sitting on someone’s desk still waiting to be processed or plugged into the system, or if it’s lost. We don’t know.” said Lim. “The radio silence is just nerve-wracking.”

Without her application number or the original documents attached to her application, Lim is now in immigration limbo.

“I don’t have health care. I can’t work. Our savings are slowly dwindling. And just not knowing what the future holds for us — especially when we have a six-year-old — is very difficult.”

Her case isn’t unique. Currently, the processing time for outland applications sits at 23 months.

And while the department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada didn’t respond to Global News’ requests for comment by publication deadline, earlier this week, the federal government announced measures to help tackle immigration delays.

Read more: New federal task force to review Canada’s immigration, passport delays

“It’s a function of the pandemic. It’s a function of staff shortages. It’s also a function of policy decisions that the government made. And it’s also a function of Canada being a victim of its own success,” said Kareem El-Assal, the director of policy and digital strategy at CanadaVisa. “Demands to come to Canada always far exceeds the number of spots that we have available.”

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Read more: Tangled in Canada’s immigration backlog? What you can do about the delay

Lim and Quinlan have faced many other unrelated challenges on their return, including a broken ankle from a fall on an icy Canadian sidewalk and a delay (of several months) for their shipping container from the Philippines.

“There’s been setbacks along the way,” said Quinlan.

“It’s been hard. We can’t get answers from shipping. We can’t get answers from immigration. It’s just wait, wait, wait, wait.”

For now, Lim and her family are trying to be patient as they continue to hold out hope for their Canadian future.

“It’s been really nice being back in Canada, experiencing the seasons, seeing the friendly faces,” said Quinlan.

“We are a country made up of so many cultures and it’s wonderful to be back and amongst that, and seeing all the people and exploring all that Canada has to offer.”

Click to play video: 'New federal task force to review Canada’s immigration, passport delays' New federal task force to review Canada’s immigration, passport delays
New federal task force to review Canada’s immigration, passport delays – Jun 25, 2022

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