In a recent article published by the Toronto Star, we uncover the story of Marcelina Gilles who came to Canada 17 years ago to create opportunity for a better life in Toronto. The former live-in caregiver had left her husband and children back in the Philippines in 1999 and is still trying to get them into the country since then. At the time when she first left her family behind, she had been in her 40’s and her children aged 8, 10 and 11. More than a decade later, the children have now all grown up and even have children of their own and Marcelina is still urgently fighting to have them join her in Canada.
“I will be 61 in March. I am not young anymore. When will I be able to reunite with my family here?” Marcelina asked the reporter tearfully. Having left her hometown to care for others’ children years ago, Marceline desperately seeks the opportunity to see her own children and grandchildren again. Patricia Wells, who has been representing Marcelina as her immigration lawyer since 2006 told the newspaper: “Marcelina has been trapped in different sets of rules that have all worked against her … The delay is not her fault. There are no good reasons why the processing should have taken so long.”
Marcelina gained Canadian citizenship after 2011, but it has always been her intention to bring her family along from when she first arrived in Canada. “I came to Canada so my family could join me and have a better future. I have always been a good worker, caring for Canadians. I’ve never been on government assistance,” she remarked. Having cared for both children and the elderly in her role, Marcelina initially came to Canada under what was then the live-in caregiver program, which gave foreign caregivers — and their immediate family abroad — access to permanent resident status after they met the minimum two-year live-in employment hours.
“The live-in caregiver program automatically included all family members, but the Humanitarian and compassionate application can’t include anyone else. Just the H&C processing took Marcelina five years,” said Wells. “She has been waiting for the processing of the sponsorship ever since. In the meantime, her children have all aged out (and can no longer be considered dependants).”
Family sponsorship takes approximately 16 months to process, yet Marcelina’s application has been in the system for three years. The immigration department have noted that she included seven dependents on her application. Marcelina made roughly $63,000 annually for working 78 hours a week, yet her income could only support herself and three dependents. To sponsor seven family members, the sponsor must make $80,153 a year.
Because she did not wish to remove anyone from her application, Marcelina requested that her application be given humanitarian and compassionate consideration. “I have worked all my life to improve the life of my family, so my children could go to school and have a more comfortable life. I cry a lot because the family is always separated,” she told the reporter, choking back tears. “We don’t deserve the years of separation.”
Marcelina had been back to the Philippines three times through the years to visit her family. She also remarked that she understands that technically she is not eligible to bring her family here, but she hopes immigration officials can show compassion and take into account all of her hard work and perseverance.
A decision should come in the near future.
Here’s a look at the current immigration processing times for different types of applications:
51 months: The time it takes just to assess if a sponsor in Canada is eligible to financially support parents and grandparents. After that, applicants remain in the queue for years, waiting to be called for medical and criminal checks by visa posts overseas.
26 months: The time it takes to evaluate if the relationship between a Canadian sponsor and his/her foreign spouse in Canada is legitimate and whether he/she is admissible on health, criminal and security grounds.
47 months: The time it takes foreign live-in caregivers to have their permanent residence applications processed after they fulfill the 24 months, or 3,900 hours, of full-time live-in employment required to submit an application.
Their spouses and children can join them only when the permanent residence application is approved.
38 months: The time it takes for immigration officials in Canada to decide if there are justifiable humanitarian and compassionate reasons that people who have been turned down — usually failed refugee claimants, non-status individuals and people ineligible for other immigration channels — should be allowed to become permanent residents in Canada.
170 days: The time it takes to renew a permanent resident card, a travel document that allows immigrants who are not yet citizens to return to Canada. The card must be renewed every five years for immigrants to maintain their permanent status.
36 months: The time it takes to process “non-routine” citizenship applications that require applicants to fill out a residency questionnaire and document the exact dates and time spent outside of Canada to ensure they have been physically in Canada for four of the six years prior to submitting their application. Those between 14 and 64 years old must pass a language test and citizenship exam.