Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Kenyan-born man has credentials to be registered pharmacist in Canada but has waited for more than a year for legal status

Vancover Sun

Norma Greenaway, CanWest News Service
Published: Monday, February 12, 2007

OTTAWA -- Kenyan-born Mohamed Khandwalla is living in a frustrating limbo in Toronto, despite being armed with a master's degree in pharmacy from Britain, fresh credentials as a registered pharmacist in Canada and the love of a good woman.

Khandwalla says his wait to get permanent residency in Canada, which he expected would be about six months, has stretched to a year, and could last another 10 months or so based on what the local immigration office is telling him.

The 29-year-old says the waiting is getting him down because he is barred from working or travelling outside Canada while his application is pending.

"Trust me, it's a problem, it's very sad," said Khandwalla, an only child whose father has not seen him since he married his Canadian bride in November 2005.

Khandwalla says he knows that with his education and skills, he could secure faster residency in several other desirable countries. But he says his wife Amina, who was a preschooler when her parents immigrated to Canada from Kenya, wants to stay here.

"She loves Canada. I cannot be selfish and drag her elsewhere," Khandwalla said in a telephone interview.

"We've come to a compromise that we'll wait it out."

Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis says wait times have become unacceptably long, and that it's time for the Conservative government to hire more people for the system.

Karygiannis, MP for the immigrant-dominated riding of Scarborough-Agincourt, says the process of sponsoring a spouse or common-law partner used to take six or eight months.

He urged Diane Finley, the new minister of citizenship and immigration, to focus on boosting staff at the processing centre in Vegreville, Alta., which handles spousal sponsorship applications made from within Canada.

He said the lengthening wait times show the Conservative government has not lived up to its promise to "do things better" than the former Liberal government.

Two years ago, the former Liberal government moved to make it easier for foreign spouses to apply for permanent residency status. It said individuals who were in a genuine marriage or common-law relationship but who did not have legal status in Canada would be allowed to remain in Canada while their applications were being processed.

The move, which was said to affect about 3,000 couples a year, was widely applauded at the time.

On its website, Citizenship and Immigration Canada advises applicants the current estimated processing time at the Vegreville centre is nine to 10 months.

Karygiannis said the estimate does not include the time it then takes to sign off on the file after it has been sent to the applicant's local immigration centre.

He said delays beyond a year add to the applicants' headaches because, among other things, their medical seal of approval expires after one year.

Iranian David Firoozian, 52, is another restless potential immigrant. His Canadian wife says Firoozian has been battling boredom as he hangs around their house in Toronto waiting to get his residency status.

He applied about six months ago, but given current processing estimates, will likely remain in his jobless prison for several more months.

Firoozian, a skilled labourer and carpenter, could "get a job in a second," said his wife Zohreh Kashanian Monfared, who immigrated to Canada in 1988 as a young widow.

Though Kashanian Monfared, an esthetician, jokes that she loves having a house husband, and that her friends are jealous, she says her husband is "desperate" to work so the couple can buy a house and get on with their new life.