Wife’s lengthy visa process may bring big medical bill
By Laura Lennie, News Staff
Carey and Sylvia McGregor say joyful feelings about the pending birth of their second son at the beginning of May are being replaced by worry over Sylvia’s immigration status.
The married Stoney Creek couple faces a potentially big medical bill because while Carey is a Canadian citizen, Sylvia is from Taiwan and still awaiting the resident visa she needs to qualify for OHIP coverage.
“It should be a huge celebration, but boy or girl, it’s going to be an expensive one, which isn’t right, but that’s what this is all about,” Carey says of their dilemma, estimating their medical bills could be up to $20,000 because there is no private insurance that covers pregnancy or delivery of a child.
The couple met in Taiwan in 2005 while Carey was on a college internship and married two years later in Canada. They returned to Taiwan, but decided to resettle in Canada last year after the birth of their first son in 2011.
Carey, who works in the restaurant business, says he began preparing the necessary paperwork for his wife’s resident visa while working in Peterborough, but only filed them this past September. Two weeks later, Sylvia told him she might be pregnant.
The good news has become a bit of a nightmare as they await word on her visa.
Carey says he’s tried to get help from several federal and provincial politicians, to no avail. He’s also started an online petition urging the federal government to ease the rules on visa applications, which he says can take anywhere from nine months to two years to process.
He realizes some people will question why he didn’t apply sooner, but blames a process that requires applicants to provide a number of precise details like where they’re going to work, something they couldn’t know while living in Taiwan, where they ran a restaurant.
“We didn’t know these questions, so we just waited till we got back to submit the paperwork,” Carey says, calling the immigration process “like molasses.”
“It has to be 100 per cent accurate and you pay $550. If there are any mistakes, they reject it and you don’t get your money back, so it has to be detailed and proper.”
Stoney Creek NDP MPP Wayne Marston says he’s sympathetic to the McGregor’s plight and blames cuts to Service Canada for not allowing their visa application to be processed more quickly.
He says he believes their case is a “reasonable exception” that should be expedited because Carey is a Canadian and he and his wife want to do everything properly.
“In my opinion, there’s not enough people doing the job these days to be able to keep up with the workload,” Marston says. “If the government wants to speed it up, they either have to change what some of the rules are or qualify them in a different way,” he says. “If you’ve got extenuating circumstances – like a pregnancy – I would suggest there should be something in place to say, ‘Hey, this is exceptional circumstances, we’ll speed this one up.’”
Carey says he hopes his situation will convince the government to rethink how it approaches visa applications, especially for spouses of Canadians who move abroad because they can’t find jobs here.
“Nature takes course and people meet people and fall in love and they get married. It’s quite a natural process, until you come back home and the natural process is halted,” he says. “We moved back here to improve our quality of life for our son. I want to raise my children here and offer them what I had, plus much more. We are living a Canadian life, we are a Canadian family.”