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 the opportunity to call Canada home.

The federal government currently processes immigration documents for approximately 2.4 million people.

May Ellen Lim is one of them.

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

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

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


The two teachers, Lim and her husband, Michael Quinlan, met some 10,000 kilometers from Canadian soil, where her husband was born.

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“I lived overseas for about 21 years, teaching in international schools, my last posting being in Manila, Philippines,” Quinlan said.

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

« The Philippines weren’t handling COVID-19 very well and we have a six-year-old child, » Lim said. « So luckily we had the opportunity to move here, since my husband is Canadian. »

May Ellen Lim, Michael Quinlan and their six-year-old son returned to Canada in September 2021, months after they filed Lim’s application for permanent residency.


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

« We followed it up and saw that it was received and, from what we understand, we are supposed to get an application number shortly after it is received, » Lim said.

“We don’t have that. And it’s been a year. »

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

« They said they couldn’t find my application in their system, so we’re not sure what that means: if my application is still on someone’s desk waiting to be processed or logged into the system, or if it’s lost. We don’t know. Lim said. « The radio silence is just scary. »

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

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

His case is not unique. Currently, the processing time for overseas applications is 23 months.

And although the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not respond to requests for comment from Global News by the deadline for publication earlier this week, the federal government announced measures to help to combat immigration delays.

Read more:

New Federal Task Force to Examine Canada Immigration and Passport Delays

“It is a function of the pandemic. It’s based on staffing shortages. It is also a function of the strategic decisions taken by the government. And it’s also a function of Canada being a victim of its own success,” said Kareem El-Assal, Director of Policy and Digital Strategy at CanadaVisa. “Demand to come to Canada always far exceeds the number of places we have. »

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Read more:

Tangled up in Canada’s immigration backlog? What you can do in case of delay

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

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

“It was tough. We cannot get responses from shipping. We cannot get answers from immigration. It’s just wait, wait, wait, wait.

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

« It was really nice to be back in Canada, to experience the seasons, to see the friendly faces, » Quinlan said.

« We’re a country of so many cultures and it’s wonderful to be back and amongst that, seeing all the people and exploring all that Canada has to offer. »

Click to play video: 'New Federal Task Force to Examine Canada Immigration and Passport Delays'

New Federal Task Force to Examine Canada Immigration and Passport Delays

New Federal Task Force to Examine Canada Immigration and Passport Delays

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