Ageism and Religious Differences? My Canadian Immigration Saga Continues

At last… ahhh…. at long last, things are moving towards my husband getting his permanent residence in Canada.

It’s been a long trail, a very long trail. I’ve felt exhausted, angry, accusatory, revolutionary, resigned, discouraged and so much else as we have waited. I think the worst time of all was when the Canadian Immigration office in Damascus closed after our papers had been sent there and we had no idea where they were sent to. The fruitless calls to the Canadian Embassy in Kuwait, to the Canadian Immigration office in Beirut (to which the Kuwait chapter had referred me) and the inability to locate the number for the Canadian Embassy in Amman had made of me a discouraged wreck betimes. Many times I think my husband felt he was my jailor and he would plead with me to go to Canada and get a lawyer to find where our papers ended up. I often thought of putting a plea on YouTube to the Canadian Immigration service to make it happen. I wanted to go home so bad.

Things started looking up on May 27th when my husband got a call from Amman asking him for a medical check. I must say, there was severe incompetence shown here though, because he rushed out a couple days later to the Mowasat Hospital in Salmiya (the Citizenship & Immigration Canada online service directed us there) and got it done to the tune of 130 Kuwaiti dinars (~$475 CAD) only to receive an email three weeks later with a form he was supposed to provide to the hospital after we had already sent in the completed medical. Yeah, incompetence. So, he hurries back to the hospital and was informed that they had already forwarded the medical report to the central office without the form. Shortly after that, he receives another email saying he needs a Criminal Record check from his country of residence – Kuwait – though we had already sent one with the papers 18 months ago showing that he had no criminal charges against him. We’re already worried at this point about the medical and had emailed them the report again. So, my husband trots off to the Embassy of Canada in Kuwait and gets the requisite paper for the criminal check and goes to the Ministry of Interior to request a Criminal Record check again. Well, there are problems between Syria and Kuwait and the Ministry of Interior wants to delay the whole thing. Fortunately my husband has ‘wasta’ in the Ministry and managed to get it within two weeks. We had been given a limit of 30 days to get everything completed. We got the papers in just in time. When we received the email about the criminal record check, my husband was notified that he would have to go to Jordan for an immigration interview and he should inform them of when he would be coming. Once the criminal record check was safely in our hands, we scanned it and sent it off informing the embassy that we would be coming to Amman on the 8th of July. The day before we left, my husband received an email telling him he had an appointment at 9am on the 9th of July at the Immigration office.

Hallelujah! Right?

We pop on the plane on the 8th; Kuwait to Amman via Gulf Airways.

Carefully attired in our casual best, we duly make our appearance in the Immigration Office in Amman at 8:30 am on the 9th. We don’t wear our best clothes because we don’t want to appear too anxious, however we do want to look good!

It is important to note at this point that only my husband had been invited for an interview. I went along because I was determined that if things went badly I would ask to speak to some influential person in the Immigration Office and make as much of a fuss as I could get away with.

We go in. Our passports, cell phones, cameras and keys are confiscated at the entrance. No problem. Take them, no biggie. They ask for our file number. We are prepared and smilingly submit the number. We are allowed to penetrate into the bowels of the Immigration office, huge Canadian flag in glass on the wall. A Jordanian girl who can barely speak English greets us and writes down our names. We sit down. Dotted around the room are other individuals clutching papers; all obviously Arabs. We calmly chat together. Time passes. We struggle to maintain calm as 9:30 approaches.

At nearly 9:30 am, a pleasant-looking young woman in beige pants and a white blouse comes out and asks us for our file number. She goes away. Soon she comes back out and asks us to go into a room which opens off the main room. We go in. Standing protected behind a bulletproof (probably) glass window, she asks us why we came. I inform her that we received an email on Sunday the 7th telling us we had an interview on the 9th at 9 am. She says they have no record of this and there are no officers available. I continue courteous, wishing I had printed that damn email, and say that she needs to check again, we did indeed receive an email to that effect. She asks us if we can come back tomorrow. I tell her she needs to check again, we DO have an appointment and that is why we are here. She goes away. We sit in the little room chatting desultorily. We try to keep up our spirits by joking. My husband has a great sense of humour, but it seems to have temporarily deserted him, so it’s left to me to cheer him up. He insists he’s not nervous. We talk casually about various things. Time passes.

Time passes some more. It was probably not as long as it felt, but we had no way of knowing since our cell phones were not in our possession and neither of us wears a watch.

At long last, the pleasant young woman comes back and says they’re ready. They want to interview me first.

I am amazed. I hadn’t even been officially invited for the interview and they want to interview me? I decide they can interview the hell out of me, I am delighted to have been asked.

I am to go to the next room. My husband can wait in the waiting room.

I enter the next room. It is identical to the first: interviewee sits in a chair on one side of the double-paned (bulletproof?) glass window, voice conveyed through some electronic delivery system, interviewer(s) sit on the other side. With the pleasant young woman, who is now seated behind a computer, is an older blond lady. She introduces herself as Lynn. I am calm. I say ‘hello’.

Then the barrage of questions begin:

“How did you meet?”

No need for this question, it was on the form, but I answer it. “We met at a motorcycle rally. I went there with another man I had met before when I had inquired about the Kuwait Riders.  Even though I didn’t yet own a motorcycle, he asked me if I wanted to go. When I was there, a nice smiling young man approached me and introduced himself.” I go on to explain how he offered to help me purchase a motorcycle, so we exchanged numbers. The following weekend he did just that; I bought a Harley Davidson Sportster 883 from a friend of his for a good price. We began to ride together. And so on…

“When did he ask to marry you?” Again the answer is in the forms, but I tell her it was in December of 2010, but I don’t remember the exact date.

“Did you have an engagement party?”

“Not really, it’s not the custom in either of our families.”

So many questions…

Where and when did we get married? Did we have a wedding party? Why did I marry him when he’s so much younger than me?

To that question, I gave a lengthy answer. I told her about how the men I had dated previously in Kuwait were clearly players. I told her I got to know a player from a serious man. I told her he was a good man, had a wonderful family. She wanted to know about his family and I described them in detail. I injected humour, describing how his English was really bad when we first met and we communicated more difficult concepts using Google translate. That was how he communicated his first declaration of love to me. I told her his sister Khadijah was the one who coloured my hair for me. She expressed amazement at the shortness of our courtship. I explained that in Kuwait women can’t spend time with men in public or even in private without getting in trouble and that is why it went faster. I told her about our wedding party in Syria in August of 2011.

She then asked me details about our life together: who cooks? who gets up first in the morning? where does he work? where do I work? what is our work? what do we have in common? what do we enjoy doing together?

All the while, the pleasant young woman was typing my answers into the computer in front of her and Lynn is shuffling through the huge pile of photos we had sent with our Immigration documents.

Then it was his turn.

His interview was as long as mine. The pleasant young lady was Arab, so my husband spoke Arabic and the young lady translated. When he finished he came out and told me Lynn wanted to see me again. That was perfect, because I wanted to ask her how long it would take before we could go to Canada.

I went in and sat down. Lynn shuffled some papers, looked up and said, “I am approving your application. I do want to warn you that I hesitated for two very serious reasons: the big difference in your ages and also the difference in your religions. Historically such unions do not work out, but you remain financially responsible for your husband for three years.”

Ageism!

Religious discrimination!

I was expecting it. I smiled and I told her I appreciated her concern, but I had none. I know I am financially responsible for him for 3 years, but I also know the man I married. He would never cause me problems in this way.

I ask her how much longer before he gets his permanent residency.

Now comes the bad news: she can’t tell me, it varies from case to case. I ask her what further processing is required. Apparently his medical check has to go to some central office where a doctor will review it. Furthermore, they do internal security checks on all applicants for citizenship. What does that mean? She won’t say. I assume it’s Interpol or some such agency they check with to see if he is a terrorist, but who knows? I ask for a ball-park estimation. She finally tells me it could still be 1 – 2 months.

Oh no! My summer is gone in two months! I have a sinking sensation in my stomach. I smile, thank her and leave.

On our way back to our hotel, my husband and I compare notes. Most of the questions we were asked were the same. Most of our answers were the same with some minor differences. My husband asks me a million times: “She said she is approving the application? Would she play with us?” Each time I assure him that she cannot, she has no reason to tell me she is approving the application and then not do it. He is relieved for a few minutes each time, then asks again later.

It’s only when we get back to the hotel that I realized something: they only invited my husband for the interview, therefore it was probably a test to see if I would go too. Clever move, I must say. But, we won!

I’m going back to Canada! I’m going home!

But not yet. Maybe not until the leaves begin to change colour. I so wanted to see Canada in the summer. I so wanted my husband to see Canada in the summer.

Oh well, we will have many summers in Canada in the coming years.

We must thank God. We did. Holding hands in the taxi, we thanked God. Who cares that he is younger? We don’t. Who cares that he is Muslim and I am Christian? We love God and we thank God together. That’s what’s important.

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3 responses to “Ageism and Religious Differences? My Canadian Immigration Saga Continues

  1. You’re such a beautiful and amazing person. We need more people like you in the world who’s paying it forward with motivation rather than money. Stay true, thank YOU! 🙂

  2. We just applied for PR (outland) this year and my Syrian husband’s file was also sent to Amman. Would love to connect with you. If you know others who are applying and are going through the Amman office, please have them search for the Amman thread at http://www.canadavisa.com/canada-immigration-discussion-board/amman-spousal-since-january-2012-or-late-2010-t94810.0.html A number of us have been supporting each other and have shared our timelines to help keep CIC accountable (anonymous names). There’s petition on change.org https://www.change.org/p/honourable-chris-alexander-minister-of-citizenship-and-immigration-canada-decrease-canadian-family-class-immigrant-application-times-and-improve-processes-and-responsiveness-for-applicants

    Please let everyone know about the forum so we can connect and support each other.

    • Do connect with me by email if you’d like some pointers about the interview process. They’re horribly wily in their questioning methods and try really hard to trip you up.

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