Married couple kept apart

Barb
Barb Sweet
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She’s in St. John’s, he’s in Ghana, and in between are miles of bureaucracy and red tape

Two days before Valentine’s Day, Dr. Danielle LeBlanc and her Ghanaian husband, Paul Van-Tay, got crushing news from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The federal department turned down Van-Tay’s application for a permanent resident visa, suggesting he didn’t give the right answers during an interview, but not explaining exactly what went wrong.

“Based on your interview at our office, and a review of the documentation submitted, I am not satisfied your relationship with your sponsor is genuine,” Van-Tay was told in the Feb. 12 letter, which was signed but did not spell out the name of the immigration officer rejecting him.

“I am not satisfied you are customarily married to your sponsor. You were advised of the concerns during your interview, but were unable to satisfy me they were unfounded. As a result, for the purpose of the regulations, you are not considered to be a member of the family class.”

LeBlanc, a surgical resident in St. John’s, had not seen Van-Tay for a year and a half — because he was denied a visitor’s visa to Canada — but she visited him in December in Ghana.

And they have been in constant contact through phone, Skype, text and social media since beginning a relationship and then marrying in 2012.

She said she fell in love with him even more deeply when she visited in December.

“I am so angry,” she said this week of her frustrating attempts to get answers from the federal department and the embassy in Ghana, dating back to their decision to marry.

“Not everyone’s marriage gets scrutinized in as much detail as ours has. … No one is accountable for the negative impact these people who are making decisions (are having) on my life and on my husband’s life.”

As The Telegram reported in May 2013, the couple was twice turned down by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for a visitor’s visa.

The reasons for the rejections — then and now — seem dizzying: a bureaucratic catch-22 that continues on.

 On the second visitor’s visa application, the couple put together about 80 pages of documents — gathered by LeBlanc in Canada and Van-Tay in Accra, Ghana — and a more detailed application they felt would be no-fail.

The scanned documents included copies of LeBlanc’s medical diploma, a letter stating her resident’s income, Van-Tay’s bank statements, identification documents, a clearance certificate from the Ghana police for Van-Tay, as well as letters from family members, the priest who married them and even Van-Tay’s father’s boss, who was a wedding guest. And a slew of photos.

But the visa was refused again.

There didn’t seem to be any other possible concern about why Van-Tay couldn’t visit Canada — Citizenship and Immigration told The Telegram after the couple signed consent forms last year that criminality was not cited as a factor in the rejection.

Rather, the reasons seemed mostly hypothetical. Last year, visa officers attributed the rejection to the fact that Van-Tay has a Canadian spouse, but had not yet made a family-class application for permanent residency.

They did not apply for a permanent residency right away because of the time it takes to obtain documents in Ghana, and as a surgical resident, LeBlanc’s schedule was then, and remains, hectic.

After their marriage, she was adjusting to moving to St. John’s from her native Ottawa, where she got her medical degree.

But since the visitor’s visa rejections, the couple has indeed applied for permanent residency and hit the latest brick wall, even though LeBlanc was approved as a spousal sponsor last summer.

When LeBlanc visited Van-Tay in December, they went to the Canadian embassy in Accra so any documents or other information that may have been needed for their application could be clarified while she was there.

LeBlanc said she could not get past the Ghanaian receptionists to speak to a Canadian immigration officer.

She had emailed and called immigration officials in Canada   many times previously, but got nowhere.

The couple also tried to get an appointment at the embassy prior to their marriage ceremony to get advice on what documents and marriage procedures they would need to make the application go as smoothly as possible.

After being rebuffed at the Ghanian embassy, she complained to Foreign Affairs.

Van-Tay eventually got a lengthy interview and told LeBlanc the officer wasn’t happy with their marriage papers.

“What hurts me most is they wouldn’t talk to you, they wouldn’t contact you seeking information from you,” Van-Tay said to his wife in a Skype conversation about the unwillingness of the immigration officer to clear up any details.

LeBlanc also said the officer seemed doubtful of Van-Tay’s knowledge of his wife’s work routine — which changes daily, saying he hasn’t been here to know the details of it — and also questioned whether their wedding photos were legitimate.  

They can appeal, but LeBlanc noted they have to indicate at the start of the appeal whether they have legal counsel.

“I found that kind of weird,” she said.

The young couple did not intend to have a wedding when she visited in summer 2012, but had previously talked about getting engaged.

LeBlanc had wondered if things would be the same in person, as much of their relationship had unfolded via Skype, text and social media when she came back to Canada after completing a surgical pediatric elective in Accra, where she had met Van-Tay.

But when she returned to Ghana for a visit, he was the best friend she’d been talking to on Skype for months.

The couple planned an eventual second wedding in Canada, but that hasn’t happened because Van-Tay was denied the visitor’s visa.

The couple’s bond is a love of humanitarian aid — she’d done some work in Tanzania and wanted to do an elective in a developing country.

LeBlanc got to know Van-Tay because she was looking for a way to donate toys, over-the-counter children’s medicine and other items she had brought with her to Ghana.

Van-Tay, then a porter at the hostel where she was staying, helped her get them to a nearby school for street kids where he’d done some volunteer work.

In 2013, the federal department told The Telegram it does not have a policy or bias against applicants from Ghana.

Meanwhile the consent form that Van Tay and LeBlanc signed in 2013 allowing The Telegram to discuss their case was declared invalid late Friday by Citizenship and Immigration Canada after a new copy of it was requested.

Once the department received the completed necessary form, it said it needed a new one signed.

bsweet@thetelegram.com

 

Organizations: The Telegram, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Foreign Affairs

Geographic location: Ghana, Canada, Accra Ottawa Tanzania

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • bassam
    February 17, 2014 - 22:33

    The case is very straight, the guy is applying for visitor visa. It make no sense for me. If they are married so why she don't want to submit sponsorship request for him? The answer is by law she will be responsible for him financially for long period of time. She is trying to get him to Canada on government expenses so he claim welfare and all benefits. She date the guy and like him and want the government to cover the relation financially when he come to the country. I don't agree with immigration with everything they do but in my opinion this guy is fraud big time. She want to get him in the country, she like him, let her apply for sponsorship and be responsible.

  • Comrade
    February 16, 2014 - 10:32

    I agree with Jay who wrote: "If Barb Sweet had bothered to give both sides of the story, the confusion in some of these posts wouldn't be expressed." Very poorly written, one sided article.

  • 1000 cases of marriage fraud are reported every year.
    February 15, 2014 - 17:50

    Foreigners know how to play Canadian women for dupes. The Passionate Eye had an episode on it. http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/The+Passionate+Eye/ID/1646528337/ Like someone said, if it's a marriage of love, let her go there -it would prove their love and genuineness of their marriage. If she was desperate to be with him, she'd go there. There's more humanitarian work there for them to do, anyway. After a few years, if all goes well, he could apply again.

  • Seraphim
    February 15, 2014 - 15:03

    I have to say being a Newfoundlander by birth I have not had to deal with CANADIAN immigration. I am married to an American however and living in the U.S. right now and I have to say...if the questions are anything like they are down here..some of them are ridiculous but, over all I trust the judgement of those in charge. You are suppose to offer different proofs of the relationship. If they were not convincing I don't think any of us can judge without seeing it ourselves so don't be so quick to judge the Immigration office on this one. They are trying to keep our country safe.

  • Lorie
    February 15, 2014 - 14:50

    It is unfortunate that these two individuals are not able to be together as a family . You would think that if you provided all the documentation required and went through the proper channels to ensure it was legal, it would be a simple process. But just to deny his entry into Canada with very little reasoning and no explanation as to what is still required, seems a little unethical. We are dealing with people's lives. It seems as though doing things illegally would be a lot less complicated and cheaper.

    • Jay
      February 16, 2014 - 09:11

      Lorie, Obviously, the proper documentation wasn't provided, or they'd be here. The people at Immigration are paid to ensure that the proper criteria is met, they are not interested in screwing people around for the sake of it. If Barb Sweet had bothered to give both sides of the story, the confusion in some of these posts wouldn't be expressed. Unfortunately, the Telegram has moved from a newspaper to a sensationalistic tabloid, and facts now seem to be irrelevant.

  • Domitia
    February 15, 2014 - 13:09

    Just a thought but given all the hysteria about our declining population and need for immigrants can we not have open immigration from Ghana of whoever wants to come to Newfoundland? Anyone opposed to this can be dismissed as a racist bigot. None would dare challenge it! Our provincial government has the right to do this cause Quebec controls its own immigration why can't we?

    • Words for Domitia
      February 15, 2014 - 15:41

      Domitia.... Just because a person doesn't agree with foreigners being admitted into Canada when the immigration says no, does not mean they are racist bigots, a very big assumption on your part, especially when you don't know the writer. As for the declining population, why do we need immigrants to fill a job in NL, when for a fact, I know several born Newfoundlanders who are highly College and University educated, with job experience, can't get a job there???

    • seanoairborne
      February 15, 2014 - 17:20

      'A racist bigot"are you serious?You sound like the idiots we have here in the USA, usually from the left!If anyone makes a reasoned comment about the "Loser In Chief" in our WH they're accused of being a bigot!To me all the sting of being called a bigot,without a scintilla of proof,has lost it's potency because of folks like you!!Your ilk are not taken seriously any longer because you like to throw that term around as if it's so much confetti!Want to know who the real bigots are? (take a look in the mirror)? The term "Bigot" is the last great bastion of a bigoted scoundrel, especially when they can't win the argument based on the real facts!Are you really as loose in the skull as your post suggests?If so you are the greatest danger in any Democracy!I'm very happy you live there and not here!!I know,I'm a bigot,right?LOL

    • Brad
      February 16, 2014 - 00:13

      I'm all for immigrants who will contribute to society. The problem is we have a high unemployment rate and there are many Canadian workers getting shut out of jobs while TFWs take their place. That isn't right. We need to take care of our own first. And put the race card back in the deck!

  • GerryB.
    February 15, 2014 - 12:49

    She's here, and he's there "and in between are miles of bureaucracy and red tape." The lead-off to this story teases the reader to fall for the subjective viewpoint of the author and to thusly assume sympathy for the man's plight and the woman's frustration with an established procedure. It most certainly leaves one with the impression that the impediment to the guy's entrance to Canada is an instigation of the Immigration Department official. On one side we have folks who want an easy, smooth, non-cumbersome access to our Country while on the other we have the majority of Canadians who want to ensure our Federal Government Immigration Department officials are doing the job they have been entrusted to do. I am one of those Canadians and I have no reason to assume that the Officials are performing other than due diligence and prudence in reaching their determination in this case. Far too many have gained entrance to Canada, by a disingenuous route, in the past, and it is incumbent on the Immigration Department folks to adhere to stringent observation and scrutiny and strict application of policy and procedure. It's gratifying to know that the rules and their execution have been improved in recent times.

  • sarah
    February 15, 2014 - 12:47

    I have yet to encounter an immigration official with half a brain! They are all a bunch of ego maniac's out to wield their power. They really DO destroy people's lives. They need to concentrate their energy on the actual terrorists and not the poor tourists that may have a DUI from 25 years ago. Get your priorities straight Immigration Canada/US. However, lets make sure they allow a pile of immigrants with NO English skills, no job skills and nothing to offer our country, lets let them in and give them a 3 bedroom house with all expenses paid for the next 10 years. Of course these people can't get jobs because they don't speak English!!! Brilliant. ----MORONS!!!

    • Malcolm F. Brown
      February 15, 2014 - 20:51

      And you encounters with immigrations officials occurred where ? Nice rant but very little substance .

    • Jay
      February 17, 2014 - 09:50

      Sarah, So much anger. Have you ever considered counselling?

  • RJ
    February 15, 2014 - 12:31

    Immigration has a job to do. They are the professionals so let them do their work. We need immigrants every year in this country and many are granted residency. Those who are denied are denied for a reason. I trust the judgment of the officials. Ghana is known as an extremely corrupt nation where most of the internet scams and immigration scams initiate from.

    • Collins Osafo Buabeng
      February 26, 2014 - 04:53

      RJ, I'm very highly disappointed in you...If Ghana is known as a corrupt country does it mean all the people in it are corrupt? if so all the Canadian here are also corrupt...In every country there are good and bad people in it..the fact that we are from Africa we are known for all the bad things..I'm married to a Canadian as well i have been turned down, and my wife was here 2012 and 2013 for 3 good month. the Immigration is doing their good work and i respect them for that. But sometimes they should try and open up a bit..put your self in this guys shoes you ll know how it feels...

    • Collins Osafo Buabeng
      February 26, 2014 - 05:02

      RJ, I'm very highly disappointed in you...If Ghana is known as a corrupt country does it mean all the people in it are corrupt? if so all the Canadian here are also corrupt...In every country there are good and bad people in it..the fact that we are from Africa we are known for all the bad things..I'm married to a Canadian as well i have been turned down, and my wife was here 2012 and 2013 for 3 good month. the Immigration is doing their good work and i respect them for that. But sometimes they should try and open up a bit..put your self in this guys shoes you ll know how it feels...

  • Skeptic
    February 15, 2014 - 09:12

    Just another Canadian who married a foreigner so that they can gain entry into Canada.

    • Victoria
      February 18, 2014 - 11:26

      What a knee-jerk reaction! Where do you get your facts?

    • Victoria
      February 18, 2014 - 11:33

      Canada Immigration is positively Kafka-esque in their dealings. One person makes a decision and right or wrong CIC will uphold it against all reason. Speaking from my personal experience I can predict that this couple will spend several years and thousands of dollars to sort this out. They won't help their cause by going public. They need a lawyer.

  • melvin simmonds
    February 15, 2014 - 07:41

    maybe if he was a gangster or terrorist he would pass through immigration with no problems

  • Crazy
    February 15, 2014 - 07:22

    Ship him back to his country. Their enough of those false marriage far as I'm concern. If their marriage is real, Let her join him in his home town.

    • fogNL
      February 15, 2014 - 13:20

      How about reading the article before commenting. There is already enough comment trolls online as far as I'm concerned. He is already in his country, that's the point, he hasn't been able to gain entry into Canada. smh

  • Malcolm F. Brown
    February 15, 2014 - 07:21

    As usual the slant on stories such as this has to paint the immigration/embassy people as the villains. Of course if this gentleman's entry to Canada was permitted and the reservations noted by the people we pay to scrutinize these issues were found to be valid, would your newspaper then rush to pat them on the back for their vigilance in carrying out their mandate? I suspect not.

  • Malcolm F. Brown
    February 15, 2014 - 07:20

    As usual the slant on stories such as this has to paint the immigration/embassy people as the villains. Of course if this gentleman's entry to Canada was permitted and the reservations noted by the people we pay to scrutinize these issues were found to be valid, would your newspaper then rush to pat them on the back for their vigilance in carrying out their mandate? I suspect not.

    • Glenn Stockley
      February 15, 2014 - 12:05

      Canadian embassies abroad are a farce. I sought assistance from Canadian embassy in Kingston Jamaica for assistance in dealing with serious crime against a child and could not get past ignorant local receptionists who appeared to have instructions to not bother Canadian officials…..

    • Malcoilm F. Brown
      February 15, 2014 - 16:49

      Maybe you could enlighten us concerning your prior dealings with our emigration officials. Rants, which your comments appear to be does not further this discussion.