Immigration Purgatory

On December 6, 2011 at the age of 39 I married the man I had waited pretty much all my life to find.  I married the man I could imagine as the father of my children.  I married the man I fell in love with and the man I want to grow old with.  It sounds wonderful doesn’t it?  And it IS wonderful, yet, there is a problem.  It’s a rather large problem.  You see, I haven’t been able to be with that man, my husband, on the same continent since December 10, 2011.

It turns out that the man of my dreams, Noreddine, is an Algerian whom I met on a dating website and that man wasn’t allowed to come to Canada on a visitors visa before we got married because Canada Immigration (CIC) felt that he might not leave the country.  It’s true he might not have left the country after coming here as we had already decided we wanted to get married and intended to do so a week after his arrival if the culture shock wasn’t too overwhelming for him.  Of course if we had the opportunity to do so then we would have filed all the appropriate paperwork and followed the proper procedures to request an extension on his visa in order to get permission from CIC to allow him to stay.  As it happens we were never given the chance to be law abiding citizens who follow the rules, but instead were just denied the opportunity to be together in the country I was born and raised in because other people break the rules and ignore the laws.  It was a bit like being told we were guilty of a crime that hadn’t even been committed.

After waiting so long for the man of my dreams to come along I wasn’t about to just give up, however, that meant we had to get married somewhere else other than Canada so that we could begin the immigration process and I could officially sponsor him to come here as my husband.  Algeria wasn’t an option for me because of some archaic laws that still exist in the family code that dictate that a woman is a minor under her husband.  Instead we were married in Tunisia.  Tunisia is a country whose marriage laws aren’t that different from Canada’s.  It is also one of the few countries where we could both travel without a visa.  Noreddine and I were married the day after I arrived and spent a very busy, but joyful week together.  Most of our time was spent attempting to collect and prepare the paperwork we would need to submit our application to CIC upon my return to Canada.  It was hard to leave Tunisia as a newlywed without my husband by my side and not knowing when, if ever, he would be able to come to Canada in order for us to start our life together.

Just because we love each other, we married and we filed all the appropriate paperwork didn’t give us a guarantee that our application would be accepted and approved by CIC.  Canada Immigration could still deny our application if they believe that our marriage isn’t legitimate.  How do they decide if our marriage is legitimate?  That’s a good question.  Imagine the future of your relationship with the person you love hinging upon the answer to this question.  Next, imagine that part of the answer is that it depends on the subjective impression of an immigration officer who has never met you and knows nothing about you except what is in a stack of papers that you submitted as evidence of your love and commitment to each other.

After returning to Canada it took another month and a half to completely gather together all the documentation and submit our application, which we did on January 27, 2012, with the help of an immigration specialist.  It has now been just over seven months since we submitted our application and we are still waiting.  Waiting to hear that CIC has made a decision.  Waiting to hear what that decision will be.  Most importantly we are waiting to start our life together as a married couple.  We spend our time imagining how wonderful it would be to be able to watch TV together, hang out with friends, share the same living space and do what any other typical newlywed couple might do.  We spend our time wishing we had what most couples, newlywed or not, can usually take for granted; physical intimacy of any kind.

Right now we do our best to be happy with the time we get to spend talking to each other on Skype, usually every day and often twice a day, however, the separation has been hard on us both.  We are in immigration purgatory.  A very lonely place to be.  While there are resources set up for new immigrants that come to Canada, I have yet to find any support for those of us who are stuck in limbo, waiting for our lives and our choices to be our own again once the question is answered, “Will Canada let me bring my spouse into the country?”

I believe that the answer Noreddine and I will get is YES and I am hopeful that answer will come soon.  Even so the knowledge that there is a chance our application could be rejected makes the waiting extremely stressful, emotionally painful and physically draining.  Sometimes I want to run and hide from the world and everyone in it while at other times I just don’t want to be alone and then there are the times when I have both of those feelings simultaneously.  Amidst all this stress and confusion I was reminded this past weekend by a friend that sorrow shared is halved, but joy shared is doubled.  So here I am sharing our story in the hopes that the sorrow of our separation will be diminished and weakened as the joy of our coming together in marriage is expanded and strengthened so that both Noreddine and I get through the rest of our wait believing with an abundance of joy and confidence that, without a doubt, we will be together again very soon here in Canada.

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