Babar Haq

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Canadian visa for us-Pakistanis

Summers in Saudi Arabia are blistering with temperature constantly exceeding 50c. Even the evenings are unbearable. The schools in the kingdom remain closed for the three months of summers i.e. July-August-September. I scheduled my annual leave for Pakistan (my home country) in September as summers is not a good time to visit Pakistan which also has soaring temperatures coupled with power outages. So I was wondering how to keep my hyper active kids busy for these two months. Even the thought of keeping my two kids confined in an air conditioned house 24/7 was not pleasant at all.

In such a scenario, an invitation from my wife's sister settled in Canada came as a blessing. My sister-in-law naturalized to be a Canadian a couple of years ago and always missed her family while being happily settled there with her husband and daughter. My wife always wanted to visit her. The whole plan seemed to ideally fit into our situation.

Getting visas from Saudi Arabia have always been a breeze. There is a visa agent with in Saudi Aramco core office (Dhahran) which collects all the needed documents, dispatches and collects the passports from embassies in Riyadh. I got a list of all the required documents from their office and started accumulating them. My brother in law, a PHD professor in a reputable Canadian University sent me all the required documents accredited by a trusted lawyer. Me myself got my employment/salary certificate attested from chamber of commerce in Saudi Arabia. I have been working for a multi national company in Saudi Arabia for the past two and half years. I submitted the visa application well in advance. Soon I received a SMS from Canadian embassy informing me that the visa application have been received and it will be returned with in three to four weeks.

I was very hopeful that my family will get the visa. Firstly, my brother in law is very well settled in Canada. He is a university professor, also a proud owner of a home and has guaranteed this trip. Secondly, I was not accompanying my family. Thirdly, my family has international medical insurance. Last but not least, my sound financial standings also made my case stronger. Both my kids and wife were very excited for this long awaited trip. To my despair, three weeks later I received an appalling visa rejection letter via the agent. It was a standard rejection letter with the most ambiguous reason highlighted on it.

It states "You have not satisfied me, on the balance of probability, that you meet all the requirements of entry to Canada and that you would comply with the laws of Canada if you were authorized to enter [as per Regulation 179]".

Interpreting this statement seems beyond my intelligence.

I understand that Canada is a welfare state and they are afraid of people entering and not leaving upon their visa expiry. Still I expected the visa officer to be intelligent enough to distinguish between genuine and fraud cases. Why would a family of a well settled professional in Saudi Arabia stay in Canada illegally?

All the documentation provided were attested/verified from the highest possible authorities, so there was no question of doubt. The visa officer could not even trust a guarantee letter from its own national university professor. If they are so afraid of people over staying they could always ask for a cash deposit which could be returned once they are back. There must be some other way - a better way then blatantly refusing visas. The most annoying part is that the refusal letter clear states in capital, bold and underlined: "This application is closed and WILL NOT BE RECONSIDERED".

Discussing with other resources it appears that Canadian embassies refuse visit visas to Pakistani nationals frequently. Probably most of them receive such ambiguous refusal letters. If they naturalize Pakistanis then definitely their families would want to visit them. Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs should take this up with the Candadian government. If Canada does not want Pakistani nationals visiting it then it should stop accepting visa applications and probably end all diplomatic ties with us and stop naturalizing Pakistani nationals. What a shame for a country who claims to be champion of fairness.