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White Rock woman in limbo after nearly two-year delay at immigration office

Rochelle Fleming says office too busy with Afghan crisis to help with permanent residents card
White Rock’s Rochelle Fleming has been waiting longer than a year for her PR card, which she says is approved, printed, and sitting at the Vancouver Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada office. (Aaron Hinks photo)

A White Rock woman and her husband have been left without MSP healthcare coverage, or the ability to get a driver’s licence, after a nearly two-year delay at the Vancouver Immigration, Refugees and Citizen Canada Vancouver office.

Rochelle Fleming, who immigrated from the U.S. in 1994, applied to renew her permanent resident (PR) card in January, 2019.

Through an Access to Information and Privacy request, Fleming learned her application has been approved, printed, and is sitting at the Vancouver IRCC office. The office has not yet allowed her to pick it up.

One of the reasons for the delay, Fleming said, is that the office is too busy dealing with the ongoing Afghanistan refugee crisis. Another barrier, she added, is that the office shifted to appointment-only due to COVID-19 protocols.

Fleming said the IRCC doesn’t consider the implications of the delay, noting that her MSP healthcare coverage expired at the end of October.

SEE ALSO: 200 Afghans, including female students and dancers, make daring overland escape

“They won’t give me a status update on the phone or the web forum because they are swamped with Afghanistan,” she said.

“If you do get somebody to say something, they just say their offices are closed right now and they are following the provincial health order and when they open then we will get an invitation.”

“I hate to say it, but we’re second-class citizens here. I’ve got Canadian children who have more access to things because of their citizenship.”

Fleming said she’s been in contact with South Surrey-White Rock MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who has been assisting her in getting answers.

Monday, Findlay told the Peace Arch News that her office has been helping several constituents over the past year with issues arising from the Vancouver Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Office being closed for an extended period of time.

“We were advised by IRCC Ottawa that the Vancouver office was closed to in-person appointments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to date, i.e. since March 2020,” Findlay emailed PAN.

“We were also advised this morning by IRCC Ottawa that the Vancouver office will be re-opening for in-person appointments again in mid-November. This has caused much distress to those whose situation obliges them to move forward only after an in-person interview.”

Fleming said she and her husband are lucky in that they have their Social Insurance Numbers so they are able to work. As far as receiving health insurance or a driver’s licence, Fleming said when she raised the question to the federal government representatives, they said that’s a provincial matter.

When she talked to ICBC representatives, they said they require a PR card as proof of residency, she said.

SEE ALSO: Immigration headache deprives B.C. woman of medical coverage

Fleming’s situation is not unique. Last August, PAN’s sister publication Langley Advance-Times wrote a feature about a Langley woman who was in a near identical situation to Fleming’s. Fleming said she’s been in contact with the Langley woman who has since received her PR card.

“Maybe I’m making a stink somewhere. I do see other people in very similar situations getting their card.”

IRCC media representative Peter Liang told PAN that it received Fleming’s application on Feb. 6, 2020.

“Ms. Fleming’s application has been referred to the local IRCC processing office for further review. As such, processing will fall outside listed processing times, and a decision has not yet been made on her application,” Liang said in an email.

Liang also disputed Fleming’s claim that she requires a PR card to obtain MSP healthcare coverage.

”It is important to note that a permanent resident card isn’t required to renew one’s health coverage in British Columbia. As per the accepted identification web site on the BC government’s web page, primary identification is needed, which includes the previous driver’s licence, as well as a secondary piece of identification, such as a bank card, foreign birth certificate, etc.”

“It is also important to note that an updated permanent resident card is not required to apply for and receive citizenship.”

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About the Author: Aaron Hinks

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