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Ontario woman’s family missed birth of her child due to visitor visa delays


It’s been over a year since Faith Emenike filled out an application in hopes that her family would be able to visit her in Canada as she gave birth to her first child—but all she’s heard is radio silence.

“There should be communication back and forth,” the Toronto resident told CTV News Toronto. “It’s caused me to be so depressed. It’s just too much.”

“I was expecting my mom to be here,” she added.

Emenike first filled out an application for a visitor visa between May and June of 2021, after learning she was pregnant. The idea, she said, was to bring her mother, father, and brother to Canada from Nigeria to help with childcare and offer emotional support.

But something went wrong when the family tried to re-enter the application portal. They couldn't access it.

Emenike's sister-in-law, who also submitted an application for her mother, suggested she try a different portal that was available for applicants.

Emenike decided to cut her loses and reapply. The second application, along with supporting documents and biometric data, was sent in early January 2022. A screenshot of the application form, viewed by CTV News Toronto, shows it was submitted along with payment, but since then, the family has not heard a word.

“We didn’t get anything,” she said. “The application has just been stagnant since January 9.”

Her daughter is now almost a year old, and the family is exhausted from trying to contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the government agency that processes visas. They say they have tried reaching out dozens of times, only to get automatic responses in return. In some of the emails, Emenike included a note from her family doctor and gynecologist saying that she requires her family to come to Canada.

When the family reached out to the immigration office in Nairobi, Kenya, where her parent’s application is being funnelled, they received an automated response saying someone would respond to the enquiry within 28 days, and that they should fill out a form online.

“At some point, I was filling out web forms every day,” Emenike said. “It was just becoming draining. But I wake up in the morning I take care of my child. And then I'm filling web forms.”

Twenty-eight days have now long-passed, and the family hasn't heard anything from either office. Meanwhile, Emenike says her sister-in-law was able to bring her mother into the country successfully in less time—about six months.

"Approve the visa or say something," Emenike said. "If you want me to reapply, let me know … Don't just keep me in limbo.”

Faith Emenike and her daughter are seen in her Toronto home.

Emenike underwent a Caesarean section and said she was really struggling at home alone when her husband went to work. She has been diagnosed with depression and believes it is, at least in part, a result of the arduous visa process.

Meanwhile, Emenike's parents have missed out on the first year of their granddaughter’s life, something they say has caused them a lot of stress.

“It’s very traumatic,” Emenike’s mother, Dominica Akemu, told CTV News Toronto in a video interview from Nigeria. “It’s made me feel that maybe I failed as a mother.”

“It was really draining emotionally for me.”


According to the IRCC, processing times for visitor visas from Nigeria stands at about 388 days.

A spokesperson told CTV News Toronto these processing times are based on how long it took to process 80 per cent of applications in the past six to eight weeks.

“Because of this, it is important to note that as we work through the backlog of applications, processing times can be skewed by outliers, in particular applications from our older inventory that were previously on hold for a long period of time and are now being processed,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“Once the backlog of these applications are cleared, we will start to see processing times more reflective of reality.”

Immigration Lawyer Ravi Jain said the backlog of applications is likely the only thing delaying the visa process.

“In terms of both the processing times and the level of customer service, it's just at an all-time low,” he told CTV News Toronto. "There’s no reason someone should be waiting 300 plus days for a visitor application. I mean that's ridiculous."

Jain stressed that while this is a Canada-wide issue likely spurred by the pandemic; it shouldn’t take over a year to review an application, which he says includes an assessment of the person’s ties to their home country and the reason they want to visit.

“Here's a woman who had a baby and wants her mom. What's wrong with that?”

A letter confirms Faith Emenike's visitor visa application was processed.

The IRCC said that, as of Jan. 31, there were over 1.2 million temporary residence applications in the queue, including more than 68,000 visitor applications.

The IRCC processed more than 5.2 million decisions regarding permanent residency, temporary residencies, and citizenships in 2022, the spokesperson said.

A year earlier, that number was 2.7 million.

Anyone who applied for a visitor visa before Sept. 7, 2021, and has not been contacted by IRCC, has the option to submit a new visa application, the IRCC said. However, only certain people are eligible, and once a new application is submitted, the old one is waved.

Emenike says she just wants to know where her application stands, so that if there is any information missing, she can start working on it.

“It’s been like radio silence,” she said.

She said she reached out to her local MP in hopes that someone can get her answers, but was told the immigration office didn’t find her case urgent enough—an idea she just can’t understand.

“Is childbirth not urgent enough? What is more urgent than that?”

CTV News Toronto has reached out to Ali Ehsassi, MP for Willowdale, who said he could not disuss Emenike's file due to privacy reasons.

With files from CTV News Toronto's Allison Hurst Top Stories

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