So, after thinking about various aspects of this journey for the past 25 months, I decided to start blogging my experience, both as a guide to assisting my own thinking process, as well as possibly assisting anyone who has to deal with the same (or similar) experiences.
Let me start by providing some basic background:
I’m a US citizen by birth. My first visit to Canada was when I was still an infant, so I don’t quite recall that one so well. My second visit was in 1976, when I traveled with my father and grandfather to a family reunion in Powell River, BC. It was a memorable trip, and even to this day I can remember driving through Vancouver on our way to Powell River. I came back to visit again in the summer of 1986 (Vancouver’s World’s Fair) but didn’t return again for another 14 years or so. From 2000 to 2005 I made a number of visits to Vancouver and I fell in love with it.
In 2005 I purchased a one bedroom condo in a new building (“pre-construction”). That was a three year process. In the spring of 2006 I contacted an attorney about initiating filing for permanent residency as a “skilled worker”. I paid his fee at that time and the proceeded to drag my heels for the next four years on the filing. I did finally get the whole package put together and my attorney submitted it in June 2009.
My work has involved considerable travel over the years, so I had a number of opportunities to come up to Vancouver and check on the progress of my building – I still have a collection of pictures documenting the ongoing progress of the building.
My building was finished in the spring of 2008, and I formally took possession of my unit on August 6, 2008. I stopped in a couple of times, and in October 2008 drove up to Vancouver complete with a U-Haul trailer of stuff, all the paperwork required at the border (using the “seasonal home” exemption from paying duty on all the stuff being imported.) Over the following 10 months (late October 2008 to early September 2009) I spent as much time as I could in Vancouver, keeping track of the legal limits. Simultaneously, I helped my company find office space in Vancouver and in September 2009 I obtained a three year work permit (under the NAFTA treaty as an intra-company transferee.) That ensured I had legal status to remain in Canada.
My immigration file was evaluated and in mid-September the CIC office in Sydney, NS agreed that I qualified as a skilled worker and forwarded my application to the Buffalo, NY office. All went quiet until April 2010, when Buffalo forwarded my file to the New York City Consulate. In July I obtained a request for an updated FBI clearance certificate as well as my medical forms. The same day my new fingerprint card and request were on their way to the FBI center in West Virginia and I’d scheduled my immigration physical in Vancouver (for August 11.) From others who had gone through the process, I knew that this was normally the last hurdle before they grant permanent residency.
So I went to my physical on the 11th and sent the receipt and my $490 Right of Permanent Residence Fee to my attorney, who forwarded this to the New York City office.
On August 24, 2011 the medical examiner’s office called me and asked if I could stop by the next day to follow up on my physical examination. My heart sank – I knew that this was irregular.
On August 25, 2011 I went and met with the doctor. He advised me that I had tested HIV positive. I sat there in shock and disbelief. He had me sign documents, advised me they would draw blood, and told me his office would provide me with a referral to a specialist for follow-up.
Exactly two weeks later I went to the follow-up appointment (albeit with a nurse, not the specialist) where they repeated the tests, drawing quite a bit of blood. They scheduled the meeting with the specialist for the following week.
Thus began my journey through the maze of “complications” with respect to Canadian immigration. My journey is not over.
CIC requested an update on my condition in November 2010. The specialist wrote his evaluation, which I in turn passed to the original medical examiner, who forwarded the whole thing to CIC.
In early April 2011, I received a “fairness letter” from CIC. Basically it said “unless you can show us a reason why this is wrong, we’re going to refuse your application.” At that time I changed attorneys, employing the services of Michael Battista in Toronto, a specialist in HIV medical inadmissibility.
I prepared my own response to CIC, as well as worked with Mr. Battista to prepare the legal response, which included consultation with an expert known to Mr. Battista. A critical part of this was to present a plan for private payment – essentially to show how I would not be a burden on the health care system.
Everything in response was submitted by the end of July 2011.
My “Christmas gift” from CIC was a formal rejection letter.
After discussions with my attorney, we filed a request for judicial review in early January 2012.
And that is where we are now.
I know I’ve left out many details here. I’ll try to work on filling them in as well, so I have a complete record.