McGill student worries visa issues will keep her mother from attending her convocation

A McGill University civil engineering student is graduating at the end of May — but visa issues may keep her mother from attending her graduation ceremony.

Sara Albouz hold a Syrian passport, as does her mother, Maha Matraji. Matraji has lived in the United Arab Emirates since 1991, with permanent residency status there, and in the last few months, she twice tried to get a visitor's visa to come to Canada.

But both times she was refused.

Matraji first applied for the visa in March, saying she had planned to visit for a week. In her application, she provided several documents, including a letter from the university about her daughter's upcoming convocation ceremony.

Within two weeks, Canadian officials denied the request — apparently, because they weren't satisfied that Matraji would return to the U.A.E. after the ceremony.

Later, she tried again, providing further documentation, including a detailed cover letter, and a copy of her return plane ticket.

"I am willing to sign any document, or submit any guarantees, that allow me only seven days of access," Matraji told CJAD 800 of what she wrote in that cover letter. "I have no interest whatsoever in staying in Canada."

A month later, she received exactly the same rejection letter — a "copy-and-paste", Matraji says.

"I was very, very shocked," Albouz told CJAD 800. "I really didn't see this coming. My mom was never refused a visa to Canada before, and considering the image the image that Canada gives off as a very welcome and open country, this really came as a surprise to me."

Albouz says Matraji has come to visit her daughter in Canada three times before, dating back to 2012, when she arrived in Montreal to begin her studies at McGill. Each time, the process of obtaining a visa was little more than a formality.

She says she can't understand why things are different this time — and why she won't be able to have her mother at her graduation ceremony, which is scheduled for May 31.

"It's frustrating, definitely," she says. "It's never something, I envisioned to be without any of my family at graduation. It makes me really upset."

Immigration lawyer, and CJAD 800 contributor Neil Drabkin says on the surface, there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with Matraji's application.

"A mother should be able to attend that graduation," Drabkin says. "If she satisfied the basic conditions, then she should be granted that admission to Canada. Of course, that's not a right she has, it's a privilege, but notwithstanding, I think in this particular case, she has a very compelling reason to be able to enter our country."

Drabkin also says the government has an obligation to inform the applicant of why they've been rejected, and to give the applicant a chance to address that particular issue.

He also suggests Canada's immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, can personally intervene in Matraji's case, and override any previous rejections, if the case is brought to him.

Meanwhile, Albouz says she has a meeting with local Liberal MP Marc Miller on Thursday.