After more than 40 years in the country and a season of sleepless nights, 94-year-old Thomas Schouten can remain in Canada with his family.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has cut a tangle of unexpected bureaucratic red tape that threatened to return him to Holland and confirmed the Greater Victoria-area man’s permanent residency.
Schouten lives in a Cadboro Bay house with his wife Francina Mettes, 83, a lifelong Canadian, and her family, including grandkids. The two have been together since 1975. Until two years ago, they traveled back and forth between Europe and Canada, as well as to destinations around the world.
Schouten’s temporary permit would have ended in two months, Mettes said, and the two were preparing to move him back to the Netherlands, causing all kinds of panic about traveling amid the pandemic. Mettes was preparing to go with him.
“We really were worried. But now, no more sleepless nights. It was really hard. Now we are settled, [it’s] much better. Life can go on now,” said Mettes, speaking on behalf of her husband, who communicates in Dutch.
It finalizes the immigration process they started years ago and which was moving along normally until September when they were required to file a 76-year history for Schouten. The request asked for Schouten’s addresses, work and travel histories since he was 18 in 1944, as well as military records and periods of unemployment.
As Schouten’s sponsor, Mettes was required to file a history of her travels and her residential addresses dating back to her 18th birthday. And it was all due within two weeks, a deadline they did not meet.
They had nothing on hand to prove their whereabouts previous to 2010, let alone the 1960s and 1950s, Mettes said.
“Remembering all our travel for those years, it was really hard to do. We tried our best.”
The two hired local immigration agent, Zaphera Dewing.
“We did what we could but by no means could comply with the request, we submitted on Nov. 2,” Dewing said.
When they got the recent email from Dewing saying congratulations, Mettes and Schouten felt relief.
“‘Oh God, at last,’ we said. It took [Dewing] a lot of work,” Mettes said. “Now we can sleep.”
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