A Ladysmith woman is frustrated with government delays after starting a residency application for her husband over three years ago.
Teresa Drumel is used to splitting her time between Ladysmith and Mexico with her husband Antonio Navarro Ochoa, who held a visa that allowed him six months in Canada at a time for the past six years.
The couple were common-law in 2018 when they started the application process for Ochoa to become a Canadian resident. A year ago they were married in Canada and the process is still ongoing. Ochoa is in Mexico, waiting to hear from the Canadian government.
“It’s horrible being apart,” Drumel said. “People need each other when they get older. I am 75 years old and I am sure if I was in my 40s again or 50s I’d breeze through it — I would just fly back down there or drive back down there.”
She said it would be easier to be apart if they knew the cause of the delay, but the application is complete and there is nothing to do except wait.
“Tony is not just my husband, he is a caregiver for me too and we just don’t understand the delay,” she said.
In November last year, the couple travelled to Mexico together to take care of their home and Drumel had to return to Canada alone. They knew Ochoa’s visa would expire, but thought he would be able to fly back with her since they were married.
He was required to get an electronic travel authorization (ETA) from the Canadian government — which is required for visa-exempt foreign travellers. Drumel said they applied for it in May and planned to fly in July. They never heard back from the application and he still does not have the ETA. Without the authorization or his permanent residency, Ochoa can’t come back to Canada.
Though they have only been married for a year, the couple has been together for nearly a decade. Drumel said they became close when she drove to Mexico to take care of paperwork after she lost her previous husband to cancer. She needed someone to help interpret the Spanish paperwork and Ochoa was happy to help.
“I knew Tony worked in this restaurant as a waiter and he is bilingual,” she said. “I asked him for help and it was wonderful. He helped me two or three times. He left work and came to the office with me and helped me with the paperwork.”
They became friends and the next time she was in Mexico Hurricane Odile hit and knocked the power out in her home, which he was helping her care for. “He helped me through those nine days [without power] and we became very close and then it developed from there,” she said.
A few weeks ago, Ochoa had to resubmit official documents to the Canadian government and Drumel said they have not heard anything since, except messages saying the application is in process and they will be contacted soon.
She said she needs Ochoa in Canada as he is her caregiver and she is not comfortable driving to medical appointments, due to problems with her vision.
“I guess the government doesn’t look at things like that though,” she said.