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COVID, heartbreak among speedbumps in Australian’s road to residency in Kelowna

Josh Waters shares his experience in the hopes to help others like him

“I’m willing to go to any lengths to stay in my home.”

The process is stressful and challenging, but that’s what Josh Waters has to say about his experience trying to gain residency in Canada.

Waters has been living in Kelowna for the last nine years, starting with a series of work visas in order to stay. When he met someone and started a relationship with them, the two began the paperwork to get him his permanent resident status through the common-law spouse stream.

The process has been long, slowed down by the pandemic, but it all came to a stop when the relationship ended. Since he no longer had a sponsor, the government denied him permanent resident status.

His application was denied in September but because he couldn’t leave the country to go back to Australia then, he was given a further 60 days to leave voluntarily.

“With being denied, I lost my status in Canada. So I’ve lost my working status,” he said.

“I can’t work for the 60 days I have left here in Canada and I kinda have to just make due and get by on what I (money) had left.”

Waters, who has been working for the Edgecombe Builders Group, said he was fortunate he was able to keep working throughout the pandemic. He has some money put aside, but having to pay his immigration consultant, lawyer, as well as trying to get his dog Rocky ready for the trip, the bills are adding up.

“I have a little backup behind me but as far as everything else, it’s going to be fiscally damaging for sure,” he said.

A friend of his started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help him pay for Rocky’s vet bills, paperwork and transportation to Australia.

“I’m just grateful to my friend for wanting to help me and the community for donating so I can bring him with me. He has just been my rock this past year,” he said.

“It’s corny and cliché but anything, he’s rescuing me. I’d hate to have to give him up or leave him behind because he’s my son, essentially.”

Edgecombe Builders Group owner and president Kevin Edgecombe said they’ve started the process of sponsoring Waters through a labour market impact assessment to show that Waters is the right man for the job. Edgecombe said he’s hopeful the sponsorship will go through this time, giving Waters another chance at making his stay permanent.

READ MORE: Kelowna man needs support to transport beloved dog to Australia

“Josh is a key employee. He’s second-in-command at a very large construction site that we recently completed, a large apartment building on Clement,” he said.

“He’s done a great job for our company and he’s been with us for nearly five years… it’s certainly important for our company but more importantly, it’s important for Josh.

“Josh wants to be in Canada; he’s a great contributing citizen, he’s paying his taxes, he’s building his credit rating. He’s doing all the things that young people need to do in order to try to make it for themselves in a tough place to live.”

Even though the sponsorship process has begun, Edgecombe said he doesn’t have a timeline on when Waters will be back in the country.

For his part, Waters said he’s willing to go through the process to come back.

“With the outpouring of support and well-wishes and people wishing me luck, I just can’t thank everyone enough,” he said.

“This huge blow, it makes it easier to have that backing and support. I’m blessed to be a part of a great community and I hope I can stay.”

READ MORE: Kelowna airport at risk of losing $2.5M over stagnation of international travel


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Twila Amato

About the Author: Twila Amato

Twila was a radio reporter based in northern Vancouver Island. She won the Jack Webster Student Journalism Award while at BCIT and received a degree in ancient and modern Greek history from McGill University.
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