Geoff Purvis and Charlotte Kiely have had to put their plans to settle in Fernie on hold, after being denied an important step in getting permanent residency in Canada. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Bureaucratic snafu snuffs out young couple’s dreams for Fernie

Geoff Purvis and Charlotte Kiel had made a life for themselves in Fernie, but have to leave because of Immigration Canada’s unforgiving system

For English citizen and Fernie schoolteacher and resident Geoff Purvis, getting residency in Canada should have been a relatively straight-forward process.

After all, he’s the right age, is a skilled worker, has lived and worked in Canada for two years already, and along with his partner, Charlotte Kiely, had hopes to settle in Fernie – a community that like many others in regional Canada is desperate for new blood and new workers.

But the dream has been canned – or at least put on hold thanks to bureaucratic road blocks, setbacks and mis-communications that now mean that he, and his partner will be departing Fernie, and Canada despite being ideal candidates for migration.

Delays in getting a Canadian teaching certificate followed by bureaucratic mis-steps from the government mean that Purvis didn’t qualify as a skilled worker worth keeping around – even though he’d sought all the right advice, was already working as a certified science and math teacher and had tried to jump through all the hoops required.

The problems for Purvis started with delays getting his school teacher credentials certified, and it all snowballed from there.

“I couldn’t work as a teacher up until about a year ago, when everything locked down and all the schools closed,” he said.

After schools started opening again, he started working as a teacher at the Fernie Academy in September through to January – but then he ran into even more problems, because according to immigration Canada, teachers at the academy are regarded as ‘seasonal’, so foreign workers in the role don’t get any credit towards efforts to get residency.

Knowing his role as a teacher being seasonal was an issue was something he only got to find out after he’d been through the mill that was Immigration Canada however, with bureaucrats only opting to let him know his application would never be approved until after the academy had already spent thousands trying to secure critical paperwork for his residency, and the process had been going back and forth for months.

Purvis said three attempts to file with Immigration Canada were rejected due to errors, but he was never told about the seasonal aspect until the end of the third attempt.

“They never said ‘oh by the way, there’s no point re-applying because this is a seasonal job, you’ll never get approved,” said Purvis.

“It’s just so annoying because none of this is our fault and if these stuff-ups hadn’t happened, we’d still be living here, because I would have looked for a job that did quality, I wouldn’t have stayed in this job that doesn’t help me.”

In the end, Purvis and his partner were out of time, and the academy was out thousands of dollars trying to get paperwork that was never going to come.

Given Purvis is a science and math teacher, he said it was bewildering that someone with skills that are sought-after in Canada was being denied in the current climate. “These are subjects that are in demand as well,” he said.

He had high praise for the Fernie Academy, saying they had tried hard to allow Purvis to stay, but they’d been mis-lead by Immigration Canada’s process as well.

“The Academy spent $3,000 over six months applying for these things, and then they denied it. It was an hour-long phone interview for each attempt, and then on the third call right at the end (Immigration Canada) said ‘oh by the way, they can’t get this because its not deemed as a full-time permanent position.”

Purvis and Kiely had made a life for themselves in Fernie – both of them have been working in the service industry, but it was Purvis’s application as a skilled worker they were depending on to let them stay.

“We were looking at – once we got PR – to buy a house and settle here. We were in the market, looking at mortgages, had bank meetings – we were ready to settle.”

Instead, the two of them will be returning to England at the end of March with hopes that Purvis be able to build up enough credit working as a teacher at home.

“Hopefully we’ll have enough points to come back.”

READ MORE: Chamber’s ‘pulse check’ in Fernie’s businesses shows optimism still high
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