Ottawa to revisit case of Toronto woman stranded in Russia

Julia Yakobi says clerical error caused her request for a travel document to be denied

TORONTO – The family of a Toronto woman stranded in Russia after having her permanent residency status revoked says Ottawa has agreed to revisit her case.

Julia Yakobi had her request for a travel document denied and her status revoked last month after Citizenship and Immigration Canada concluded she had not spent long enough in Canada over the past five years.

CIC said she had been in the country for 65 days over the past five years, while Yakobi says she has lived in Toronto continuously since 2014.

Yakobi attributed the mistake to a clerical error and said she had documents to back up her claim, but said the government refused to let her present them.

The family now says that CIC has agreed to reopen the file and give Yakobi 30 days to present her documents.

Yakobi’s daughter says the news is welcome for the entire family.

“We are very grateful for this response,” Hannah Yakobi said in an email. “(We) really hope to have this error rectified soon, so that mom can return home to Toronto to be with her family and continue living her life as before.”

Yakobi travelled to Moscow to seek medical advice in July with an expired permanent residency card, a move that Citizenship and Immigration Canada allows but does not recommend.

She applied for a travel document that would allow her to return to Canada, but was both denied the document and told she did not meet the criteria for permanent residency days before her scheduled flight home.

She and her family concede that travelling with out-of-date documentation was unwise, but CIC’s own guidelines make such arrangements possible.

“If you have been in Canada at least once during the past 365 days, you are entitled to a travel document to enable your return to Canada,” reads a letter in which Yakobi’s request for such a document is declined based on residency requirements.

CIC guidelines state that a person must spend at least 730 days in Canada during the five years prior to applying for a travel document. Yakobi said she had been in the country for more than 1,200 days, citing five years worth of tax returns, tenancy agreements, cellphone records and letters of employment as proof.

The ministry did not explain how it determined that Yakobi had only been in the country for 65 days. A spokesman said the officer who denied her recent request considered her documented dates of entry and exit, noting that her last shown entry to Canada was in June 2013.

Hannah Yakobi said the ministry’s own information supports her mother’s stance.

“The date of entry is in 2013, and the date of her exit was July 25, 2016, when she left for Moscow. How is that 65 days?” she said.

CIC also said Yakobi’s request was initially turned down because of an income tax slip it said did not support her claim to have worked full-time in Canada.

Hannah Yakobi said her mother never claimed to work full time, and full-time work is not a requirement for permanent residency.

Looking for more?

Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.