15 March 2012

Canadian immigration denies visa over autism concerns

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A South Korean family in Hamilton, Ontario have been told their Canadian visa application has been denied due to the potential strain on Canada's healthcare and social services their 12 year old son's autism could cause.

Canada visa

Canadian immigration officials count autism among several illnesses which can prevent a successful residency application.

The Kim family entered Canada nine years ago with father Sungsoo Kim, first on a student permit and then on a working Canadian visa until he applied for permanent residency six years ago. Mr Kim said he would receive a letter once a year requesting further information for his application.

He received the final rejection in January.

Immigration and Citizenship Canada officials informed the Kim family that Taehoon's "health condition, autism, might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services." The judgement makes Taehoon inadmissible and, by extension, the Kim family.

Several illnesses, including autism, prevent foreign nationals from immigrating to Canada as they are deemed too high a risk when it comes to the impact on tax funded medical care and social services systems.

Mr Kim is currently working in IT administration for an advertising firm in Mississauga on a work permit. Without a successful appeal, he will have to return to South Korea in July.

"I can't go back to South Korea because I have two kids," said Mr Kim. "They spent their whole lives in Canada. Going back is another immigration for them. I cannot imagine how difficult it will be for my son Taehoon to go to another education system that will be totally different."

Lawyers have informed the Kim family that a successful appeal is unlikely as autism is a controversial issue which courts are reluctant to address.

Mr Kim insists his son's autism is not severe: "His motor skills are fine, walking, using spoons, chopsticks are not a problem. His most serious thing is he is speech-delayed."

Mr Kim says Taehoon's cognitive functions have improved considerably and he no longer takes medication. Mr Kim has paid for hyper oxygen treatment for his son and claims that when his school offered to provide Taehoon an iPad to help with his education, Mr Kim insisted on buying it himself.

Canadian immigration officials said that almost 1,200 applications for immigration were rejected in 2010 on the grounds of the excessive demand the applicants would place on the country's public services but stressed that these rejections represented less than 0.22% of all applications that year.

Trish Simons, president of the Hamilton chapter of Autism Ontario voiced her support for the Kim family but empathised with the Canadian government's commitments.

"I think it's terrible someone should be denied [permanent residency] because a person has autism but they [Immigration and Citizenship Canada do have a point because it is an expensive disorder."

The Canadian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people make their application to the Canadian Embassy.

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