After lengthy delays, Peruvian man gets his work permit by taking a risk

Daniel Torres Flores has received his work permit but he had to take matters into his own hands. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
Daniel Torres Flores has received his work permit but he had to take matters into his own hands. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

Daniel Torres Flores took a risk to get his work permit.

According to an immigration lawyer, if Torres Flores had gotten the wrong immigration official at the border he could have lost his ability to work in Canada for the time being. But lucky for him, the officer was sympathetic to his plight and everything worked out.

"He was really supportive and sympathetic with my case," said Torres Flores, a Peruvian who works for Owen Sound Transportation.

Torres Flores has been working as a deck hand for the Pelee Island ferry operator for a year and a half. At that time he applied for his post-graduate work permit. It's supposed to take only a matter of weeks but as of mid-October, it hadn't come.

CBC News told Torres Flores's story in September, when he was still in limbo.

The temporary status he had allowed him to work but he was not eligible for employment benefits or Ontario health care benefits. He also couldn't go back to Peru to visit relatives because he would not be allowed back in the country.

Frustrated with the backlog of permit applications the Canadian government is dealing with, he decided to take a chance. He decided to do what's called a flag pole. He went to the U.S. via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel so he could return to Canada and re-apply for his work permit.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Normally, Canadian border officials don't process these for people from non-visa exempt countries like Peru, but the border official took steps to get his work permit processed in a matter of hours.

"He said 'this is not right. You got screwed by the COVID, but they are definitely — the office — not doing anything to help you,'" said Torres Flores.

Upon getting his work permit he immediately applied for a social insurance number and OHIP card, which he just received. He said having these makes him feel "relieved."

His work permit also allowed him to apply for a temporary resident visa, which allows him to travel outside Canada. He says it should be coming in about two weeks.

Immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri said Torres Flores got very lucky.

"That is extremely rare. That's not how these situations tend to work themselves out," said Kadri, who says if you get the wrong official they won't go the extra mile to get the permit expedited.

Torres Flores had to pay another application fee of about $255 to get the work permit but an MP from St. Catharines who is dealing with is case is trying to get him a refund from the first application.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Torres Flores has also applied for permanent resident status, an application that is also tied up in a backlog. The border official in Windsor who helped him with the permit is also trying to get that expedited as well, he said.

Meanwhile, a government official sent a statement to CBC News stating that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada received "historic" numbers of applications for permanent residency last year and they are hoping to process 431,000 applications by the end of year. As of Sept. 30 it has processed 354,000 applications.

"We continue to do everything we can to reduce processing times, and we thank the applicants for their patience and understanding," writes Stuart Isherwood, who does media relations for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Getting permanent resident status will make Torres Flores eligible to seek for a certification that is necessary for him to get a higher paying job with Owen Sound Transportation.