Despite Canadian citizenship, Kenyan immigrant can’t get travel visas for family

By Ahmar Khan

Sila Kisoso has called Canada home for 18 years, but in that time, the Kenyan-born Canadian’s immediate family has never been approved for a travel visa.

Since 2011, Kisoso has applied six times for her sisters, Naisola and Peresian, to visit Canada. Their applications were rejected, with a different response each time. 

“Can you imagine how many families are distressed because of not been given the advantage of having their families visit them?” she said. “It’s quite stressful.”

“The process can be looked into and maybe improved so that other Canadians, or other new Canadians, can have the same privilege of seeing their families visit them,” she said.

Kisoso, a Winnipeg resident for over a decade, works for an international development funding agency that co-ordinates with the Canadian government on food security and humanitarian assistance to impoverished countries.

Kisoso graduated from post-secondary in Winnipeg. Her daughter, Mariela, was born at St. Boniface Hospital.

Kisoso, who received her Canadian citizenship in 2018, feels the lack of family reunification hurts Canadian immigrants.

“This is our home and so we would like to have the same rights as other Canadians,” she said. “So when we ask the Canadian government to allow our family to come and visit us for a few weeks, I think it’s only fair for them to really be supportive of that.”

In 2011, while she was pregnant, Kisoso — who is a single parent — applied for visas so her sisters could visit and help take care of her newborn.

The requests were denied.

“My daughter, who’s seven years old, she has never had the opportunity to have any of her family members — her aunt or her cousins — come and visit her here,” she said.

“For a young child, I think it’s not healthy.”

Following a slew of denied entries into Canada, Kisoso and her family decided to see whether they could get visas in the United States.

Their request was approved.

“It’s just a very difficult thing to accept that my own country will not accept my family to come and visit to me for four weeks, but the United States would give my sister a five-year visa,” she said. “It just seems almost out of this world.”

As Peresian Kisoso travelled around the United States, her younger sister and daughter booked flights to Seattle to spend some time with her.

Kisoso didn’t mind paying the extra money to see her sister, but believes it takes away the essence of the visit.

“It’s not as comfortable as having her here at home and having to introduce her to my other friends,” she said. “You know, that’s important. People in Canada have been so good to me, and yet they don’t know my family.”

To show her daughter the importance of family, Kisoso takes Mariela to Kenya almost annually, and for up to two years at a time. 

Now, the youngster who loves spending time in her aunt’s home in Nairobi wants to show the family her home in Winnipeg.

“I want to show them life in Canada,” said Mairela Kisoso. “Life in Canada is fun.”

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