A Vancouver woman waited months to get a visa to China. Her mother died before it was granted

A Vancouver woman waited months to get a visa to China. Her mother died before it was granted

A woman has obtained a visa to travel to China after months of waiting, but not in time to see her mother before she died.

“[I’m] just feeling helpless,” the Vancouver-based Canadian told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko. CBC News has agreed to keep her identity confidential in case her visa is revoked.

Surging COVID infection rates in China have prompted many Canadians to try and travel to the country to care for sick family members — amid new travel rules for both countries.

Canada is temporarily requiring air travellers arriving from China, Hong Kong or Macau to provide a negative COVID test before they enter Canada. 

Meanwhile, China is preparing to re-open its borders this Sunday. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says the health measure, which will last 30 days, is a reaction to a surge in the virus in China and the limited epidemiological and other data available.

The woman says she started the visa application process in the fall but couldn’t get an appointment until late December. A week before the appointment, she got a call that her mother had died. 

The woman says she suspects the cause of her mother’s death was COVID, although she hasn’t been told officially.

She says she’s advising people who want to travel to China to plan ahead of time in case they, too, face visa application delays.

Required documents added to delay

“I immediately went to the visa service centre to try to get the same-day appointment but I was told that I need to have a death certificate in order to have a same-day appointment,” she said.

She returned to the visa office on the day of her appointment, but was told she needed to provide additional documentation such as a photocopy of her B.C. drivers license, and identification of her family in China.

It took her several days to gather the required documents, she says, and she was finally granted a visa in early January.

WATCH | COVID-19 measures for travellers from China now in effect in Canada:

COVID-19 measures for travellers from China now in effect in Canada

Airline passengers leaving China, Hong Kong and Macau will have to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test when they enter Canada starting Thursday. Health Canada says the new measure is in response to not only the surge in cases in China, but also the lack of access to the epidemiological data regarding that surge.

She says she has met many people in similar circumstances while waiting for hours at the visa service centre.

“Some of them losing one parent, some of them lost two and some of the parents are in ICU,” she said.

“It’s Chinese tradition that we want to be with our family when our parents are passing away or when our family is in difficulties.”

Visa application to get easier after Jan. 8: consul

Yang Zhu, consul general of China to Canada in Vancouver, says it’ll be easier for travellers, especially businesspeople, to get a visa to China after Jan. 8, when the country stops requiring inbound travellers to quarantine upon arrival.

“Maybe two years ago, three years ago, it’s quite difficult but right now it’s quite efficient,” Zhu said in an interview.

The woman says she plans to travel to China after the quarantine requirement is lifted, but worries she may contract COVID there.

She says most of her family has gotten the virus, with some still recovering.

“I’m not trying to go back and give them extra burden,” she said.

“So we’re trying to decide on a good time to go and be with my father and my family.”