After spending nearly six months trying to obtain it, Vancouver-based Chinese researcher Guldana Salimjan has received the Canadian travel document that will allow her to continue her research in the United States and reunite with her husband.

It comes two weeks after CBC reported delays in the processing of his application by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Salimjan, a postdoctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University (SFU), is one of more than two million Canadians left in limbo due to immigration status and travel document delays.

The chance for a new career as a visiting scholar in the United States, where she can reunite with her husband, a professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., had been on hold since February.

But on Tuesday, Salimjan received a letter saying she could collect her Certificate of Identity – a Canadian travel document that is an alternative to a passport for refugees, stateless people and permanent residents who cannot obtain one from their home country. native country.

“I felt really relieved. I’m very grateful.”

Guldana Salimjan holds the identity certificate that will allow her to travel to the United States (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Salimjan leads the program at the University of British Columbia Xinjiang Documentation Project, a federally funded program documenting the internment of ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region. The project was referenced during the debates in Parliament.

An ethnic Kazakh from Xinjiang and a Canadian permanent resident, she specified in her application that going to the local Chinese consulate to renew her expired passport meant that she would have to disclose her personal information to the Chinese authorities, who they feared could use these details to harass her and her parents who live in China.

Expedited application after CBC story

Salimjan says she expected IRCC to issue the certificate of identity within 20 days of submitting her application, but she still had not received it after more than 20 inquiries from the government. ‘agency.

However, after CBC went public with his case, Salimjan received a letter from the federal agency asking him to submit a notarized statement outlining the precariousness of his situation.

According to the IRCC letter, Chinese citizens would normally not be eligible for a Canadian identity certificate unless accompanied by documents from Chinese authorities proving their ineligibility for a Chinese passport.

But Salimjan says that’s too much to ask of people exiled from China who fear the repercussions of bringing attention to themselves or their families in China.

Her husband, Sam Bass, says the four-month delay had a huge financial impact on him and his wife and risked career damage if he continued.

“It would have been really devastating to leave that job just because of the paperwork,” he said. “It’s a waste of everyone’s time, a waste of money, kind of throwing time and money in the trash.”

Guldana Salimjan’s husband, Sam Bass, says the delay in obtaining the travel document has placed a huge financial burden on them. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“An incredible combination” of activism and expertise

Marianne Kamp, a professor of Central Eurasia studies at Indiana University who invited Salimjan to Bloomington to continue her research, says she is an “amazing combination” of human rights activism man and deep academic expertise – and graduate students studying Xinjiang can benefit immensely from their participation in his project.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to foster the career of a young researcher in a way that benefits our department [and] our students,” she said.

The campus of Indiana University in Bloomington. Marianne Kamp, a professor of Central Eurasian studies, said the research project Salimjan will conduct in Indiana will benefit graduate students studying China’s Xinjiang region. (Indiana University)

Salimjan says she is really excited about the dynamic academic environment at the university which will help her project thrive.

“There are many language programs that teach Central Asian languages ​​like Uyghur and Kazakh, so it’s going to be great.”