Mahitha’s journey to permanent residency (PR) was a nail-biting one. This resilient woman is certainly no stranger to trudging through the maze that can be immigrating to Canada.
She initially came on a student visa with a three-year work permit and took Business Administration at Selkirk College. After her three years were up, she lost the ability to work and stayed in the country on a visitor visa. “I had difficulties finding an employer who would support me with my PR. When I finally found one who was ready to help, I applied through Canada Express Entry which is based on a point system, but I didn’t have enough points,” says Mahitha.
She then tried to update her BC Provincial Nominee Program profile details and felt completely stuck. “I couldn’t update my details, so I had to delete my profile and upload it again, but I couldn’t do that because of my lost work status. It basically felt like I had no choice at the time,” she says. “I had no idea what was going to happen to me.”
She was hopeful when she heard about the Rural Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program through the newspaper, the Nelson Star. Rightfully so. “With this program, I got my status and everything back. I got my work permit first. Then I started to work again. Then eventually, I got my permanent residency. The program made a huge difference in my life.”
Mahitha finally achieved her PR through the RNIP program in the summer of 2021! She now works at Community Connections Support Services – the same company that offered their assistance in achieving her PR when she was struggling. “I’m a residential support worker supporting people with autism,” she says. She describes the job as a learning process but enjoys her work. “When we work with people who have disabilities, we think we’re going to change their lives, but we really learn a lot from them every day.”
Mahitha is from Kerala in southern India, where she mostly misses the food and family support. “Mom used to do the washing and cooking and everything. Here I had to start cooking, cleaning, and managing everything. It was really hard, actually,” she says.
She initially lived in Castlegar when she attended Selkirk but met a kind man named Gary, partner to Anna Purcell, a Nelson City Councillor at the time. He not only told Mahitha about RNIP, he helped her in other ways too.
“I used to work as a cashier at Save-On, and Gary would come to my till. He told me if I ever had plans to move to Nelson, I could call him, and I would have a place to stay,” she says. Although Gary has since passed away, Mahitha still lives with Gary’s partner, Anna. “She lives upstairs, and I live downstairs, but we are kind of like family. I have really good friends here,” she says affectionately.
Mahitha is one of the applicants that successfully made it through the West Kootenay RNIP, a program that changes lives.