LONDON, Ont. — A woman who should have celebrated her 24th birthday on Thursday with family in this southwestern Ontario city is instead stuck in Scotland, the latest Canadian stranded in a foreign country and getting little help from Canadian staff abroad.
The woman, who asked to be identified only as Lyndsay, was studying for the year at the University of Edinburgh, when a spring trip to Spain turned into an ordeal that continues.
“On March 31, I was on a trip to Barcelona with some friends and my purse got stolen, which had my credit cards and my passport in it,” she said Thursday from Scotland.
When Lyndsay reported her passport stolen, the Canadian High Commission in Barcelona immediately issued emergency travel documents to her and told her she had to apply for a new passport and student visa when she got back to Scotland.
That’s what she did. When she got her Canadian passport, she sent it to the United Kingdom border agency for a new student visa – which she needed to stay in the country legally.
“I assumed that I would have (my passport back) in plenty of time because I’d applied three months before I was planning on leaving,” she said.
Lyndsay continued working on her master’s dissertation and booked a flight back to Canada for Aug. 24.
When the documents hadn’t arrived by last week, she got worried and called the U.K. border agency. Officials there told her it would take another six months to get her student visa into the Canadian passport.
“I contacted the Canadian High Commission in London (England) and explained my situation and told them that as of this week my residence runs out and that I have to be out of my apartment. Basically, the woman at the high commission told me to cancel my flight because I would not be getting on that plane and she spent the majority of the conversation defending the U.K. government’s timelines.”
Given no help from the woman at the high commission, Lyndsay called her mother, who got on the phone and called officials in Ottawa. She eventually found out her daughter could ask that her request for a student visa be withdrawn and she’d get her passport back.
Britain is supposed to return Lyndsay’s passport within a few days so she has booked a flight for Sept. 5.
“Right now I’m just sitting and waiting and hoping it shows up on time,” she said.
Lyndsay is the latest in a string of Canadians unhappy with the treatment they’ve received from consular staff.
Most recently, a Canadian woman was stuck in Kenya for months because officials said she didn’t look like her passport photo.