Alia Youssef sits on the porch at her Lasalle, Ont., home just outside of Windsor, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020 wearing the same clothes she wore the last time she saw Mohamed, her American fiancee who is stuck in Michigan. Alia has not seen her fiancee since the border between Canada and the United States closed in March. They plan on seeing each other in December. Translation on her shirt reads, “You’re beautiful as you are”. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke

Alia Youssef sits on the porch at her Lasalle, Ont., home just outside of Windsor, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020 wearing the same clothes she wore the last time she saw Mohamed, her American fiancee who is stuck in Michigan. Alia has not seen her fiancee since the border between Canada and the United States closed in March. They plan on seeing each other in December. Translation on her shirt reads, “You’re beautiful as you are”. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke

International couples plan reunions in Canada under new travel exception

Romantic partners of Canadians can apply to enter the country, provided they’ve

Alia Youssef and Mohamed El-Sawah have been in a long-distance relationship for the better part of a year, though they live just a 35-minute drive apart.

Youssef lives in Windsor, Ont., El-Sawah in a suburb of Detroit, Mich.

When the Canada-U.S. border was closed in March due to COVID-19, they were forced to place many of the cultural and religious traditions important to their Egyptian, Muslim engagement on hold. Youssef has yet to meet her husband-to-be’s parents in person. The two have been looking at wedding venues and getting to know each other’s families over video calls.

“We’re engaged with no rings, let’s call it that,” El-Sawah said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Couples like Youssef and El-Sawah have been in a grey area since pandemic-related travel restrictions came into effect, unable to reunite due to their unmarried status. But some hope appeared last week when Ottawa announced it would ease some border restrictions.

Starting Thursday, romantic partners of Canadians can apply to enter the country, with documentation proving at least a year-long relationship. Extended family members including grandparents, adult children and grandchildren and those seeking entry for compassionate grounds may also apply.

Specifics on who qualifies, what documents are required and how to apply will be defined in greater detail on Thursday.

It’s a welcome avenue for couples whose lives have been placed on hold for the last eight months. Youssef, El-Sawah and others in international engagements can now proceed cautiously with their wedding plans – factoring in quarantine requirements, work obligations and limits on other relatives allowed to travel and participate.

“We’re really happy, but it’s just now we have to take what we have and work with it,” Youssef said.

The pair plan to reunite in December, when El-Sawah can take the required two weeks off from work. At the end of his quarantine, they hope to finally exchange rings and hold a small engagement party, though El-Sawah will be the only member of his biological family there.

While Ottawa has stressed that nobody should make travel plans until they’ve been approved under the program, some have eagerly started booking accommodations and packing their bags.

Sarah Campbell of Stratford, Ont., cried tears of happiness at the announcement. She’s been separated from her fiance Jacob Taylor during the pandemic and through a cancer diagnosis this July.

Campbell and Taylor, who lives in Bath, England, are gathering documents showing proof of their relationship in anticipation of the soon-to-be-announced requirements.

“We’re hoping he can be here by Saturday,” she said in a telephone interview. ”Jacob is ready to go.”

If everything goes according to plan, they hope to be married by the end of the month — the day after Taylor’s quarantine ends.

Kaylee Carson of Cleveland, Ohio, also moved quickly after hearing the news. She snapped up an available Airbnb in Barrie, Ont., where her Canadian fiance Darren Quesnel works.

“I went ahead and booked,” Carson said by phone. “I’m going to be there for two months, so I just booked the first month and I figured if I’m not there by then he can just go stay at the Airbnb until I get there.”

She’s happy an end to their separation is in sight, though the eventual wedding date in the U.S. is still to be determined.

“It’s just a relief to know that I’m going to get to go see him,” she said.

David Poon has been running a campaign along with other families not covered by the former travel exemptions, asking Ottawa to adapt immigration measures to accommodate those left out. He said participants are grateful the government found a solution.

“We know that it was an incredibly difficult problem to solve,” he said from Ireland, where the Canadian doctor is currently staying with his partner.

The key demand – allowing adult children and non-married couples to reunite in Canada – has been won, but Poon said the biggest hurdle remaining for the approximately 7,500 people involved in the campaign is inability for many to take time off work to quarantine. Those on temporary visas also face challenges bringing their loved ones to Canada.

He stressed that the campaign isn’t fighting quarantine rules, but looking for a solution so more people can take advantage of the program – like requiring the Canadian partner to isolate once their significant other leaves the country, no matter the length of their stay.

The uncertainty of waiting and the challenges of planning a wedding long-distance during a pandemic have been painful, El-Sawah said. But the experience has brought the couple together on a deeper level, and convinced him beyond a doubt that he’s found a soul mate and life partner in Youssef.

“It affirmed my love for this woman,” he said. “The silver lining to me is I know a thousand per cent, a million per cent that she’s the one and she’s willing to put the effort. Whatever life throws at us, we’ll be able to handle it.”

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirusRelationships

Just Posted

The Binche Fishing Derby at Stuart Lake is fast approaching. (Binche Fishing Derby Facebook photo)
Binche shares excitement for upcoming fishing derby

“It’s more than just fishing,” says Dave Birdi

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Local youth vaccination clinics underway

Pfizer vaccine will be used

Priya Sharma. (Submitted)
Column: Why ultimatums don’t work

By Priya Sharma It is a common misconception that people can choose… Continue reading

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

Most Read