Penticton pizzeria employee-to-be denied immigration sponsorship over name match on application

Pizzeria immigration snafu

Casey Richardson

A local family-owned and operated Penticton restaurant has been trying to sponsor a new pizza chef to come to Canada for over two years, only to be denied by an immigration officer because the man’s reference in Italy also happened to have the same last name as the local family's.

Flaminio Ferrari and Roberta Gardoni spoke to Castanet about the situation which has been unfolding since November, 2019.

Their restaurant, Gusto Ferrari, had been struggling to find staff which led them to have to close over lunch time.

In their search for another chef, they faced challenges with finding applicants with experience in the specific style of pizza their restaurant makes.

"We were having difficulty finding somebody who can work on our pizza dough," Gardoni said. "For that reason, we were trying to sponsor somebody else, and we received this email for this guy. So we tried to sponsor him from Italy."

'When you start the process for sponsorship, you need approximately one year to 16 months to bring them here but because it was a COVID time, it was a little bit longer," Ferrari added.

After the work permit was submitted under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, the two found out from their lawyer that it had been denied in July of 2021.

Upset at the decision made by the immigration officer, the two applied for an appeal.

A Supreme Court judge granted their appeal in April.

Their would-be chef, Abdelkarim El Ayachi, is forty-two and a citizen of Morocco. He currently resides in Italy and holds an Italian long-term resident permit.

According to the decision from Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley, issued on April 26, Ayachi submitted duly completed forms, his résumé, a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment [LMIA], a copy of his job offer from the employer in Canada, and a reference letter from his current employer in Italy, La Piazzetta Snack Bar.

"Marco Ferrari, the owner of the La Piazetta in Italy, signed the reference letter. Flaminio Ferrari, the owner of Gusto Ferrari in Canada, signed the job offer made to the Applicant. There is no evidence in the record that the two Messrs. Ferrari are related but their names are relevant for reasons which will become apparent," Justice Mosley wrote in his decision.

The decision goes on to state that the officer refused the applicant’s work permit because he failed to demonstrate that he would “be able to adequately perform” the work he sought in the application.

“Applicant submits one employment reference letter stating that he has worked as a pizza cook at La Piazetta Snack Bar for 18 years. I note that letter is signed by Marco Ferrari – same family name as restaurant in Canada” as well as he “provides minimal evidence of employment as a pizza cook – limited evidence of pay stubs, income statements, other documentary proof etc. for work at the company in Italy.”

“We appealed because the lawyer was kind of surprised it was denied because of the same last name of who signed his references in Italy and who tried to sponsor here in Canada, they have the same last name. Which is kind of ridiculous because this Ferrari is very common last name in Italy,” Gardoni said.

Ferrari clarified he's not related to the man who signed the reference letter, Marco Ferrari.

The other reason the application was denied was the officer found the applicant to not have enough ‘experience,’ working in one restaurant as a pizza cook for the past 18 years, which the owners found frustrating.

“They said that he didn't have enough references, but of course for 18 years working in the same restaurant, how many references do you want?” Gardoni said. “One person works for 18 years in the restaurant, that means it's a good employee. For me, it doesn't mean that it's bad. It's serious.”

“We chose this guy, because he's coming with his wife and three kids. He’s coming with the family to live here in Canada. He wants to move here. So we try to help his family too,” Ferrari added.

Justice Richard Mosley overturned the immigration officer’s decision, finding it "unreasonable" they failed to offer the applicants a chance to address the concerns.

“We were frustrated and when we actually talked with the guy and we said ‘You were denied, because of this and this,’ he was also frustrated because he was already planning to move to Canada,” Gardoni said, adding that he had sold his home in Italy in anticipation.

Now that the appeal has been granted, the application has been resubmitted for consideration by a different immigration officer.

The two only hope their new chef will arrive shortly ahead of the busy tourist season.

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