A 29-year-old South Sudanese national has been arrested and detained by Canadian immigration authorities after pretending to be 17 to get a student visa.
“I do not know; I really do not know what is real age; I cannot tell you what my real age is” said Nicola according to CBC News.
“My mom always [kept] telling us different [ages]. I do not remember what specific age” he said in court.
Apparently, Jonathan Nicola was approached by a “Coach Steyn” in Sudan, who helped him with the visa application process.
“He did the whole papers; he did everything”.
The 6’9 basketball star had been attending Catholic Central High School in Windsor and in the 11th grade at the time of his arrest. He had even been considered being sent to the NBA draft.
He was living with his school’s coach – Peter Cusumano, who was distraught over the shocking news.
“Over (in South Sudan) … not every year we study … we always keep moving to different schools, and over there, they do not ask your age. They do not ask you nothing” Nicola explained.
According to CBC Canada, Nicola had not been found out until he applied for an American visitor visa in April to obtain a full scholarship abroad. Apparently, his fingerprints tested positive for a rejected visa application that was sent in 2007. The date of birth on that application was November 1986. His passport and visa application lists his date of birth as November 1988.
“Please if you let me, send me back home, it would be much better for me and for my family and for my mental health” he begged court officials.
Even though Nicola claims that he was honestly unaware of his mature age, judge Valerie Currie believes otherwise.
Nicola’s father is a mechanical engineer currently employed in Saudi Arabia, which makes officials believe that it’s impossible for Nicola to not know his real age.
She believes that this was an intentional plot and not a mistake by Nicola, to gain access into Canada so he could support his family.
“I understand your desire to do that, but the way you have gone about doing that is frankly, quite illegal” she said according to transcripts from the CBSA, reports CBC Canada.