Canada’s Quebec province has denied immigrant status to a French citizen because she was unable to demonstrate adequate French-language proficiency.
Quebec rejected Emilie Dubois’ application apparently because part of her university thesis was in English.
Ms Dubois came to Quebec from France in 2012 and completed a doctorate at a French-language university.
The biology graduate said she alternated between “laughing and not understanding” when she got the letter.
Quebec is a predominantly French-speaking province and Ms Dubois, 31, was applying to settle under a provincial programme for foreign students that requires applicants to display a strong ability in the language.
“If someone who is French and born in France, going to a French-speaking university and doing everything in French and they are still denying this, it’s nonsense,” she told the BBC.
Despite passing a French test to prove her language ability earlier this year, she received a rejection letter stating that she had not completed her education entirely in French – including her thesis.
Public broadcaster Radio-Canada, which first reported on her case this week, posted a photograph of the letter.
Only one of five chapters in her thesis on cellular and molecular biology was written in English, for publication in a scientific journal.
“This is how scientists are communicating – they are sharing knowledge and this is done mostly in English-speaking journals,” Ms Dubois said.
Ms Dubois said it felt as though “the world was falling on my head” when she received the final rejection letter.
She had planned to settle in Quebec and build her life there. “I don’t belong to France any more,” she said.
She said she was hopeful she might get the decision overturned, as the case is being championed by her local provincial assembly member, Catherine Dorion.
Quebec’s immigration minister said in a statement on Thursday evening that the decision “doesn’t seem to make much sense”. He has asked officials to look into her case.
Quebec has a special agreement on immigration with Canada’s federal government and has broad powers in the selection of immigrants.
A potential immigrant must obtain a “selection certificate” from the province before they can apply for permanent residence with the federal government.