MONTREAL -- A Montreal-area couple expecting a child wants an end to the bureaucratic backlog after spending $7,000 to cover medical bills.

Mariam Galstyan arrived in Canada from Russia 10 months ago to be with her husband.

"We were planning to stay in Canada, which is why we applied for a work permit and residence permit," explained Galstyan. 

They were told by the federal government her immigration application would take up to one year.

In March, the application was sent to Quebec for the Quebec Selection Certificate, but the system had shut down due to COVID-19. It now has a large backlog.

In April, the couple found out Galstyan was pregnant.

With her immigration file delayed, she was denied a full medicare card - and even a special card only to be used for costs related to the pregnancy.

"The reason that they cited was that Mariam doesn't have permanent residency status in Canada," said husband Daniel Rhodes. They said every time they call, they're told their application is in progress. 

While refugee claimants are eligible for the Interim Federal Health Program, giving them access to limited, temporary health-care coverage, the rules are different for people who are sponsored by their spouse.

"We are not asking for any money, for humanitarian help (or) anything like that. We are only asking for something that every person who resides in Quebec has a right to have," said Galstyan.

Liberal MNA Greg Kelley, who represents the West Island riding of Jacques-Cartier, is now advocating for the couple. 

"She's still here on a temporary status, one way or another. And RAMQ does cover people that are here who do need medical emergencies or in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen, so that's why it's a little bit, just, baffling for us… it seems like she hits all the criteria, waiting for this number and we don't have a clear idea of why that’s that case that she doesn't have it yet,"

No one from the health ministry was able to clarify.