Category Archives: Canadian Immigration Law Blog

How does the Sergei Magnitsky Law Tie Into Inadmissibility Under the Immigration and Refugee Protections Act?

Recently Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland made an announcement that 17 Saudi Nationals linked to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been sanctioned under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law).

Within her announcement, she mentioned that these 17 individuals (which notably do not include the Crown Prince MBS) are now inadmissible to Canada.

Given the Sergei Magnitsky Law is relatively new, I thought it would be worth looking at how these two legal provisions tie into each other.

They tie in to each other via the related amendments made to section 35 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) noted in the preamble and the Related Amendments in Section 18 of the Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act.

As stated in the Regulatory Impact Analysis – “The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act renders inadmissible to Canada persons, other than permanent residents, subject to orders and regulations made under the new Act. Therefore, the individuals listed in the Regulations are inadmissible to Canada.”

We need to look at the IRPA to better understand the application of an s.35(1) IRPA inadmissibility.

IRPA and the Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act

Human or international rights violations

 (1) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of violating human or international rights for

(e) being a person, other than a permanent resident, who is currently the subject of an order or regulation made under section 4 of the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law).

Clarification

(2) For greater certainty, despite section 33, a person who ceases being the subject of an order or regulation referred to in paragraph (1)(d) or (e) is no longer inadmissible under that paragraph.

2001, c. 27, s. 35;
2013, c. 16, s. 14;
2017, c. 21, s. 18.

In order to get one’s name off the list, one needs to make an application under section 8 of the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law).

Rights of Foreign Nationals Who are the Subject of an Order or Regulation

Application

8 (1) A foreign national who is the subject of an order or regulation made under section 4 may apply in writing to the Minister to cease being the subject of the order or regulation.

Recommendation

(2) On receipt of the application, the Minister must decide whether there are reasonable grounds to recommend to the Governor in Council that the order or regulation be amended or repealed, as the case may be, so that the applicant ceases to be the subject of it.

Time limit

(3) The Minister must make a decision on the application within 90 days after the day on which the application is received.

Notice if application rejected

(4) The Minister must give notice without delay to the applicant of any decision to reject the application.

New application

(5) If there has been a material change in the applicant’s circumstances since their last application under subsection (1) was submitted, he or she may submit another application.

Currently, there are no cited cases to the Sergei

What If the Individual is in Canada

In the off chance that they are in Canada already when the order is made, the application removal order per R. 229(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations is

 (1) For the purposes of paragraph 45(d) of the Act, the applicable removal order to be made by the Immigration Division against a person is

(b) a deportation order, if they are inadmissible under subsection 35(1) of the Act on grounds of violating human or international rights;

Conclusion

So far there is not a single case citing to s. 35(1)(e) IRPA – it is no doubt still in it’s legislative infancy. More is certainly yet to come on this interesting piece of law!

Fettering Discretion and Standard of Review – Boswell J. sets out a Useful Summary in Alagaratnam

Readers of this blog know that one of the concepts that I am very fascinated/still struggle with the idea of fettering discretion. For whatever reason, my 2015 post where I tried to harness my inner Paul Daly and assess it, is a top Google search for the definition [use with caution/take it for what it’s worth].

While researching for a judicial review I am preparing when an Officer went beyond the policy scope of their discretionary assessment of humanitarian and compassionate grounds factors, I came across a 2017 Boswell J. decision in Alagaratnam v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2017 FC 381 (CanLII), <http://canlii.ca/t/h3bsc> that does a very good job of laying out the state of the current standard of review analysis.

For now, I think this is the best way to address standard of review until we may get clarity with the new trilogy heard in December with Bell Canada, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (37896), and with National Football League, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (37897).

I have reproduced paragraphs 23 to 28 below.

A.               Standard of Review

[23]           An officer’s decision to deny relief under subsection 25(1) of the IRPA involves the exercise of humanitarian and compassionate discretion and is reviewed on the reasonableness standard (Kanthasamy at para 44). Under this standard of review, the Court must determine whether the Officer’s decision “falls within a range of possible, acceptable outcomes which are defensible in respect of the facts and law” and whether the decision is justifiable, transparent, and intelligible: Dunsmuir v New Brunswick2008 SCC 9 (CanLII) at para 47, [2008] 1 SCR 190. Those criteria are met if “the reasons allow the reviewing court to understand why the tribunal made its decision and permit it to determine whether the conclusion is within the range of acceptable outcomes”: Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses’ Union v Newfoundland and Labrador (Treasury Board)2011 SCC 62 (CanLII) at para 16, [2011] 3 SCR 708.

[24]           It warrants note that the Supreme Court in Kanthasamy applied a reasonableness standard of review, yet ultimately concluded that the officer had inappropriately fettered her discretion by a literal obedience to the adjectives “unusual and undeserved or disproportionate” hardship, leading her “to see each of them as a distinct legal test, rather than as words designed to help reify the equitable purpose of the provision” (para 45).

[25]           As to the standard of review for an allegation that an administrative decision-maker has fettered their discretion, this is somewhat unsettled in the jurisprudence. In Stemijon Investments Ltd v Canada (Attorney General)2011 FCA 299 (CanLII), 341 DLR (4th) 710 [Stemijon], Justice Stratas explained how fettering of discretion was traditionally an automatic ground for setting aside a decision, but now it should be subsumed into the reasonableness analysis:

[21]      The appellants’ submissions, while based on reasonableness, seem to articulate “fettering of discretion” outside of the Dunsmuir reasonableness analysis. They seem to suggest that “fettering of discretion” is an automatic ground for setting aside administrative decisions and we need not engage in a Dunsmuir-type reasonableness review.

[22]      On this, there is authority on the appellants’ side. For many decades now, “fettering of discretion” has been an automatic or nominate ground for setting aside administrative decision-making: see, for example, Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. v. Government of Canada1982 CanLII 24 (SCC), [1982] 2 S.C.R. 2 at page 6. The reasoning goes like this. Decision-makers must follow the law. If the law gives them discretion of a certain scope, they cannot, in a binding way, cut down that scope. To allow that is to allow them to rewrite the law. Only Parliament or its validly authorized delegates can write or rewrite law.

[23]      This sits uncomfortably with Dunsmuir, in which the Supreme Court’s stated aim was to simplify judicial review of the substance of decision-making by encouraging courts to conduct one, single methodology of review using only two standards of review, correctness and reasonableness. In Dunsmuir, the Supreme Court did not discuss how automatic or nominate grounds for setting aside the substance of decision-making, such as “fettering of discretion,” fit into the scheme of things. Might the automatic or nominate grounds now be subsumed within the rubric of reasonableness review? On this question, this Court recently had a difference of opinion: Kane v. Canada (Attorney General)2011 FCA 19 (CanLII). But, in my view, this debate is of no moment where we are dealing with decisions that are the product of “fettered discretions.” The result is the same.

[24]      Dunsmuir reaffirms a longstanding, cardinal principle: “all exercises of public authority must find their source in law” (paragraphs 27-28). Any decision that draws upon something other than the law – for example a decision based solely upon an informal policy statement without regard or cognizance of law, cannot fall within the range of what is acceptable and defensible and, thus, be reasonable as that is defined in Dunsmuir at paragraph 47. A decision that is the product of a fettered discretion must per se be unreasonable.

[26]           In Frankie’s Burgers Lougheed Inc v Canada (Employment and Social Development)2015 FC 27(CanLII), 473 FTR 67, the Court followed this approach:

[24]      With respect to the fettering of discretion issue that has been raised, it is not necessary to definitively determine whether the standard of review is correctness or reasonableness, since the result is the same: a decision that is the product of a fettered discretion must per se be unreasonable (Stemijon…at paras 20-24).

[27]           More recently, in Gordon v Canada (Attorney General)2016 FC 643 (CanLII), 267 ACWS (3d) 738, the Court noted the unsettled question as to whether a correctness or a reasonableness standard of review applies to an allegation that an administrative decision-maker fettered their discretion, observing that:

[25]      Some confusion exists regarding the appropriate standard of review where the fettering of discretion is at issue.

[26]      Traditionally, the fettering of discretion has been reviewable on the correctness standard: Thamotharem v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship & Immigration)2007 FCA 198 (CanLII) at para 33, 366 NR 30.

[27]      However, the Federal Court of Appeal has recently posited that post- Dunsmuir, the fettering of discretion should be reviewed on the reasonableness standard, as it is a kind of substantive error. The Federal Court of Appeal has, however, also been careful to say that the fettering of discretion is always outside the range of possible, acceptable outcomes, and is therefore per se unreasonable: Stemijon at paras 23-25…

[28]      It is sufficient to state in this case that the fettering of discretion is a reviewable error under either standard of review, and will result in the decision being quashed: JP Morgan Asset Management (Canada) Inc. v. Minister of National Revenue2013 FCA 250 (CanLII) at paras 71-73, 450 N.R. 91; see also Stemijon Investments, above, at para 23. Simply put, if the Minister’s Delegate fettered her discretion, her decision should be set aside regardless of the standard of review applied.

[28]           For the purposes of this case, it is sufficient to conclude that, regardless of the standard of review to be applied to the fettering of discretion issue raised by the Applicant, if the Officer fettered his or her discretion that would constitute a reviewable error under either standard of review and would require that the decision be set aside.

Applying for Study Permit – Does I Matter if I Apply in Canada? – FC Weighs In

One of the questions I’ve always struggled with (and tended to advise much more conservatively on) is the question of whether an individual should apply for a study permit while they are residing in their country of habitual residence/citizenship or whether they should apply for one while they are in Canada as visitors (processed in LA).

The general incentive overseas is made clear by a series of sub-categories such as Study Direct Stream and Post-Secondary with GIC, that have been created to try and encourage applicants to apply to local offices with local standards. Furthermore, the main temporary resident assessment is whether one will leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay – something made more difficult by someone who may have visited and decided they would like to stay for long (remember, there’s no implied status provided by a study permit application assessed in Los Angeles – as it is still considered an initial study permit application, NOT an extension).

I’ve always avoided Los Angeles where possible – the Visa Office there is quite tough on temporary resident applicants especially on the factor of whether they would leave Canada at their end of their authorized stay.

Justice Norris, who has established himself as a progressive voice on the Federal Court bench, has challenged the logic that negative inferences or speculations flowing can be drawn from the fact an Application was made in Canada rather than from abroad.

In Cervjakova v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 1052 (CanLII),  he writes in paragraphs 11 – 16 (emphasis added)

[11]  The GCMS notes record the reasons for the decision as follows:

After considering all information available including principal applicant’s personal circumstances, employment/financial/family situation, significant cost of proposed study, accessibility of similar programs in home country, I am not satisfied principal applicant’s motivation for pursuing studies in Canada is reasonable, primary purpose is to study, and will leave by the end of an authorized stay period.

(In the interests of readability, I have taken the liberty of replacing the abbreviations the officer used in the notes.)

[12]  Having regard to all the circumstances of this case, in my view the officer’s conclusions fail the tests of transparency, intelligibility and justification.  The conclusion that the applicant would not leave Canada at the end of her authorized stay is especially troubling.  A finding that the applicant could not be trusted to comply with Canadian law is a serious matter.  The applicant had done everything she was supposed to.  She obtained a visitor’s visa when she first came to Canada.  She applied for a study permit when she decided to undertake further studies in her field (she had worked in accounting for several years in Latvia).  The only suggestion that she had not complied with Canadian immigration law is found in the officer’s observation that the applicant had listed the occupation of her two children as “students” but there was no record of them having been issued study permits.  The children were ages 4 and 11.  While one might expect them to be in school, there was no evidence that they were when the application was submitted.

[13]  Similarly, the officer notes that it is “unclear” why the applicant did not apply for a study permit before she left Latvia for Canada.  The applicant was not required to do so.  The only requirement was that the application be processed by a visa office outside of Canada.  While the applicant was in Canada when she sent off her application, she was here lawfully.  She was entitled to submit her application when and how she did.  Simply being unclear about why this happened does not reasonably support a finding that the applicant had not conducted herself with bona fides.

[14]  The officer was also not satisfied that the applicant had the financial means to afford the programme and to support herself and her family during an extended stay in Canada.  This conclusion is not reasonably supported by the record, either.  The applicant presented evidence that she had adequate funds to support herself and her family, especially considering that a policy manual states that the applicant’s ability to fund the first year of the proposed course of studies is the primary consideration.  (After that, an applicant need only demonstrate a probability of future sources of funding.)

[15]  The applicant applied for an open work permit for her husband under section 199(e) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227.  While it was not obvious that her husband would be able to find work in Canada, the evidence of the applicant’s financial circumstances suggested that the viability of her plans did not depend on this happening.  It is true that the applicant’s husband had left a job behind in Latvia.  The applicant’s decision to study in Canada could well entail financial sacrifices for herself and her family but the evidence suggested they could afford to make them.  This is often what is required to improve one’s circumstances in life.  There was no basis to conclude that this was an unreasonable decision on the applicant’s part that raised doubts about her true motivation.

[16]  It may strike one as odd that the applicant and her family would suddenly decide to extend a summer vacation in Canada into a five-year commitment.  But life often takes unexpected turns.  Nothing in the circumstances of this case reasonably supported the conclusion that the applicant had failed to establish that she wanted to stay in Canada to study in her field, that she could afford to do so, and that she would leave when she was supposed to.

Alone the lines of several other recent successful study permit JRs we’ve seen, this decision reaffirms that speculative reasoning should not be employed in refusing applicants. I return to a premise I’ve held for awhile – if we continue to hold the number of study permits in Canada at a level where supply exceeds demand, and where targets are reached earlier, how do we avoid this? The very assessment of a study permit is by nature speculative. Indeed, I’ve yet to meet very many internal students who do not meet the study permit requirements, but for that discretionary – will they return to Canada at the end of their stay. How are we going to balance all this out without a quota system?

Food for thought. For now, applying through LA (though still not my first choice in most cases) can’t in itself be a deal-breaker.

Authorization to Return to Canada (“ARC”) – A Deep Dive

With an increase in individuals being removed from Canada on exclusion and deportation orders, the practice of filing Authorization to Return to Canada Applications (“ARC Applications”) is on the rise.

Per IRCC: 

A52(1) provides that if a removal order has been enforced, a foreign national shall not return to Canada unless authorized by an officer or in other prescribed circumstances. A removal order is considered to have been enforced whether the client either leaves voluntarily or is removed by the Minister.

R226(1) provides that for the purposes of A52(1) and subject to R226(2), a deportation order obliges a foreign national to obtain the written authorization of an officer in order to return to Canada any time after the deportation order has been enforced.

The consequences of trying to return to Canada after an exclusion/deportation order without having filed an ARC is a deportation order per the operation of R. 228(1)(c)(ii):

(1) For the purposes of subsection 44(2) of the Act, and subject to subsections (3) and (4), if a report in respect of a foreign national does not include any grounds of inadmissibility other than those set out in the following circumstances, the report shall not be referred to the Immigration Division and any removal order made shall be

…..

(c) if the foreign national is inadmissible under section 41 of the Act on grounds of

…..

(ii) failing to obtain the authorization of an officer required by subsection 52(1) of the Act, a deportation order,

As a specified removal order, this does not need to go the Immigration Division and can be issued by a CBSA Minister’s Delegate.

Going Behind the ARC Application

IRCC gives very little guidance (online) on what should be an ARC application.

Indeed, the online guidance is limited to the following as posted on their website.

Important information

When an officer assesses your application, they will consider, among other things:

  • the reasons for the removal order
  • the possibility that you will repeat the behaviour that caused the order to be issued
  • the length of time since the order was issued
  • your current situation
  • the reason why you want to enter Canada.

An incomplete or illegible application will be returned without being processed.

There is no guarantee that you will be issued an Authorization to Return to Canada.

There is another source – OP 1 – Procedures at 6.2 that sets out more details on what is assessed:

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 8.36.54 PM

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 8.37.54 PM

Note how detailed the analysis at each stage and how it suggests that there is the need for significant documentation.

The above seem to follow the words of Immigration Lawyer, Richard Wazana who said recently in an Immigration Lawyer’s Listserve: “Do not take anything for granted on Authorization to Return to Canada (“ARCs). Make thorough submissions and support them with evidence, like you would an H&C.”

Who Can Issue an ARC?

OP 1 at 6.5 provides  the following:

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 12.40.35 PM

This makes it clear that there will likely be multiple Officers involved in a decision but restrictions around the decision-maker.

It also suggests that there can be other decision-makers other than at visa offices abroad, which a closer look at the Instruments of Designated Authority confirms.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 12.42.09 PM

My experiences have been limited to overseas offices but the authority expands beyond that to members of IRCC’s CMB and senior CBSA members just to name a few. It will be interesting to better understand that decision-making/referral network.

Let’s look at it from the inside.

I’ve managed to get my hands on the training guide used (2017 results, so slightly dated and may not be what IRCC presently utilizes), but does add a little more conversation (especially processing-wise) to the resources we’ve been able to build.

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 8.29.04 PM

The above is important especially to remember that eligibility is assessed before ARC in the process so the need to file ARC does not diminish the need to file a strong baseline application.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 1.04.45 PM

In this page remember the issue of paying removal costs and that this needs to be resolved before the ARC.

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 1.06.44 PM

These factors track OP 1, 6.2 and also refer to the Instruments of Delegated Authority that I pointed to earlier.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 1.07.07 PM

Here, note ARC does not need to be filed each time. The first ARC  is all that is needed so a strong application is crucial.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 1.07.22 PM

Remember too that a TRP can overcome the need for an ARC – but that an exceptional case needs to be made out for this.

Finally, here’s a helpful chart from the training guide that may be worth putting up on your wall to remind you of the interaction between ARC and removals.

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 8.39.42 PM

All the process is good to know but I would suggest that the most important parts of an ARC involve two stages – (1) making a strong case for initial eligibility; and (2) drawing those factors to make a compelling and exceptional case for why you deserve to return to Canada notwithstanding your past immigration history.

Hope this post helps guide you in that journey!

 

Non-Immigration Tribunal’s Immigration Confusion – Implied Status for R. 206/R.207 work permit

An interesting decision in a Alberta Workers’ Compensation Appeal Decision No.: 2017-0248, 2018 CanLII 87280 (AB WCAC)

raises interesting issues about how accessible or apparent are some of the nuances of the operation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act [IRPA] and Regulations [IRPR], especially around implied status.

Implied status (R.186(u) of IRPR in the context of work) is an often misunderstood concept. It is an area where I have had to write a lot of opinion letters for employers/employees in order to preserve the employees’ ability to maintain employment. As there is no “official” document confirming implied status, and the end of the period will often rely on a worker’s forthcoming updates to their employer about their application, it can be the source of some tension.

In Decision No.: 2017-0248, the status of foreign workers vis-a-vis their implied status is addressed in two major statements in the decision. Without getting into the applicability of the misunderstanding on the consequences, which it appears there may have been, it is important to clarify the law. I hope this piece is ultimately also an argument by getting an immigration opinion from an immigration lawyer may aid in understanding non-immigration law matters. This area of the law is not as simple as ‘googling’ IRCC’s website.

The Worker’s Representative’s made the following submissions as entered into the decision:

[106.12]   The worker’s employer had offered modified work duties.  The worker was committed to performing modified duties and signed a modified work agreement on March 19, 2015.

[106.13]   On the same day the agreement was signed, the employer advised WCB that it could no longer employ him because his work visa had expired and the worker had done nothing to renew it.

[106.14]   However, the worker had reported to his supervisor that he had applied for an extension, one month before his work visa expired.  He provided the supervisor with an email to support this.

[106.15]   An employer who hires temporary foreign workers should be aware that, once an individual has applied for extension of work visa, he or she remains entitled continue to work for the same employer until a decision is made on the extension.  The employer did not follow through with the worker’s implied status as a temporary resident entitled to work and removed the modified work.

[106.16]   Because of the employer’s decision, the worker had to relocate to another province as he had no way to pay his living expenses.

The Appeal Board later addresses the submissions and decides as follows:

[158]        We acknowledge the worker’s representative’s submissions with respect to the worker’s ability to continue to work past the date on which his work permit expired.

[159]        We note that the worker was issued a work permit on March 20, 2014.  The date of expiry was March 20, 2015.   The work permit explicitly stated that the work permit did not confer temporary resident status:

“. . .

Remarks/Observations:

DOES NOT CONFER TEMPORARY RESIDENT STATUS.  JP/OSC

. . .”

[160]        The Government of Canada information, supplied by the worker’s representative and copies of printouts of which were contained in the appeal documents package, stated what would happen if a temporary resident applied for renewal of a work permit which then expired.  However, there was no evidence before us to establish that the worker was a temporary resident at the time his work permit expired.  To the contrary, the permit stated he was not.

Implied Status is Available for a Work Permit Holder With a Condition “Does Not Confer Temporary Resident Status”

What the Worker Compensation Appeal Board does, in essence, is  equate the condition on the work permit indicating that the work permit does not confer temporary resident status to the presumption that implied status cannot be available as implied status requires pre-existing temporary resident status.

While it sounds good in theory, it is wrong on application of law. This is where implied status can sometimes be a misnomer.

*Warning – this part gets a bit reg heavy so if you hate regulations, you may want to avoid reading further.

First, the starting point – what type of work permit does the Appellant in this case have. We can do a preliminary deduction without seeing the work permit that is either a R. 206 of the Immigration and Refugee Protections Regulations [“IRPR“] and/or R.207(c) or (d) IRPR work permit. We are able to do this by looking at R.202 IRPR which sets out the impetus for the condition of not conferring temporary resident status.

This provision applies to work permits that often are applied for by refugee claimants or subject to an unenforceable removal order [R.206], is a protected person within the meaning of subsection 95(2) [R.207(c)], or is applying to become a permanent resident and has been granted an exemption by the Minister per s. 25(1), s.25.1(1), or s.25.2(1) of IRPA [R. 207(d)]. The later is commonly knows as the “first-stage approval” for a Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds permanent residence application, quite common when dealing with individuals without status who are applying for permanent residence.

The provision for implied status falls under R. 186(u) IRPR which allows a foreign national to work on the conditions of an expired work permit while awaiting a decision on a new work permit application. It is worth noting that this is a provision which does not mention anything relating to temporary resident status.

 A foreign national may work in Canada without a work permit

(u) until a decision is made on an application made by them under subsection 201(1), if they have remained in Canada after the expiry of their work permit and they have continued to comply with the conditions set out on the expired work permit, other than the expiry date;

In fact,  R.201 IRPR ties into R. 200, which states and Officer shall renew a foreign national’s work permit [note again – no language around an individual needing to be in status] if they continue to meet the requirements of section (R.) 200.

Application for renewal

  •  (1) A foreign national may apply for the renewal of their work permit if

    • (a) the application is made before their work permit expires; and

    • (b) they have complied with all conditions imposed on their entry into Canada.

  • Renewal

    (2) An officer shall renew the foreign national’s work permit if, following an examination, it is established that the foreign national continues to meet the requirements of section 200.

  • SOR/2010-172, s. 3.

In fact, four subsections of R. 200 specifically highlight section 206 and 207 and indeed in subsection (2) make it that the ability to leave Canada at the end of an authorized stay [i.e. or reframed –  maintain temporary resident status] is not a consideration in whether to issue a work permit.

In conclusion – it is very clear from the regulations that an individual with an R. 206 or R. 207(c) and (d) IRPR work permit that has a condition stating the work permit does not grant temporary status CAN still rely on implied status under R. 186(u) of IRPR.

It is unclear what Government of Canada documents were relied upon but websites don’t often tell the full picture.

What IRCC email “actively pursuing studies” compliance checks look like

Email Compliance Checks

As you may have seen from IRCC’s revamped study permit instructions website, the process of verifying whether a student is “actively pursuing studies” is finally being taken up by the Department. While some may find concern in this (given the broad nature of R. 220.1 IRPR), if it leads to less Port of Entry decisions and more assessment by those who understand the challenges of international students and can grant some of discretion, this can be a positive thing.

I have shared an earlier post – what the letter looks like but I want to provide some more details about what we know and what we don’t know. Hopefully, IRCC will also put up some sort of an information page that sets out the guidelines/thresholds to be met and what (if any) steps a student can take to explain peculiarities or normalize their study status when facing such a request. For one, it is not clear how a student is to address medical breaks, time outside Canada (when they are not subject to the requirement to actively pursue studies), or any other explanation in a manner that can lead to the exercising of positive discretion.

Step 1: Receive Email from IRCC

IRCC.DNISPCompliance-ConformitePEERN.IRCC@cic.gc.ca

  • On this a side note and tip- many international students utilize the email of educational agents, family members, etc. to apply for study permits. For many of them, once you are comfortably in Canada and in school their obligation ceases to exist, but yours still do. I would suggest creating a MyCIC and linking your application to your new MyCIC to ensure that you get communication. Alternatively, you may choose to contact IRCC by IRCC webform to change your contact information. Still, IRCC has been known to send emails to wrong/old addresses. Being proactive will do you well here.

Step 2: Read the Email from IRCC carefully, noting deadlines, format and documents required

Copy of a compliance check

In this sample request, there are two things requested – one proving current enrollment status and a second requesting transcripts from past dates. There is also under the “Please note” section the ability to provide additional explanations.

With a deadline, you want to make sure that if (for whatever reason) documents may not be obtained within the deadline [let’s assume your consultant sent you this email three weeks late and a transcript takes one week to obtain from your former institution], make sure to  email and ask for a reasonable extension of time. 

Step 3: Review the Letter/Transcripts You Get Carefully

Not all letters and transcripts are self-evident when under review. It is possible the educational institution themselves may not have undergone an immigration audit of their letters, attendance records may be inaccurate/missing, or the transcript may have some issue that you were previously not a party to. Schools also may have very unique semester systems that are not captured in their enrollment letters or transcripts. It is important before you pass it on directly to IRCC that you review it for possible flags that may need explaining.

That being said, IRCC’s technology to catch fraud is increasing, comes with high consequences (a possible 5-year bar from Canada for misrepresentation and/or regulatory offense/charges). I would highly advise against any one seeking to alter anything for the purposes of trying to cover up a record of underwhelming studies. There is sufficient enough grey in the legislation that you may be better off providing an explanation of your ongoing intent and explaining short periods of non-compliance than to cover up or hide it.

Step 4: Provide a Response or Determine if You Need Legal Assistance Providing Said Response

Next comes responding. If there are straight forward documentation which clearly establishes your attendance with no issue, you may be okay sending in just the transcripts. However, in many cases a cover letter or timeline may be beneficial to provide. Your job is to make the Officer’s job easier and as well advocate for your own past studies and ongoing-pursuit of studies. Again, at this stage, there are no clear cut rules as to the standard of proof. It is unclear whether students on academic probation, students who failed, and students who were wait listed or prevented from studies due to registration/health issues will be able to get a hall pass. Hopefully, in time these issues clarify themselves and as well IRCC also clarifies their communication with CBSA on students seeking entry who may have violated the actively pursuing studies requirement. In an ideal world, I would like to see CBSA cease issuing removal orders at the Port of Entry and referring cases to IRCC to pursue, giving students fair and reasonable opportunities to respond to concerns and/or make necessary efforts to change their status, if required and available.

Summer ’18 – Study Permit and International Student Law Federal Court Case Law Summary

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By Desmond1234 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46866616

As Canadian students ease their way back into studies and as school staff and administrators start thinking about the million responsibilities that come with a new cohort of international students, I thought it would be useful to review Federal Court Case Law over the past few months and uncover a few points.

I will focus on four points.

[1] PGWP regime not unconstitutionally vague, does not trigger s.7, and refusing a graduate from a private institution that was  not eligible under guidelines, not unreasonable. Brown v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration)  2018 FC 452 [link to decision] – Manson J. presiding.

Jeremiah Eastman (a former DOJ lawyer for over 11 years)  appeared to make a valiant effort attacking the PGWP regime from all sides, but Manson J upheld the reasonableness of the decision and constitutionality of the PGWP regime. It is important to note that IRCC has now proactively addressed the issue at the heart of this matter by adding a list that sets out whether the DLI is PGWP-eligible and/or if certain programs offered are eligible.

[2] In the context of the requirement of  “actively-pursuing studies,” it is often parallel proceedings that will trigger investigation. CBSA Officers found to have broad discretion by Courts.  – Kone v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2018 FC 845 [link to decision] – Locke J. presiding.

 

Kone is a fascinating decision because it occurs in a context that I have lectured on for several years in my international student presentations. The Actively-Pursuing Studies requirement (which I have written about several times as being problematic) is most problematic when triggered by CBSA. There are many cases of international students who have missed one or two semesters (due to scheduling/health issues) but have not had issues entering new programs or getting student renewals. Kone gets triggered, not by an investigation into his studies initially, but by a related fraud matter where he is arrested.

Once this occurs, the books become open and the actively-pursuing studies allegation was sought after. We have seen this occur in other contexts as well – border entry incidents, criminal charges, arrests, etc.

The individual at that stage is often in a situation where their ability to provide further explanation is compromised. IRCC’s own process (triggered by compliance reporting and their own investigations) is much more fairer and consists of a PFL that often looks like this.

IRCC actively pursuing studies PFL letter

Students can then present a timeline including explanations as to why certain programs were unavailable or registration was delayed.

I also find the decision fascinating because, it does not (it appears) parse out the statutory requirements of what defines a failure to actively-pursue studies. At one point Justice Locke writes about one period of study:

[62]  First, I note that the applicant makes no reference to any authority indicating that his absence from Canada could excuse him.

The very provision of R. 220.1(1) of IRPR requires actively-pursuing studies only when in Canada on a study permit. Indeed, one of IRCC’s pieces of advice on this issue is to depart Canada or seek a visitor record if there is major gap due to issues such as illness or inability to enroll.

Finally, one thing that still needs to be resolved (in my mind) is whether this type of non-compliance can be cured by leaving Canada in the same way as other unauthorized work or study. IRCC’s Enforcement Manual – ENF 2- Chapter 11 states as follows:

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If a student who has not been actively-pursuing studies leaves Canada and returns either as a visitor (awaiting the re-engagement of their studies) or at a time prior to studies commencing, can the Border Officer go back to previous periods of study and render a decision that they were not actively pursuing studies while holding their study permit. It seems like an area where there is still not absolute clarity, and I’ve certainly seen most border officer’s take the later approach. Even IRCC’s PFL letter suggests that this assessment can be made irregardless of the Applicant’s travel history.

It is also worth noting a second case came out this summer El Kamel v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness) 2018 FC 730 [see attached link occured in the context of a student who was advised by his consultant to seek to amend his study permit at the Port of Entry (likely by flagpole) where he was subsequently issued a s.44 report and exclusion order.  The Officer noted the student’s good faith action at the Border, but noted that there were no grounds for review of the decision finding Mr. E-K did not actively pursue studies.

Expect that the actively-pursuing studies issue continues to be pursued as a ground for refusing non-compliant students but in many cases capture students that border the cusp of being also unfortunate, unhealthy, or unsuccessful which the provision can also apply to.

[3] Study Permit Refusals Should Continue to be JR’d – Raymundo v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2018 FC 759 [see linked decision] – LeBlanc J. presiding.

As discussed in my last post on the Omijie case [see link here], there has been an increasing judicial scrutiny around study permit refusals. It is understandable. There are now increasing number of study permit applicants, and while Canada has pledged more seats, within a global context it cannot take all applicants. Rates of granted study permits in many countries are still very low (15% or less, and in some cases close to 5%).

Many of these applications will begin with the starting point that the visa officer will likely refuse the application and assume the applicant will not leave Canada at the end of their stay, unless the applicant can demonstrate otherwise. While this is not how the laws and regulations should directly apply, it is a reality of the over-extended demand on a Canadian study permit.

In Raymundo, a study permit applicant from the Philippines applying for Centennial College’s International Business Program was refused a study permit. He had explained in his application why he intended to return to the Philippines to start a marine transportation business. It appears he had family in Canada who would be providing financial support but Mr. R’s wife and kids would be staying in the Philippines. The Officer found that the proposed studies in Canada were not consistent with a logical study plan and that the Applicant did not demonstrate significant socio-economic ties to the Philippines.

Justice LeBlanc found that the decision was not reasonable, rendering the following lines:

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The Applicant directly addressed his attempts in his personal study plan that he tried to find a similar program, yet the program was still found not to make sense.

The Officer also took major issue with the fact that the Applicant had left his wife and son in the Philippines and that this factor was not mentioned at all in the reasons for refusal.

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These are such common reasons for refusal that I see in many study permit consultations. Even with the Federal Court’s guidance with these cases, I still believe that visa officers will continue to refuse study permit applicants with short, trite, and little explained reasons knowing that 95% of them will either abandon their plans or re-apply to a similar refusal. I think the only way to challenge the system is to bring up these cases to judicial review.

I note a second decision this summer, Demyati v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2018 FC 701 [see link to decision] where a 18-year old Syrian national with a scholarship was refused a study permit.  Justice Roy seemed very concerned with the lack of transparency and intelligibility in concerns that the individual would not return home because of the country conditions. Justice Roy also appeared pertrubed by the type of requirements IRCC was expecting of a young student with respect to his employment history, etc. This is particularly true as parsed out in the facts presented by Justice Roy.

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One of the key differences in this matter that the officer appeared to also go too far in presuming the Applicant would not “actively pursue studies” in Canada without pointing to any evidence. The speculative nature in which was done was criticized by Justice Roy, ironically in the context of s. 7 of the Charter which is rarely ever in the same context of international students, who have no Charter rights in a context of a study permit application. Yet, his criticism, highlights the very real concerns about arbitrary reasoning that comes with many temporary resident visa refusals.

I expect more and more judicial review of these types of decisions. It may be worth considering whether the Government eventually is better off with a per country quota system (that allows for the ceasing of intakes) as opposed to needing to find reasons to refuse applicants that often times will prima facie meet statutory requirements, pending issues about credibility or misrepresentation.

[4] Students Need to Better Pathway Their Studies –  Masam v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2018 FC 751 [see link to decision] – Walker J. presiding.

I will not break down this case too much (as it is somewhat related to what occurred in Brown above). Ms. M appeared to, likely on the cases of other students, transition from a DLI, George Brown College, that was on the PGWP list to a non-eligible DLI, Canadian College for Higher Studies (CCHS). Upon completion of that second program, it had already been 90-days + since the completion of studies at a DLI. While the Applicant tried to add to the JR record an affidavit from CCHS attaching proof that other students were successfully, this did not render the assessment unreasonable in the Applicant’s circumstances.

This case makes it even more important that students, especially who are seeking to do add-on programs or transition between institutions are aware of how this may affect their overall eligibility for PGWPs.

 

 

The Need to Show Study Progression and Judicially Reviewing a Study Permit Refusal – A Closer Look Through Omijie FC

In  the recent case of Omijie v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2018 FC 878 [CanLII link], Mr. Omijie is a 26-year old citizen of Nigeria who sought to study at Alberta’s NAIT for a Bachelors of Business Administration program after he had previously graduated, three years prior, from a Bachelors of Science from a university in Nigeria. Mr. Omijie’s student permit application was rejected, and not for the first time [as will be discussed below].

This case highlights the dilemma faced by many study permit applicants, particularly from countries such as Nigeria, where the last figures we have from January – March 2017 show that the number of successful applicants (371) compared to unsuccessful (2,174) and total applications lodged (2,545) leads to a 14.5% success rate.

371 2,174 2,545 53%

I would assume that rate has worsened since with the volume of students seeking entry into Canada from all over the world.

One of the major issues under scrutiny was the fact that the Applicant was seeking a degree to continue studies in a related area at a related level.

It is also important to put into context that the Applicant’s study permit refusal had already gone back once to the visa office for reconsideration after a decision by Justice Diner. The reason it was sent back by the Federal Court was due to (as we will see also from this decision) a lack of explanation for why the “educational and employment history” was problematic.  As summarized in this decision about the first judicial review:

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Justice Pentney (former Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada many of those practicing will recognize from filing previous Judicial Reviews) made two very interesting points, set out over three paragraphs of his decision, as to why judicial review should be granted and the matter sent back to the visa office for redetermination.

In paragraph 23, Justice Pentney exams the evidence that was put forth by the Applicant for explaining why he wishes to pursue studies in Canada – specifically a desire to pursue hands-on, practical, and technologically advanced training.  The Visa Officer does not question the evidence provided but finds fault in the cost of relocating to Canada to undertake study at the same financial level.

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This is very common among international students who do often come with Bachelor’s or ther advanced degrees from abroad but wish to gain Canadian specific qualifications which may require them to start at a lower level or pursue diplomas.

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Justice Pentney acknowledges that the Applicant may not have set out the grounds of why there was a logical progression between the two studies clearly but that the Officer’s decision to reject what was presented without adequate explanation was itself unreasonable.

A recent trend of overseas visa office refusals that I have seen (both on the student and TRV side) is that the decisions are generally becoming more and more trite, with less and less reference to evidence provided. While a decision-maker is presumed to have reviewed all evidence, silence with respect to evidence that can corroborate the Applicant’s statements and that directly contradicts the visa officer’s decision, can render a decision unreasonable.

That being said, with judicial review being a costly procedure, and with the possibility that matters such as these can end up in a loop of judicial reviews and refusals, it is pertinent to put the best foot forward in the first application and make it abundantly clear how the Applicant meets the statutory and regulatory requirements of a bona fide student (or visitor as the case may be) that will leave Canada at the end of their stay.  In this matter, reference to policy and to previous refusals (if any) is crucial. Whether it is putting a succinct cover letter or organizing the online submission in a manner where the visa officer  is clear as to where documents are located, these small steps when a visa officer has only a few minutes to review a file and render a decision, goes a long way.

The Omijie decision also highlights another issue (and common point of misunderstanding) for those who pursue judicial review and expect that either the process will allow the judge to grant the study permit or else that once it is returned for reconsideration a student permit will be shortly granted.

As discussed by Justice Pentney, granting the study permit (which was sought b y counsel) is simply not an available remedy.

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S. 18.1(3)  of the Federal Courts Act states:

Powers of Federal Court

(3) On an application for judicial review, the Federal Court may

  • (a) order a federal board, commission or other tribunal to do any act or thing it has unlawfully failed or refused to do or has unreasonably delayed in doing; or

  • (b) declare invalid or unlawful, or quash, set aside or set aside and refer back for determination in accordance with such directions as it considers to be appropriate, prohibit or restrain, a decision, order, act or proceeding of a federal board, commission or other tribunal.

In a case of this nature there has been no unlawful failure, refusal, or delay in performing the act of approving a study permit under (a), this is clearly a case of (b) where the setting aside for the re-determination is the only appropriate remedy.

Back at the visa office, it is likely (but not always the case) that the Applicant will be granted the opportunity to provide further documentation. The Applicant will need to re-demonstrate that they still hold an LOA to this program, and likely update (in a matter such as this one) proof of finances, study plan, etc.

With the Federal Court now having clearly indicated that the missing piece appears to be the brevity of the decision and no indication why the Officer found the Applicant’s failure, it would be very likely for a more detailed examination of why the Applicant’s study plan fell short. In the alternative, other areas of the decision could be re-examined (proof of finances, etc.), and possibly even an interview set up to determine the Applicant’s credibility in presenting this plan, in person. The other option is for the Visa Officer to simply stop the litigious process and approve the study permit application. Again, neither option is clearly guaranteed through a process like this.

Too often, unauthorized or underqualified representatives will never advise judicial review and end up having their client go through a slew of repetitive refusals that very much harm the prospective chances of ever getting a temporary resident visa.  If not early on, at a certain point in time, there needs to be an acknowledgment of whether the application deficiency is a factual one (i.e. the facts are bad and can’t be fit to meet the requirements – but can also be “improved” upon) or if there are legal deficiencies that lead a visa officer to be unable to budge on their interpretation of the law. In the later case, judicial review (and the heavy expenses that go with this process) may be the only way to go.

I will be posting other cases of judicial reviews in a second (Summer 2018 in International Student Federal Court Litigation) so you will better see the nuances of how the Federal Court process works.

The Extent Unauthorized Immigration Agents Go to Hide Your Situation – A Case Study in Fraud

Recently, I was on Global News, talking about international student fraud (often times originating from overseas) where students get lured into Canada on a study permit and end up as precarious, exploited workers. You can find that piece here: https://globalnews.ca/news/4409552/aldergrove-subway-allegations/

In today’s piece I want to tackle a related issue that I have first hand knowledge of is affecting individuals across the spectrum – from individual seeking TRVs to study permits and work permits, and even to applications for permanent residence/permanent resident cards. This fraud takes place both inside Canada and outside Canada, although predominantly with unlicensed agents abroad or those agents who claim to work with “Canadian registered consultant partners.”

This type of fraud has affected a recent client of mine. I’m sharing his story (with permission). I’m modifying the facts so this will have no impact on his future immigration yet it can still serve as a warning to those who get caught up in these type of situations.

Scenario

You are a citizen of China seeking to visit Canada where you have a sibling who is currently on a post-graduate work permit. You engage in the services of a local agent in the service of your small town on the outskirts of Qingdao. He says he is an immigration service. They have a 95% success rate and they can help you with the process. They say they will go to the Visa Application Centre (“VAC”) VAC on your behalf. It is easier that way and you will not need to do anything other than to give them documents.

You provide them the documents. They tell you that they believe you will be granted a visa and to wait approximately three to four weeks for notification. They do not provide you any receipt or file number other than a brief voice message indicating it has been sent. You have not seen the final package.

They notify you on 29 April 2016 that your application was unfortunately refused but that the refusal was out of their control. They say that refusal decision appears to put the onus entirely on you for not providing enough financial documentation.

You see the letter. The heading says:Scrubbing Refusal 0a

 

 

 

The letter is addressed to you, it has the file number.

The content of the letter says:

Scrubbing Refusal 0a Scrubbing Refusal 2

You accept the refusal as par the course. You don’t blame the agent. Your family accepts it (they got their visas after all) and you let the matter go.

Several years later you find a licensed Canadian representative. You now wish to visit Canada again to celebrate your brother’s wedding. Your brother hired a representative in Canada who assisted him on his PR paperwork (economic immigration) which went smoothly.

As part of the process, your new representative recommends that you do an access to information request to get a copy of the Officer’s Electronics notes and the refusal letter. You ask for a copy of the physical file as well. you pay $5 dollars for this request.

A month later, IRCC responds stating that they have unfortunately disposed of your information in correspondence to their data retention policy. 

Two years have passed since the last administrative action. However, they do send you a copy of the refusal letter as per below:

Scrubbing Refusal 0

This date is 6 days before the date of the refusal letter you received from your consultant.

There is also a different address located on the top of the letter – not just your name listed.

Scrubbing Refusal Address

You also note the number of pages in the refusal is very different

Scrubbing Refusal 1There is another page that you are surprised to see – that the refusal is not just one page long:

Scrubbing Refusal 1bIn the electronic notes, you learn from the notes that a large portion of the refusal was actually due to the submission of unclear photocopies.

The reasons for refusal were entirely the same as the one included in your letter for the consultant. Why was the refusal letter transferred to a new form?

Breaking Down the Fraud

There are two major elements to this particular fraud case. These likely are the reason why said fraud agent

1) The Date of Refusal – this allows these fake agents/consultants to sit on refusals. They can pass the decisions within their networks and decide how to scrub them before sending it to you. While in this case they did not adjust the reasons for refusal, it would be very foreseeable that they would scrub it for wrongdoing (misrepresentation, poorly submitted documents, etc.);

(2) The address of the agent involved. You did not ask a Beijing firm for support. Why is there a Beijing address? By scrubbing the refusal letter and writing their own fake one, they were able to preserve their network of addresses. This would stop a line of investigation from IRCC. This would insulate the fact that the individual in Qingdao was not doing the work potentially and may have been a sub-agent for someone in Beijing.

Best Practices

As a client, you should always review everything that goes out, demand a copy of everything that is sent on your behalf, and require a file number as soon as possible. If you are passive and don’t take these steps, these are the types of frauds that will be perpetrated on your behalf.

While in this case, the only misrepresentation was a passed on refusal letter (not anything directly submitted to IRCC), it would not be out of ordinary for a fraudulent document to have been submitted on your behalf. With two years having passed, you will have no way of ever knowing.

I encourage all applicants to act prudently. Immigration works very differently than likely in your own countries where the process may be done in person, or through a process where you know exactly what is being passed on and when. With the move to electronic communication, and the lack of regulation of overseas agents, expect to see much more of this moving forward until preventative steps (such as sending a copy of the entire file to the client as well as the agent) are implemented. by IRCC.

Beware of a Newer Type of Immigration Fraud – Employer-Recommended Consultant Scheme (“ER-C Scheme”)

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There is a new type of immigration fraud out there, particularly affecting graduating international students who are desperate to seek grounds to extend their status in Canada and obtain work.  I will call it the (ER-C) Scheme.

The fraud works this way. IG (international graduate) gets an interview with a Potential Employer (ER). Employer mentions there is a possible job offer coming and that they have a consultant (C) who can assist on the work permit extension application (let us assume IG went to a school that does not offer a PGWP and cannot afford further studies at this stage). (IG) books (C) for a consultation and engages them with legal fees to prepare the entire application. At the very last minute (ER) backs out. (C) acts as though this is entirely out of their control and that this is an unfortunate situation. IG is left stranded. (C) later splits earnings from those legal fees with ER. The IG is now dealing with a status issue and is desperate to find a new opportunity – for which (C) the recommends another option that will bring her further legal fees.

This diverges from traditional fraud methods (fake documents, fake job, fake tax returns) and is dangerous in that it insulates those perpetrating it from the direct attention from immigration unless the victim directly contacts IRCC to report this matter. Given the victim themselves may have status issues precluding them from wanting to make their situation too obvious, there is that additional layer of disincentive. The paper trail between ER and C can be hidden through case only transfers or other gifts exchanged.

How do you prevent this type of fraud?

Always ask the Employer whether the representative they are recommending is their own representative and will be assisting on a dual representation agreement. If not (or if not clear) seek independent legal advice or perform an independent verification of the representative before engaging their services.  Ensure that you do not sign any contracts without clear indication that there will be no financial benefits shared between ER and C.