Canadian Immigration Santa
IRCC Has Delivered Some Gifts This Holiday Season
While the Eve has yet to hit, we have already been given a few gifts under the proverbial Canadian Immigrant’s Christmas tree. Eager to unwrap them, we find that Santa and his reindeers at Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) have indeed been thinking about us, the ‘patiently’ waiting type. No doubt there have been a few naughties, but ultimately, we’re nice. [End of poetry, creative efforts].
Without further ado, here are the recent gifts:
A. Parent Sponsorship Changes
For those who have been reading my blog prior in December 2015, I have been an outspoken supporter of parent sponsorship but also critical of the way things were historically done.
IRCC announced, just today (as of the writing of this blog post), that it will be eliminating first-in, first-out processing of parent and grandparent sponsorships for 2017. This means the courier lineup outside of CPC-M happily won’t be happening this year.
An online form will be made available from January 3 (noon EST) to February 2, 2017 (noon EST). IRCC will randomly select 10,000 sponsors and notify them with 90 days to send in a paper application. The revised forms will be available January 9th!
Truthfully, I was a bigger fan of a split system (half first-come, first-serve, quarter by random selection, and quarter by H&C). On a positive note, this process, at the very least, eliminates the perception that those who can pay for couriers and lawyers had a better chance than those who could not.
I still have concerns that out of the 10,000 selected (assuming IRCC puts in entry questions that weed out ineligible sponsors), there will be a significant number that do not qualify after documents are requested. However, I do like the idea that things are working on a more equal playing field.
See more here: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1168889
B. Spousal Sponsorship Changes
For spousal sponsors and their sponsored partners, particularly those who are stuck in the in-Canada backlog, IRCC has pledged to make the process easier and quicker.
IRCC is pledging to process 80% of sponsorships within 12 months and eliminate some of the front-end processes that slowed down sponsorship (upfront medicals and police certificates), instead moving them to the back end.
Simplified forms, which are set to come out on December 15th, 2016 (tomorrow as of the time of this blog post), will apparently be easier to understand and more universal in nature.
I expect also that there will be a navigation to easier online processing in addition to the linking in this round of changes. Hopefully, the 64,000 applicants will indeed be reunited with their spouses by the end of 2017.
[Full disclosure: I have a Sponsorship application pending for my wife in Hong Kong and I now check eCAS religiously]
See more here: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1166069&_ga=1.63005480.628028154.1421368218
C. Four Year Maximum Rule for Temporary Foreign Workers – Eliminated
Respite comes from the cumulative duration rule, which previously limited the eligible duration of work permitted in Canada on certain work permits (pursuant to R200(3)(g) under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. While there were several exceptions to the rule, individuals, particularly in lower skilled positions that needed to be supported by Labour Market Impact Assessments (such as Caregivers) were caught. The Government boldly (and uniquely) used their power under s.25.2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protections Act to create a public policy exemption from this rule.
Good news for temporary foreign workers indeed, although, still very temporary particularly for low-skilled workers looking for limited permanent resident options.
See more here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/work/cumulative.asp
D. Express Entry Changes – Benefiting International Students (and Educated Americans)
While we are still awaiting our first draw, but on 19 November 2016, IRCC changed the Express Entry rules to award additional points to holders of Canadian degrees and benefit some employer-specific work permit holders. Holders of Labour Market Impact Assessments found themselves with less points, 400 points less if their positions were NOC “O” and 550 points less if their positions were NOC “A” or “B.” Holders of employer-specific work permits gained 50 points, assuming they had a year of skilled work experience with that employer already in the bag.
While benefiting international students, there are certainly some workers who will be completely shutout as a result of the devaluation of their LMIAs. Arguably, the changes reduce the incentive of Canadian employer support in favour of the Applicant’s own pre-qualifications. Americas under NAFTA and with higher education (we can assume high language scores) will immediately become ultra-competitive under the changes.
See more: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/mi/express-entry.asp
IRCC Needs to Deliver a Few More Gifts This Holiday Season
1. Clarifying International Student Compliance
In addition to paying four times more in tuition than their domestic compatriots, Canadian international students are in a whole world of hurt struggling to meet the increasingly rigid and discretionary application of Canadian immigration law.
To provide a few examples, 2016 saw several cases go up to the Federal Court which have confirmed (a) the reasonableness of Officer’s doing their own assessment of Applicant study histories; (b) the reasonableness of having incorrect information on the Immigration website that contradicted with Regulations that a student understandably followed; and (c) making it prohibitively difficult to restore to Post-Graduate Work Permit status for those who have received initial refusals.
There are still many other challenging provisions – unclear definitions of what constitutes “continuous,” “actively-studying,” “sick-leave”, or how a student who is awaiting the start of a program is supposed to stay in Canada. More Post-Graduate Work Permits are being refused and dragged out in processing, with students questioning whether their time in Canada was the right choice.
Demand for international students to come to Canada will continue to increase post-Trump. We need to get this right to reduce not only the harmful anxieties of international students, but also our own increasing compliance costs of regulating the system.
We have some really great minds working at IRCC on this so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the end results.
2. Facilitating Entry Visas for Married/Common-Law Spouses – Modifying Dual Intent
I am so heartbroken this Christmas break that I have to see several Canadian spouses unable to reunite with their Canadian sponsors. In my mind, marriage to a Canadian and the submission of a sponsorship application should prima facie be evidence supporting the issuance of a temporary resident visa to facilitate interim reunification. The way the law currently works, providing only a spousal open work permit for spouses that apply inside Canada creates a major dis-balance.
The institution of marriage and partnership is changing. No longer is it the norm to marry the next-door neighbour or high school sweetheart. Individuals are meeting their wives on the internet, on exchanges, at international weddings and conferences, or on trips abroad. Something needs to be done to facilitate the entry of married couples into Canada so they can at least begin their lives together.
Dual intention is a difficult concept that is hard for many to wrap their heads around. I believe clearer policies need to be in place so that Applicant’s know exactly the type of threshold they need to meet to demonstrate this dual intent. There is far too much discretion, applied differently by different visa offices abroad, in our current system.
Should a marriage be non-genuine (or for immigration purposes) I argue there are enough misrepresentation laws that can be used to remove the bad apples or prevent their initial entry.
3. Ending Conditional Permanent Residence – For Good
There’s not much I need to write about this. It is long overdue. There are better ways to tackle misrepresentation and marriage fraud. Forcing a couple to physically reside with each other, in the event of bona fide breakdown or where economic reasons require temporary separation, is cruel. This is an important step to protect our most vulnerable new immigrants.
4. More Transparency With Permanent Resident Card Investigations
Some much needed light needs to be shed on the dark hole of PR Card investigations. There is a very good reason, much of the work has to be done outside of the public eye. For example, we recently saw many cases of PR Card fraud, which without the good work of IRCC, could have continued.
That being said, there are too many innocent applicants who make unfortunate administrative errors or who likely could resolve issues by sending in an additional document, waiting year(s) for a new card. Without this card, they have major issues accessing many public services. There needs to be some channels opened up to at least have a recourse for fixing things.
[Side note: Members of Parliament have direct access to information that many lawyers or self-reps are not privy too. I think this system should be made fairer and more transparent]
Three Holiday Tips for Canadian Immigration Applicants
(i) Building Good Immigration Credit and Tracking Down Reasons for Refusal
More and more, I am seeing an increase of cases where there are technical glitches leading to the late delivery of refusals or missed emails. Applicants are out of luck on their current stay in Canada and are wondering if they should put in an application to try and drag out the process or go back. Many worry, particularly because they are from visa-requiring countries or now with the new ETA requirements, that they will be prevented from returning.
I think more and more digging up the reasons for refusal and having a reasonable explanation for overstaying or non-compliance will become relevant factors. Particularly for those with future permanent resident intentions (i.e. through a future spousal sponsorship), applicants with no-basis can create negatively credibility. I’ve been advising my clients more recently on developing good immigration credit and viewing the process more longer-term. So far this has been very successful.
(ii) Working with Your Immigration Stakeholders Earlier in the Process
Whether you are an international student with a complicated education history or are signing your first work contract on an open work permit, it is important to have key conversations about immigration with your individual stakeholders.
Too often, clients come to see me with only months on their existing permits or days before the deadline for a work permit application indicating their employers are no longer on-board or, in some cases, are even providing negative information to immigration officers.
Immigrants, particularly younger students or recent graduates, are in a tough position of having to maintain strong stakeholder relationships throughout the process. An employer deciding to back out of support or a school unwilling to explain things on your behalf can be entirely detrimental to your future in Canada.
Make sure to work closely with these individuals and give them advance notice of your plans. If they are supportive, it may be good incentive to stay on. If they have reservations, it may be a good excuse to move on.
(iii) Do Not Neglect a Good Appeal Preparation
Recently, I have had several consultations with clients who have engaged representatives who unfortunately did not prepare them well for their appeals at the Immigration Appeal Division. Many of them had few meetings with their representative and found themselves on the witness stand unprepared to answer important questions about their time abroad, the genuineness of their relationship, and their future plans in Canada.
Appeal preparation is hard work. For many of my clients, it involves at least a month in advance, meetings on at least a twice a week basis. Clarification of documentation, translations, and interpretations need to happen well in advance of the actual day of.
I see appeals, particularly on the residency side as IRCC tightens their information sharing capabilities, to increase drastically. Do not neglect the preparation or having a good representative prepare you for this process.
In Closing – A Personal Update
With New Years coming up, I owe everybody a resolution to do better with this blog. The expectations of generating new content, the amount of amazing content I was seeing on other blogs and podcast, and my own busy (and impossible) work/life balance meant this blog took a hit.
Recently I have seen many clients who have found me because of my writing. I know my writing means something and it does to me as well. I will be working over the holiday to renew and refresh to see how we can use Vancouver Immigration Blog as a more positive, progressive space. Personally, I have seen my own silence be challenged by the voices of many who are critical of immigrants of immigration. Unless we have voices to challenge scripted narratives or to negotiate the many fine lines between a conversation worth having and racism, as a city we will be stuck in a zero-end-game limbo.
You will likely in 2017 see less criticism but more problem solving from my end. Entering the profession, I came in with a misguided, nonchalant view that change can be implemented with a flick of a switch. The more and more I do this, the more and more I respect the many individuals across the country working through bureaucracy and law to effect positive change. Patience is so key to this process.
I ask all of my faithful readers for some continued patience as I revamp and rework my passion for immigrants, immigration, and the law.
With love and Christmas spirit!