Category Archives: Canadian Immigration Law Blog

Financial Sensitivity, Legal Fees, and Addressing This With Your Immigration Representative – Five Recommendations

Vancouver Is Getting Expensive. Legal Fees Are Hard to Come By

Regardless of your income bracket, Vancouver has become a difficult place to get by from a financial perspective. The Lower Mainland is seeing shelter-to-income ratio figures where close to 40-45% of homeowners spend 30% of their household income on shelter. If we factor in new  immigrants, where we know wages are lower and many expenses (international tuition, fees, etc. are higher), we could expect this number to be even higher. City of Vancouver statistics showed that in 2010, approximately 7% of all renters and 4% of all owners spent 50% to 99% of their household income on shelter – a figure I imagine has continued to climb up to today.

Increasingly, and not surprisingly,  I am seeing individuals facing extreme challenges to afford their legal fees, particularly where they do not have the support of a well-established employer willing to foot the bill.

However, their legal matters are becoming increasingly complex – including complex legal issues of procedural fairness, appeals, and judicial reviews. As immigration law has become better defined, it has become the finite details (many of which require the expertise of a professional to understand) that are the source of contentious decisions – and the ones that need to be litigated carefully.

The natural result of this are individuals seeking of free consultations, or even perhaps success fees. The quoting of a “price” has become the first, rather than the last question, where in the scope of solving legal problems its proper place is the later. Individuals are taking on their own cases now with more fervor – perhaps influenced by Immigration’s own “you can do it yourself” pitch and making some major, sometimes non-fixable, mistakes.

What has happened through this – and I have seen this in subsequent consultations and clients that I have retained – is delay, often times near fatal to their status in Canada, poorly prepared application, and ultimately the need to spend more getting out of a difficult situation than would have taken to prevent in the first place.

Five Things You Can Relay to Your Immigration Representative

I recommend all individuals now to be very proactive and very upfront when seeking legal advice. Let us, as your practitioners, know your financial situation, your budget, and your A to Z concerns. Be very cautious about paying for an entire service up-front without any stages of billing. Particularly with dealing with agents and those who are not abiding by their own professional codes of conducts, there may be more value being extracted by your money being utilized to make more money than by any actual provision of services. We saw this a lot with the investor immigration programs a few years back before they were unceremoniously dropped.This is entirely illegal for a lawyer to undertake in and one of the reasons our profession has strict trust accounting rules that watches the placement of our every penny. I usually bill about a third to a half on commencement of work and then the rest split between submission and/or a portion when the application is approved (in the context of a longer-term application).

Second – set up payment plans (if necessary). While most practitioners are unlikely to work for free before an initial payment is secured – many (myself included) are happy to break this down into monthly payments fitting your financial budget. Payment plans help ensure you are not creating more household debt by paying fees that you cannot afford upfront.

Third – don’t underestimate the value of a paid consultation – thirty minute free consultations here and there are more likely to end up being sales pitches than actually problem solvers and running into the wrong 30 minute consultation can embed incomplete and false advice that could take you on a more expensive path than you would have needed to go on. Sending your information via an online form or via emails to anonymous websites (on the other hand) are a huge sacrifice of personal privacy and more than a few individuals have ended up being victims of identity or immigration fraud in the interest of saving upfront consultation fees with an actual lawyer.

Fourth – ask us to train in addition to asking us to do. Whether it is on a set fee or an hourly fee if I see a client who is proactive in gathering their documentation and acts almost as a second legal assistant in championing their case – I will reflect this in the price that I charge. If I have to cross every i and dot every t on a form, this is something that we will have to charge extra for because our time is money. However, if you come see me in a consultation with several forms already drafted accurately and your questions and asks clearly defined in an application context, or in an appeal context if you provide me a strong factual record and your thoughts up front, it can save hours of work. A prepared client = an always more facilitate process = that will provide financial benefits.

Fifth – understand the difference between an hourly agreement and set fee agreement. Hourly agreements are not necessarily a bad thing (notwithstanding their bad public rap) especially where the work may be piecemeal or your budget may be a little tight.

However, if you want the security of the process being taken care of for you without any unforeseen work being charged – consider a set fee agreement. It is never a bad thing to share your budget and your ask in either case. Some cases are more suitable to one over the other, and an experienced practitioner will tell you which one and why and give you the option in each circumstance.

Faster and Cheaper is Not Always Better

Many of you will end up going to a website that purports to process volume and success rate at a high rate. You may end up sending a webform with your information, receiving an email from some administrator, and eventually having some “case manager” or “project manager” contact you. In many cases the more well-oiled the online marketing machine appears to be, the more careful you need to be about the process.

While it is not unheard of for some practitioners to be relatively sheltered from their clients, primarily having communication go through an assistant, I know at our Firm and through my practice that is not the case. Advice needs to come from me and instructions need to come from me. You may have a visa application or a study permit application turned in a day and realize it was so bare bones that a refusal is the only logical consequence. In that case (the basic filling out of forms) – I would even argue that you as an applicant have a better chance of doing it accurately than a visa mill trying to transfer your information from a generic client form.

I cannot tell you how many clients I have ended up helping that made a mistake of submitting a substandard initial application or eventually responding to a request letter the next day without giving proper though to content, form, or law. For some straight forwarded cases, a skeletal application may be good enough but increasingly – especially with respect to temporary residence applications from countries with more challenging local visa offices or permanent residence applications where the facts aren’t straight forward.

There’s a difference between – taking time (by delaying someone’s file) vs. taking time (by being diligent). Accuracy within a reasonable set time is very crucial and something unfortunately lacking in a majority of practices set today.


The legal landscape is certainly changing – and financial challenges threaten to influence consumer decisions away from the traditional trust model of legal representation to one based on speed, accuracy, and results. These three, I find anyways, are products of good work not the good work itself. Being transparent about financial challenges with your potential advisor, building rapport, and taking ownership of an immigration file as a collaborative venture is the key to success.

As always, please email me at if you would like to get in touch at anytime about your situation.

Why I Believe Refusing Some Post-Graduate Work Permits for Lack of Full-Time Study Is Problematic


Post-Graduate Work Permit Refusals are on the up and up.

My colleague, Steven Meurrens, recently posted a chart showing how in 2016 the refusal rate for PGWPs began to spike:



I don’t have the numbers but I would suggest 2017 is seeing more of the same

Some of the reasons are understandable:

  • Schools that are not eligible for PGWPs (although as I have mentioned a public, national list should be made clear);
  • Incorrect fees (failing to pay the open work permit holder fee);
  • Expired passports; and
  • Incomplete transcripts and deficient completion letters.

One of the reasons I find highly, highly problematic is the requirement that the student be in full-time studies for the entire duration of the studies as defined by the institution.

The current eligibility for PGWPs (all policy – as you may remember from my previous posts) is this:



Who is eligible to participate?

To obtain a work permit under the PGWPP, the applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • have a valid study permit when applying for the work permit;
  • have continuously studied full time in Canada (i.e., studies must have taken place at a Canadian educational institution) and have completed a program of study that is at least eight months in duration;
  • have completed and passed the program of study and received a written notification from the educational institution indicating that they are eligible to obtain a degree, diploma or certificate. The educational institution must be one of the following:
    • a public post-secondary institution, such as a college, trade or technical school, university or CEGEP (in Quebec);
    • a private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as public institutions;
    • a private secondary or post-secondary institution (in Quebec) offering qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer leading to a diploma of vocational studies (DVS) or an attestation of vocational specialization (AVS); or
    • a Canadian private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees (i.e., bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate), but only if the student is enrolled in one of the programs of study leading to a degree, as authorized by the province, and not in just any program of study offered by the private institution. 

Applicants must apply for a work permit within 90 days of receiving written confirmation (e.g., an official letter or transcript) from the educational institution indicating that they have met the requirements for completing their program of study. Calculation of the 90 days begins the day the student’s final marks are issued or the day formal written notification of program completion is received, whichever comes first.


The June 2014 amendments added the requirement to “actively-pursue” studies and made full-time study a requirement so as to encourage international students not to unnecessarily drag out their studies and treating it as a periphery purpose of their stay in Canada.

However, the reality on the ground is that the rule has been applied in an overbroad manner. In recent cases I have seen or heard from includes students who choose to take one less course during the semester and make it up in the summer, students who are prevented from registration due to a lack of space in their required course, and finally medical leaves.

Transcript shows

Students who have been refused, do not have the current ability to restore – given the jurisprudence put out by the Federal Court. Many are stuck trying to seek other exemptions to a Labour Market Impact Assessment (a process very difficult for a recent graduate), an option through Provincial Nomination Programs, or restoration to a new study program. All of these are generally prohibitively expensive procedures filled with too much uncertainty.

Issuing Temporary Resident Permits (“TRPs”)  for 3 years, while I have seen that on some files, I believe is frankly not a solution. A TRP holder who has been in Canada for three consecutive years can apply for permanent residence even without having completed the required one-year of skilled work experience required of the Canadian Experience Class (for employed work) or the Federal Skilled Worker Program (in the event of contractual /self-employed work).

There is one thing I think all institutions need to do better. I have seen letters of completion from many reputable institutions that simply do not meet the cut from an immigration standpoint. I think some of these institutions, frankly, are opening up themselves to some liability by not having systems in place or resources available for students.

Rather than being contacted or advised that the 90 day window has started running – some of these students are stuck downloading generic letters from portals that do not set out any of the required information for a completion of studies letters.

The follow-up request for transcripts, that often are not finalized – due to the fact graduation has not occurred or that are problematic – due to unexplained or documented credit systems, are fatal to applicants.

From a non-legal perspective, it is simply bad business to take four times the tuition and provide inadequate advisory services to these students.

How should the law change then? More correctly – how should the policy change? – given the policy is itself an object of IRCC discretion perhaps more discretion could be applied to fringe cases. Perhaps a set template or form for letters of completion can be shared with eligible designated learning institutions and a section around discretion or discrepancy can be made into policy. Schools would be forced into taking some time to answering this questionnaire for their students and explaining those minor transcript discrepancies.

I think change has to happen quickly. While our international student program is expanding, the students that are being caught in the middle due to vague reasons and minor mistakes, stain some of the success. I think a fairer approach – that adds some leniency where leniency should be granted – helps all parties.

I’ve Been Nominated by a Province and Need to Extend My Work Permit – Bridging Open Work Permit or Work Permit With Provincial Support Letter?

A question that I continue to get particularly from B.C. based,  provincially nominated, clients requesting assistance on extending a work permit is how to choose between selecting an open bridging work permit or a province supported closed work permit based on a work permit support letter. Authority for the province supporting a foreign worker is provided by R.204(c) of the Immigration and Refugees Protection Regulations.

IRCC’s Coming to Canada survey does not always make it clear when you are selecting that you want to apply for work permit extensions but here are at least five factors you should take into consideration before selecting on a strategy:

  1. Timing – when is IRCC going to receive your PR Application/are there any complications with your PR Application; When does your nomination expire?
  2. Paper vs. Online – this is a very important choice that can carry pros and cons on both sides;
  3. Category of Application – Are you applying as an international post-graduate? Skilled worker? Entrepreneur? – what are your commits to your employer under each and how much flexibility are you provided?
  4. Stability of your current job – Are there reasons to believe that your PNP nomination may be at risk (i.e. company having financial difficulties, discussions of downsizing, etc.). Would you possibly need to “jump ship” in order to maintain your status in Canada in such a circumstance.
  5. Is there the existence of an Express Entry PNP option – if so you may be able to fast-tracked your usual paper-based process and could be aided by having an employer-specific work permit.

I have seen several cases where individuals who would have been better off one over the other. I have seen more than a few individuals lose status because of the extension process.

This is certainly an issue I would seek legal advice on and early – to prepare a strategy earlier rather than later.

Announcement: I’m Starting My Teaching Career – Ashton College

Hi Vancouver Immigration Blog Readers:

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks. Been asked to step in on advocacy a little these last two weeks which is a change. The City of Vancouver committee that I currently chair has been asked to be part of a few City initiatives involving poverty reduction and immigration – both issues with a heavy cultural lens. I’ve also had the opportunity to be a part of a CBC piece on international students and some of the mental health issues they’ve been dealing with that may be triggered by immigration ( and as well as a Vancouver Sun piece on international students leaving Canada after their graduation and their challenges getting qualifying employment ( [see esp: embedded video].

One thing I’ve learned quickly I feel as a young lawyer is the concept of balance. For this I owe a lot of peopler recent credit – Steven Meurrens (my colleague and mentor), Jeena Cho (author and meditation teacher), Andrew Verwey, Jenn Lau, and Dave Namkung just to name a few.  There were so many others (my colleagues and seniors) who have been teaching me and helping me at every corner. I always say it, but the one thing I’m grateful to God for is putting good people in my life – not for giving me any particular skills otherwise.

On that very positive note, I am pleased and humbled to announce my next major venture.

Teaching (just for a little history) runs in the Tao genetics. My great grandfather was a teacher (I’m still trying to learn more about him). His most famous pupil was the badass feminist Qiu Jin. My grandfather was a teacher. He taught second-language (English I believe it was) acquisition and wrote several books on the topic. My father was a teacher as well (student-teaching in China, UVic, and UBC – if I’m not mistaken).

In my first two and a half years of practice I’ve had the opportunity (thanks to LR, IMEDA, etc.) to get in a lot of lectures, talks, and presentations. I love it. I love sharing my passion with others.

I am going to be teaching consultants during a time of some turmoil in the consulting industry. I’ve decided I want to be part of the solution.

It is well-documented in the media that consultants have gone through some smudging and will soon (I understand) go through a bit of a wash as they discuss how to fix up the issues. Regardless of the internal conflicts that I am not privy too,  my understanding is everyone involved wants to have better, competent services provided to immigration clients and less fraud that negatively impacts all immigrants.

I am joining Ashton College because I believe in the vision that Ron and his team have put out to train immigration consultants the right way. I respectfully disagree with some of my esteemed colleagues (many of them wiser and more learned than I will ever be), who want consultants entirely removed from the immigration practice. I believe that there should be a space carved out for the competent, thoughtful, multilingual consultant who want to serve others and their communities for the interests of promoting access to justice.

As a young lawyer I can provide that passion in my classrooms so that young practitioners can see immigration law as not a business of profit, but rather one where people always come first.

I have already decided I will be a tough but fair instructor. Fighting my tendencies to be a nice guy I will make sure students come ready to learn and engage with the class materials. I am also humbled enough by my experiences so far to know I’ve only scratched the surface of immigration law and that the fact we are all learning, adapting to change, and developing our own interpretations and best practices makes our professions dynamic and awesome.  I’m excited and I’m grateful. For those interested the program is here.

Ashton – let’s do this! See you in November 🙂

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The Little Things that Send Back Spousals – Advice Blog

The December 2016 changes to the spousal sponsorship process has (to-date) served as a double-edge sword. While applications for many have sped up, for others, the process has turned into a nightmare. There have been increased cases of applications having be returned back to sender – for failing to meet the strict requirements of a complete application.

Regulation 10 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPR”) governs when an application is complete:

Form and content of application
  • (1) Subject to paragraphs 28(b) to (d) and 139(1)(b), an application under these Regulations shall

    • (a) be made in writing using the form, if any, provided by the Department or, in the case of an application for a declaration of relief under subsection 42.1(1) of the Act, by the Canada Border Services Agency;

    • (b) be signed by the applicant;

    • (c) include all information and documents required by these Regulations, as well as any other evidence required by the Act;

    • (d) be accompanied by evidence of payment of the applicable fee, if any, set out in these Regulations; and

    • (e) if there is an accompanying spouse or common-law partner, identify who is the principal applicant and who is the accompanying spouse or common-law partner.

IRCC has taken a rather narrower and stricter approach in determining when an application should be sent back. It appears that where documents or content is not in-line with their instructions (regardless of whether defined in IRPR or IRPA there is a good chance the application is being returned.

The consequences of a return are heavy – it could mean loss of status (where one is basing their work permit extension on an in-Canada Spousal). At the best it’s a loss of a few months and at the worst it could lead to enforcement action if no steps are taken in time to remedy the mistakes.

In a sense, after ATIPing to learn one of the impetuses behind the changes I am not surprised. The following are excerpts from some of those ATIPs where directives were provided to IRCC officers at Case Processing Center – Mississauga (the office responsible for intake):


Capture 1

Top Issues Noticed (with Some Input from Immigration and Other Practitioners)

Recently on the Immigration Listserve there has been increasing outrage from representatives (expressed on their on files and on behalf of self-reps) on the return of applications. IRCC has acknowledged that some are returned in error. However, there are some issues that are not errors that will lead to return that should be carefully looked at:


  1. Providing a document issued by CRA as proof of Sponsor’s employment and if (not available) a letter in lieu – where something is missing or unavailable (for example self-employed) – it is not enough just to write n/a on the checklist and omit.
  2. Record of solemnization – this is not a legal marriage certificate. neither is any other hand-drafted document (such as a license) – wait for the official/legal certificate;
  3. Birth Certificate (particularly for dependent children) – while many countries don’t have proper processes or records – this must be explained. In general, a medical certificate must be provided.
  4. Missing postal codes or North American addresses – be complete, and don’t be sloppy in putting incomplete information
  5. Missing signatures or improper digital signatures – for spousals original signatures are required. Don’t forget to date and as a rep don’t backdate or future date.
  6. Explanations hidden in lengthy submission letter – if it is a very important explanation consider adding it in two locations – both where it arises and maybe flagged in the submission letter.
  7. Incorrect fee payment or missing receipt – double check how much needs to be paid and review instruction guide for this information. Perhaps even flag the fee payment form with a tab in the event it is missed in a thick package;
  8. Have the rep sign the Use of Rep – if you are paying a representative who is asking you to sign your own forms and pay them money and not disclose them – not only is this possible misrep but you may run against the completeness requirement of 10.2(c.4)
Required information

(2) The application shall, unless otherwise provided by these Regulations,

  • (a) contain the name, birth date, address, nationality and immigration status of the applicant and of all family members of the applicant, whether accompanying or not, and a statement whether the applicant or any of the family members is the spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner of another person;

  • (b) indicate whether they are applying for a visa, permit or authorization;

  • (c) indicate the class prescribed by these Regulations for which the application is made;

  • (c.1) if the applicant is represented in connection with the application, include the name, postal address and telephone number, and fax number and electronic mail address, if any, of any person or entity — or a person acting on its behalf — representing the applicant;

  • (c.2) if the applicant is represented, for consideration in connection with the application, by a person referred to in any of paragraphs 91(2)(a) to (c) of the Act, include the name of the body of which the person is a member and their membership identification number;

  • (c.3) if the applicant has been advised, for consideration in connection with the application, by a person referred to in any of paragraphs 91(2)(a) to (c) of the Act, include the information referred to in paragraphs (c.1) and (c.2) with respect to that person;

  • (c.4) if the applicant has been advised, for consideration in connection with the application, by an entity — or a person acting on its behalf — referred to in subsection 91(4) of the Act, include the information referred to in paragraph (c.1) with respect to that entity or person; and

  • (d) include a declaration that the information provided is complete and accurate.

A final mistake i see many self-reps make is in trying to present their application too cute: multiple envelopes, binders, staples and paper clips. We keep it very simple here. Generally one rubberband and if required separate rubberbands to separate packages. The more obstacles you give the processing officer at IRCC the more likely they will be frustrated and (1) look for problems and reasons to return; or (2) actually lose a document in the process which may lead the application to be improperly returned.

Finally – scan everything for yourself AND make a physical copy so you can have something to fall-back on.

Hope this helps.

In Advance of the October 11th Citizenship Rules Changes – Some Best Practice Pointers

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(Image Credit: Minister Hussein’s Twitter Page)

With four major changes set to go into legal affect next Wednesday (October 11th), a lot of questions I have been fielding are from individuals who are asking me how they should prepare.

First off, there’s no gaming the system. IRCC will not release forms until 11 October 2017 and unless you are eligible under the old rules and ready to submit a complete application prior to 11 October 2017 filling out yesterday’s forms for tomorrow’s application won’t do any good.

Citizenship Changes

What will do some good may be the following:

  1. Start gathering your travel history – create a table and put in relevant dates and passport stamp references. Where no stamps -try and get your old flight itineraries and proof from other countries travel history records (if applicable). Think about other ways to prove residency (lease docs, employment records, etc if needed);
  2. Start preparing supporting documentation – based on old checklist ( but taking into account the possibility new things may be needed (i.e. proof of status/residency prior to PR);
  3. Dig up that diploma/degree for proof of language (if applicable) – if you can’t find it order a new one from your school’s registry;
  4. Figure out your police certificates – this requirement has not changed.Police Certificates
  5. Coordinate your courier strategy. Assuming everybody is going to be applying all at once and the mail room might be frantic, you may be smarter not to use snail mail and have a tracked process.

Finally and most importantly! Don’t Rush

We’ve seen it time and time again with changes (think last December re: spousal sponsorships). When there is an uptake in applications, this is also where front-end processing becomes more crucial. I would not be surprised if CPC-Sydney has sent out word to it’s staff to be critical and return incomplete applications. Be sure you double check the final instructions and forms when they come out to know where original signatures are needed, what fees are correct, and what documents needed to be copies, notarized copies, and certified translations.

Best of luck to all of you and I look forward to welcoming you all as New Canadian Citizens!

What to See About CETA Re: Entry of Temporary Business Persons

On 21 September 2017, the much anticipated Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (“CETA”) came into effect. Along with the new trade agreement, Chapter 10 sets out the rules around temporary entry of business persons.  As complex as the CETA negotiations were themselves, the agreement’s reciprocity agreement around business persons is similarly detailed and complicated.

For the purposes of this piece (given we’re discussing Canadian immigration), we will look at the Canadian side. Those looking to enter the European countries should refer to Annex 10-A carefully depending on the country entry is being sought in, the category, and the occupation.

The Basics

I would highlight encourage you all to read my colleague Steven Meurrens blog post on the topic where he looks at the five things you should know about CETA – going through the (1) Intra-corporate transfers (including graduate trainees), (2) investors, (3)  contract service providers, (4) independent professionals, and business (5) business visitors categories.

As a broader summary, CETA will allow several European business persons the ability to enter Canada without the need to obtain Labour Market Impact Assessments (“LMIAs”) for the purposes of carrying out their business purposes. Labour Market Impact Assessments have historically served as a deterrence for Canadian business – due to their cost (both in terms of application and compliance) and as well for the onerous nature of advertising requirements and proving that a Canadian could not be hired for the same position and in many cases preparing either voluminous transition plans (in the case of high wage employees) or advertising to historically disadvantaged groups (in the case of low wage).

This is specifically true where the worker has no intention of applying for permanent residence and the employment/projects are more limited in nature or short-term in duration.

CETA provides that alternate for many of these business persons to obtain a work permit in Canada for a short-term purposes.

  • Eligible Contract service professionals and independent [professionals will be able to work for 12-months out of every 24 month period  on a work permit.
  • Eligible Intra-Corporate Transferees could be given terms of up to the lesser of 3 years or their length of their contract with extensions up to 18 months. Graduate trainees can receive one year work permits but are not eligible for an extension.
  • Investors can be issued 1 year work permits with possible renewals (consistent with the provisions of NAFTA).
  • Business visitors will be able to come to Canada to perform a range of activities extending beyond the scope of the legislative ability to work without a work permit (R.186 and R.187 IRPR)

Three Things You Don’t Want to Miss When Considering CETA

1. IRCC has provided an excellent resource guide on “how to extend CETA permits” – and the requirements are more substantial than they were under NAFTA.


Examples of acceptable documentation to support an extension

  • A service contract extension justification from the offering enterprise
  • Updated business plans
  • An offer for a new contract
  • Feasibility studies and marketing plans

Additional questions to help officers determine eligibility

  • Consider the intentions of the applicant:

    • What is the applicant doing in Canada?
    • How long has the applicant been here?
    • How long is the request for?
  • Consider the reason given by the applicant for applying for the extension:

    • Are the plans well thought out or merely frivolous?
    • Has the applicant previously received an extension?
  • Consider the applicant’s situation in their home country:

    • What family, employment or other responsibilities and obligations has the person left behind?
    • How have these responsibilities been discharged?
    • Is a prolonged stay in Canada reasonable and feasible?
  • Consider the initial intent of the application:

    • What was the original purpose of the business visit to Canada?

    • Has it been fulfilled?

    • If it has not been fulfilled, was sufficient time originally granted to fulfil the purpose?

With NAFTA there were mechanisms in place that made refusing an application quite a bureaucratic headache. I am predicting with CETA that extensions (particularly for ICTs  – Senior Personnel, Specialists, and Start-Up Investors), will be more discretionary than they were under NAFTA and other agreements. These questions really delve at some issues around dual intention (A22(2) IRPA – see IRCC’s instructions on this)

2. IRCC’s NOC Equivalency Page for the Contract Service Providers/Independent Professionals is a Fantastic Resource

With an agreement that has many “unbound” (think not-included) professions and different eligibility for contract service providers and independent professionals, things can get messy. Especially when Appendix 10-E covers every single European country, with many of them split down the line into whether an occupation is included, not included, or specific educational/experience requirements.

IRCC did a Coles Notes table – took out all of the Canadian requirements, and put it in a very handy table that I think should be a starting point.


3. Knowing how CETA interacts with the rest of the IMP/TFW Program Will Be Crucial

One of the interesting aspects of the provisions of the CETA is that in some cases they are less advantageous than the general provisions of IRPA and IRPR . For example, a business visitor (non-CETA) can stay in Canada for six months (upon entry) whereas the maximum length of stay of short term business visitors under CETA is 90 days in any six-month period (3 months).

Where possible – check to see if the activity you wish to perform already falls under the exemption for work without a work permit under R. 186 and R.187 IRPR  before requesting entry as a CETA business visitor. While the agreement and IRCC’s instructions state they will look at both, this may not be readily apparent to the POE Officer assessing your application.

Second, it may be useful not to forget the existence of LMIA-Exemptions available through Working Holiday programs and other venues in additional to CETA. For example, one of the things I’m curious to see is how a CETA interacts with those who wish to claim permanent residency when their permits may limit their employment (i.e. after a 12 month period runs out on a contract service provider’s Canadian work permit).

Working Holiday programs themselves may provider younger Europeans a more consistent  and flexibile way to get Canadian work experience than something like the graduate trainee ICT which is not extendable. Of course, as they are draw based, it may lead to the pursuit of more multi-path planning of immigration options.

CETA will be fun. It’s a Cadillac of an agreement (and I’m just talking about the mobility provisions) so it will be interesting to see how things go from here.

An Update When You Owe An Update – Summer 2017

VIB Readers:

Without sounding like a broken record, the past few months have been busy with so much happening that unfortunately writing has taken an unfortunate backseat. You will not hear excuses from me – I need to write more and I know it.

On the positive front, it has also been a very reflective time for me. I’ve spent more time reading what others have to stay – following journalists and being a witness to the recent events of Charlottesville and later Vancouver. I’ve spent time reading journal articles and gather resources on issues that I am very passionate about. While they may not be directly relevant to projects now, they help form my framework/lens that I can view this world through.

I believe I am uniquely positioned this year – through my dual roles of being the Chair of the City of Vancouver’s Cultural Communities Advisory Committee and as well as a Committee member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Equality & Diversity Committee to do some meaningful policy work in addition to my immigration work. Both of these organizations will be releasing statements and reports shortly, and in fact the CCAC statement is coming out in the next few days on our call to action for the City’s cultural communities.  This advocacy work where I am able to take the individual advocacy I do for my clients and project it on a larger scale has been very meaningful.

My immigration practice is also moving along. As with any young practitioner, I try and balance client representation, with running a business, and with investing in continuous education to ensure my client’s needs are best serviced.  The legal landscape is changing in immigration, particularly corporate immigration. I’ve had several meetings with senior mentors and practitioners about the role accounting firms, technology, and project management will have on the way work is performed and the needs clients will have.

At the same time as all these are happening, I am seeing my own work permit/corporation immigration practice pick up.  Many of these business contacting me are start-up or small businesses with immigrant workers. Many of these companies are without designated HR departments. Even within these corporate clients I’m starting to see a discrepancy in the accessibility and knowledge of immigration procedures. I suspect that while the cheeseburger delivery of immigration will inevitably start, there will still be enough companies that want custom orders and are willing to engage someone willing to provide more personalized services. Boutiques and sole practitioners who may increasing feel crowded out will have to find ways to adapt to the changing market.

On the immigration litigation/personal and family immigration side, I’ve been able to achieve several recent successful outcomes.

I was able to secure a restoration and new study permit for a student who was caught in a bit of an administrative nightmare with both IRCC and a former counsel .  While 90 days passed from when the refusal was apparently issued, we found enough evidence (through ATIPs and other research) to go an argument that he was still eligible for restoration. He now has his status back.

I was also able to restore a second graduate, who initially was refused a PGWP for attending a private school that was not eligible under the program, and secure him a two year (longer than he would have received) C-14 Film/Television work permit. It was incredible to be able to delve into this relatively new permit and put together the required pieces and understand a bit more of what a growing number of Vancouver’s film and television people do.

On the spousal sponsorship side, I was able to secure a rehabilitation and approval putting to end a previous self-rep’s multiple year fight with immigration (which even went up to the ministerial level) . For a second client, I was able to succeed on a ADR showing the relationship was genuine and not for immigration purposes after spending several painstaking hours gather positive evidence, affidavits, and clarifications that were either missed or incorrectly interpreted at the spousal interview. Mistakes happen in immigration – with both practitioners and as well government not being immune to making them.

On a more challenging side, I’m handling a string of refusals of my own applications (study permits) from Sri Lanka. This has been a humbling experience. Prior to these refusals I had a Mayweather record in study permits. However, it has re-enforced my belief that often times as practitioners rather than pushing volume and efficiency (particular for individuals and families who may not have the same economic argument that corporate clients do), we need to push quality. Researching and understanding the uniqueness and the discretion of the individuals that will decide your case – from your own client to the decision-makers – is absolutely crucial. I’ve told all the clients that I will ensure to follow-up and do everything I can to assist them – including choosing no categories of application. Something I myself admire, and I wish there were more of an immigration, is honesty – accepting and acknowledging imperfection beyond just that of the system. Seeing what is happening globally on the immigration front, and even with our own challenges, we know we’re working within a very controversial and discretion-based system. Not everyone is always going to be happy. Going to work everyday won’t always be easy, neither will be sleeping at night for all those involved.

Where does that leave me and VIB for early Fall. I’ve promised a few more articles with, we’re working on a couple presentations, and I am continuing to spend my spare time researching intricacies of the law.  I also want to add a few more fun and inclusive elements to my blog – to start writing about race, equality/equity/diversity, and my favourite topic outside immigration – food.

Professionally, I have spoken to several senior mentors who believe I should take my immigration litigation (and perhaps even future litigation outside of strictly immigration) by the horns. I hope to better understand what my colleague refugee lawyers do and engage in some of the technical aspects of our law – particularly where there is room to challenge interpretation. Now that my wife’s own immigration has been settled, I’ve had my few weeks of soul searching, it is time to press ahead.

I’m grateful to those who have taken time out to guide me, to share that meaningful cup of Joe, to debate me, and who have welcomed me into their homes and lives either as a friend or an advocate.

Exciting times ahead!


Letting your relationship guide your immigration, not your immigration guide your relationship – advice for international students

Recently, I have been writing for/with the passionate, Kelly Toughill, a journalist and immigration advocate who I believe is doing amazing and thoughtful work for international students.

I recently published a piece highlighting some of the concerns international students have been coming to me with in respect to pressure to enter into relationships that can secure one’s status.

It is a very difficult subject. As Canada does not have a “fiance visa” similar to the United States, the idea or entering into a common-law relationship or marriage usually arises quite early in the context of conversations.

My own advice, one that I followed myself (as someone who is married to a recently-landed permanent resident) is that I let my relationship guide my immigration rather than my immigration guide my relationship. Too often I have come across individuals who, as a result of poor and sometime negligent advice, have told me that they were recommended to marry a Canadian or “find a boyfriend/girlfriend” in order to secure immigration. Others have told me of the pressure placed by the Canadian partner to marry or enter into a common-law relationship to get the clock ticking.

In this piece, I talk about the international student in Canada who has a pathway to permanent residence (on their own) and who should think carefully before deciding to jump into a sponsored relationship and abandon their own options. I also talk about the importance of choosing the right  pathway to do the sponsorship and ensuring strong enough evidence of the genuineness and purposes of the relationship are established before pursuing a decision to marry and sponsor.

For the article see here:

List of Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) Eligible Schools in Alberta

A colleague, Anna, recently posted this to the CBA Immigration Law listserve which I felt was worth sharing.

She inquired to Alberta Educational authorities about the list of eligible schools and received this following list:

Public Institutions

Alberta College of Art and Design

Bow Valley College

Grande Prairie Regional College

Keyano College

Lakeland College

Lethbridge College

Grant MacEwan University (MacEwan University)

Medicine Hat College

Mount Royal University

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT)

NorQuest College

Northern Lakes College

Olds College

Portage College

Red Deer College

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT Polytechnic)

The Banff Centre

University of Alberta

University of Calgary

University of Lethbridge


Publicly-funded Independent Institutions


Ambrose University (formerly Ambrose University College)

Burman University (formerly Canadian University College)

Concordia University of Edmonton (formerly Concordia University College of Alberta)

The King’s University (formerly The King’s University College)

St. Mary’s University (formerly St. Mary’s University College)


The Independent institutions listed above are the ones “that operates under the same rules and regulations as public institutions.”  Private Career Colleges, Seminary institutions, bible colleges, flight schools, or language schools DO NOT operate under the same rules as publics

Source: Alberta Education and

Thank you to Anna Kuranicheva, staff immigration lawyer at the Edmonton Community Legal Centre for her work digging up this list and confirming this.

I think all provinces should make their lists public and clear and Alberta joining B.C. is a great step.