Exercise Caution When Claiming Dual Intent on Study Permit Applications – International Students

Dual intent is an important and increasing oft-used provision of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”) particularly for those applicants who straddle the pathway between temporary and permanent residence. I previously wrote about this concept more than four years ago with respect to a Federal Court case I was involved with called Jewell.

The Law

Section 22(2) of IRPA sets out:

Temporary resident

 (1) A foreign national becomes a temporary resident if an officer is satisfied that the foreign national has applied for that status, has met the obligations set out in paragraph 20(1)(b), is not inadmissible and is not the subject of a declaration made under subsection 22.1(1).

Marginal note: Dual intent

(2) An intention by a foreign national to become a permanent resident does not preclude them from becoming a temporary resident if the officer is satisfied that they will leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay.

Is Dual Intention Applicable to Study Permit Applications? Is it Over-relied Upon?

Dual intent seems naturally applicable in the context of a spouse who seeks a visa or temporary entry into Canada while a permanent residence application is in process or a foreign worker seeking to extend a temporary work permit while awaiting an Application for Permanent Residence based on an Express Entry Application or Provincial Nomination Program nomination.

Recently in reviewing study permit applications made by international students, including those prepared by prominent and experienced authorized representatives, I realized that dual intention was being heavily relied on. Indeed, Minister Hussen in several speeches given last year about international students, seemed to suggest that it was no inappropriate for students to enter Canada with an ambition to eventually become permanent residents.

However, in this piece, I want to put a cautionary tale on the application of dual intention when the future intention (permanent residence) is years away and argue that any submissions on study permit applications should focus instead on future immigration compliance and strengthened/remaining ties to the country of citizenship and or permanent residence (if not Canada). I also believe that much of our over-focus on dual intention can also be inadvertently created by our own pathwaying (as representatives) of the permanent residence process.

IRCC’s Program Delivery Instructions on Dual Intention

IRCC has published instructions (as of the date of this post, last modified in March 2019). These instructions are quite detailed and worth a detailed read.

While the instructions set out it is not impermissible to have two intentions (one permanent and one temporary) and that it cannot be a standalone basis for refusal. The section titled ‘Example of a case for refusalsheds important light on the concept, especially in the study permit concept.

The instructions state:

An applicant for a work or study permit who indicates that they have no intention of leaving Canada has demonstrated only a single intent – permanent residence. Their application would be refused, even if the applicant might subsequently qualify for the Canadian experience class (CEC) or the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). This is because the applicant has shown that they would not respect the terms and conditions of temporary residence, should they not qualify for permanent residence.

Section R179 is balanced by the flexibility of subsection A22(2), which allows the officer to consider an applicant’s intent in relation to the particular circumstances of the application. For example: an applicant for a study permit who may qualify for the CEC in 3 years has a different set of circumstances from that of a provincial nominee whose application is near completion and who applies for a work permit, with the support of the province, due to an urgent need for their services. Please note that all applications should be assessed on their individual merits.

(emphasis added)

The very examples provided by IRCC about when refusing an applicant may be appropriate focus on the international study permit applicant who is not eligible for permanent residency at the time of their application.  Furthermore, these instructions seem to suggest intent (where absent) can be imputed.

Therefore, even if the facts are presented in a balanced way – for example, half the family is in Canada vs. half the family is in the country of citizenship, or with the fact there may be a job opportunity available back home after graduation – there appears to be the needs for clear and explicit language that the Applicant will both be compliant with the terms and conditions of their temporary stay and can and will leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay. I have always interpreted leaving at the end of authorized stay as meaning as required under IRPA (i.e. if an extension is refused) rather than necessarily at the end of one’s study permit. A successful Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) application, for example, would extend one’s authorized stay in Canada.

What Does Case Law Tells Us?

1) What you state and what you do must be aligned for dual intention to properly apply

In Pisarevic v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 188 (CanLII), the Applicant, a lawyer who was applying for a Canadian paralegal program, was unsuccessful in judicially reviewing the refusal of his study permit application.

Arguably (although Madam Justice Simpson found otherwise), even the Applicant’s personal statement in this application sounded very much like a single intent statement:

Madam Justice Simpson writes at para 5:

[5] The Letter included the following statements which, in my view, express dual intent.

  • I have every intention of staying in Canada permanently but only, and I can’t stress this enough, if the Canadian authorities allow me to stay.
  • I have no intention of leaving Canada after graduating but only and for as long as Canada allows me to stay. I plan to do my best to finish school, work hard while I’m in school to maintain myself, apply for the PGWP, find a good job in the legal field and during that time to find a legal way to stay in Canada.

In the refusal the Officer wrote (paragraph 8 of the Decision):

Applicant is 37yrs old, graduate law program in 2010 and has many yrs of experience as lawyer. He now applies to do paralegal training. I note that applicant has four attempts to express entry. While the study program chosen is in same field as applicant’s previous studies and work, it is a step back – not coherent with career development. Given the applicant’s interest in immigration, the study program is meant only to secure entry to CDA and not obtain better employment/promotion in home country. In view of past applications history, study program chosen, I am not satisfied that dual intent exists. I am not satisfied that applicant is interested in returning in country of residence and will have incentives to leave CDA at end of authorized period of stay.

(emphasis added)

Madam Justice Simpson in rendering a bench decision and dismissing the Applicant’s judicial review, highlighted in the record the fact that the Applicant’s proof of finances to support his studies were from the winding down of his legal practice, which itself created a reasonable basis for the Officer to find that there was not an intention to return that could support a dual intention finding.

She writes:

[14]  I am entitled to review the record to make sense of the Officer’s Decision. In my view, although it is not referred to in the reasons, the fact that the Applicant proposed to finance his studies by selling his law office was reasonably treated by the Officer as a powerful determining factor. It gives the impression, in the absence of an explanation to the contrary, that he is winding down his practice and has no professional reason to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

(emphasis added)

Ultimately, not only in this case did the Applicant fail to adequately state out a clear temporary intention but the evidence provided suggested as well that the intention was primarily permanent. In the context of an international student, without a clear pathway or application in process – ultimately this represents a high risk approach to the application.

2) Dual intent requires a clear written statement of dual intent

One of the leading cases in this area of the law is Loveridge v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2011 FC 694 (CanLII) a 2011 decision that highlights my earlier observations that many study permit applications (and specifically letters of intent that I have reviewed) are entirely unclear, and possibly contradictory on the intent of the applicant. Indeed, for many students coming to Canada, the future may be uncertain but a reasonable pathway and understanding does have to be provided.

In Loveridge, the Applicant from the United Kingdom wrote a letter that led to a finding that the Applicant did not have dual intention.

Madam Justice Bédard writes in her decision:

[14]           The applicant contends that it was unreasonable for the officer, in light of the evidence that was presented, to infer on her part an intention to remain permanently in Canada. She insists that her motivation letter indicated, at a minimum, a willingness to return to the UK if required and that, as such, it was unreasonable for the officer to find that she had not established that she would leave Canada if she were required to do so. She argues that, in fact, her motivation letter clearly expressed her dual intent: she would stay in Canada if she had the opportunity to stay but would go back to the UK if required. She contends that she did not need to have a firm intent to go back to her country of origin in order to have a dual intent within the meaning of section 22 of the IRPA.

[15]           The applicant insists that she was credible and that she did not hold back any information in her application. She argues that there was no contradiction in her motivation letter but, on the contrary, that the letter clarified her intentions. She further argues that the officer made an error when concluding that the bank statements did not identify the owner of the accounts since the name NLoveridge appeared on the statements. She further points to the fact that her family and friends are located in the UK as demonstrating her strong ties to that country and her motivation to return there. The applicant also submits that no negative inference should be made from the fact that she and her husband were unemployed and that she did not have ownership of property in the UK. She contends that those circumstances could be viewed as reasons for wanting to migrate to another country, but that they do not support the contention that the applicant would refuse to leave Canada if required to do so.

[16]           The respondent, on the other hand, argues that the applicant’s motivation letter was vague, contradictory, and could not properly be interpreted as supporting a singular intention of returning to the UK. The respondent submits that the applicant had the burden of convincing the officer that she would leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for her stay and that she failed to discharge that burden.

[17]           I agree with the respondent that the applicant’s motivation letter is contradictory and unclear. In the first portion of her letter, the applicant indicates that her intention is to remain permanently in Canada. She speaks of “starting a new life in Canada” and states that she “will be happier in a country where there are more job opportunities”. If her sole intention was to stay in Canada only long enough to complete her studies, as is argued by the applicant, then the additional job opportunities available in Canada would be of no relevance. In the latter portion of the applicant’s letter, however, she indicates that “when” she returns to the UK she will be able to use the education received in Canada as a competitive advantage in her job search.

[18]           The motivation letter, thus, indicates both an intention to stay in Canada as well as an intention to leave Canada and return to the UK. This is different from indicating a “dual intent” within the meaning of subsection 22(2) of the IRPA, because that type of a “dual intent” is actually an intention to remain permanently in Canada, coupled with an intention to abide by immigration laws as required – i.e. a willingness to leave Canada if required to do so. The two intentions involved under subsection 22(2) are complementary, not contradictory.

[19]           Given that the intentions expressed in the applicant’s motivation letter appear to be contradictory, it cannot be said that the officer acted unreasonably in finding that the letter provided little support for the proposition that the applicant would leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for her stay.

[20]           Indeed, the burden was with the applicant to demonstrate that she would leave Canada at the end of her study period. As indicated by Justice Russel Zinn in Wang, above, at para 14, “The Officer is required to assess the evidence presented and weigh that evidence to determine whether it establishes on the balance of probabilities that the applicant will leave Canada at the conclusion of [the] study permit.” 

(emphasis added)

In this case, the Applicant did not interplay her two intentions properly in her letter. It was not a situation where she presented her ability to return primarily. Her letter gave the appear of having two separate intentions (a Plan A and a Plan B) rather than a Plan that considered both. Again, here is where authorized representatives can add value and applicants should think carefully before writing intentions into their study plans.

3) Officers still struggle with dual intention arguments

In Mahida v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 423 (CanLII) , the Applicant’s study permit was refused. Among other mistakes (including the Officer’s failure to properly assess the online MBA she took and a letter from the University), it is clear that the Officer failed to understand dual intent by the following assertion (found at para 30 of the decision):

PA has failed to adequately demonstrate that proposed course of studies is logical or beneficial to their education or professional advancement as she states that she would like to live in Canada yet also intends to work in real estate in India.

Mr. Justice Russell in allowing the judicial review writes:

[31] There is nothing inherently illogical about the Applicant wanting to eventually live in Canada (a goal that she may or may not achieve at some point in the future) and her intent to work in real estate in India until that goal is achieved, and indefinitely if that goal is not achieved.

[32] Consequently, I simply fail to see how this supports the Officer’s conclusion that the Applicant may not leave Canada at the end of her period of authorized stay.

[33] Other reasons are given in the Decision for a negative conclusion but, as the Officer makes clear, he is weighing the incentive to remain in Canada against the Applicant’s ties to India. The errors I have mentioned are extremely material to this weighing process and hence render it unreasonable. The matter must be returned for reconsideration by a different officer.

(emphasis added)

While I think Mr. Justice Russell’s decision is right that the Officer failed to assess dual intention, I am a little confused still by para 33. It seems to be, by IRCC’s guidance, that the very exercise of dual intention is to examine whether the ties to the home country are strong, where there may be an incentives to remain beyond one’s authorized stay, and ultimately whether the Applicant’s stated (or unstated intentions) are credible.

The website states:

In assessing the applicant’s intentions, the individual circumstances of the temporary residence applicant must be examined; refusals of non-bona fide temporary residents may only withstand legal challenge when the refusal is based on the information related to the specific application before an officer.

In assessing an application for temporary residence, an officer should consider, among other factors, the following:

  • the length of time that the client will be spending in Canada
  • means of support
  • obligations and ties to the home country
  • the purpose and the context of the stay
  • the credibility of documents and information submitted
  • past compliance with requirements of the IRPA and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) that are applicable to temporary residents (visitors, students and workers), as well as information available in biographic and biometric information sharing

Assessing an application where there are dual intent implications is no different from assessing any other temporary residence application. Each applicant receives the benefit of a procedurally fair, individual assessment. The applicant must, in turn, satisfy the officer that they meet all the requirements of the IRPA and the IRPR relating to temporary residence, before any temporary residence application is approved.

If an officer has concerns or doubts about the applicant’s intentions, the applicant must be made aware of these concerns and given an opportunity to respond to them. If an application for temporary residence is not approved, the officer will provide the client with a letter explaining why the application has been refused.

To me, I think it is all about the last paragraph of IRCC’s guidance that the ‘applicant must be made aware of concerns and doubts’ and the Officer must give the Applicant an opportunity to respond. This runs directly counter to some of the speculative decisions we see that extend beyond the evidence provided. Ultimately, this creates the whole dilemma between sufficiency of evidence and credibility which will be a topic of a future blog.

However, on this point,  it is worth highlighting Mr. Justice Campbell’s decision in Yaqoob v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 1370 (CanLII). Very similar to many study permit refusals a trite, short summary was provided to a very detailed application which included very extension dual intention submissions that set out the pathway to PR. Here, Mr. Justice Campbell read between the lines that there must have been some credibility concern for which an opportunity to respond was denied. He also awarded costs to the Applicant. I read this decision as a bit of an outlier (where the dual intention submission was entirely ignored it appears). That being said, it would set a good precedent if more decisions would turn the way of Yaqoob. This would force IRCC either to refuse by properly addressing evidence or else cap the number of applicants if that is ultimately the concern, rather than arbitrarily refuse with pro forma refusal reasons and letters.

Nevertheless, this misunderstanding and confusion may be further reason to not create or counsel a ‘dual intention’ where none may currently exist. For example, many international students only learn about permanent residence options through counsel or advisors and do indeed wish to come to study and then decide their plans after. Presenting this single intention does not in any way hurt an international student’s study permit application. Of course, there may be other factors that do require addressing dual intention head on.

4) Dual intent not as effective as a back-end argument on judicial review. Courts still struggle with applying this concept in reviewing decisions.

In several cases I reviewed, it appeared that dual intention was not raised on the initial application but later argued on judicial review as a failed consideration by the Officer.

In these cases, it appears the Courts effectively sidestepped the question by stating that the Applicant’s failed to discharge their burden and/or the Officer took into account reasonable factors.

In Ali v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship), 2018 FC 702 (CanLII),  Madam Justice Strickland acknowledged the submission but stated that ultimately, the Applicant had to first demonstrate that he or she would leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay and that this was not demonstrated.

She writes:

[23] As to the written submissions of the parties as to dual intent, as stated by Justice Gascon in Solopova (at para 30) this Court has confirmed that a person may have the dual intent of immigrating and of abiding by the immigration law respecting temporary entry (Kachmazov v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2009 FC 53 (CanLII) at para 15). The two intentions are complementary, not contradictory (Loveridge v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2011 FC 694 (CanLII) at para 18 (“Loveridge”)). However, the burden lies on the applicant to first demonstrate that he or she will leave at the end of their study period (Loveridge at para 20, Wang v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2009 FC 619 (CanLII) at para 14). In Solopova, as here, this threshold requirement has not been met.

Similarly in Cayanga v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2017 FC 1046 (CanLII), Mr. Justice Boswell did not delve into the Applicant’s argument that the officer failed to consider dual intention and that all temporary resident visas are premised on the idea that individuals may come to Canada to improve their economic situation (para 9). Nor, was the Respondent’s response that dual intention is permitted but reasonably found not to exist in this matter. Mr. Justice Boswell focused his reasons on the fact that evidence utilized was not extrinsic and that there was nothing unreasonable about the factors considered and applied deference to the officer’s decision.

Mr. Justice Boswell writes:

[13]           It is not unreasonable for a visa officer, as the Officer did in this case, to consider the availability of similar programs offered elsewhere at a lower cost; this is “simply one factor to be considered by a visa officer in assessing an applicant’s motives for applying for a study permit (see Zuo at para 23). Similarly, it is not unreasonable for a visa officer, as the Officer did in this case, to consider other factors such as the Applicant’s family ties in Canada and his country of residence, the purpose of his visit, his employment prospects in the Philippines, and his travel history.

(emphasis added)

5) Cases may be outdated to a time prior to detailed IRCC instructions.

There have been cases where dual intention was argued successfully in the context of international students and study permit applications.  However, I would warn these decisions as possibly being outdated or possibly not even re-occurring on the facts due to other mechanisms available to IRCC.

In Hernandez Bonilla v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2007 FC 20 (CanLII), Mr. Justice O’Keefe found that the Applicant (who affirmed through her guardian’s affidavit that she would return to Colombia once her studies were completed) was owed the opportunity to respond to the Officer’s concerns that her formative years would be spent in Canada and that she could not reintegrate into Colombia society and therefore would be unable to leave Canada. Mr. Justice O’Keefe found that this was a generalization that did not take into account the Applicant’s specific facts. Still, again, this decision had the Applicant confirming the intent to return in writing. While dual intention was framed successfully by the Applicant, it was procedural fairness rather than a failure to consider dual intention that won the day.

In Dang v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2007 FC 15 (CanLII), another 2007 case, Mr. Justice Kelen found an Officer’s assessment of a study permit extension patently unreasonable – in that it ignored dual intention. The Applicant, Ms. Dang, had a spousal sponsorship refused on bona fides and after an interview focused on that permanent residence application, the Officer refused the study permit extension – citing among other things, a lack of progress in learning English as proof she intended to remain in Canada. Mr. Justice Kelen found that inference patently unreasonable – yet in today’s day in age, with actively pursuing studies requirements and clearer guidelines, arguably an officer would be able to find other grounds to refuse. Dual intention did come handy and I do believe was properly applied in this case.

In light of new instructions and contexts, I am not sure that Madam Justice Heneghan’s decision in Moghaddam v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2004 FC 680 (CanLII), would be decided the same way especially now that it is clear dual intention requires looking at the totality of the applications situation including ongoing permanent residence applications. In Moghaddam, Madam Justice Heneghan found that the permanent residence application was not in front of the Officer and therefore was considered extraneous considerations.

Conclusion: Be Cautious Applying Dual Intent to Study Permit Applications

Ultimately, my review of the IRCC instructions and case law suggests that dual intention may not be the most effective argument when an applicant is not yet in the process or position of applying for permanent residency, as most international students would be. Emphasis should instead be placed on future compliance knowledge, individual knowledge of processes, and strong intentions and ability to effect a return at the end of the authorized stay. It is still my position that overemphasizing permanent residence does more harm than good and instead more creative ways to tie those ties to Canada (such as family, past immigration history, of courses) to a future career pathway or the possibility of employment in the country of origin should be explored. Those details should also be clearly stated, in a non-contradictory way.

While dual intention may have some back-end use in judicial review applications, it is also clear that these are usually secondary factors to underlying unreasonable assessments of evidence conducted by reviewing Officers. Proper caution should also be applied when reviewing case law to differentiate recent cases (which have or will have reference to a more robust instruction guide provided by IRCC) as opposed to those from a decade back where dual intention may have been a lesser understood concept. Still, dual intention (where there is not a permanent residence application pending) is a tricky word and evidence play that should ultimately be used very carefully by representatives and applicants alike.

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