Tag Archives: International Students

Let Me Tell This a Different Way…….. Their Eyes (A Response to Op-Ed/Increasing Hate)

Their eyes.  Seen through a lot of things – more vividly when closed.

From villages where they would eat through garbage on the streets.

To now – being asked to go out by their wealthier friend to eat, but trying to find excuses. Running out.

The reality is what’s left of the fast food they served, is now dinner today. Plus whatever was on sale at Superstore – you know those ones with the special stickers.

They were sitting on the bus, eating traditional breaky at the back.

By the way people were looking at them, this would be the 60’s, they’d be black.

They would eat on a table if they had one in their room.

Man starting to look at them like they an animal from a zoo.

As they ate each bite, you can tell his anger grew.

Clutching a book by Peterson in one hand, the other reading the Op-Eds as if they were news. Holding these ancient views as if they it was shone light on an unwanted Son.

Under his white gaze, it was as if Slumdog Millionaire had come back on first run.

They goes into class late, cause the bus was running slow.

Like they usually do, they sit sit at back, trying to lay low.

Instructor talks about that ‘assimilation’ is what newcomers need to know.

Makes an offhand remark – you ain’t come here to play in snow.

They think: “Hell if it was snowing, they wouldn’t have proper shoes to wear.”

The last time at the store, they checked, nobody seem to care.

Looked at them as if they should have went next door to Payless shoes

It’s true, they barely had enough to pay their tuition dues.

Even at the temple, barefoot, they all looked as if they knew.

They were here with no mother, father, no ties – nothing to lose?

But they were slowly losing their mind, paying that cultural fine, struggling with differences across space and time, realizing this immigrant life is a grind.

Agent back there said in a ‘few years’ they’d be fine.

Turns out both him and their homestay were together on the lie.

Yet they still put on a brave smile, serving up them subs.

Have these blazed guys gaze them like they been sent to give them rubs.

They had an MBA and three years working in IT.

Nobody in the world seems to care who they might be.

Yet, they spend their weekends giving back through service and their volunteer.

They spend their nights talking to mom and dad who be in fear.

During the days they struggle thinking about a potential career.

They closes their door, regrets being a poor, thinks about that man who called them a coloured whore.

As they were trying to buy a snack, they got asked if they worked at the store.

Asked by a customer if they could help, a kid spilled, please sweep the floor.

They start thinking about that childhood – even through trash they at least had friends.

Whats the use of all this hustle – if no means also know no ends.

“Don’t worry – learn some English, in a minute you will blend.”

“Just learn to order a proper Canadiana next time you at Blenz.”

“Go back home to your country.” comes a booming voice from a Blue Benz.

They had accidentally jaywalked in their thoughts of things to mend.

Ties, Lies, Tries, Trial, Tribulations, Loser, Lost. Triggered. Time and Time Again. Determined. Do it. Don’t. Disintegrate. Dream. Dream. Dream.

The alarm clock rings. They are late for school again. Hopefully today is going to be different.

 

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.

R v. Singh 2019 ABPC 37: The Case DLI’s Should Make Mandatory Reading For Students/Recruiters

R v. Singh 2019 ABPC 37 is an Alberta Provincial Court decision involving an international student Mr. Surinder Singh who appeared at the port of entry in Calgary with a study permit approval letter to pursue a Masters of Chemical Engineering program at the University of Waterloo for which a letter of acceptance was purportedly issued. The problem – the letter was fake. He was not admitted to the University of Waterloo.

Also, the impugned study permit application suggested Mr. Singh had a Bachelors of Engineering from Panjab University and that he was currently a Processing Engineer working at Jagdambay Manufacturing Company. In actuality, he had only completed grade 12 and was working at McDonalds at the time of the application – as he later testified.

Analysis

This case is fascinating for several reasons.

First, it highlights the type of fraudulent schemes that are growing all to common around international study permits. While it is India in this context, the similar pattern of coaching from unlicensed consultants and local liaisons occurs throughout different communities around the world and in Canada. It highlights challenges with no oversight with the letter of acceptance process and how hard it is to detect fraudulent documents in today’s day and age. You see an established process unfold by which Mr. Singh enters Canada and then is coached on how to continue his stay here under different grounds (schools) than those by which he entered. It is also notable that this event took place in 2014 – with the trial and conviction happening some 4.5 years after the events in question took place and almost 3 years after the initial CBSA investigation began. These type of cases and situation simmer for years before being subject to public knowledge

Second, Mr. Singh’s situation represents a step up in terms of prosecuting the actual international student for criminal misrepresentation as opposed to the usual process of simply finding them inadmissible and giving them a five-year bar. No doubt, somewhere down the line, there would have been some consideration as to whether to simply pursue this as an inadmissibility matter but instead significant legal and departmental resources were placed in this case.

The Finding of the Consultancy Agency and the Network Involved

Many of us find it preposterous that individuals would engage with unauthorized practitioners but this case highlights how powerful word of mouth can be. Mr. Singh’s brother heard a friend from an adjoining village had he had recently landed in Canada as a successful immigrant. Mr. Singh and his mother went to the village where they understood the boy’s family lived, went to a shop owner – who then directed them to the family who directed them to the consultant Vicky  (paras 14-17 of the Decision). Again, this sounds very centuries ago in description but is the reality of small town life and demonstrates the desire by which some individuals often wish to leave their current situations.

The initial payment in this case was equivalent to 500,000 Rupees (CDN $10,000) which would be an incredulous amount to charge for any individual permit but again, considered so normal in the context of this case. So was the 25 lakh total price and the addition CDN $40,000 he owed after approval.

The other thing that is very common is the extended informal network of Canadian/international contacts that benefit and participate from these types of operations. The Consultant Vicky sends Mr. Singh to a “Gurjant” guy in Toronto (a purported friend) who ends up advising on education strategy (para 82 of the Decision). Vicky’s mother also assisted in the operation from India (para 51-53 of the Decision).

Judicial Knowledge of Immigration Processes Increasing

In the past where I have looked at non-immigration decisions at various courts and tribunals, I have often noticed language that makes it clear the Court was slightly uncomfortable with the immigration context. In this case, it appears that particularly Crown’s framing of the situation was done very effectively.

Crown put together this summary that looks like it was directly transposed (and or paraphrased) into the decision at para 7 of the decision:

[7]               The following is an outline of the student visa and study permit process.  I am indebted to the Crown for providing this summary in her written submissions.  I accept it as accurate based on the testimony I have heard and accepted and my review of the relevant legislation.  I have attached as an Appendix to these Reasons, all relevant sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SC 2001, c 27 and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227

•        A foreign national from India who wishes to study in Canada must first obtain both a student visa and a study permit.

•        The foreign national must successfully apply for the study permit before entering Canada and studying in Canada.

•        The foreign national must also apply for the visa, or any other document required, before entering Canada.

•        By law, a study permit will not be issued to a foreign national unless they have written documentation from the educational institution at which they intend to study that states they have been accepted there.

•        A study permit will not be issued to a foreign national unless they demonstrate they have sufficient financial resources for the proposed study period.

•        Canadian visa officers review applications for study permits from foreign nationals.  If an officer is satisfied an applicant meets the criteria for a study permit, the officer may issue a student visa to the foreign national, which is placed in the foreign national’s passport before they come to Canada.

•        Once the foreign national has received their student visa outside Canada, they may present themselves at the Canadian border.  At the border, the foreign national makes an application to enter Canada and to obtain their study permit.  In other words, the student visa is issued outside Canada and the study permits is issued at the Canadian border.

•        Every person seeking to enter Canada must appear for an examination to determine whether that person has a right to enter Canada, or is or may become authorized to enter Canada.

•        When a foreign national presents himself or herself at the border seeking a study permit, the Canada Border Services Agency officer must satisfy themselves that the foreign national meets all the criteria for the student class (the criteria that would originally have been assessed to determine that a student visa could be issued to the foreign national).

•        Every foreign national entering Canada must establish that they hold the visa or other document required under the legislation and will leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay.

•        Foreign nationals are inadmissible to Canada for misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to relevant matters that induce or could induce an error in the administration of the Act.  [Footnotes omitted]

Even though we dealing with very particular regimes within immigration, it appears that knowledge around immigration is becoming more widespread. It is important that defense counsel similarly work closely with immigration lawyers when working on cases with an immigration component to ensure they match the resources Crown can often bring with their access to intergovernmental resources and knowledge.

Common Areas of Consultant Fraud

In this decision you get the ‘Rolls Royce’ of ways consultants advise their clients on study permit applications:

  1. Non-disclosure of representative – In this case, in the study permit questionnaire [page 5 – of the document which at the time may (or may not) have looked like this] was declared N/A. It is common for unauthorized consultants to ‘ghost’ a file in that they assist and prepare it without their name or address ever showing up on the file.
  2. Misleading address – A Canadian address was indicated for Calgary on the fraudulent letter of acceptance;
  3. Creating fraudulent documents/letter of acceptance – The fraudulent acceptance letter contained a student number that did not follow standards. We have seen similar issues with fraudulent photos and copy and paste graduation certificates;
  4. Lack of procedural transparency/expertise –  Mr. Singh wanted a work permit and indicated that he believed he would have trouble with the IELTS. He never knew he was going to the University of Waterloo (para 62)
  5. Submitting fraudulent documents to IRCC -Mr. Singh submitted a fraudulent IELTS exams and fraudulent bank statement;
  6. False promises – Even after the consultant Vicky indicated Mr. Singh was ineligible for a work permit, she recommended a study route to learn English (“ESL”) and then ‘get work permit’ (para 59). He then mentioned that ESL was part of the pathway to permanent residence and citizenship (para 60).
  7. Advising  on questionable travel plans – Mr. Singh was advised to fly to Calgary first (where the mailing address was purportedly indicated to be Calgary) to meet with Vicky.
  8. Getting rid of evidence – Vicky asked Mr. Singh for his password to his email account and started deleting emails.
  9. Undisclosed fee splits to third parties – while not directly stated, it is reasonable to assume that Gurjant was a benefactor – either through Vicky’s direct fee payment and/or through the schools he recommended Mr. Singh to attend;
  10. Asking a client to sign without reading – paragraph 92 is an all too common scenario and thread through common refusals.

Flag on File – Tracking Down Subject of Investigation

Many of us have seen IRCC’s efforts to track entries and exits. In this case, at paras 35-36, we see how this can work in practice in the summary of CBSA investigator Jolene Northfield. Having had difficult tracking Mr. Singh in July 2016, he came to CBSA’s attention 2017 thanks to a flag at the Windsor border. Mr. Singh’s Calgary address was obtained and supported the arrest warrant.

Wilful Blindness

Before I go into wilful blindness, there are a few things worth pointing to in the preceding section of the decision titled “credibility.

Judge Skene impugns Mr. Singh’s credibility with a couple lines including  the following:

[139]      I accept that Singh did not fully read his Application, including his supporting documentation, for a student visa and a study permit, although it would have been hard to miss the statements in English directly above each of his signatures.  I find this was an intentional act on his part.  He had no intention of reading it. 

[141]      He signed under the statement “I declare that I have answered all questions in this application fully and truthfully.”  Did he read that declaration?  I am uncertain.  As stated, it is hard to miss.  If he did, he made a material misrepresentation on his Application.  If he did not read what he was signing, in this part of his Application, or any of the other signature lines, that act and those acts were intentional – a deliberate choice.  

I cannot walk into the shoes of the defense counsel in this case in terms of whether they should have pursued a different strategy – one involving preparing Mr. Singh in order to have him understand the mistakes he made and how he had been led into making these various mistakes. It is clear that the lack of sympathy the judge had towards Mr. Singh’s position of blaming the consultant and blaming the visa office for processing his visa did not win over sympathy or create reasonable doubt.

I do feel sympathetic for the manner in which Mr. Singh assumed the ghost consultants who represented him knew what they were doing were licensed. The process of figuring out is licensed is not easy, word of mouth referrals often accepted without background checks, and representatives (including the ghost consultants here) do not often do a good job of telling clients what it is they are actually signing and/or to review carefully materials before signing. Students, especially those eager to leave their situations for Canada at a younger age, have the tendency to be impatient.

For me this is a classic case of s.40 IRPA misrepresentation but to convict him also of the criminal provision s.128 IRPA seems heavy handed.

That being said, the wilful blindness sections of the decision from paragraphs 147 – 161 are an important read. It highlights the vulnerability students face but that those factors of vulnerability (lack of knowledge, dissociation, willingness to follow instructions) can be the very foundation of fraud and contribute to their own roles of perpetrators. Clients (and for students, especially their families) should be asking many questions along the way of those who purport to help them and pose difficult questions. Obeying or Acquiescing to instructions without any active efforts to challenge or clarify those instructions can lead to a judge impugning motives, intent, and wilful blindness. There is also a major benefit to documenting questions to your representatives or to those assisting you by email to clearly demonstrate your actions through your own paper trail.

Exposing a Major Policy Gap – Ease By Which Study Permits Allow Students to Change Institutions

In paragraph 106 of the decision, a major policy gap in Canada’s international study permit is exposed and pointed to by Mr. Singh to the Court. In his testimony Mr. Singh states:

“Vicky consultant told me you are coming here on study permit, you can go anywhere to study.”

Currently, there are no rules, regulations, or policy directives which limit or dissuade students from switching universities. In fact, many schools (especially privates) have continued to operate under a seat sale process where the offering of more letters of acceptance increases the chance of converting an enrollment. Indeed, one of the reason more letters of acceptance need to be issued is with the understanding that students are likely obtaining other letters of acceptance which they may (or may not) accept.

On the flipside, many students are being coached (as it appears Mr. Singh was here) that once you obtain one letter of acceptance a student is free to ‘change their institutions.’ In other cases, after a student enters Canada on a study permit they have been advised that they are able to switch to a work permit quite easily. While they attend classes, a consultant is busy securing them a labour market impact assessment. Not only is this application difficult (for someone who has limited work experience and is still a student), but the positions that the work is organized for almost never actually assists a student in obtaining permanent residence. Most are low-skilled food service/hospitality positions that have the actual effect of culling any academic progress the student may have wanted (or ultimately needed) to pursue.

IRCC needs to step in by creating some sort of compliance process before a student is automatically allowed to switch programs. While I understand the flexibility of issuing study permits that are not tied directly to a college or university, I do believe there needs to be more than an administrative ‘update’ to IRCC after the change and that changing primary institutions (with exceptions for cases where students cannot register because a program is full, for example, or unable to offer their required courses) should be an exceptional circumstance. Furthermore, I am a big proponent of centralizing Letters of Acceptance for international students so that they have some sort of unique identifier and cannot be simply recreated and copied.

There may be some benefit to looking into the Australia model on this particular point and their rules around this.

Anti-Fraud Initiatives

IRCC has since the decision was rendered in February 2019, introduced a new campaign in India to try and curb the use of unregulated consultants.

Unfortunately, heartbreaking stories of immigration fraud too numerous to document in one short blog post. The takeaway from Singh is that there’s not too much stopping the pursuit of the students for whom fraudulent study permit applications may be submitted for as a manner of future deterrence.

Take Away

Schools – private, public, PGWP eligible or not – need to take a hard and deep look at their practices in engaging agents. Regardless of who they have a contract with (could be someone like Gurjant), students are contacting friends and family for word of mouth advice. The process isn’t always clear and that is where schools (and their advisors) ultimately have an important role to play providing basic straight forward instructions so that student have somewhere other than their neighbourhood agent to get advice from.

I think IRCC can also take major steps to make their website much more intuitive and use click down menus to better organize the content. I have been reviewing website content in light of a talk and as someone who spends way too much time on the internet and searching for information, IRCC’s website is not among the best organized. Again, Australia has a lot to offer us in this regards.

I will be presenting this case (along with several other immigration-related cases on the 30th at a session I am facilitating called Taking Stock of International Student Regulations in Canada on July 30th and August 20th. I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Why the 180-Day Post-Graduate Work Permit Application Period Will Create Problems for IRCC/Applicants

In past pieces I have lauded IRCC’s extension of 180 days for students to apply for post-graduate work permits. From a policy perspective, I believe it gives students more time to find a job and prepare a decent application rather than to have to rush and base such an application off an expiring study permit that may or may not be easy to extend based on an institution.

IRCC’s new rules are that the study permit must have been valid sometime within the past 180 days but do not need to be valid at the time of application. I also wrote about how the lapse of a study permit automatically 90 days after completion of studies may also complicate the policy switch and require some sort of extension regardless.

What I didn’t realize at the time, but only did with some more reading and cross-referencing is that some of the policy likely does not work in theory with respect to the regulatory provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations which hold power of law.

Let’s start with the issue of what a student whose study permit is expiring (either naturally or on the basis of the 90 days) who wants to stay in Canada needs to do and how that affects their post-graduate work permit (“PGWP”) eligibility.

For those who switch to visitors in Canada, that means that their PGWPs should not (technically) be processed inside Canada unless they are accompanying a family member which permits them to make an application after entry under R.199 of IRPR.

Application after entry

 A foreign national may apply for a work permit after entering Canada if they

  • (a) hold a work permit;

  • (b) are working in Canada under the authority of section 186 and are not a business visitor within the meaning of section 187; – They don’t meet this subject to my analysis below on a possible loophole created.

  • (c) hold a study permit; – this is expired

  • (d) hold a temporary resident permit issued under subsection 24(1) of the Act that is valid for at least six months;

  • (e) are a family member of a person described in any of paragraphs (a) to (d); – this depends on family members

  • (f) are in a situation described in section 206 or 207;

  • (g) applied for a work permit before entering Canada and the application was approved in writing but they have not been issued the permit;

  • (h) are applying as a trader or investor, intra-company transferee or professional, as described in Section B, C or D of Annex 1603 of the Agreement, within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, and their country of citizenship — being a country party to that Agreement — grants to Canadian citizens who submit a similar application within that country treatment equivalent to that accorded by Canada to citizens of that country who submit an application within Canada, including treatment in respect of an authorization for multiple entries based on a single application; or

  • (i) hold a written statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade stating that it has no objection to the foreign national working at a foreign mission in Canada.

(emphasis added – comments in underline)

The student whose study permit is expired without a family member to boot has no regulatory authority for their PGWP to be processed in Canada unless they utilize an exemption.

Moving on….

Adding to these challenges is the interplay between R. 186(w) which is the provision that allows a former student to work in Canada while awaiting their post-graduate work permit creates major timing issues.

No permit required

 A foreign national may work in Canada without a work permit

…..

(w) if they are or were the holder of a study permit who has completed their program of study and

  • (i) they met the requirements set out in paragraph (v), and

  • (ii) they applied for a work permit before the expiry of that study permit and a decision has not yet been made in respect of their application; or

(emphasis added in underline and bold)

In short, if I am not mistaken (and correct me if I am wrong) – a student who has let their study permit expire (90 days after completion of studies) and is applying within 180-days after graduation is under IRPR at least, in a situation where they have to make an outside Canada application.

Even more contradictory, they cannot work after they submit their PGWP application because they no longer meet the requirements of 186(w)(ii) as their PGWP application is coming after the expiry of their study permit.

Unless…..

My third point. A loophole emerges where it actually makes logical sense for a student who wants to take advantage of the whole 180-days they have to submit their post-graduate work permit to submit another paper-based application (which may be without merits – such as a Significant Benefits WP or frankly any WP application such as an accompanying spouse of a student) that would then authorize them to work until R. 186(w)(ii) until a decision is  made.

In short, it is my reading that these helpful policy changes (with good intention) will require regulatory amendment (in addition to just policy) and there may be some individuals caught in the middle of this crossfire of law and policy. Hopefully those regulatory amendments will capture that.

I will have to wait for the Gazette for those instructions.

Immigration law is fun isn’t it?

International Students, Criminality, and Immigration Status – a Few Points and Pointers

In the past year, one of the areas in which I have received the most inquiries and run the most consultations involves international students who have found themselves facing either criminal charges or dealing with the consequences arising from immigration investigations following charges/convictions.

By No machine-readable author provided. Klaus with K assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=331725

A Little Background – Crimigration Generally

I would be remiss if I did not point out first that my piece below will cover mainly practice/practical experience and tips that I would take if I were an international student or international adviser giving a talk to students on criminality and it’s possible consequences. I won’t be going into the details of the foundations of immigration consequences of criminality generally as I couldn’t do the topic full justice in one most.

I would strongly recommend reading this paper from my mentor Peter Edelmann, which subject to a few developments in the law around conditional sentence orders being held by the SCC not to be terms of imprisonment in the criminal admissibility context is still very valid today (http://pblsask.ca/imm_consequences_at_sentencing.doc).

Peter’s brilliant memos on criminality have helped a good number of criminal lawyers in their negotiations with Crown and their Court matters. I strongly encourage you reach out to him (peter@edelmann.ca) if you would like more advice on this.

I would also recommend reading the case he argued in front of the Supreme Court of Canada – R. v. Wong, 2018 SCC 25, [2018] 1 S.C.R. 696 – with respect to sentence appeals and informed consent of immigration consequences.

The SCC held that  the accused must be aware of the nature of the allegations made against them, the effect of their plea and the consequences of their plea which include immigration consequences.

International Students – Things to Be Aware Of

Unlike other permanent residents and even temporary residents, there are several factors that make international students unique in the context of criminality and have direct impacts on their larger immigration status issues.

The Role of Studies Before, During, and After the Criminal Process

First, their studies heavily factor in. International students are required to actively-pursue studies and remain enrolled during the duration of their time on a study permit in Canada (R. 220.1 IRPR). The considerations for this are highly subjective, yet gratefully have been clarified recently by IRCC – see my past post on this issue.

From my experiences, individuals who come to the attention of IRCC through criminal charges are highly scrutinized for their past educational efforts (or lack thereof). Indeed, I have come across several Officer’s section 44 reports that flag this for review, even where charges were eventually resolved by way of discharge or a peace bond (i.e. where criminal admissibility cannot be made out).

Students who are having issues with the law should do what they can to stay in school. The criminal proceedings will inevitably have an affect on their ability to attend classes, but communication needs to be established with professors, instructors, and international student advisers to try and accommodate.

Even the conversion to part-time classes for one semester that is not a final semester or a failed class can be enough to trigger attention. These would seem to be very natural consequences of the stress of facing charges in Canada, particularly for many students who have never been in trouble with the law before.

At worst, an exclusion order can be issued for not actively-pursuing studies. At best, an international student’s eligibility for a post-graduate work permit which require full-time study throughout (other than last semester) gets thrown into the deep water.  Also, for international students not engaged as a full-time students when facing charges, it is not advisable to work as doing so may be in violation of your study permit conditions, another violation that could lead to an individual’s exclusion from Canada.

I find many international students are also not aware of some of the possible outs. Exceptions to actively-pursuing studies for family members (common-law partners/spouses) of study permit and work permit holders is not adequately canvassed. In fact, the practice of updating IRCC on changes in family make up during the time after a study permit is approved is not posted anywhere on the IRCC website nor done in practice by anyone, but a select few.

Similarly, applying for a visitor record while holding a study permit can be done in cases of leave yet I would argue that IRCC has not yet made clear how the simultaneous holding of both these permits affects the active-pursuing studies requirement.

Second, applications/efforts to seek re-entry or extend stays in Canada will come under increased scrutiny. I generally recommend individuals who are facing charges in Canada and/or are in the process of fighting those charges to stay in Canada and stay enrolled. Once a flag is placed on a file, the individual can be subject to deeper looks into their immigration histories when seeking re-entry, for example on a day trip to Seattle or a Spring Break trip back home.

What were accepted as mistakes and/or missed by visa offices on past applications can now become open ground for misrepresentation investigations. The breadth in which s.40 of IRPA is applied makes a mistaken question about whether you have been previously arrested or charged, refused an application, or even the organizations you were involved with in the past  is now an open season search effort. In my ideal world, every student who is currently charged with an offense and/or was recently acquitted would seek legal advice and review before filing their subsequent applications, especially if the proximity of time between the two is very short.

Another issue to flag is that communication and contact with IRCC/CBSA becomes even more important post-criminal charges laid. It is not uncommon for CBSA officers to want to interview you in advance of a decision on your criminal matter, as a bit of a check-in and file review. Warrants for arrest, leading to detention have been issued on the basis on failures to update home address properly with relevant authorities.

I am really opposed to the detention of international students for immigration violations, but unfortunately a lot of it spurs from communication issues that are entirely avoidable. It is much more advisable for both Client and the CBSA to have an interview and go through the admissibility process when the Client is not detained.

Putting international students who have never been arrested in their life, into cuffs and with general population can have scarring and traumatic effects. I have had to make more than a few referrals to psychologists on this basis. I think there is much more that can be done to create better and more accessible portals for home address changes, especially when students do not have access to their own MyCIC application accounts (an issue I have addressed many-a-times on this blog).

Pressure to Leave Canada On Own Accord – Either/Or Conundrum

In the inside Canada context, charges are not convictions. Only convictions render an applicant in admissible. Often times I find clients that contact me have not been advised enough of the immigration consequences by their criminal counsel. This is certainly area for continued collaboration between the two legal practices, especially where students and cognitive/mental health vulnerabilities are heightened and the uncertainty can have worse psychological effects. Family overseas often times are entirely kept in the dark, many time purposefully, by international students. Students often borrow money to try and pay for legal fees further creating a whole for themselves.

The other issue I have see is pressure from CBSA who in many cases will try to encourage individuals facing criminal charges to accept a lesser exclusion order and leave Canada. Many times the grounds for this are nefarious, at best, yet remain largely unchallenged administratively.

I personally would love CBSA to take a little more of a hands-off approach and let the Canadian Criminal Justice system play its course before intercepting. However, I can see why it is sometimes deemed beneficial to get a rid of a perceived problem and cost on the system from their perspective. International students are a dime a dozen from the system’s perspective – bad press, media, and lengthy trials – certainly aren’t.

The Value of a Letter to the Court/Crown from Immigration Counsel

One of the lesser known benefits immigration lawyers can provide to criminal counsel is, as discussed earlier, a legal opinion. I mentioned Peter’s opinions are in my biased opinion – the best in the business.

These opinions can set out the immigration consequences of finding an individual guilty. They can be especially crucial for international students where you can tie in the consequences on their inability to study if found inadmissible and their removal order enforceable (R.222(1)(b) IRPR).  In my own practice, I have been able to provide memos that once disclosed by Defense counsel to Crown started the resolution process early. Crown, especially for first time offenders on more minor charges, have been amenable to considering an absolute or conditional discharge, a peace bond, or even a stay – taking into consequences the vulnerability of their student status in Canada.

I am not a criminal lawyer myself and can only provide my ‘afar perspective.’ I tend to find the process more Crown-facing than immigration’s client-facing preparations (maybe if part of it is because we don’t usually have a physical face in immigration to talk to). I would provide some constructive feedback that my crimigration clients, especially those with language barriers, often find themselves a bit in the dark during the initial stages prior to trial. Here a collaborative approach may work and also where the use of interpreters at an additional cost becomes entirely worth the transparency of communication.

A Note on Sexwork

With the cost of tuition for international students rising astronomically and as well with a strong movement of women who are breaking the stigma and taboo of sex work as an illegitimate form of labour, it is not uncommon for international students to engage in this area. I won’t weight into the larger and very Vancouver debate over whether eliminating prostitution, regulating, or deregulating prostitution, is the best path forward but do note that it is very much in the post-Bedford atmosphere here.

Unfortunately, temporary status poses problems in this regard. Section 196.1 places a blanket restriction on foreign national entering into employment agreements with employers who offer sexual services:

Restrictions

 A foreign national must not enter into an employment agreement, or extend the term of an employment agreement, with an employer

  • (a) who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages; 

There is a current silence around self-employment (especially escort work) and occasional sex work and these are the gray areas in which this arguably cruel and unusual law operates. Furthermore, no direct link is made in section to work without a permit while a student which falls under R.186(v) which has no similar sex-work limiting provisions.

For international students, I have seen the actively pursuing studies provision as well as extension refusals targeted at those who engage in this work. The ‘bawdy houses’ are still very much being treated by enforcement officials in the immigration context as human trafficking hubs, somewhat contrary and different

This is an area I am increasingly interested in. Should you have or know of other international students who are struggling with the ways the laws are written and enforced around the ability to perform sex work while on a study permit or even as an international graduate please email me at will@edelmann.ca. I am currently awaiting a few stakeholder directions on where to direct further research in this area.

After Removal…. Coming Back to Canada

Depending on the outcome of the criminal trial, whether one is ultimately found criminally inadmissible and removed, the ability to return to Canada may vary. Rehabilitation may be available, as may deemed rehabilitation after a certain prescribed period has passed.

However, for those students removed on a finding of ‘not actively pursuing studies’ or ‘work without authorization’, the one year mark when the inadmissibility expires is not an automatic green light to return. Previous admissibility findings often lead to increased scrutiny on future temporary.

I would also familiarize myself with the Authorization to Return to Canada (“ARC”) provisions especially for those who are removed on a deportation order for serious criminality or on a five-year exclusion order for misrepresentation. I’ve done a deep dive post here.

Conclusion

In short, it is tough for an international student facing criminal charges. There’s a lot of uncertainty  and a lot of communication issues inherent in the process. Conversations between yourself and your criminal counsel, criminal counsel and immigration counsel, Crown and your criminal counsel, Crown and CBSA, and CBSA and yourself all may occur in this whirlwind of personal uncertainty.

You need good and effective counsel – and thankfully Vancouver has some of the best criminal lawyers in the country. Definitely get on top of things and organize for this process – put your relevant people in touch with each other. Failure to recognize your rights, reliefs, and the interplay of CBSA with the arresting authorities can lead to confusion, and possibly huge immigration consequences for international students.

Feel free to provide to email me if you have any questions arising from this post: will@edelmann.ca

International Students – My Latest NCM Piece and the Pre-Edited (Elongated) Version

For those that have been following my work over the past two years, international students (and graduates) have become a huge part of my practice. Through my work I have gotten to speak to hundreds of international students about their experiences and their struggles. With my own wife now an international student, I see the challenges on a day-to-day basis.

I wrote this piece for New Canadian Media because I felt the stories of international students were not being told. The last thing any of them would do is contact media and many, before we pursue federal court to fight their refusals, always worry about their record and their future in Canada. They have told me about their episodes of depression, lack of support, few friends, and frankly it’s a devastating story. This has been compounded by media constantly citing international students for a multitude of societal ills. Most of these ills, I humbly submit are the fault of our entire society of which international students are just a subset.

Check out my piece here —http://www.newcanadianmedia.ca/item/40286-listening-to-our-international-students-listening-to-our-international-students

Limited by space, and edited, I left out a lot of things in the final piece for NCM which was well-edited by their Team. I wanted to put the original version below (raw, uncut, with no headings) so you can see some of my thoughts in more fuller form.

Why Canada Needs to Do More to Protect International Students

Over the past year, Canada’s 400,000+ international students, particularly those in major metropolitan cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, have been subject to intense criticism. They have been blamed (directly and indirectly) for being a major contributor to such social ailments as overheated rental markets, unaffordable home ownership, abuse of public services, cheating, and unsafe roads (just to name a few).

A bulk of these criticisms are focused, as understandably Canada is only recovering from her post-census statistical dark period, on what we can label as anecdotal accounts. These accounts come from professors who study and interview as part of their work and anonymous, retired institutional instructors who can now share stories with no need to self-censor. These accounts come from positions of privilege.

There is no reason to doubt the credibility of these individuals and experts or deny that international students, just like all young Canadian students regardless of citizenship, probably in some way contribute to the social challenges we are dealing with. Indeed, by issuing them visas, they become guests at our proverbial dinner party.

However, what bothers me, as the product of an immigrant who came as a Canada international student in the late 80’s and as someone who is now married to an international student, is that this ‘blame narrative’ is just one side of the story. In drawing many of our conclusions, we have not been good listeners of international students. In fact, we generally have silenced their perspectives and ignored their challenges.

To begin, it is easy to forget, with every news story attaching immigration status to the identity of the wrong, that the majority of Canadian international students are bona fide, meaning they are compliant with rules and regulations.  In 2014, when it was estimated by the Canadian Bureau of International Education there were around 336,000 students, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (as it then was called) estimated that there were 20,000 students at high-risk of non-compliance. This accounts for only about 6% of all students admitted into Canada. One would never guess this by reading mainstream media accounts.

Next, it is important to sit down and listen to the challenges of international students and share their stories as well. I believe this task is incumbent on my journalist friends to take on, which I hope this piece will stir. In my legal work advising international students on their immigration matters, I have had the opportunity to become trusted advisor and hear these stories. From first hand experience, I can tell you it takes work for them to share with me their stories in their own native language, let alone share with their own family members and counsellors and teachers in their non-native language.

From my work, I have noted the major barriers faced by international students as follows:

First, Canada’s own immigration policies have made it difficult for international students. On the front end, the financial requirements on international students are prohibitive, in many cases. Students generally need to show one year of international tuition (usually four times domestic tuition), funds for room and board, and at least CDN 10,000 additional dollars per applicant (and accompanying family member) just to be approved for study permits. Many of the world’s best, those with the stories of growing up in abject poverty and studying by candlelight, realistically can only study in Canada if they are given a full-ride scholarship to do so. By focusing the attention on what amount to ‘wealthy students,’ the fact that some of these students come with no motivation to study cannot be of no surprise. If we genuinely want better quality students with long-term intentions of becoming Canadian permanent residents and Citizens, Canadian immigration should provide more pathways for these prospective world-class students.

Once a student is here, Canada currently has a restrictive requirement that students ‘actively-pursue studies.’ While I believe the initial intentions of the regulatory changes were good, in practice it has hamstrung international students and in an alarming number of cases has even led to the removal of students from Canada. Educational institutions now have two-tiered policies, where international students are subject to what I believe is excessive (and costly) monitoring and reporting requirements with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Depending on the institution, international students have to take certain number of courses and maintain a certain attendance rate, while domestic students do not.

I entirely disagree with this two-tier system. I believe in substantive equality for all students and I think that equal treatment is in line with Canadian values. I often use the example of my own undergraduate studies, where I took an economic history course. Due to my intense course schedule that year I went to three classes all semester – one to get the syllabus, one to hand in the term paper, and one to write the final exam. With my 5% attendance record in the course, if I were an international student, I would likely have been kicked out and possibly expelled or removed from Canada. Students with family emergencies, mental health episodes, or who simply want to explore a different area are left helpless by restrictive and, ultimately, unclear policies.

Finally, once nearing graduation, eligibility to continue in Canada and obtain a post-graduate work permit for which permanent residency in almost all cases depends on, is tied to the individual’s past ‘full-time and continuous’ study. The way these Regulations work make it imperative for the international student to have remain enrolled at all times. Students with financial difficulties, who do poorly and fail classes, or who simply have been to different institutions and in different programs trying to figure out their pathway often face challenges at this stage.

Second, there are major societal barriers against international students. I have worked with many international student advisors who have told me anecdotal stories of students breaking down in their advising sessions as a result of mental health issues. Without family and often adequate knowledge to seek professional help, these students are particularly vulnerable. A common theme from students that have seen me is that they are receiving poor academic support services and have even been subject to discrimination due to their country of origin and their inability to speak English fluently. I think all Canadian institutions need to do more to make their faculty more diverse, and their student services more culturally sensitive and accessible to those dealing with the challenges of being temporary immigrants to Canada.

Finally, and it has to be acknowledged, there there is an underbelly of poor, and in some cases fraudulent, third-party services to international students. Many of these purported advisors are untrained and unqualified educational consultants and agents, many of whom operate abroad without any regulation or in Canada with little care or attention paid by regulating bodies to their practices. They charge exorbitant fees, often keep international students entirely in the dark, and structure their arrangements so students assume and absorb all the risk. International students, especially when in desperate situations and without family or friends to assist them, find themselves trapped in cash schemes. These advisors are paid by the institutions and potential employers to set the students up, without full disclosure to their client, the student. Inevitably, if not now than later on, these students find themselves in situations akin to fraud or misrepresentation, for which there are severe criminal and immigration consequences.

Regardless of the economic questions and the political questions raised by student immigration, we must not forget that these students need to be represented in the decision-making process. We have seen as an example down south, what happens when immigration law is mandated by public opinion, fear, and top-down orders.

If we continue down this path of blaming and not accommodating, I foresee only increased fracturing within our already fragile mosaic.

‘Actively Pursuing Studies’ – Possible Port of Entry Issues

As I mentioned in a post written in September 2015, the requirement that a study permit holder “actively pursue studies” in Canada while holding their study permit creates major challenges.

When I first wrote my post in 2015, I imagined that exclusion orders issued pursuant to Immigration and Refugee Protections Act s.29(2) + s.41(a) would occur mostly in the context of in-land investigations. I imagined these would be situations where Designated Learning Institutions (“DLIs”) when required to update CIC (now “IRCC”) via the student compliance portal would trigger Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) to investigate. Other than that I thought that international students would otherwise be brought to the attention of CBSA by external means (i.e. police-reporting, working without authorizations, etc.), where studying without authorization would be an add-on to existing concerns.

My understanding now is that with IRCC’s International Student Program (“ISP”) student compliance delivery instructions still pending final publication for sometime later this year, the main trigger of these investigations are actually reports to CBSA or initiated by CBSA themselves.

It may come to a surprise to some individuals, but CBSA often is not provided instruction on how to interpret IRCC rule/policy changes, but rather, like myself as a practitioner or a client, have to react to them by developing their own positions. These positions, as admitted by CBSA,  are not always perfect and often can lead to inconsistent application. That turns into the legal grey area that often gets clients in trouble.

Yesterday, I attended a talk where CBSA program directors talked about the recent Port of Entry issues they have noticed. This talks reconfirmed (my fear) that the ‘actively-pursuing studies’ requirement has been interpreted by CBSA quite broadly and that this requirement has created challenges for international students.  I had been hearing similar issues from in the international student community, but this talk reaffirmed them.

Travelling during “Regular School Term”

When a student is ‘actively-pursuing studies’ they are expected to be in class when there is class. Full stop.  Inevitably, trips taken during class will happen. Things happen back in the home country, emergency trips to see loved ones, health and financial issues, or even the occasional mid-term getaway.  We could all use the occasional break, right?

Well, the challenge is, that without program delivery instructions set by IRCC as to how discretion is to be exercised, there is a huge risk to an individual who leaves Canada during the regularly scheduled school term and tries to gain re-entry into Canada.

As a colleague of mine correctly pointed out, there are also challenges with the way the legislation is being interpreted right now in sense that a plain-letter interpretation of the law suggests that the law does not apply while an individual is abroad with a study permit. However, I now understand that the study permit holder does not need to be in Canada and not studying but arguably can be in their home country and holding a study permit, not studying and still fall into the requirement to actively-pursue studies.

Conditions — study permit holder

220.1 (1) The holder of a study permit in Canada is subject to the following conditions:

  • (a) they shall enroll at a designated learning institution and remain enrolled at a designated learning institution until they complete their studies; and
  • (b) they shall actively pursue their course or program of study.

CBSA’s recommendation, and one I would fully adopt for students is that they need to bring with them adequate documentation when they leave Canada in the middle of the school term. I would go a step further and suggest that this is true ot just a student’s own school term – which may or may not correlate to when a majority of students are expected to be in school.

One of the examples that CBSA provided of a “possible flag”, was an international student attempting to arrive in Canada mid-way through September. This is of course, premised on the fact that the designated-learning institution operates on a Fall/Winter semester school year. In fact many DLIs go according to different schedules, particularly those that offer continuous courses over summer but provide options for students to take authorized breaks.

Proving your Breaks

Students would be wise to have (among other relevant documentation):

  • a school calendar;
  • school policies relating to educational breaks/gaps;
  • a letter of permission from the school authorizing the late return/trip abroad; amd
  • proof that the student performed the activity/task that they were authorized to miss school for.

They should also be prepared to answer questions in secondary examination, if referred. Particularly, where a student’s first language is not English, the international student should know how to ask for interpreter and/or answer basic questions about there whereabouts and activities while abroad. Answers provided incorrectly or, worse yet, with misleading intentions may result in further immigration consequences such as misrepresentation.

Students would also be wise to ensure they are compliant with other customs policies. Often times another violation, i.e. failing to declare goods upon entry, will trigger a referral to secondary which will itself trigger a non-compliance with study permit conditions finding.

Consequences of Exclusion

As alluded to earlier, a student, if upon examination is determined not to be a student who is ‘actively pursuing studies’ could be issued an exclusion order on the spot and removed from Canada. Anecdotally, I have heard individuals who have been removed the day of their attempted entry and asked to buy a ticket to board a plane home.

From a procedural fairness perspective, it is my hope that CBSA adopts a policy that will require them to continue the investigation inland. I say this because my understanding of procedural fairness requires that an applicant is provided a meaningful opportunity to respond.

Without a full investigation of the school’s policies, of attendance records, and giving the student a chance to defend themselves in the event a designated learning institution says otherwise, I don’t think the opportunity to respond can be provided. A few hour examination is simply not enough.

Conclusion

Until IRCC comes up with clear policies communicated with CBSA Border Services Officers that apply the law,  travelling during school time without a valid reason and valid evidence is in my perspective, playing Russian roulette .

Is Canadian Immigration Overemphasing the Financial Sufficiency of International Students? – Policy Discussion

Based on StatsCan numbers, in 2015/2016, International Students to Canada pay on average $21,932 a year in tuition fees, compared to $6,191 a year paid by their domestic colleagues. I have heard in some circles, the talk of a “1 international student pays for 4 domestic students” a ratio that appears to be close to met based on these recent figures.

In order for an international student to even be determined to be financially sufficient for a study permit they must be able to cover the cost of first year tuition, the cost of housing, personal expenses, and transportation to and from Canada. They must also show that they have some potential plan in place to pay the remainder of the amount.

Accompanying spouses/dependents add additional monetary requirements to this calculation. Furthermore, different visa posts also carry different requirements ranging from being able to show the finances in a bank draft, a letter of financial support, and even prepaying tuition.

As shown by the ATIP results below from a (then Citizenship and Immigration Canada, now Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada or “IRCC”), and likely still in effect – amounts proposed to be earned through work by the applicant or accompanied spouse is not to be taken into account in the calculation.Tuition and Funds requirement

If we look at just the baseline number as provided by IRCC”s program delivery guides on study permit financial sufficiency  we find a very troubling fact.

Financial Sufficiency

In order to have sufficient financial resources, the international student student  must be able to pay the cost of first year tuition (let’s put it at the average of $21k).

They must also pay the cost of living expenses, which IRCC has tagged at:

  • Student base: $10,000 for twelve-month period, prorated at $833 per month, plus cost of tuition.
  • Spouse/common-law partner/ first family member base-$4,000 for twelve-month period prorated at $333 per month.
  • Dependent child/subsequent family member base-$3,000 for twelve-month period per dependent child of any age, prorated at $255 per month.

This does not, from my understand, include rent – which itself in several cities can add up to about $20,000 to 24,000 a year.

Total, a single student would be expected to have $51k (21 + 10 + 20) in currently available, liquid funds in order to study in Canada for one year. 

Whether these requirements are actually strictly enforced at overseas visa offices is a question that must be looked into further. Yet, I question whether requiring $51k from an international  student  (currently close to the annualized living wage amount ($20.68/hr) for a family of four from Vancouver) is setting an unrealistically high barrier to Canadian education. Is it also in so doing creating unintended policy consequences?

With that amount required, it is both not a surprise that those who can afford to study in cities such as Vancouver must be supported by their parents, who themselves must by extension be financially well-off. While such a link has not yet been drawn, I would argue that international students factor prominently into the discussion of foreign ownership in the city of Vancouver, a link that has been overlooked due to the often complex arrangement in which houses are bought and rented, and statistics gathered and tracked.

I also think that the high financial requirements for study permit holders and the deisre of several international students to come into Canada at all costs (think IRCC’s 7% of high risk students), have led several Designated Learning Institutions to shift their primary focus away from ensuring that international students are “actively-pursuing studies.”

Spots in these institutions are filled by those who can pay and those who can arrange (third-party, unlicensed agencies) rather than by merit. Often times these students either fail their courses or end up being removed/leaving Canada, their pathway to any future marred by their poor grades and lack of a concrete study plan.

All this to say, I think if we make entry into Canada’s international student population more merit-based, more based on a required comprehensive study plan, we can encourage candidates that will be better permanent residents and whom Canada can invest in to gain long-term benefits.

Another barrier right now, is that students are encouraged in their study permit applications to prove they are a “temporary resident” and will “leave at the end of their authorized stay.” Perhaps our model should be switched to requiring students to demonstrate lower finances, but a higher desire to come to Canada for more than just a short-term purpose. Perhaps, we should ask international students to declare up-front whether they intend to stay for a short-term and return to studies in their home country, or if not, plan an educational strategy to become a permanent resident.

I think the Labour Market Impact Assessment “Transition Plan” provides a model that I would like to see implemented for international students. We can do this with corresponding policies that make it easier for international students to eventually become permanent residents, as this government has promised.  I can even forsee a student who has followed through their Educational Transition Plan being awarded extra-points when they are applying for Express Entry down the road.

A lot of options, but one barrier remains requiring the student to be wealthy. I never had those finances growing up, and in fact, to generalize, those of my colleagues who were most successful in university came from quite middle-class households, where the family income for a family of four was around 50k. While times of changed, I think if we are more flexible with funding arrangements, we can attract more working class individuals and families who through Canadian education can transition become our future Canadian citizens.

The Problem with the ‘Actively Pursuing Studies’ Study Permit Condition

IMG_20150909_092758Back in one particular undergraduate semester, I will admit that I had a tiny bit of a skipping problem. It was a problem of the academically inconsequential kind. I knew that by virtue of taking certain courses, with only term paper requirements, that I could free up that one course time to pursue my other research, write papers, and organize projects. Arguably had I filled my course schedule with all of the toughest courses at the worst 8am times, I would not have made it to where I am today.

One of the courses in particular was an European History of Economics class that I managed to make approximately three classes for. The first class to the get the syllabus, the second class to hand in my term paper, and the third class to attend the final exam preparation session. I was able to self-read and self-teach my way to an A (not that proud of it looking back).

For an international student, that luxury as of June 2014 no longer exists.

Speaking from my recent experiences with CBSA (an ongoing matter so I will go into no specific detail on it), I know that officers are now armed with an incredibly thick binder of information on each student. They have access to school policies, attendance records, late records, and transcripts. This is in addition to the school’s own requirement to report student progress.

All of this is in relation to the following legislative requirement that was introduced to the study permit changes in June 2014. 

Section 220.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) now reads (emphasis added):

Conditions — study permit holder

220.1 (1) The holder of a study permit in Canada is subject to the following conditions:

  • (a) they shall enroll at a designated learning institution and remain enrolled at a designated learning institution until they complete their studies; and

  • (b) they shall actively pursue their course or program of study.

Individuals found in violation of this provision can be hit with an exclusion order on the basis of subsection 41(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Act  (IRPA) for non-compliance based on the requirement of subsection 29(2) of the act which requires that a temporary resident comply with any condtiion imposed under IRPA or IRPR. This type of removal is also a Specific Removal Order pursuant to subsection 228(c)(v) of IRPR which does not require referral to the  matter of the Immigration Division for an inadmissibility hearing. The decision is essentially made by the Minister’s Delegate at the conclusion of his review with the Applicant (and counsel should he/she obtain one).

Worse yet, is that by operation of s.229(1) and s.229(3)(b) a combination of two inadmissibilities can be lead to a deportation order. A deportation order is a permanent bar on returning to Canada, unless authorized by the Minister.

s.229(3)(b) states (emphasis added):

Exception

(3) The applicable removal order in the circumstances set out in paragraph (1)(f), (g), (h), (j), (l) or (n) is a deportation order if the person

  • (a) was previously subject to a removal order and they are inadmissible on the same grounds as in that order;

  • (b) has failed to comply with any condition or obligation imposed under the Act or the Immigration Act, chapter I-2 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985, unless the failure is the basis for the removal order; or

  • (c) has been convicted in Canada of an offence under an Act of Parliament punishable by way of indictment or of two offences under any Act of Parliament not arising out of a single occurrence, unless the conviction or convictions are the grounds for the removal order.

1(f) covers inadmissibility on health grounds, 1(g) covers inadmissibility for financial reasons, 1(h) covers misrepresentation, and 1(g) failing to appear for examination.

Why this condition is problematic?

First of all, it must be accepted that this provision does serve a purpose. Individuals who come to Canada on study permits but do not study or are simply buying time to try and obtain other permits harm the integrity of the system and arguably take away opportunities for other Canadians.

However, the condition is, on its face, very subjective. It does not specify what level of attendance is required, how many absences or skipped dates can be submitted, or provide a legislated ground for the Applicant to be exempt from the requirements due to certain personal events. For different programs, such as field-based Masters or pHD work, where the study path is not so clear and research breaks are often part of the overall process, the ‘actively pursuing’ requirement adds a layer of uncertainly.

I think that at the very least the provision requires an oral hearing (much like in the case of most misrepresentation). This is a factual inquiry, specific to each school’s policies, requirements, and the overall study program of the student.

For example, I could have easily been found to be not actively pursuing studies by virtue of skipping my Economics class, but by virtue of the result and my overall program I certainly was actively pursuing studies. The legislation states “course” or “program” which makes the application very broad.

Finally, I also find the combinations that can lead to deportation quite troubling. While misrepresentation and failure to appear, combined with a not-actively pursuing studies finding, makes some sense. In the case of financial or health inadmissibility, which itself may be-correlated with the inability to actively pursue studies, a deportation order seems particularly harsh.

My Overall Recommendation to International Students

Go to Class. With the current rules and regulations, it is probably not the best idea to try and plan class-time day excursions or trips with your Canadian boyfriend to Europe during scheduled course time.

I had a good after-hearing discussion with a particularly helpful CBSA Hearings Officer on this issue. From their perspective, it is about the international student constantly updating CIC on decisions such as withdrawing from one institution to attend another or taking certain leave of absences.

I would go a step further and argue this is a tripartite relationship. If I were an international student I would ask the school as much as possible to keep you informed as to the type of notes on your record. For example, should you have permission to take a leave, this leave needs to communicated appropriately not only to professors but to the administrators in charge of providing this information to CIC. Any information gap could lead to negative consequences.

Why is Express Entry So Tough on International Students?

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A common theme of many of my recent consultations has been the challenge many international students are experiencing as a result of Express Entry. I am finding more and more second and third-year international students asking me about best practices in planning their paths to permanent residency.

There are several reasons why this path is so difficult

1.  Meeting Basic Economic Immigration Program Requirements Tough for Many International Students

First, just to meet the basic requirement of either the Canadian Experience Class or the Federal Skilled Worker a year of skilled experience (at a NOC 0, A, B level) is required.

For the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), that work experience must consist of one year obtained within the past three years and cannot include work experience obtained while on a study permit (e.g. as a co-op student or during scheduled breaks). It also excludes time working as a contractor, an economic model growing increasingly popular for its Canadian tax-benefits to employers during the economic crisis. For newly graduated international students, who can be granted no more than three-year post-graduate work permits, obtaining that one-year of skilled work experience can be a tall order.

For the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program, the one-year of skilled work experience can be in the past ten years, but that work experience has to have been continuous over a period of a year. Many international students have had to balance work and school, many taking part-time jobs that are not considered continuous under the FSW program requirements

2.  Express Entry Does Not Award International Students Favourable Points

Second, many of the points that are awarded for Express Entry that bring individuals over the threshold are awarded for language and work experience (or a combination of both). For example, under the skill transferability factors in part C for the Comprehensive Ranking Score (“CRS”) criteria, two or more years of Canadian work experience, two or more years of foreign work experiences, or CLB 9+ can double CRS scores in this caregory. Again, work experience is difficult to come by for young individuals and many international students (particularly from non-English speaking jurisdictions) may find it difficult to obtain the CLB 9+ that boost CRS scores

3.  Employers Will Be Hesitant to Pursue LMIAs for Skilled International Graduates

Third, Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) for newly-minted international graduates are difficult to obtain. Holding a valid LMIA for a skilled position awards an Express Entry applicant 600 points and, as of this current date, guarantees them an invitation to apply for permanent residency. Many individuals after the expiry of a three-year work permit find that they require to obtain LMIAs in order to get a work permit that will allow them to work beyond their PGWP.

Unfortunately for them, in most circumstances employers will have to advertise the position to demonstrate that another Canadian cannot fill an international student’s shoes and do not possess equivalent qualifications. In this difficult job market, most non-managerial skilled positions will attract multiple candidates, many of whom are equally, if not, more qualified than the Canadian. Unless the candidate has a unique profile (that can’t include a third language in most cases, as a third language cannot be a job requirement unless it is mandatory for the position), it will be difficult to prove.

Finally, with CIC’s new employer compliance system which subjects Employers to sever administrative monetary penalties that can range up to the millions of dollars, the cost benefit of hiring an international student may not justify the associated compliance cost

4.  Many Skilled Worker PNP Programs Require “Several Years of Work Experience.”

In British Columbia, the BC Provincial Nomination Program Express Entry category, requires that an applicant have several years of related experience in the occupation. More recently, the BC PNP has come down more firmly on the requirement that several years is equivalent to at least two years. The challenge here is most International Graduates are given maximum three-year work permits. This essentially requires them to have two years of skilled experience in that particular NOC occupation. International students who start in entry level, low-skilled positions, such as bank tellers and customer service representatives will find this very difficult to achieve.

 Potential Tips for International Students

Unfortunately for international students, many of those looking for permanent residency two years into their post-graduate work permit will be limited to skilled worker categories. Individuals should begin planning their educational and work paths right away.

For example provincial nomination programs designed for international graduates become have become more important in today’s Express Entry environment. Here in British Columbia, the International Graduates Program (as of the date of this piece) is currently available only through Express Entry. Importantly, eligibility for this program requires applying within two-years of graduation.

While having to meet Express Entry requirements is a challenge, as described earlier, the 600 points provided by the nomination would counteract the low score issues.

Finally, the idea of pursuing further graduate studies prior to obtaining a PGWP may be more attractive. Further studies allow an individual to gain a key qualification that may differentiate them if a LMIA is required. It also may open up other options including post-graduate immigration streams, fellowships, and various professional positions under trade agreements, that could provide the crucial work permit required to get the necessary skilled work experience.