Slide Welcome to Vancouver’s Immigration Blog Practicing exclusively in the field of Canadian Immigration Law, I started Vancouver Immigration Law Blog to provide community resources and community support to those navigating Canada’s complicated immigration system. I am the Principal/Owner of Heron Law Offices, a boutique immigration and refugee law firm based in Vancouver and Burnaby, British Columbia. LEARN MORE Slide Visit My Firm Website - Heron Law Offices LEARN MORE Slide Follow Our Advocacy, Research, and Education Activities at Arenous Foundation LEARN MORE

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Express Entry: Three Things to Ask Your Representative About Your eAPR Before They Submit + One Bonus Tip

As many of you are aware, Express Entry took a new direction last week when 27,332 Invitations to Apply were issued to Canadian Experience Class applicants at a record-low 75 CRS points

I will not repeat what I have on Twitter and other channels. I would have preferred an ordered and organized invitation to apply that gave applicants more time to anticipate this move, secure relevant documents, and create profiles. This also could have better tempered expectations in the future and avoided the unfortunate cash-grab I suspect we will see from those now taking unreasonable amounts of money to create profiles, a step ripe for ghost consulting/agencies/and unauthorized practice.

Nevertheless, what what was done is done (and cannot be undone) and now Applicants are being contacted by their representatives letting them know they have an invitation and a limited time to gather their materials (90 days) for which many will struggle to obtain key documents such as required overseas police clearances.

The Limitation of the IRCC Representative Portal

The first contextual thing to understand is that the current IRCC Representative’s Portal has major limitations. The biggest limitation is that we are unable to share our work with clients to access their own file, without taking print to PDF screenshots or joining a virtual meeting to share our screens. For this reason, many counsel may suggest you create your own profile and that they help you review and edit what you type in. They may take it on an hourly review basis or as authorized representative (with a Use of Rep). While some consider this ‘ghosting’, I’m not mad at this approach.

It is a risk though, I repeat a huge risk, to allow for the submission of any application without reviewing what that representative has done in full and giving the green light before it is submitted. This is particularly true with this round of invitations. Given the volume of ITAs and the Government’s recent 0% target of meeting Express Entry processing times, I would suggest that the Government very likely has some sort of artificial intelligence-based pre-assessment system lined up to tackle this workload. Applicant/Representative mistakes and errors of even the most minute type, may be readily caught. There appears to be an increased scrutiny around misrepresentations, particularly around failures to disclose arrest histories and omissions of relevant employment/work history details.

We are hearing, anecdotally, that some advisors (both authorized and unauthorized) have in some cases in the ballpark of 200 ITAs. That means 200 Electronic Applications for Permanent residence (eAPR) applications that need to be submitted within 90 days. You may find that these are often time larger scale enterprises, volume driven, who may have already registered many clients on a hope and a whim, not realizing they would pan out. Now, they will need to put resources together (which include passing you off to case managers or other processing agents – with limited Canadian immigration law expertise) to meet their deadlines.

As someone who considers working on a dozen paid applications a month as enough volume (to control process and see them through step by step), I worry for the applicants. I write this piece for their well-being and best interests.

Three Things to Ask Your Express Entry eAPR Rep

#1 – Ask for a Print to PDF of Your Entire Application With Employment History Broken Down

If you are counsel and a CBA Member consider Nate Po’s app Immprintr to print your entire application as one pdf (https://www.cba.org/Sections/Immigration-Law/Resources/Resources/2018/IMMPrintr)

Ask for the full breakdown of the Employment history to make sure that what you have passed on with respect to your positions, hours of work, start and end months is consistent. Double check that the NOC codes selected match with your duties at the time and be careful to avoid mixing together or overlapping two clearly different positions.

Triple check that the statutory questions have been answered correctly, particularly around any arrest history, work for Governments, medical inadmissibility issues, and military history.

Document discrepancies, ask for changes to be made, and to see proof of those changes by way of revised screenshots.

#2 – Ask for a Itemized/Number List of All Attachments To Be Submitted to be Shared Via Cloud for Your Review

One of the value-adds an authorized representative should be able to provide is organization. They should know what IRCC wants to see and what makes life easier for the processing Officer. If they are organizing things in a way that doesn’t make it clear and in fact, is probably messier than you would have done it yourself – this should be a flag.

Ask your authorized representative for a full itemized/numbered list of all attachments (often called an Enclosures List or Personalized Document Checklist). Ask for a Cloud-shared folder of everything that is being submitted. Are the documents you provided there? If they have been excluded, ask why (or why not). Some flags include pdf attachments that are much too large (suggesting the authorized representative has limited experience with upload size), as well as things that are not combined properly or not at all. This is also your way to double check what you have submitted against IRCC’s completeness check list of attachments for Express Entry (see here: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/permanent-residence/express-entry/applications-received-on-after-january-1-2016-completeness-check.html)

An incomplete application can often have huge and negative impacts on one’s ability to stay in Canada during processing of an Express Entry eAPR application.

#3 – Ask for Transparency on Timelines and Info on What the Follow-Up Looks Like

The reality if you are working with someone who has a volume practice, is that this invite may have created an unsustainable workload for them. This requires that you ensure they are on top of your file, and for you to cover any gaps in their work and to hold them extra accountable.

Ask them up front – how many files are you working on and when do you see my file being completed. If they have some form of project management process, they should be routinely updating you with their submission plan, breaking down roles and responsibilities, and providing iterative feedback on your draft documents (especially Confirmation of Employment letters) at an agreeable time.

If you haven’t met your consultant or lawyer in person – that too is likely something you want to secure to at least put a face to name. Their availability (or lack thereof) may also be a good sign of the level of oversight on your file.

Ask too about Bridging Open Work Permits (“BOWP”). Ask about what happens to your accompanying family members who might have status expiring.

If updated documents will likely need to be submitted in order to ensure a complete application – ask them for their update plan. Where will they update the documents? What documents are necessary for a complete application and which ones are discretionary? These questions will likely give you a sense of where you stand and help you make sure you meet your timelines.

I will throw in one bonus tip for good measure.

Bonus Tip #4 – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Second Opinion (Seek Independent Legal Advice). It’ll Save You Money

A refused application that needs to resubmitted will easily draw anywhere between 1.5-2 times the price of an initial application. Reconsideration requests, with an uncertain and ultimately discretionary outcome, could itself be in the range of at least cost equivalent to the original application, particularly if significant legal submissions on the test for reconsideration are required. The process of judicial review, amid lower grant rates, will put you back likely 2 times + the cost of your initial applications.

What is the worst case to engage a second opinion for a review on an hourly basis: you can choose the scope, but you are looking at in most cases about an additional 3-5 hours (at most). Even a spot check consultation for an hour can possibly turn up some red flags. I can tell you from personal experience, I have had to save many a client from having their application submitted with major concerns (often times possible misrepresentation) on file.

Bottom line: it is entirely worth it to get a second opinion on your Express Entry application, particularly

 

Express Entry: Grounded Expectations

Most importantly, and to conclude, Express Entry going to 75 points one one draw should not yet be a leeway to put your foot off the gas pedal. Blindly abandoning a paper-based PNP application, figuring you can get away with not doing a language test, can often backfire. If anything, I believe even more diligence will be needed now. Allowing more individuals into the race does not presume everyone will finish. Indeed, I can see these efforts (including the number of refused/abandoned/incomplete applications) used as justifications for the ‘trying’ to meet Canada’s immigration targets.

Greater due diligence and better organization will be needed especially if Artificial Intelligence becomes part of the assessment process.

I hope all those authorized reps (even those with 200 ITAs) the best as they deal with this major development in Canadian immigration law. I hope, most importantly, that our clients are well served by good, competent, and ethical work.

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Reflecting On Racialization: One Chinese Canadian Lawyer’s Perspective

My Rocky Relationship with Being Racialized

In advance of a talk (as I like to do) I spend time reflecting on the questions the panel far more esteemed than I am tackling the underlying question of what it means to be a racialized lawyer. Truth be told, until very recently, I spent my entire life avoiding trying to be defined as racialized, never realizing that the racialization wasn’t something I was responsible for rather what was being imposed on me.

Sometimes I still catch myself believing– that I am a reformed victim of childhood racism. That I have come to terms with my past and that today is different. That I can be a role model now for racial change and a post-racial world. That I’ve stopped caring what they think – or I say. All, while I still sign every letter carefully with my colonial name, trying to erase all signs that I may be seen as the perpetual foreigner in their eyes thereby forever letting what they think continue to be the clip-ons to my much tormented glasses. I was always the Asian kid with glasses. Still am today.

I am ashamed that I ask those I meet if they are from here (around town?), as my entirely happenstance birth on these stolen lands, make me any less settler than them. This hides the reality I am a product of taking advantage of my positive racialization as a second-generation immigrant, off the backs of those – often Brown and Black – not are not afforded that same luxury and have been racialized differently, and many times much more negatively. This approach flies in the face of both the adultered history of these stolen lands but also my parents generation (and the earlier Chinese settlers before them) who took the blows, the taunts, the sleepless nights, the unfair application of law and policy in their general belief that our eventual assimilation and acceptance (through tolerance) would make us happy and content. “Be like them.” “Mom, Dad…. why can’t I, be like them.”

What has allowed me to claim today this wokeness, to claim some sort of 2.0 social justice Asian Warrior. Nothing. The short answer is nothing – these I have constructed as shields and defence mechanisms for our own (read: my own) complicity and benefit. It has made me popular in progressive White circles, as the pendulum has it, just another group we have to please: the rock to our professional hard place.

Recognizing that you too can be an oppressor and that, even further, you too have oppressed is a humbling reality. Just last week I took a close racialized friend and colleagues concerns with sexual harassment at the workplace, the wrong way – asking instead how he could do it when he was married, rather than asking how she was doing, by way of the trauma he imposed through her. It took me several days to realize I sided with the White man again. Just like I did when I was a Frat boy. Just like I did when I was interviewing for that job on Bay Street. Just like I did when I was making the most money in my life doing this work and upholding this system.

 

Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been: The Harms of Racialization

Let me tell you of this time when I had Christian pop phase. Many of us did. You remember when ‘A Walk to Remember’ was in theatres, Switchfoot and Lifehouse produced anthems like “Only Hope” and “Hanging By a Moment,” and a band called Reliant K played a concert in Vancouver. I went alone. Asian kids with glasses had trouble making friends in my highschool.

Stop right there, that’s exactly where I lost it
See that line, well I never should have crossed it
Stop right there, well I never should have said
That it’s the very moment that I wish that I could take back

I wish I could take back the countless times I participated in whiteness and the maintenance of white supremacy. Laughing with senior practitioners on their jokes about China money. Listening and standing proud when being told, you are a tall, confident Chinese-Canadian man – you will do fine in this work. “Look at all these women here who will soon have babies and their careers will be over.” I nodded, perhaps even gave him a resounding ‘you are right! Thanks for this”

Why did I so accept this as just normal? Why did I try to sympathize rather than emphasize, centre myself in trying to draw a parallel rather than using my voice earlier. Maybe because those who use their voices are seen as trouble-makers, activists, not impartial, not judicial material. Forever on the periphery. Even judges have written decisions and giving guidance telling us be neutral, stay our ground, do nothing to compromise our future.

Each tweet I tweet, each blog I write, someone/somewhere dragging the name into the ‘do not hire’, ‘could be a problem’, ‘not good for Firm culture’, a ‘liability’ folder. Where we racialized folks tend to share space – one drag away from the recycle bin, two steps away from being deleted.

Why do I always live with regret….

I talk to absolutely no one
Couldn’t keep to myself enough
And the things bottled inside have finally begun
To create so much pressure that I’ll soon blow up and…

I cannot stand social media but I simultaneously thrive off of it. The pressure. This guy looks like me, how does he already drive a Tesla, buying his second house, starting own podcast, and was named Top 40 under 40. Their kids look beautiful. The in-laws are holding happy kids on the beaches of Hawaii. I was told growing up that he would be the next one. And I would amount to nothingness, or a shadow of him. Those words sting but what stings more is that constant urge to compare, outdo, and show up to other racialized folks. We forget who actually has it all and it’s not this brother.

Just then, I am sitting in a small restaurant, a racialized colleague telling me her parents are unemployed, her brother is medically ill, her partner is considering leaving and…… wishes she had my life. She asks me how my non-profit is going. I forgot I also founded one. She asks me how I like my new home. I’ve almost forgotten I bought one.

I’m considered now the go-to Asian in my area of the law. They call me for interviews when they need a soundbite or some rationalization. Apparently I’ve become a safe quote and welcoming face. It’s a façade that’s difficult to upkeep.

In two weeks, I’m a diversity invite on a panel of an area of law where everyone is white, the topic is white, the case law is white, and they want my insight, my input, me to validate them. I’ll probably end up doing it just as I have always done. They wrote the textbooks, they fought the cases in the SCC, they were part of the consultative committees on changing the law. Me, I’ve tried to explain to my client in my second-language how the law works on a discounted consult and they say it makes no sense. They have no legal experience and background. And, to be honest, I actually agree with them.

So sorry for the person I became
So sorry that it took so long for me to change
I’m ready to be sure to become that way again
‘Cause who I am hates who I’ve been
Who I am hates who I’ve been

 

Finding Liberation in Law: Embracing My Race But Rejecting Their Racialization

Perhaps it took me taking a hall pass away from Whiteness. Starting my own Firm alongside a racialized colleague (who happens to be a lawyer himself, struggling to build a family in a Society that has racialized him to his financial limitation).  I am developing a hiring strategy of Racialized and Indigenous folks only. It only took writing out my struggle and pain, plus 30 odd years of lived experience, before realizing that I am together because I have finally embraced my Chineseness, that I love my culture. I love those things I used to want to destroy in me and that they still want to stamp out of me in the guise it will make me a ‘better lawyer.’

I’ll hold onto these principles and core values – perhaps more privately than I would like to start, but slowly we will talk in our circles, and these circles will become crowds, these crowds will become movements, and soon we will not allow ourselves to be labelled simply as minorities, visible or invisible of no importance. We are not small and we will not play that part for you. We are not simply wallpapers for your next client pitch, sushi advisors for when you go to your local restaurants, the 5pm Friday work dump guy, because you assume we have no family, no life, and no ambition and that we are here for you in ways you’ve never showed up for us.

I’ve hated the way I’ve played into your system, facilitated your oppression, contributed myself often times for my own gain. I’ve hated the way I’ve ignored my own history, this land’s history, ignored misery, avoided conflict, simply to keep you happy and your pockets filled. My happiness is no longer in receiving your good graces but finding my own and dreaming for that greater liberation for others – being part of their journey. On their own terms. In their own birth name. With their own embraced culture and identity.

 

See You Tomorrow – Putting Writing Into Words

That’s it folks. I’ve written this. It’s on paper. I might speak on it tomorrow. I might not, and one day, some student thinking about our shared career path will accidentally Google it and tell me she thinks the same way. I might be 50 years old one day nervous (as I’ve been my entire life) at a judicial or political interview and asked about this. Remind me […]

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Dear IRCC: Requesting Uploaded Non-Refundable Plane Tickets for Refused Extension Applications Is Not The Way To Go

I apologize folks. I’m in the middle of a transition (starting my own Firm in February – more details about this later). I’ve also engaged an entire revamp of this blog, which will be releasing as well. I’m supposed to be on hiatus. However, something shared by one of my colleagues has had me spring into action. IRCC: this move is wrong, not procedurally fair, and has disasterous consequences for access to justice.

What am I talking about? Check out the screen shot below.

Dear IRCC:

While it is clear the Government has been pushing to make the restoration process more difficult (trying to limit it to only statuses previously held), it behooves procedural fairness that rather than informing applicants of their statutory option to pursue restoration within 90 days they are telling applicants to leave and provide proof that they are leaving.

There is also no transparency on how to challenge a decision like this. What if an individually legitimately was refused due to missing documentation or a technical issue and has a strong argument for restoration? Do they apply for restoration? What happens if they ignore this request to upload proof. Does CBSA show up before they are able to confirm their restoration has been approved? [The fact we are removing individuals during a pandemic is another bone – but I’ll pick it some other time].

I would argue that this has the most immediate and harmful impacts on those who are unrepresented. As counsel, at least I can seek clarification and know how to navigate restoration to immediately submit an application and perhaps inform IRCC. A self-represented applicant, with no public facing knowledge of the process having provided by IRCC, will not know what to do. I fear that for the international students who I’ve seen this sent to, this can lead to harmful decisions. I’ve been in too many cases where international students were afraid to tell their parents, going so far as trying to leave to a third country to avoid letting their major educational funder parents know.

Importantly, this action breaches procedural fairness. Indeed, I think the Government needs to be enjoined from prematurely requesting something and shielding the fact an alternative remedy is not on available but statutorily provided. This type of action utilizes policy to try and shield the protections provided by law and is inconsistent with the rule of law and due process.

I call on the Government to stop issuing these letters to applicants who receive temporary resident extension refusals and in fact all refusal letters. Go back to informing these individuals that they have the ability to apply for restoration within 90 days. Suspend removals, especially now that there are programs being rolled out to help restore those who have lost status and given them an extended time to do so. This type of letter contracts the generosity through policy that has been provided (see: here).

In the interim, we need transparency:

  1. Who is this being sent to?
  2. Is it just for citizens of certain countries?
  3. Why is it not being limited to cases where individuals are truly out of status without access to restoration?
  4. Where are the public instructions on how to respond to something like this?

Sincerely.

Will

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We Straight?: Why Risk and Discrimination May Be The Most Important and Understated H&C Factors

To most individuals, even those familiar with immigration, the words ‘risk’ and ‘discrimination’ will likely conjure up immediate thoughts of refugee claims under s. 96 and s.97 of the IRPA. 

Indeed, if one were to follow IRCC’s own instructions on factors to consider in an humanitarian and compassionate assessment, risk and determination are not obvious on the face , as per the online instructions captured below.

 

Factors to consider in a humanitarian and compassionate assessment

Applicants may base their requests for H&C consideration on any relevant factors including, but not limited to

  • establishment in Canada for in-Canada applications;

  • ties to Canada;

  • the best interests of any children directly affected by the H&C decision;

  • factors in their country of origin including adverse country conditions;

  • health considerations including inability of a country to provide medical treatment;

  • family violence considerations;

  • consequences of the separation of relatives;

  • inability to leave Canada has led to establishment (in the case of applicants in Canada);

  • ability to establish in Canada for overseas applications;

  • any unique or exceptional circumstances that might merit relief.

Certainly, adverse country conditions include discrimination and indeed there is clarification that membership of a group being discriminated against is a s.25(1) IRPA consideration as per this excerpt below.

Assessment of discrimination

In assessing whether an applicant will be affected by discrimination, discrimination can be inferred where an applicant shows that they are a member of a group that is discriminated against. Evidence of discrimination experienced by others who share the applicant’s profile is relevant under subsection 25(1), whether or not the applicant has evidence that they have been personally targeted.

On risk, it was always a word I utilized with some caution in an H&C application. Indeed, IRCC’s instructions provide explicitly that s.96 and s.97(1) IRPA factors are not be considered, but must consider these elements related to hardship.

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My Value Proposition

My Canadian immigration/refugee legal practice is based on trust, honesty, hard-work, and communication. I don’t work for you. I work with you.

You know your story best, I help frame it and deal with the deeper workings of the system that you may not understand. I hope to educate you as we work together and empower you.

I aim for that moment in every matter, big or small, when a client tells me that I have become like family to them. This is why I do what I do.

I am a social justice advocate and a BIPOC. I stand with brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ2+ and Indigenous communities. I don’t discriminate based on the income-level of my clients – and open my doors to all. I understand the positions of relative privilege I come from and wish to never impose them on you. At the same time, I also come from vulnerability and can relate to your vulnerable experiences.

I am a fierce proponent of diversity and equality. I want to challenge the racist/prejudiced institutions that still underlie our Canadian democracy and still simmer in deep-ceded mistrusts between cultural communities. I want to shatter those barriers for the next generation – our kids.

I come from humble roots, the product of immigrant parents with an immigrant spouse. I know that my birth in this country does not entitle me to anything here. I am a settler on First Nations land. Reconciliation is not something we can stick on our chests but something we need to open our hearts to. It involves acknowledging wrongdoing for the past but an optimistic hope for the future.

I love my job! I get to help people for a living through some of their most difficult and life-altering times. I am grateful for my work and for my every client.

Awards & Recognition

Canadian Bar Association Founders' Award 2020

Best Canadian Law Blog and Commentary 2019

Best New Canadian Law Blog 2015

Best Lawyers Listed 2019-2021