International Students and the Law

Canada’s Award-Winning Canadian Immigration and Refugee Law and Commentary Blog

Blog Posts

Why IRCC Should Pay Attention to the B.C. Small Claims Case Li v. Dong 2017 BCPC 285 – Re: Custodian and Unauthorized Immigration Practice

Picture from Wiki Commons
Picture from Wiki Commons

Background of the Case

Li v. Dong, 2017 BCPC 285 (CanLII), <http://canlii.ca/t/h6ftb>  was a five-day small claims matter between two educational agents, Ms. Chunmei LI and Mr. DONG.

Without delving too much into the myriad of messy facts – Mr. Dong was an educational agent and Ms. Li was a sub-agent. They had primarily verbal and one written agreement between them to split the cost of recruitment fees and percentage of tuition fees for minor students recruited from China.

Among part of this play was the fact Ms. Li charged students (who were from her own English language institute in China) $5000 to $6000 for “supervisory services” including custodianship. Ms. Li (new to Canada as a PR) wanted to better understand the educational market in Canada and therefore assisted Mr. Dong for various amounts per school. Some schools offered their own student services/custodianship services but this did not dissuade Ms. Li from charging her pretty penny.

Mr. Dong also benefited by charging CDN $300 for a custodian notarize fee from Ms. Li and CDN $1200 for a custodian fee of the CDN $5000 wanted to charge the students she referred to Mr. Dong.

Adding another layer to the mix, was Ms. Cindy Lii, who testified on behalf of Mr. Dong at Small Claims Court, discussed the fact she prepared documents for student visas and school applications for the students. She would refer students to Mr. Dong and also collect a cut [side note: there is no one last name Lii on the ICCRC registry]. Ms. Lii also took fees from Ms. Li to help prepare study permit applications.

Why should IRCC care about this?

From my perspective, the current rules around minor children – where, unlike with Universities there is no #DLI or sense that a student has to meet certain bona fide requirements in order to qualify – is broken. With no regulation of educational consultants and the cross-border movement of children and money, the natural consequence is the type of taking advantage of (I would deem it exploitative to call it mildly) that is ultimately being done at the expense of young children and their unbeknownst parents.

In the same way that a recruiter cannot charge both the employer and the employee, somehow in the business of minor students and educational agents, we have lost all control. This same problem affects post-secondary students but at least there are some safeguards and students themselves can advocate for themselves in a complaint.

Why are educational agents charging funds to have an immigration (custodianship document) signed?

Given notaries are all able to sign them (they don’t require any s.91 rep) – who is keeping track?

How is someone who is presumably not a designated immigration representative able to not only charge students to do visas, but charge other agents to do visas on their behalf and simultaneously collect funds from the very schools these students are obtaining visas for through agents?

I actually wrote this in part of a s.44 submission to CBSA not so long ago – but the fact is these agents are being inherently authorized by allowing to practice (without investigation by authorities), given business licenses, and provided advertisement space. How much fault can you really pin on the end user when 90% of what is provided in your own language in front of you is falsely claiming to be legitimate.

Why are schools not being regulated in the amounts they can charge for services and what these services are directed at?

We talk so much about big money – and rightfully so – through casinos and real estate, but the impact of money being washed through innocent children in the name of the education should raise some sort of moral conundrum that IRCC would want to step in on.

I would suggest IRCC make major clarifications to the custodianship process and indeed require clear third-party legal advice prior to accepting the form.

To go a step further, I would suggest that with the looming influx of minor students that will become university students and later put upward pressure on our economic immigration system, that schools be issued quotas for minor international students consistent with a prescribed ratio – based on Canadian students, with an emphasis on schools outside metropolitan areas that may require economic assistance or greater diversity.

Schools should also require designations in order to ensure minimum standards are met prior to enrolling minor international students. Private Schools, especially should have to provide some sort of compliance update to the Ministry.

Whether the Provincial/Federal Government knows it or not – education has become an exportable commodity. Therefore just like goods require taxes, tariffs, and customs law – so does education and especially international education. I think the Governments should reach out to one another and strike up a working group. I know I’d sign up given the stories I have been hearing and the type of preventable catastrophes that are looming around the corner.

Hopefully IRCC puts focus on this issue as I definitely see the snowball and these type of cases increasing without clearer guidelines and stronger deterrents.

 

Read More »

Canada’s Minor Children Custodianship Crisis – IRCC Needs to Step In

I read a recent piece quoting my mentor Richard Kurland and his prediction of Canada’s Express Entry system being flooded by international students who come to Canada in their K-12 years. In it, he predicted that they will then go on to attend college and university and are therefore will very qualified and achieve high eligibility under our existing permanent residency rules.

Clearly there is a bottleneck issue that must be addressed sooner rather than later to ensure that there is not a challenge with these graduates in the job market and later applying for permanent residency. This could put additional strain on our humanitarian and compassionate grounds – permanent resident stream as well, if not properly navigated.

I wanted to focus on a related spin-off issue involving minor children. This piece is on a practice that has come to my attention recently that IRCC needs to urgently investigate and with priority.

Currently, there is a major trend of global educational consultants and families working directly with public and private K-12 institutions to facilitate study permits for minor students whose parents do not accompany them or accompany them as a visitor (i.e. without work permit/student status themselves). In these cases, a custodianship form – IMM 5646E is required. They need a custodian in order to study in Canada.

The Problem with Custodianship in Immigration

Custodianship is defined by IRCC as follows:

“A custodian is a responsible adult (Canadian citizen or a permanent resident) who takes care of and supports the child.”

The problem with this term is it is a Canadian immigration definition, not grounded in family law and the more significant and onerous term “guardianship” and thus creates a major knowledge gap in what the custodian can and cannot do, and the minor children (and their parent’s) ability to intercept. What happens also when a custodian is unable to fulfill their duties or a student needs to switch custodians. Are there any legal requirements other than PR/Citizenship to become a custodian?

Where this becomes particularly problematic is in the environment now where you have schools and their administrators/staff/teachers/related agent parties serving as said custodian. Indeed, recently I learned of individuals being custodians over 300 students at some elementary/secondary schools. To me, this is a recipe for disaster. Putting one individual in charge of over 300 students for their “care and support” in any context does not make practical sense and opens up a whole can of legal worms.

Worse yet is the relationship between the agent and the school or the staff and the school. Should the minor child (let us use the example of a high school student) have a conflict with the school – for example academic challenges, breach of school rules, etc., there is arguably no incentive to seek any care and support for the child .

In fact likely an incentive to seek the student’s immediate return to their home country. Adding to the fact there are major barriers to language and communication between parents and the minor student – often times beyond the abilities of the custodians, it is unclear how these disputes are to be resolved.

I was recently contacted on a case where the custodian (rep from school) was prepared to drive the child to the airport to facilitate their return from Canada, without their parent or the minor’s permission. They allegedly prevented the student from obtaining a phone and created other restrictive barriers – all, likely, for the interest of likely protecting the school rather than the student.

Minor children should not be the poker chips in the process. It is not clearly transparent what limits there are on custodians receiving fees from minor children and their families and limits of what they can and cannot do with respect to the security of the child.

What can IRCC do? I have a few suggestions:

  1. Clearly define custodianship vis-a-vis family law definitions of guardianships and require more than a two page signed form in English to formalize this agreement;
  2. Clearly set a limit on how many students one custodian can be responsible for the care and support of;
  3. Set an obligation for full disclosure to the parent/child where there is a existing relationship with the educational institution OR ELSE bar individuals with said relationships from acting as custodians.
  4. Consult with experts in the field such as Justice for Youth and Children (http://jfcy.org/en/);
  5. Ultimately create a set of much more detailed guidelines setting out where additional fees can be charged, the rights of the child, etc.

I hope this issue can be solved before it becomes worse. With the numbers of minor students coming to Canada without parents seeking study permits, I do worry that it may only get worse before it gets better unless urgent steps are taken now.

With the more restrictive issuance of study permits at a post-secondary level and the penultimate demand for minor student study permits – now would be a great time for IRCC to proactively tighten the rules and clarify the policy.

 

Read More »

Study Permits Don’t Automatically Invalidate 90 Days After “Incomplete” Studies…. However

I’ve written previously on the way R. 222(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protections Regulations (“IRPR”) operates with respect the invalidation of study permits. Initially, I was somewhat skeptical that a student whose studies were “incomplete” or who took a long leave could have their study permits extend beyond the 90 day period after the break.

Turns out, IRCC has been interpreting that it the study permit remains valid as per the below response obtained by ATIP.

Incomplete Studies

However, the recommendation is to “switch” your status to visitor or leave Canada so as not to violate the R.220.1(1) IRPR requirements to remain enrolled in a DLI and “actively pursue their course or program of study.”

However, this creates a further problem. A student who switches their status to visitor by way of requesting a visitor record still holds  a valid study permit – it isn’t a one to other proposition (per IRPR).

I presume the idea is that the visitor record can be provided to show that  you are in Canada as a visitor and abiding by those requirements. However, there needs to be some clarification if the student is indeed “switching to visitor” that they are given an exemption to the requirement to actively-pursue studies. It would almost make sense in this case for all students to apply for an emergency visitor record in the event of breaks in their study. This may create processing problems for IRCC if this becomes a requirement.

Of course, and as discussed as an earlier post, gaps in studies also hold major consequences for post-graduate work permit eligibility. Right now, IRCC’s position is that finding an eight-month period of continuous study within a program is not enough. That entire program must have been completed through full-time, continuous studies. The “question is still live” as to what happens when you try and utilize transferring between institutions to try and overcome previous part-time studies.

I’ve been told that immigration is still in the process of putting out instructions – on issues such PGWP. I hope the actively-pursuing studies, expiry of study permits, and exceptions for students with serious and legitimate explanations can be made clear.

Immigration – if you are reading – I’d be happy to help consult on writing these rules ;).

 

Read More »

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

 

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

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

Capture-7

Source: http://meurrensonimmigration.com/the-post-graduation-work-permit/

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

Some of the reasons are understandable:

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

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

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

 

 

 

Who is eligible to participate?

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

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

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

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/students/post-grad.asp

 

 

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

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

Transcript shows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More »
About Us
Will Tao is an Award-Winning Canadian Immigration and Refugee Lawyer, Writer, and Policy Advisor based in Vancouver. Vancouver Immigration Blog is a public legal resource and social commentary.

Let’s Get in Touch

Translate »