International Students and the Law

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Time to Remedy the Problem of Temporary Resident Permits

co-written w/Yussif Silva, Student Intern, Edelmann and Co. Law Offices

Mel is a stateless Palestinian. She grew up stateless in a country that does not offer her Citizenship and no longer offers her status. She has been on successive TRPs but is looking to apply for economic permanent residence and obtain successive work permits. Mel recognizes she probably needs a TRP but is uncertain of why she needs to make paper-based extension applications and how she eventually should apply for PR.

Prab is an Indian national. She accidentally flew back into the United States from India to re-enter Canada as a student, not realizing she needed a TRV first. She has been on successive TRPs. She has since been on successive TRPs, but is seeking to complete her studies and apply for a post-graduate work permit (“PGWP”). Prab wants to trade-in her TRP and go on her way to the pathway to PR.

Jack is an Armenian national and study permit holder in Canada. He does not have a passport and returning to his country at this time would mean mandatory military conscription. However, the passport issue could be resolved through some negotiation by his family members. He is seeking his first TRP.

Raj is a Pakistani national. He has held TRPs in the past unauthorized studies, but abruptly after years of work permits it was refused. He believes it was refused because another TRP would have enabled him to apply for permanent residence, but he is not sure.

Marcela is a Mexican citizen. She had a semester of non full-time studies while going through a difficult time with mental health challenges, but her university did not offer leave. Her university recommends that she asks for a ‘TRP in the alternative,’ alongside her PGWP but is uncertain what this entails.

 Bahar is an Iranian citizen. She extended her own work permit, but forgot to extend the visitor status of her two children who were studying in Canada. They were able to study, but she was advised to obtain TRPs to address their inadmissibility. She is in the PR process and wondering if her children will face any difficulty in obtaining their permanent residence.

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Establishment of a Contradiction: Why Accompanying Dependents Stuck With Covid Study Permit Instructions

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) has acted quickly and swiftly to adapt to the changing scene for international students as a result of COVID-19. Through changes to program instructions representing the various phases from exclusion (travel bans) to now the accommodation of the Designated Learning Institution (“DLI”) Readiness plans, it is clear that international students have been a major priority of this Government through the pandemic.

Yet, a counternarrative is also emerging through COVID of both delayed processing and higher refusal rates. Indeed, with just early stats available representing the first quarter of 2020, it appears that refusal rates for study permits have jumped up since the pandemic (40% to 50%). Many students, especially outside Canada, are facing visa office delays waiting for a decision on their study permit applications.

A subset most affected has been those applicants who seek to bring their accompanying dependents, especially spouses and children with them.

Instructions provided by IRCC on this point, in my perspective, might create problems. IRCC writes in their instruction.

 

If immediate family members want to be with you in Canada

Your immediate family members may be able to come with you to Canada.

If they travel with you

They don’t need a written authorization from IRCC to travel with you. However, they must show that their reasons for travel are non-discretionary (non-optional). For example, they’ll help you get established and support you in Canada.

(emphasis added)

How Does One Demonstrate Establishment Without Creating Ties (the Definitional Contradiction)?

One of the major challenges with study permit applications generally, in fact – likely the biggest challenge right now, is the very issue of Applicants who want to access the pathway to permanent residence through study permit applications.

Because dual intention is more difficult to establish for international students (particularly those who are overage students or are seeking to start fresh in new areas of work), there is a need to demonstrate a clear intention to be able to leave Canada at the end of one’s authorized stay. This challenge is exacerbated when one is bringing spouses and dependents, particularly from countries where Canada would serve as an economic and situational improvement for the entire family.

Meanwhile, because the Courts have scrutinized  Visa Officers trying to make negative bona fide findings without raising credibility as an issue (i.e. sending a procedural fairness letter or holding an interview), the easiest way to refuse an application is on assessing the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors with respect to an Applicant’s intentions to leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay.

An Overseas Visa Office does this by demonstrating that there are enough ties to Canada created by the study permit application (‘push factors’) and not addressed by the corresponding ties in their home country (‘pull factors’) to have them return. For an example of this analysis see: Gauthier v. Canada, 2019 FC 1211  – see especially paras 18-23.

This refusal is often captured under s.183(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protections Regulations which states:

 (1) Subject to section 185, the following conditions are imposed on all temporary residents:

  • (a) to leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay;

If a dependent spouse argues they will help the principal applicant’s studies in Canada by working in Canada, that goes to the heart of the intention and the bona fides. As discussed, even though Courts have suggested these require some sort of procedural fairness process, Visa Offices still routinely refuse here on merit (intention of study). It can also possibly go to finances and ties, if the Visa Officer begins to have concerns emanating from intended work.

Let’s say the dependent spouse says they can support because they have family ties in Canada – siblings, uncles, aunts, and relatives that can assist. Now this creates the presumption of family ties, which again although assisting in establishment, would clearly pull away from Canada and establish the very family ties in Canada that one usually tries to downplay or explain in an application.

Usually where there are significant family ties in Canada, the best strategy is to demonstrate how the compliance or good standing of that family member (usually through a letter) makes them a check and balance. Yet, where this comes from the family member of an accompanying spouse, this argument becomes much more difficult to establish.

In fact, thinking it through, I can only think of one way to argue that your spouse’s assistance to your establishment could be positive – the presence of a large savings account from and maintained in the country of previous residence to serve as financial support. Still here, it could be argued that the movement of assets and liquidation of funds shows the breaking of ties and the lack of dual intention. (see Pisarevic v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 188 (CanLII) for an example of where this applied).

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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.

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