With the introduction of Express Entry earlier this year and the Government of Canada’s corresponding efforts to make the application system more accessible to the average Canadian, one intended consequence may be Applicants making what amount to “unforced errors” during the application process.
Corresponding, the Government appears to be taking an increasingly hard line towards Applicant’s who submit incorrect and possibly misleading information for the purposes of obtaining immigration status.
When do mistakes become misrepresentation? What happens if you forget important dates, names, and information on your Express Entry Application and realize this fact later on.
Misrepresentation Provisions of IRPA
As a result of recent changes to the legislation, the bar for misrepresentation has increased from 2 years to 5 years. Furthermore, Applicants will be barred from making a permanent residence application for the duration of that 5 years.
Prior to the change, many applicants would leave Canada but simultaneously file an application for permanent residence such as a spousal sponsorship which would be processed by the time the two years had been fulfilled.
Finally, as a backend issue, it is important to note that the ban applies retroactively. Even if the misrepresentation occured prior to the new legislation, the uncovering of the misrepresentation on today’s date would create the 5-year ban.
The provisions themselves state as follows:
40. (1) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible for misrepresentation
(a) for directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of this Act;
(b) for being or having been sponsored by a person who is determined to be inadmissible for misrepresentation;
(c) on a final determination to vacate a decision to allow their claim for refugee protection or application for protection; or
(d) on ceasing to be a citizen under paragraph 10(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act, in the circumstances set out in subsection 10(2) of that Act.
(2) The following provisions govern subsection (1):
(a) the permanent resident or the foreign national continues to be inadmissible for misrepresentation for a period of five years following, in the case of a determination outside Canada, a final determination of inadmissibility under subsection (1) or, in the case of a determination in Canada, the date the removal order is enforced; and
(b) paragraph (1)(b) does not apply unless the Minister is satisfied that the facts of the case justify the inadmissibility.
(3) A foreign national who is inadmissible under this section may not apply for permanent resident status during the period referred to in paragraph (2)(a).
For the purposes of finding whether an error is a misrepresentation or not, we must determine whether the applicant “directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of this Act”
Without going specifically into the case law/administrative guidance on this issue, there are several factors that could be taken into consideration:
- How material is the error (i.e. does the error affect outcome?)?
- Was it an honest error? –
- In the case of non-disclosure, did the individual honestly and reasonably they were not misholding material facts?
- Is there sensitive personal situation being concealed to avoid embarrassment?
- As the applicant been given a chance to respond to the error?
- And most importantly, what are the specific facts and surrounding circumstances of the case?
Why the Risk Has Increased with Express Entry
In many ways, Express Entry is the same as the paper form and misrepresentation is assessed no differently. However, with Express Entry rather than making one paper application, there are three stages (arguably more) where you are submitting information to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Information must be substantiated at all three stages and that information is also very likely to change during that period.
When creating an Express Entry profile, applicants are asked to create a profile which asks questions about their individual bio-data, their employment and educational histories, and their finances and family ties (among others). This information is used to generate a Comprehensive Ranking Score, by which they can later be selected from the pool.
Upon receiving an Invitation to Apply for Permanent Residency (“ITA”) Applicants will then have to provide significant documentation (within only 60 days) in order to create an Electronic Application for Permanent Residency (“E-APR”). This documentation includes a reference letter for each employment ever held, dates for each trip ever made, relevant pay stubs, tax documents, and family information.
To complicate matters, information can change and the Comprehensive Ranking Score/eligibility for Express Entry can change during the time a profile is created, and ITA is issued, and a E-APR is granted. This information has to be up-to-date throughout. For example, work permits may expire, family members may be born, and educational/work histories can change.
CIC appears to still be in the process of figuring out how it will assess misrepresentation specific to Express Entry. They have however, in a program delivery update, put out the following information
Assessing for misrepresentation
Applicants are warned that if they misrepresent their qualifications in their Express Entry profile or their e-APR, they may face a five-year ban from submitting any further immigration applications to Canada, including temporary residence applications.
If there are discrepancies between the information in an applicant’s profile and the information entered in the applicant’s e-APR which are not the result of a legitimate change in the applicant’s circumstance, the officer should determine whether a finding of misrepresentation under A40 applies.
For additional guidance on misrepresentation, processing offices should consult the misrepresentation section of ENF29 (PDF, 604.30 KB). The procedures for determining misrepresentation, including procedural fairness, remain the same under Express Entry.
If both A11.2 and A40 apply, the application should be refused on both grounds.
Because the very process of Express Entry is points-based, and minor changes can lead to differences in points and thus could affect whether an individual meets the threshold to be selected – the materiality of Express Entry errors is arguably greater than it was with paper-based forms.
Also, one of the reasons that misrepresentation is also more likely to occur during Express Entry is that the system itself (and the way data is inputted) can lead to mistakes.
When creating a profile and filing out the online forms, a series of boxes open up, some allowing you to select options and others requiring you to type answers. However, unlike with a paper form, it is difficult to see this information side by side, as some boxes close while others open and there is presently no option at the end to “review all information.”
Five Steps You Can Take to Try and Mitigate Express Entry Misrepresentation
1. Know when to hold them, know when to fold them – if information comes up that could be significantly erroneous consider declining ITAs and not submitting E-APRs until that information is corrected.
2. Gather the evidence up front- Unfortunately (or fortunately), lawyers now have to serve as both legal advisors and information auditors. An applicant can fill out a paper-based survey, swear on their lives, but until they have a letter from the employer stating X is X, it is nearly impossible to confirm this. Even though requirements are at the backend, try and get them done on the front end.
3. Follow-up with CIC during process – Whether you are an immigration rep or applicant, it is important to follow up with CIC throughout the process. We know that CIC has admitted that the algorithms and forms aren’t perfect, that changes to the forms are pending, and has even recommended that Applicant’s put in covering letters to explain discrepancies.
4. Write a covering letter prior to submitting E-APR –The value added that reps used to provide prior to Express Entry was submitting a covering letter explaining discrepancies. That should not change and may be useful when an Officer is looking at the error down the road.
5. Have a record of everything – It is too risky these days not to have a paper trail (again whether you are a rep or applicant), of what you have corresponded to the client, what you have corresponded to CIC, and the documents that have been submitted. Just because the process has moved virtually, it does not eliminate the need to have paper evidence of this correspondence and communication. If necessary, take tons of screenshots!