It is expected that the Conservative government will mark another budget with further legislation in other areas, including immigration and citizenship, in February 2014. The expected changes are likely to include longer residency requirements for persons to apply for citizenship as well as a crackdown on "birth tourism" and "Canadians of convenience". It's highly questionable that the immigration changes constitute best practices.
At this point we have reached a predictable and sad pattern with respect to immigration reforms in this sphere.
Step 1: Conservative politcos rail against abuse of Canadians generosity in media;
Step 2: Politicians raise spectre of reforms to "crackdown" on the cheats, swindlers and frauds who abuse this generosity;
Step 3: Politicians use anecdotal evidence in lieu of actual metrics or statistics to convince public of neccessity of immigration reforms and invent dollar figures out of thin air to bolster their case;
Step 4: Majority government rams through reforms in face of muddled and weak opposition as well as complicit or skeptical and/or docile public.
Step 5: Reforms result in blanket refusals, tough immigration talk without necessary budget for immigration enforcement and ballyhoed shorter processing times.
As per the usual pattern, there have been no studies put forth that demonstrate the need for immigration reforms in the citizenship sphere. Most clients applying for citizenship, wish to live in Canada their entire lives. Some of them need to travel to work on behalf of their Canadian employers, while their families remain in Canada, and having a Canadian passport helps to facilitate this work.
On the other hand most "Canadians of convenience" were previously sponsored as parents and grandparents under the family class. Given the restrictions on this class going forward, it is difficult to imagine that this problem would persist. The fact that less elderly family members will become permanent residents would, in and of itself, take care of much of this issue in future.
Nevertheless, instead of a realistic appraisal of the facts before committing to action, it appears the government takes its motivation from words spoken by the great Mike Ditka: "Ready. Fire. Aim."
Enjoy the Super Bowl!
Just finished preparing my clients in India for their immigration spousal sponsorship interview at the visa office in Chandigarh tomorrow. In my opinion, there is a huge advantage in preparing for the immigration interview rather than walking in cold.
The sponsor has been married twice before and is seeking to sponsor her husband from India. The issues for the visa officer will be the incompatibility in terms of marital history (the wife has been married before, and the husband has not), the age difference (7 or so years in favour of the wife) and the fact that the wife has two children from her first marriage. These differences may not appear to be significant (from a Western perspective) at first glance, however, I have found that visa officers (especially from overseas visa offices in Asia) rely on stereotypical views and would find these differences to be 'red-flags'.
You don't need an immigration lawyer to prepare the forms. However, if you're relationship raises any red flags or is unusual in any way, hiring an experienced immigration lawyer could be beneficial. The key is to present a cogent and detailed narrative of the relationship history in the immigration sponsorship application itself - from first contact/first meeting to the decision to marry. The immigration sponsorship application should include details as to the contact between the couple as well as their contact with each others family members. If there is any financial support this should be disclosed. This background should address many of the concerns that a sceptical or suspicious visa officer may have especially if the relationship is in any way out of the norm. In the best case scenario, a complete and thorough application will obviate the need for an interview of the spouse abroad.
However, immigration spousal interviews are an unfortunate fact of life. I understand that this can be a nerve wracking experience, especially for a immigrant spouse abroad that is unused to such examinations and (often times) probing questions into private matters. There's sometimes no avoiding the immigration interview - it's like a root canal, or other preventative dental procedure, something unpleasant and distasteful but necessary. Sometimes I've seen clients take offence at the mere insinuation that they are marrying their spouse just to get a visa to Canada.
In my experience, it's not about memorizing dates and places and regurgitating the same to the visa officer. I think the key is to understand the concerns of the immigration visa officer and to address those concerns. Explanations may be necessary - such as answering the all important question as to why you decided to marry this particular person, or how you overcame an incompatibility or acted contrary to cultural norms. I would suggest that the applicant address these concerns directly and head-on; no beating around the bush. Generalities are to be avoided - very often my clients explain their decision to marry with an all-encompassing statement, such as "I married my wife because she has a very good nature" [I've seen this comment regarding "nature" by Indian applicants many times in reviewing the officer's CAIPS notes in preparing for an appeal for a sponsorship refusal].
While I am frequently retained to handle the appeal of sponsorship refusals (to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board), I have noted that more and more individuals are retaining my services to prepare and submit the sponsorship application - perhaps to avoid a refusal in the first place (and save themselves the cost and time involved to go through the appeal process). We handle more immigration hearings than any other law firm (at least in Alberta). If you need experienced immigration counsel, turn to the best in the business. What we seek to do in preparing the spousal sponsorship is to address the concerns of an officer - who is statutorily obligated under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to investigate whether the relationship is genuine and/or was entered into primariy to simply gain status in Canada. That means an individual assessment of the application and tailoring the application to the specific circumstances of the sponsor and applicant.
A recent Access to Information Request has revealed that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is committed to investigating and then referring a minimum of 875 vacation or cessation cases per year for persons previously found to be Convention Refugee or Persons in Need of Protection. "Vacation" or "cessation" means taking away a refugee's status - after they've been found to be at risk in their country of origin.
For protected persons in Canada this is scary news, even if they've gone on to become permanent residents or citizens. The CBSA and its officers at airports throughout Canada will be scrutinizing the travel history of protected persons as well as any discrepancies regarding addresses, places of residence or other issues which were which they may consider germane in their claims for protection and subsequent actions.
The idea of having a quota of 875 cases, at minimum, is both absurd and unjustifiable. The CBSA has not provided any statistics or other evidence indicating that there are 875 cases per year where a protected person either reavailed themselves of the protection of the country from which they claimed protection or misrepresented a material fact that would lead to their claims being refused in the first place if the fact came to light. The number of "875" has no basis in any objective evidence or reality. Accordingly, we are likely to have a situation where claimants who should not have claims cessated or vacated to be investigated and have their cases referred to a hearing where they could have their status revoked.
This will amount to a double victimization for many immigrants and refugee claimants who often fled horrific and life threatening circumstances to find a place of safety in Canada only to have that safety and status threatened by abusive and costly immigration investigations and immigration hearings where they have to fight for their status anew. As much as the Conservative government likes to trumpet their generosity towards "true refugees", arbitrary and uncalled for immigration witchhunts reveal the reality: the Conservative government is no friend to true refugees or immigrants.
Late in December of last year, I was approached by Avnish Nanda, a third year law student at Osgoode Hall. Nanda has taken the lead in putting together a commemoration of the Komagata Maru's centennial. The Komagata Maru Incident relates to the arrival of a Japanese steamship carrying 376 Sikh, Muslim and Hindu migrants off the coast of British Columbia. The passengers chartered the vessel to challenge Canada's exclusionary immigration laws and policies.
Nanda requested that I provide a piece that reflects upon the impact of the KM incident on their identity; specifically how the incident ifnormed their understanding of what it means to be a Canadian. The invitation is open to Canadians of all backgrounds and experiences.
My contribution was finalized earlier this month and is up on the Komagata Maru blog. It can be found here. Excerpts from the post:
Having been born in Canada, with my parents arriving in the early 70's, I was (at times painfully) aware that I was a minority but didn't always see the relevance of events that occurred so many years prior to my birth. Aside from isolated incidents of ignorance growing up, I had no personal experience of systemic or institutional racism. What had transpired in 1914, when Canada denied entry to over 300 Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus while welcoming over hundreds of thousands immigrants from Europe per year was consigned, as far as my teenage mind was concerned, to the past.
Now, as an immigration lawyer, entrusted with the aspirations of those that seek to enter and remain in this country, I have come to appreciate the full significance of the Komagata Maru incident. The treatment of those 376 unwanted Indians was no outlier; it was just another link in a chain of exclusion stretching back to the first arrival of the Europeans and the displacement of the First Nations...
However, the Komagata Maru incident is more than an archetype or a recurring theme of xenophobia that began with the founding of this country. It is more than an incident of blatant discrimination against undesirable migrants, it was a public attempt by Gurdit Singh Sandhu and a colonized people to challenge exclusionary laws and policies and it is their failed effort that now informs the identity of Canadians irrespective of ethnic background...
Wrecked in Japan in 1926, the Komagata Maru lives on in memory and immigration policy. The passengers on that aborted voyage were prevented from landing because of exclusionary laws that targeted their country of origin - an arbitrary, perverse and capricious distinction. But even in this century, government policy discriminates against migrants based on their country of origin...
It would be a disservice to characterize what happened in 1914 as merely an unfortunate incident of racism. A century ago, 376 indomitable souls and their supporters challenged arbitrary law. They raised funds, they hired legal counsel and addressed adverse public opinion. That spirit of speaking truth to power informs my identity today, not their shameful treatment by the public and early 20th century politicians pandering to the base nature of their constituents...Their efforts to resist those policies both in courts of law as well as the court of public opinion is true advocacy and inspiration to all those that seek limits on the unrestrained power of the executive.
If you've been ordered deported from Canada you will need an authorization to return. The Authorization to Return to Canada is not issued routinely; in our experience it works best when used in conjunction with an application for permanent residence (if you are being sponsored by your spouse or children back to Canada for example). When you apply for an ARC, it's important to have regard to the relevant CIC Manual (OP 1 at page 24 onwards).
The Manual indicates that the applicant "must demonstrate that there are compelling reasons" for the issuance of an ARC; demonstrate that they pose a minimal risk to Canadians and to Canadian society. Most importantly, "merely meeting eligibility requirements" is not sufficient for the grant of an ARC. Officers will assess (among others) the following factors:
Notably, if the applicant has a right of appeal before the IAD can appeal a negative ARC decision to that tribunal as well.
You can watch the discussion on Alberta Primetime.
A recent release from the Centre for Immigration Reform argues that we accept far too many immigrants to this country. It does not however propose what the right number should be.
Collacott relies on a study from Professor Grubel (his colleague at the Fraser Institute) that states that immigrants cost Canadians $23 billion a year. The study has been reviewed and been found to contain inconsistencies and errors by SFU economists (countervailing information is provided by Mohsen Javdani and Krishna Pendakur). Collacott of course defended the Grubel study and stands by the numbers (which if true, would lead to the conclusion that Canada should not accept any immigrants since they cost us too much money).
My point: there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Studies regarding fiscal transfers to immigrants have to be taken with a grain of salt. Such studies depend greatly on what is measures (indeed, what can be measured, or can be quantified) and involve therefore, a subjective judgment call on the part of the author.
Immigration policy should work both for the new and prospective immigrant as well as for Canadian taxpayers. This is a nation of immigrants but it's ironic that once we arrive here we demand protection from new immigrants. A bit like pulling up the ladder behind us. What is troubling is that recent immigration policy changes by this current government are in line with the flawed prescriptions written by Collacott, his Centre for Immigration Reform and the Fraser Institute.
While we tend to sometimes focus on the mistaken policies, guidelines and rules set by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, we would note that from time to time positive changes are effected.
Recently, CIC has made changes to policy that allows individuals with legal status in Canada, and who have been granted permanent residence, to be landed at inland CIC offices. The relevant excerpt from the Operational Bulletin is below:
The CoPR is evidence that an officer was satisfied that, at the time of issuance, the foreign national named in the document was not inadmissible and met the selection criteria and requirements of the Act and Regulations.
Most applicants for permanent residence have applied for and obtained a PR visa (if required) and a CoPR from a Canadian visa office outside Canada. These applicants are required to present their document to a Border Services Officer (BSO) upon arrival in Canada. Applicants who already have legal status in Canada, however, can either go to an inland CIC office (after calling the CIC Call Centre for a landing appointment) or a Port of Entry (POE) – if they have a PR visa counterfoil or if they are exempt from this requirement – to finalize the processing of their permanent residence application [R71.1(2)].
This flexibility is positive as it allows for applicants to land without travelling to a port of entry. This means individuals do not have to make long and arduous drives in inclement weather and do not need to fly put and back into the country for landing. Individuals with medical issues or other problems can take the more convenient option of being landed at their local CIC office without taking time out of their busy schedules. The inland CIC option is likely to take more time than simply going to a port of entry, but depending on the circumstances could very well be more convenient.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents can once again sponsor their parents or grandparents to Canada.
The program, suspended in November 2011, re-opened January 2, 2014. There are a number of important changes. I would recommend perusing Operational Bulleting 561.
1. CIC has imposed a cap of 5,000 complete applications;
2. The sponsor needs to meet higher income thresholds (30% above current) to be established only with documents issued by CRA (no more T4's) and for 3 years prior to the application;
3. CIC will process applications on the first in, first out principle - that means these new applications will be placed in queue after the applications submitted pre-Nov 2011;
4. No appeals to the Immigration Appeal Division for applications rejected because sponsor does not meet income eligibility or applications returned because the cap has been reached; and
5. No change (yet) as to the age limits for accompanying dependents of the applicants (brothers and sisters of the sponsor).
I was on the CBC Eyeopener on December 31, 2013 discussing the recent changes to the temporary foreign worker program.
The link to the podcast can be found here.
In brief, the changes allow the government to do spot checks without warrant in non-residential work places. Further they can place non-compliant or abusive employers on a black list, denying them use of the foreign worker program.
We've seen the blacklist before. It's been up since 2011 and has no employers listed. I'll let readers draw their own conclusions.
These changes may be mere sound and fury, and lack substance. I would like to see abusive employers held to account.