Summary: The Canadian government is reportedly considering waiving the requirement for about 400,000 temporary resident visa applicants in the backlog to show that they will leave Canada by the end of their authorized stay. According to a memorandum obtained by the Globe and Mail, the government was not going to communicate this change and people would only find out through sudden approvals. Lawyer Raj Sharma expressed concern that the move would cause stress on the immigration system, increase refugee claims, and lead to other consequences such as LMIA and work permit issues. The lawyers fear that it may send a message of amnesty, attract more applicants (with false hope), and potentially create more problems in the immigration system. The solution going forward, according to Raj Sharma, is to charge more money for TRVs and visitor visa applications and have an internal review mechanism in place.
Is IRCC going to waive requirements for visitor visas/TRVs caught up in the backlog? I don't think so -for a variety of reasons. An excerpt of our discussion on this topic is below (from the AMA Borderlines podcast session from last month):
Steven Meurrens: Yeah, for those who don't know the story, the Globe and Mail apparently obtained a memorandum of argument act. It was through, from what I understand, the journalist source at IRCC, it wasn't through an Accessed Information Act request or anything, which says that there's a huge backlog of temporary residence applications. I think it exceeds 1 million. On the temporary resident visa side, the government is considering for about 400,000 temporary resident visa applications in the backlog to just waive the requirement that applicant show that Lee will leave Canada by the end of the authorized stay.
Couple other things to note about the memo. Apparently there were not going to be plans to communicate this, that this was happening. It was just people would notice all of a sudden maybe that there were a lot of approvals coming really quick and that it would eventually come out in ATIP. So one of the questions that I got from a few people was, what do you think about this?
Raj Sharma: I think it's insane. I think it's insane. I think it's pie in the sky. I think there's going to be significant downstream effects to this. I can only imagine the reaction by overseas visa officers who have been tasked with determining whether this individual meets the requirements of the act and regulations. Now you're going to say just waive them. Look, they tried this with that spousal open work permit not too long ago and they said, "Hey, they should relax up on 179-B," and that didn't seem to have anything [inaudible 00:18:57]
Deanna: So tell me though, what's your fear? What do you see as the worst case scenario here, Raj?
Raj Sharma: You suddenly approve 400,000 people to come here on a visitor visa and [inaudible 00:19:12] in Canada and a significant number of them perhaps don't want to leave. You're going to stress the system. You're going to have LMIA and work permits under that. Obviously it's not even a new public policy anymore. So you let 400,000 individuals in you are going to impact other aspects of this system, whether it's the work permit regime, whether it's the refugee system.
Steven Meurrens: They estimate in the memo that it will lead to 8,600 refugee claims.
Raj Sharma: That's basically a third more than what they got right now per year. So every decision in immigration has corollary or secondary or tertiary impacts. Again, thinking as a visa officer, I can only imagine the reaction of these visa officers because some of these individuals that are trying to enter Canada have ulterior motives, not just overstay, not just working hard and fulfilling the Canadian dream. I mean, there are other nefarious actors out there as well. The message that you're sending, you kind of hinted at an amnesty or waiver in September, October. Now you're hinting at a whole stream, waiver of a requirement. So what do you do then? Are you setting the stage for an amnesty? Oh, we now have 400,000 plus the 500,000. I guess we have to do an amnesty. It sends us strange messages and I think that there's going to be seen and unseen consequences to this.
Steven Meurrens: Yeah, the fact that it leaked I think is actually also going to lead to more applications. I don't know if, when they do this, they're going to have a cutoff date for applications received before a certain date for sure. I've been contacted by a few individual and representatives who are just throwing applications in or planning on throwing applications in now hoping that it'll be bulk approved. On the judicial review side, I've been contacted saying, "Hey, can we get a quick consent? We want our application back in processing for when the bulk approvals start." So it's definitely created [inaudible 00:21:23]
Deanna: A buzz
Steven Meurrens: If anything else, has created a bit of a buzz that could lead to more of those downstream consequences.
Deanna: Especially because there's been talk also about the work permit for working age dependents at the end of January. Am I right? So this might also kind of tie in timing wise as well.
Steven Meurrens: So what is the solution to this backlog?
Raj Sharma: Well, the solution going forward is very clear. Charge more money for TRVs that have some sort of internal review mechanism in place, the visitor visa application, charge more or give that option. Okay, here's what it is for visitor visa application, for whatever decision. Charge more money and...
Deanna: A substantive appeal on the merits.