IRCC Processing Delays

Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada

Congrats to all CEC Applicants!

For more than 27,000 applicants in Canada, they have been selected to apply through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) on 13 FEB 2021. As reported by IRCC, the minimum CRS score for this draw was only 75 points. Essentially, all candidates in the pool who had any merit to their application were selected and invited to apply for Permanent Resident status.

To qualify for the CEC category, applicants must demonstrate:

  • minimum language skills established through either IELTS or CELPIP or TEF; and,
  • at least 1 year of skilled work experience in Canada in the past 3 years.

There is no education requirement for the CEC Class. Basically, this category is designed for foreign workers in Canada who have been contributing to the Canadian economy. IELTS or CELPIP or TEF results are valid for 2 years only and they must be valid on the application date. CEC

This past draw is unprecedented. The minimum CRS score of 75 is extremely low and we cannot predict whether this type of draw may occur again in the future. To be clear, if your Express Entry profile is in the FSW stream, the FST stream, the PNP stream or any other path to Permanent Resident status, your profile will remain in the Express Entry system.

If you have been selected, we advise:

  • You must act quickly to obtain all the required documents
  • We expect significant delays at IRCC based on the large number of applicants
  • We expect a bottleneck at the PR application stage and long processing times

The Liberal Government has previously announced its immigration target for more than 400,000 new Permanent Residents in 2021 and it is aiming to increase the number of immigrants in future years. With +27,000 Principal Applicants on track to submit PR applications on behalf of themselves and their families, the 13 FEB 2021 draw may lead to +100,000 new Permanent Residents in Canada.

This past CEC draw is a huge opportunity for many skilled workers in Canada. We urge all applicants to focus on gathering documents to establish the eligibility requirements. Any applicant who is inadmissible for any reason, including misrepresentation, criminality or any other reason may receive a Procedural Fairness Letter from IRCC to provide an explanation. If you are in this situation, we would advise you find a representative to help.

Congratulations to all Americans

Sanity has returned to the White House. We want to congratulate all the Americans around the world who voted for Biden. Over the past 4 years, I have met with dozens, or possibly hundreds, of people with horror stories. Americans who want to claim refugee status in Canada because they believed the Trump government would kill them. Skilled workers in the USA who lost their work permits and they want to immigration north. Foreign investors who changed their minds and decided that Canada was their best option as they read of racist and discriminatory policies. I have heard countless stories of the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in the USA and folks desperate to find paths around the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). It has been rough.

We have tried to help as many people as possible. It has been very clear the situation in the USA has been dire. Blatant breaches of international laws. Clear violations of human rights principles. 

Finally (finally!), we have hope that the Biden government will correct some of the wrongs and return the American government to sanity. We have hope the USA will return to a country that values its relationships with its neighbours and that values human life.

I want to be clear about one point. Trump has been great for our business. These past 4 years have been extremely busy. In the past, Canada was competing with the USA for the best IT professionals, investors and skilled workers. Trump changed that. Suddenly, there was no question that it was better for immigrants to come to Canada. But each new file that we get from clients who are fleeing Trump policies is bitter-sweet. We love to help but we also want the USA to return to its humanitarian roots. We have hope that Biden will lead the USA on a better path.

Personally, I was invited to Las Vegas to meet with wealthy investors from around the world, mainly China, Vietnam and UAE, as they lost confidence in the EB-5 program and they turned their attention to Canada. We have had many opportunities to assist clients who would not have considered Canada before Trump. Trump destroyed the reputation of Americans around the world. I suppose I should thank Trump for indirectly offering these opportunities. I will say that I would have traded them in a second for an American government that did not have abusive policies.

Over the past 4 years, we have gone through countless boxes of tissue from people recounting the abuse and suffering they faced in the USA. Advocates across the board have been vocal with systemic abuse in the American system.

My mother was born in the USA and I have family members in California, New York, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota and other states. We have even helped my family members who have plans to move to Canada based on their fears. Most of my family members voted for Biden – but not all. We do what we can to help.

I am optimistic. I was very moved by the poem by Youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman at Biden’s inauguration:

We’ve braved the beBidenlly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
So true! Ms. Gorman is truly a truth teller.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
Amen! Congratulations to all Americans who voted for change to give the Biden administration the power to repair the wrongs from the past and to build a better future. I look forward having conversations with potential clients who are debating which is the better country for their families: Canada or the USA, rather than having conversations about the racism and discrimination in the USA and how can Canada give them a safe home.

 

Immigration Nation YouTube Interview

On 3 DEC 2020, Alastair was invited to Immigration Nation to answer questions on Canadian immigration laws and regulations. Mark Holthe has been providing very useful information for folks around the world and the focus of this interview was on our CIMM Testimony from 18 NOV 2020. Both Mark and Alastair gave testimony to the parliamentary committee based on our expertise and experience. You can view the entire 66 minute discussion on the Immigration Nation YouTube channel.

During the interview, folks from many countries participated including India, Brazil, Portugal and the United States. Here are some of the issues:

  • How does IRCC make or amend or changes Canadian laws and/or policies?
  • How are Spousal Sponsorships different from SCLPC Class applications?
  • Why can’t Applicants in SCLPC Class applications appeal to the tribunal?
  • How can I win a Spousal Sponsorship appeal at the IAD?
  • What do I do if I have a COPR but I cannot come to Canada?
  • How do I request an extension to IRCC?
  • Draw predictions for future CEC draws for Express Entry?
  • How many points are required for Express Entry applications?
  • Where can I get help with my Spousal Sponsorship application?
  • How is IRCC going to modernize and/or digitize the system?Immigration Nation
  • Why do even have paper-based applications?
  • How has COVID19 impacted the system?
  • Can applicants apply for a TRV while a Spousal Sponsorship is in process?
  • Please explain dual intent per s22 of IRPA.
  • Explain the new “fiancee visa” for getting authorization for applicants who are in “exclusive dating relationships”.
  • Do you have examples of foreign nationals getting authorization to join their partners in Canada?
  • How have MPNP applicants been affected by COVID19?
  • How do immigration lawyers deal with bad Google reviews?
  • How do lawyers protect themselves from fraud?
  • What happens when agents imposter a lawyer?
  • Can I submit expired Police Clearance Certificates to IRCC?

For information or answers to any of the above points, please watch the Immigration Nation interview. Mark has built a legal practice based on giving free information on his website for general questions. Please note, however, that he does not provide specific legal advice and he will advise that individuals need to book a consultation for a one-on-one conversation to discuss the details of the particular case.

Immigration Nation is a great resource for folks around the world who are interested in learning about Canadian immigration law. It was an honour and privilege for Alastair to be interviewed on this YouTube channel and talk about the issues above.

Cash Bonds

The Canadian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) has been hearing testimony from legal experts, partners and stakeholders. One of the problems is subsection 179(b) of IRPR and Visitor Visa applications (Temporary Resident Applications or “TRV”). This is a huge problem that has led to many families being separated, stress and anxiety. Members of Parliament (MPs) are considering “cash bonds” for TRV applications. The idea is that a Canadian or PR or Applicant can put up cash bonds of, for example, $5,000 CAD to show the Officer they will return to their home country. If they overstay in Canada, it may cost them $5,000 CAD.

MPs have asked many questions on cash bonds. You can hear about testimony here, here and here. Here is a copy of my testimony to the CIMM on this topic:

For my second point, I strongly support the possibility of applicant’s posting monetary bonds for TRV applications in the context of a Spousal Sponsorship applications. These applicants are sufficiently motivated to become Permanent Residents through the family class that there would be low risk in the possibility of them overstaying their visa.

I have reservations, however, if a monetary bond were to become a requirement of all TRV applications. I would not want the TRV application to become out of reach for low income applicants.

I gave the above testimony on 18 November 2020. Cash Bond

On 23 November 2020 (5 days later), the US government unveiled the “Visa Bond Pilot Program” that implemented this idea of the cash bond and my warnings above came true. Details have been reported by US media:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The outgoing administration of U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday issued a new temporary rule that could require tourist and business travelers from two dozen countries, most in Africa, to pay a bond of as much as $15,000 to visit the United States.

The US Government has enacted cash bonds idea that will affect many citizens.

The visa bond rule will allow U.S. consular officers to require tourist and business travelers from countries whose nationals had an “overstay rate” of 10% or higher in 2019 to pay a refundable bond of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000.

Twenty-four countries meet that criteria, including 15 African countries. While those nations had higher rates of overstays, they sent relatively few travelers to the United States.

As described, this amendment is currently restricted to 15 African countries. In particular, folks from these countries will be affected:

Countries whose tourist and business travelers could be subject to the bond requirement include those from Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan, Chad, Angola, Burundi, Djibouti and Eritrea. Other countries include Afghanistan, Bhutan, Iran, Syria, Laos and Yemen.

I want to be clear that this is a bad idea and the actions of the US Government may hurt many low-income applicants who are separated from their family members. Immigration should not be restricted to the rich and affluent.

Testimony at CIMM

I had the privilege of being invited to give testimony to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration
(CIMM) yesterday. The CIMM has been investigating the impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian immigration system and my testimony is available on ParlVU. If you are interested, my testimony starts at the 17:12 mark. In particular, the Members of Parliament (MPs) are looking at the following points:

  1. application backlogs and processing times for the different streams of family reunification and the barriers preventing the timely reunification of loved ones, such as denials of temporary resident visas because of section 179(b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations and the ongoing closures of Visa Application Centers;
  2. examine the government’s decision to reintroduce a lottery system for the reunification of parents and grandparents; to compare it to previous iterations of application processes for this stream of family reunification, including a look at processing times and the criteria required for successful sponsorship;
  3. temporary resident visa processing, authorization to travel to Canada by individuals with an expired Confirmation of Permanent Residency; use of expired security and background checks for permanent immigration;
  4. the facilitation and issuing of visas and study permits for international students, with special attention to the experience of groups of international students (such as students from francophone Africa) and to the usual administrative delays and additional delays caused by the COVID 19 pandemic;
  5. refugee resettlement program, meeting the Government of Canada’s international commitments to settle convention refugees in Canada, work of Canadian civil society groups to bring privately sponsored refugees to Canada, and to extend a life boat to the people of Hong Kong facing persecution under the new National Security Law;
  6. severe and long-term economic impact of reduced immigration to Canada in 2020-2023;
  7. administrative costs and delays related to Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) applications under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and consideration of possible solutions, including granting open work permits on a sector-by-sector basis to facilitate labour mobility; that LMIAs be biennial; that the duration of work permits be extended; that three-year work permits be extended annually;
  8. technological capability of the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and Passport Canada to work remotely or virtually, meet service standards and enforce applicable laws.
  9. that all testimonies received during a study pursuant to this motion be deemed included in further studies;
  10. the two pilot projects for Caregivers introduced as of June 18, 2019: (1) Home Child Care Provider Pilot; and (2) Home Support Worker Pilot; that the study examines the criteria and its effect on the caregivers who are trying to qualify under these programs toward the path for permanent status; that the Committee report its findings to the House; and that, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the government table a comprehensive response thereto.
  11. that this study begin no later than October 27, 2020, that the Committee table its findings in the House upon completion and that, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the government table a comprehensive response thereto.

Here is a copy of my opening testimony to the CIMM:

Honourable committee members. I’d like to thank you for this invitation to provide testimony on the impact of COVID-19 on the immigration system. I would like to acknowledge that I am giving this testimony on Treaty 1 territory, the homeland of the Metis Nation and the ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples.

I am appearing before you today as an immigration and refugee lawyer with more than 12 years of experience. I started my career at an immigration law boutique on Bay Street in Toronto. From there, I practiced at a legal aid clinic, assisting low income residents and for the past 7 years, I have practiced exclusively immigration and refugee law in Winnipeg, Manitoba – the heart of our continent.

Today I will be making five brief points.

My first point is that IRCC needs to further digitize the system and expand online services. For example, Spousal sponsorships and Temporary Resident Permit applications could easily be submitted online. In 2018, the Refugee Protection Division at the IRB introduced the e-Post system and it has been very successful. Epost makes it is easy for counsel to see details of documents that have been uploaded. IRCC has started to use e-Post for refugee claimants inside Canada and this tool be useful in other contexts. In short, a robust online system may provide solutions to dealing with long processing times and backlogs.

For my second point, I strongly support the possibility of applicant’s posting monetary bonds for TRV applications in the context of a Spousal Sponsorship applications. These applicants are sufficiently motivated to become Permanent Residents through the family class that there would be low risk in the possibility of them overstaying their visa.

I have reservations, however, if a monetary bond were to become a requirement of all TRV applications. I would not want the TRV application to become out of reach for low income applicants.

My third point relates to applicants in Provincial Nominee Programs. Many of these individuals are able to apply for Permanent Resident status based on their education and work experience in Canada. Once these workers receive their Nomination Certificate, they can apply for a bridging Work Permit that is restricted to their employer. This pandemic has resulted in many lay-offs and it has caused severe hardship. In my view, these Work Permits should be less restricted to avoid many issues, including potential problems with flag polling. For example, a NOC B worker could be allowed to accept a different NOC B position without having to obtain a new Work Permit. Similarly, I also urge more flexibility with Post Graduate Work Permits. They should not be limited to one PGWP per student.

My fourth point relates to refugee claimants. As you know, the travel restrictions have essentially closed the border to claimants from the United States. Justice MacDonald at the Federal Court of Canada recently held the Safe Third Country Agreement is unconstitutional and it is disheartening this government has appealed this decision. Notwithstanding these extraordinary times, Canada has a strong humanitarian tradition that must be protected.

My last point relates to a collaborative approach.

Part of the reason I was attracted to this area of law is that it is generally non-confrontational. To deal with minor issues, I can easily call a CMO at the IRB, a Superintendent at a POE, an inland enforcement officer or a lawyer at the DOJ. Dealing with IRCC, by contrast, is a constant struggle. When an IRCC Officer makes a clear mistake, there is no easy mechanism to get it fixed. In my view, the Request for Reconsideration system is broken and MPs are far too often put in the difficult position to act intermediaries. Bad decisions by Visa Officers are often easy to appeal to Federal Court but judicial reviews expend a huge amount of time and resources for both the applicants and the government.

The Dual Intent guidance issued last month is a step in the right direction; however, it does not go far enough to emphasize flexible decision making. An Immigration Ombudsperson is a possible solution. In my view, there may be a tech solution to facilitate better communication with Visa Officers to address minor issues. In short, I would urge IRCC to adopt a more collaborative approach.

I believe there is great merit in continued consultations with stakeholders and thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

I look forward to further collaboration with MPs and IRCC Officers to deal with these issues. Hopefully, the report and recommendations that come from the CIMM committee will address the issues identified above. Many people have been adversely affected and there is still much that can be done to help.

As mentioned by Mark in his testimony to the CIMM, in some cases, media is also helpful to shed light on sympathetic cases. To this end, our office has built strong relationships with CBC, Global, the Winnipeg Free Press to advocate for our clients on every level.

USA Civil War 2020

Apologies in advance for this post. I do not want to fear-monger or fan the flames of baseless conspiracy theories. I do not believe the USA is headed towards a Civil War in 2020, regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election. That said, I have had too many conversations with residents in the USA (including Americans, Canadians and other citizens who are living and/or working in the USA) who are planning for potential civil unrest, including armed conflict. They are looking to Canada for safety and they are planning to “escape”, if necessary. civil war

This post was prompted by a conversation I had with a medical doctor living in Florida. He lives in a slice of paradise near Miami. Mango trees. In his own words, however, he believes America is headed towards “civil war”. Yes, those are his words. A licensed physician.

IMMIGRATION INSURANCE

For individuals in the USA, we are providing immigration insurance. Essentially, if you meet the eligibility requirements, we are assisting clients with application to, potentially, relocate to Canada if, as the American doctor noted above, the USA breaks out into civil war.

The idea here is similar to the “pandemic passports” or “citizenship by investment“. I have spoken about these topics and presented at the international EB5 conference in Las Vegas, back when were able to travel and actually fly to conferences. CBI and these options are normally restricted to high net worth individuals and families.

Unlike pandemic passports and CBI solutions, our immigration insurance may be available to many more applicants. You do not need to be wealthy to qualify.

KEEP CALM, CARRY YOUR PASSPORT

During WWII, the British government published the motivational poster with the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On”. Since then, the phrase has been adapted to many situations. In my view, we need to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances. For better or worse, 2020 has introduced many situations that were previously disregarded as improbable, or even impossible. We have had to adapt to these new realities we did not realize could come to pass.

Civil War 2020

As you may have learned from my TEDs Talk, my parents met at the University of Chicago and I have many relatives in the USA. I do not want violence and I hope that everyone south of the border stays safe and healthy. At the same time, the American physician above is not the only client who has noted a potential “civil war” in the USA. I have heard the same phrase from clients in Minnesota, Arizona, California and other states. From what I am hearing, the anxiety level in the USA is very high. News of the attempted kidnapping of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has fanned the flames. QAnon. Proud Boys. Social media has been steering viewers away from progressive media. Our goal, of course, is to help clients achieve their Canadian immigration dreams. If we can help some folks gain status in Canada so they may feel secure, we are doing our job.

Stay Safe & Vote

If you are American, please exercise your right to vote. I am very concerned for our clients in the USA. I am concerned for the safety of my family in the USA. We need to make sure that folks stay safe. I have no idea whether 2021 will be any better than 2020; however, in the interest of ending on a positive note, I believe things are going to get better.

IRCC Interviews

As part of our ongoing coverage of Canadian immigration laws and procedures that have been impacted by COVID-19 and the pandemic, we can report that IRCC offices across Canada will be reopening. In-person interviews at IRCC Offices will start to be scheduled at a few cities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton and Niagara Falls. These offices are in Alberta and Ontario.

To be clear, IRCC Interviews in Manitoba are not currently being scheduled. We have been in contact with IRCC and CBSA Officers in Winnipeg and they have advised that they do not have a date when interviews will be scheduled at their office at 269 Main Street. We have clients who are patiently waiting for their eligibility interviews and they will continue to wait. This situation has been frustrating for clients and Officers alike. We will continue to stay on top of the situation and provide useful information, as much as possible. We will be providing updates as soon as they become available.interviews

As posted by IRCC on 17 SEPT 2020:

For services that we haven’t been able to provide virtually, we are slowly beginning to reopen in-person services in select offices by appointment only, beginning the week of September 21, 2020.

This testing phase will allow us to assess our protocols and procedures, and ensure the safety of our staff and our clients. The lessons learned will help us plan for reopening services more widely in the future.

Please note that services are currently by appointment only. You do not need to reach out to IRCC offices for these services, as we will be reaching out to clients to schedule appointments.

These limited appointments are restricted to the following offices:

  • IRCC offices in Etobicoke and Montréal are reopening for permanent residence-related services. Clients who require a permanent resident card (PR card) pick up or permanent residence determination (interview to determine the client’s status) will be contacted by email to schedule an appointment

  • IRCC offices in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, and Niagara Falls are reopening for limited asylum-related services.

  • IRCC will schedule appointments via epost with clients who need to collect or submit documents, provide their biometric information, or come in for an interview.

  • If this pilot goes well, IRCC offices in Vancouver (Hornby), Montréal, and Etobicoke will open in the future to provide these services.

As noted above, there are currently no plans for in-person appointments in many IRCC Offices, including Winnipeg. Previously, we have reported on how Manitoba is reopening and the ecomony is getting back on track. We are currently in the second wave of COVID-19 cases although, in my opinion, Manitobans should be celebrated as one of the best places on the planet that is dealing with this crisis.

Success: Crim Rehab

After years of work, including multiple Temporary Resident Permits (TRPs), we successfully applied for Criminal Rehabilitation (Crim Rehab) for our client who had multiple criminal convictions in his past. These applications are never easy and the Officer at the border has significant discretionary decision making power at the POE. We did not want to have to wait for this client to be eligible for “deemed rehabilitation” as he has strong connections to Canada. Alastair is an expert in crimimmigration – the intersection between criminal justice and immigration.

Justice is at the core of our legal system and criminality may have a strong impact on immigration. This means that individuals who are convicted and have served their sentences may not be inadmissible to Canada and they may be allowed to enter if they are successful with a “rehabilitation” application according to immigration laws and regulations. In this case, we were retained by a foreign national with five (5) criminal convictions from different incidents in his past. These convictions, and a series of other events, led to a separation of family and hardship; however, after a boatload of work and strong supporting documentation,Crim Rehab we were successful with our Criminal Rehabilitation application (Crim rehab), submitted at the Canadian Port of Entry. We were able to review the application with a Superintendent prior to our client traveling to the border for a non-binding preliminary assessment. Our client got a positive decision from the Officer after only 4 hours.

In many cases, past criminal convictions are the result of bad decisions made in youth that were affected by alcohol and/or peer pressure. The Supreme Court of Canada has considered similar situations and they have provided instructions to Officers on how to make these decisions. This case was one of those cases. Our client was completely upfront about exactly what happened and how it affected his life. He demonstrated significant changes in his behaviour and he showed genuine remorse.

Our client was thoroughly prepared by our office. As with all our cases, be prepared, be prepared, be prepared! We spent hours on this application, gave him a mock interview and prepared a strong package of evidence. At the border, he passed multiple interviews and the Officers went through our package very carefully.

In the end, our client’s application was granted and he no longer needs to worry about inadmissibility to Canada. He is now with his family members in Canada, subject to the Quarantine Act and he is taking COVID-19 seriously. It has been a pleasure to work with this family and it has been very emotional. For our office, it is very important that we build a perfect application and make sure 100% of the potential issues are covered. I will say that the Officer even said to our client that our application was the best Criminal Rehabilitation application he had reviewed. Thank you Officer! Good decision!

 

Best Immigration Lawyers

Clarke Immigration Law, and Alastair Clarke in particular, has been recognized as one of the Top 3 Immigration Lawyers in Winnipeg by ThreeBestRated.ca. Of course, I need to thank all the staff at CIL. We work as a close team to get the work done.

Please note: we had no influence or input into this ranking. In fact, we were actually quite surprised to receive the news this morning. If you are reading this, you likely know that we specialize only in Canadian immigration & refugee law. For those who need immigration lawyers for any other jurisdiction, for example the USA, we would make a referral to one of our colleagues in the United States and they can help you if you are are interested in moving south to Trumpland. We help people and businesses open doors to Canada, arguably the best country in the world.

immigration lawyers

Here is a copy of the message we received from ThreeBestRated.ca:

Congratulations!  You are now listed as one of the Top 3 Immigration lawyers in Winnipeg, MB. We would like to Thank You for providing consistent high-quality service in your area of business. Our review team either approved or updated your business listing using our rigorous 50-Point Inspection which includes everything from checking reputation, history, complaints, ratings, nearness, satisfaction, trust, cost and general excellence.

I would also congratulate my colleagues Carolina and Louay for being recognized as the other Top Immigration Lawyers in Winnipeg. We are a small community and we know each other quite well. We know who does good work and who provides good service for their clients. Unfortunately, there are many bad immigration consultants, shady immigration agents and, to be frank, bad immigration lawyers out there. The Applicant is the victim.

I also want to thank everyone who has written a review for us on Google Reviews. Currently, we have a rating of 4.9 STARS out of 5 possible STARS, based on 54 individual reviews. I have to mention that we read each and every review. If a client has provided valid criticism, we deal with it immediately. At the same time, we are bound by solicitor-client privilege and we cannot disclose any personal information about our clients, even if they are not 100% satisfied.

Immigration lawyers have a huge amount of responsibility. We say we are in the business of saving lives. When our applications are granted, it means that families are reunited, students are able to pursue their academic dreams and Canadian businesses have the international talent to serve their customers.