Success: Sponsorship Appeal

After more than 1 year of work, we were successful with the Sponsorship appeal at the IRB-IAD. This was a complex case with many issues. The Sponsor is significantly older than the Applicant. The Visa Officer had many concerns regarding whether the marriage was genuine and refused their Spousal Sponsorship application. While maintaining our client’s confidentiality, here are some of the basic facts:

Sponsorship Appeal

  • In the past, the Applicant was also refused multiple Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) applications to Canada.
  • The Applicant proposed after meeting the Sponsor twice
  • The Officer had concerns over a “language barrier”
  • The Officer had concerns the Applicant proposed for “money”

There were a few other issues that I will not disclose to protect my client’s privacy.

I want to thank all the people who made this positive decision possible. We spent many (many!) hours with the Sponsor and the Applicant, going over all the concerns identified in GCMS and addressing each point. We also worked with six (6) witnesses, from each side of this application to prepare their testimony and to make sure all the testimony would be consistent at the hearing. In this case, we prepared our witnesses for more than 10 hours of testimony. The IAD ended up hearing more than 5 hours of testimony before Minister’s Counsel consented to the appeal.

IAD appeals are hearings de novo. That means that Member Tucci was able to consider all the legal elements of this application based on all the events prior to 22 MARCH 2021. This is a huge advantage to Appellants who are not limited to the period of time prior to the Officer’s decision.

I have to admit, I lost sleep over this appeal. In 13 years, I have never lost an IAD appeal. Back in 2007/2008, when I was an articling student, the Bay Street firm gave me an IAD appeal for “experience”. I was supposed to lose. It was supposed to be for litigation experience. Instead, I won the Sponsorship Appeal and I have still never lost an appeal. 

These appeals are very challenging. In general, Visa Officers do not make these decisions without a thorough examination & investigation. The Sponsor and the Applicant must satisfy the tribunal that all the issues have been addressed. This requires hours and hours of work.

For anyone reading who may be thinking of starting a Sponsorship Appeal to the IAD, my best advice: PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE.

In this case, we arranged many hearing preparation sessions with the Sponsor, the Applicant and the witnesses, both those witnesses inside of Canada and abroad. Testimony does not come naturally and it is very important to focus on the questions. Cross-examinations can be rough.

Here is a guide that we use to prepare our clients for their testimony. This is an EXAMPLE only:

Q. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS MARRIAGE?
 
BAD ANSWER:
 
They have a perfect marriage. He is a wonderful guy.
 
GOOD ANSWER:
 
I have known this couple for 5 years. I was a little cautious when I met her because I did not want him to get hurt. He has been hurt in the past and I did not want that to happen again. I have seen them together many times, at restaurants and movies. They have talked about how they want 12 children together and they want to raise them according to Jewish custom. She converted to Judaism so their children would be Jewish.
 
GREAT ANSWER:
 
I met him when we worked at AT&T back in 2010. He dated our coworker Diana but it didn’t work out because she cheated on him. I helped him through some difficult times. He met Alexandra at Palomino Club in 2014. I was there when they met and I have tried to support him as a friend. When I saw him with Alexandra, it was clear they had strong chemistry. They talked for hours every day. It turns out they both share a passion for learning new languages. They both speak 4 languages and they sometimes write love letters in Esperanto. In 2016, he told me that he was going to propose and I helped him pick out the perfect ring. We had the jeweller inscribe Esperanto on the inside of her ring. I was at their gorgeous fall wedding on September 17, 2017 with more than 200 guests. It was a joyous celebration and I loved every minute. He has said that he wants to move to Manitoba because they want to be close with her family. I met her sisters Jackie and Diane at the wedding and they have fully embraced him as part of their family. I have seen their ups and downs over the past 5 years and I fully support this marriage.

We hope the information above is helpful for you. This is not legal advice. Appeals are difficult and we would strongly recommend that you find a lawyer whom you trust.

Thank you!

Good start to 2021! Alastair Clarke received this award for being one of the Top Immigration Lawyers. We are both humbled and honoured for this award. Thank you to all our clients and the network of folks out there who give us referrals and tell their friends & family about our firm. You all know how much work goes into each and every file. This is a labour of love for everyone here and we greatly appreciate being recognized as one of the best immigration law firms.

Top Immigration Lawyers

Honestly, we do not do this work for awards. We do this work because we are able to make positive change in the lives of our clients. We save lives. We reunite families. We help students achieve their academic dreams. We help businesses hire global talent. We assist groups to bring refugees from overseas. We represent individuals with conviction(s) who need a TRP or a Criminal Rehabilitation application. We use our expertise to handle appeals. All these applications help to strengthen Canada and our work matches the Objectives of IRPA.

As in the past, this award recognizes Alastair Clarke as one of the Top Immigration Lawyers. This award fuels us to continue to give our clients the best service.

We will continue to work hard on behalf of our clients. We believe that hard work is the best way to get the best results. These results lead to happy clients, referrals and trust. We build trust with strong communication. Hopefully we will continue to get awards and recognition as one of the Top Immigration Lawyers. Thank you!

Lessons from 2020

Last year, we posted Lessons from 2019 and we got good feedback from that post. From every perspective, 2020 has been a challenging year and a period of significant change. We have lost staff to COVID-19 and we have had staff who have decided to move provinces to be close to family. We have also welcomed new staff and we have, I believe, continued to provide the best quality service of any immigration law firm in Manitoba. Our positive results are based on hard work and perseverance at getting the best result. We focus on the individual circumstances of each and every client, doing our best to highlight the benefits to Canada.

Here are our three (3) main takeaways from 2020:

1. Hope for the best and REALLY plan for the worst

To a certain extent, this has been our motto from the start. This past year, even more than other years, it has proven to be true. We could not have planned for this pandemic. We could not have planned that friends and loved ones would test positive and we would have to take extreme action to work remotely and keep everyone safe. To be frank, I do not see the end in sight. We will continue to hope the borders will reopen and we will not have to deal with the Quarantine Act and new Orders in Council. We shall see….. In the meantime, as we have done in previous years, we had to plan for every worst case scenario for 2020.

2020

2. Be thankful for each day

As I look back, I remember thinking that 2019 was a bad year. We faced many incidents of our clients being victims of scams. We participated in a criminal investigation against shady immigration consultants. We defended clients from frivolous litigation. I was looking forward to a new year and a new decade.

We do not know what 2021 will bring. It is hard to imagine that 2021 will be worse than 2020 but you never know.

More than anything, we simply must be thankful for each day, whatever it brings. We face our challenges head-on and we fight, as a team.

2020 also shined the light on amazing positives. As a firm, we have supported each other and our clients have benefited from extreme generosity of Manitobans. 

So we want to say a big THANK YOU!

3. Teamistry

The Teamistry podcast, launched in MARCH 2020, has become one of my favourite listening pleasures. Every episode focuses on the benefits and successes of good team management. We have taken the tools from Teamistry and we have done our best to implement these practices in our firm.

Typically, law firms do not run as a team. They are usual top-down, hierarchical organizations that encourage competition and adversarial relationships. In my past firm, the Managing Partner would say, as a point of pride, that he did not know the name of the receptionist. This is not how we do things.

At Clarke Law, we are not a typical law firm. We embrace team building and supporting each other, as much as possible. In my view, this is the best approach and it is the best way to serve clients. Many lawyers do not understand that we are in the service business.

From our families to yours, we wish you all the best for 2021!

Today is our last (official) day of work; however, some staff (actually most staff) who will be coming in to get applications done by the end of 2020. We look forward to serving you 2021 and for many years to come! Canada continues to be one of the hottest destination countries for immigrants and we will do our best to help people come and realize their immigration dreams. Take care and stay safe!

 

Success: Residency Appeal

We love ending the year with positive results. We also love helping clients with IAD appeals. With much work, we were able to achieve these positive results so that our client could get back to her job at the United Nations. She has been doing amazing work with her project and it was a privilege to help this family through this difficult appeal. 2020 has been a difficult year, objectively speaking. It is nice to end the year with an approval from this Residency Appeal to the IRB-IAD.

IAD Approval

In this case, our client received bad legal advice from an immigration consultant in Toronto. Unfortunately, she relied on this bad advice and it led to significant problems. We submitted multiple packages of documents in support of this appeal and this was a team effort at Clarke Immigration Law.

We still have a couple more weeks before 2021. We will continue to work hard everyday and hopefully we can get more positive results before the end of the year. We reported another Residency appeal success at the beginning of 2020. We love celebrating and we love helping our clients.

As an aside, Alastair cannot even remember how many IAD appeals he has won over the past 13 years. For the first IAD appeal, he was a Student-at-Law (Articling student) and he was given an “unwinnable” case. At the time, the partner of the firm gave him the file “for experience” as he was just starting his legal career. In fact, he was the first Articling student to handle an IAD appeal. Indeed, it was good experience and he was able to use a technical legal argument to win the day. The IAD appeal was heard on 3 OCT 2007 and we received the positive decision in early 2008. After that decision, IRCC (then CIC) changed the law and closed that legal loophole.

To date, we would estimate that we have won more than 50 appeals to the IAD. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these appeals are private decisions and they are not publicly reported. We have included a redacted copy of the recent Residency appeal decision with personal information redacted to protect our client’s identity.

Clarke Immigration Law specializes in hearings and appeals. If you have a complex Residency Appeal and you would like assistance with your IAD appeal, please contact our office. 

 

 

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.

WOTEC Scam

Warning: please contact our office directly by phone (204-599-6966) or email. There are criminals who use an address in Ontario at “WOTEC Group”who are fraudulently using our name and firm details to solicit clients. We have no connection with WOTEC and they are using our identity without permission or consent. This is a scam. Do not be a victim.

Scam

There are two (2) Google reviews from individuals who have no contact with our firm. We believe they gave money to WOTEC and they received bad service. They believe their negative experience was related to my team in Winnipeg and that is simply not true. They are victims of the WOTEC scam.

We cannot reveal the names of the individuals who came forward and gave us these documents but we thank them. They correctly realized they are the victims of this scam and their money may be gone.

We have contacted the RCMP, the Winnipeg Police Service, the Peel Regional Police and the CBSA Criminal Investigations Unit. Thankfully, we have good and respectful relationships with law enforcement and we support their investigation. We must also have patience while they conduct their investigations.

We have received a full contract from clients who contacted our office believing that we represent them. They insisted, of course, they had spoken with Alastair Clarke and they gave us money via WhatsApp. Please note we follow Law Society of Manitoba Rules and do NOT accept payment via WhatsApp. They realized they were the victims of a scam.

We may not be the only victims. I have also notified my colleagues from across Canada to let them know about this scam. They may be using the details of other reputable immigration law firms in Canada to solicit clients and take advantage of victims.

You can see the attached contact is signed by “Daniel Jim”. Please be advised he has no connection with our firm and we have had no contact with this person. He may be fictional. Please avoid any contact.

We have tried to contact WOTEC and we are considering legal action. To date, they have not replied.

 

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.

Success: Study Permit

As the saying goes, third time is the charm. An international student at Brandon University entered our office, almost in tears. She had hired an immigration consultation (bad choice, of course) who submitted a Study Permit on her behalf. It had been refused and she was told to leave Canada. The situation in her home country has deteriorated and her family’s business was greatly affected. As we are dealing with the effects of COVID-19, these situations are not uncommon. We were able to help her get back on track and she was able to resume her studies. Another successful application. I wish her all the best.

Study Permit

The description above is a brief summary of the case. Once we were retained as her representatives, we submitted an ATIP to review her GCMS Notes. We discovered her previous immigration consultant submitted two Study Permits on her behalf. This incompetent representative only told her about the first application. She submitted the same documents to IRCC and, unsurprisingly, the applicant received a second refusal.

Our Study Permit application was this applicant’s 3rd attempt. We were able to show sufficient documentation related to her family’s dire situation and evidence that she is a genuine student, despite her hardship. The IRCC Officer accepted our submissions and she was able to go back to Brandon University.

I remember meeting former Minister of IRCC John McCallum when he came to Winnipeg. He is, in fact, a former professor at the University of Manitoba. He has asserted many times that international students are strong applicants and IRCC should support their dreams of Permanent Resident status. In my view, many IRCC Officers want to support students; however, if they hire incompetent immigration consultants, it is very difficult for IRCC to help.

Legal Fees Increase (Not Ours)

Canadian Lawyer magazine has published its annual survey of legal fees for 2020. Please note these results may be prior to COVID19 and the pandemic. Here at Clarke Immigration Law, we have continued to provide flexible payment plans to our clients and we want to provide support to folks who are struggling financially. Legal Fees

The key finding from the 2020 survey is simply that legal fees across Canada are going up. The increase varies depending on the region and the area of law. We have published extensively on legal fees over the years and we have done our best to dispel many myths, including the false claim that Immigration Consultants are cheaper. We have reviewed many invoices from representatives and consultants charging clients very high fees. For example, we represented a family on a Spousal Sponsorship Appeal at the IRB-IAD and our fees, as published, were $6,500. This family had retained a consultant who initially told them she would charge $4,000; however, then she advised that due to the “complexity” of the issues, she needed an extra $4,000 so her total fees would be $8,000. So they fired her. Good decision. In the end, we won and I advised that they sue their former consultant in Small Claims Court.

I have published our review on the Legal Fees for 2019 on this site. I have also published some posts on reports of clients who have been grossly overcharged and they are the victims of abuse. I have also compared our fees with other Canadian law firms who publish their fees online. As noted by Canadian Lawyer Magazine:

Significantly more survey respondents reported they’d be raising their fees this year than last — 53 per cent, which is nearly 10-per-cent higher than said the same in 2019. For 45 per cent, fees will remain the same as 2019. Only 1.2 per cent indicated they were lowering fees in 2020, but that is an increase from 2019, when zero respondents reported dropping their fees.

Whether the slowdown in the economy caused by the pandemic will cause a shift in legal spending remains to be seen.

Higher overhead was the most common reason respondents gave for a decision to raise fees, followed by inflation and then increased complexity. For the small number who lowered fees, it was competition and the economy that motivated the decision.

If you read this space, you know that the fees at Clarke Immigration Law are based on our professional experience working at the largest immigration law firm on Bay Street in Toronto, Ontario, fees from Legal Aid Ontario and the private bar in Ontario, as well as fees from other private law firms in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Unfortunately, we have seen many cases of significant unethical billing practices from lawyers and consultants. Very poor billing practices. For these reasons, we are focused on providing the best services and being 100% transparent with our legal fees.

To be clear, our fees will not be increasing for 2020. We continue to believe that our fees are fair, based on the work done of the files. You can read our reviews on Google (4.9 stars out of 5). Our clients are incredibly supportive and they recognize the high quality of work.

Here is the above information in a clear chart for 2020, including fees for CLARKE IMMIGRATION LAW and the fees published by Canadian Lawyer Magazine for Western Canada:

SERVICES OUR FEES FEES – WESTERN AVERAGE
Work Permit $1,800 $2,061
Family Class sponsorship $5,500 $5,200
Skilled Worker Application $5,500 $6,388
Refugee Protection Claim starting at $3,500 $5,750

As you can see, our clients receive quality services at very competitive prices for Western Canada.

WARNING: I want to warn clients from a common practice. I have seen many immigration lawyers & consultants provide clients a low initial quote for services. For example, they will ask for $800 to open a file for a Work Permit at the beginning. Then, they will start to work on the application and they will demand an additional $2000 to continue work. Ultimately, clients are the victims.

 

Milestone: 500 files!

We do not normally use this space to boast; however, I am going to make an exception today. We just opened our 500th file at Clarke Immigration Law! This is quite a milestone! Each file brings its own challenges and as we work with our clients, new issues may emerge. Part of the reason we love our work is that we get to know our clients as though they are family. Immigration is messy by nature. There are often intersections with family law, criminal law (aka crimmigration) and/or business law. We have the privilege of working with HR Managers and lawyers from foreign 500jurisdictions. I cannot remember a day when I have not learned something new. It may be the Statute of Limitations on a charge in Chile or the intersection between Civil Law and Criminal Law in Palestine.

500 files means that our philosophy is working. We publish our fees online and put our clients first. You can talk to anyone at Clarke Immigration Law. We strongly believe that if we serve our clients and work hard, money will come later. We want to be able to use our privileged position to help people, not burden them with debt and more problems. I remember when we started, a young couple came to the office. He was an undocumented worker in Las Vegas and she flew down there from Winnipeg for a vacation. She came back pregnant and they decided to get married. (In this case, what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas!) With a pregnant Canadian fiancee, he jumped in his car and drove to the border. No passport. No money. He had issues at the POE and she had the sense to call me. They paid for the consultation and the deposit. From there, we worked with CBSA and IRCC to regularize his status. They got married in Canada and they have a beautiful son. Eventually, we got paid. No problem.

Even in times of crisis, we have clients who need our services. We have been taking extraordinary steps since JAN2020 to ensure we stay safe and healthy so that we can continue to serve our clients. To a certain extent, we are on the front line. We regularly meet with clients from every corner of the world. We need to follow the political revolution in Venezuela to the protests in Hong Kong to the law reform campaigns in Senegal. In fact, we met with clients from Wuhan, China right at the beginning who described the quarantine measures in person. Thankfully, they left Wuhan before the crisis and they spent significant time in the USA before coming to Canada.

This pandemic has greatly affected Manitoba and our firm. I am extremely proud how we have been observing physical distancing rules. Prime Minister Trudeau has done an exceptional job at working from home, even as his wife suffers from COVID19 and he has to do much of the childcare and housework. At CIL, we can relate. We have staff with young kids who have to spend their days taking care of the kids while we lack daycare & school services. We have adapted.

500 files is huge! For us, this means that we have helped dozens of families, dozens of different communities and touched many lives. These 500 files include successes at Federal Court, positive decisions from the Refugee Protection Division, grants of Canadian citizenship, countless Study Permits, numerous Work Permits and too many new Permanent Residents of Canada to count. We have been invited to weddings in Cuba, attended birthday parties of our clients’ children and danced at music festivals where our clients were on stage! How awesome is that?!

As you know, we are open. We are working in this environment which has become the new normal. It is hard to say how long this is going to last. I want to stress that CBSA Officers and IRCC Officers are acutely aware how this pandemic is affecting applicants. It is also affecting Officers. At no other time is this adage more true: we are in this together.

Thank you. I mean that. We want to thank all our clients and business partners for having faith in our expertise. Each time a client signs a Retainer Agreement, that means they are putting their confidence in Clarke Immigration Law to do the work. We take this very seriously and I hope that we will continue to serve clients for many years to come.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.