Where are you from?

Over the past 13 years, I have represented clients from more than 100 countries. Each case is an opportunity to learn about different cultures and backgrounds. We get to know all the personal details of our clients and we are privileged to be invited to our clients’ family celebrations. When I first meet clients, they often ask, “where are you from?” To an extent, it makes sense to answer the question and share my background, as they share all the details of their history. At the same time, we want to focus on helping our clients and I prefer not to spend a lot of time talking about myself. For this reason, I have decided to write this post. So if you are interested in my background, read on….

If you listened to my TEDx talk on YouTube, you will know that my father sponsored my mother through a Spousal Sponsorship application. When they moved to Canada, they settled in Edmonton, Alberta where I was born and raised.

My father’s family has strong roots in Ontario. My family on that side goes back at least 5 generations. Beyond that, they have not kept track. My paternal grandparents lived in North York and, in the early 1900s, they owned Idywylde camp in Ontario. Personally, I never went to camp but my father has many fond memories.

My mother’s side is more complicated. Her parents are from Kansas, USA. Her mother was the eldest of 10 children and she grew up on a farm during the depression. She joked that she walked to and from school uphill 10 miles everyday. We would, of course, chide her that it is impossible to walk uphill in both directions.

My maternal grandparents both graduated from the University of Kansas, where my grandfather completed his medical degree. After they married, my grandfather worked at Johns Hopkins University where he did research on finding treatments for chemical weapons. During WWII, they were worried the Japanese would send balloons with anthrax and my grandfather worked on a cure. Afterwards, they moved to Red Wing, Minnesota where he had a general practice in medicine and he worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

We are not sure when my mother’s family arrived to the USA. Her mother’s family is originally from France, going back 3 or 4 generations. Her father’s family did not keep good records. There is running speculation that we may have African blood based on how easily we tan.

My sister did a genetic test from one of the online services. According to that test, she is 95% European with ties to Italy, Scotland, England and France. The other 5% is from other parts, including north Africa.

Now it gets more complicated. When I was growing up, we had exchange students from Japan, Brazil, Thailand, Switzerland, South Africa and many other countries. I consider these students to be part of my extended family. My Brazilian exchange sister Tachi, for example, died from leukemia and it affected the whole family. When I was in Bangkok, I stayed with my Thai exchange brother.

After graduating from high school in Edmonton, I was an exchange student on AFS in Ecuador where I completed a high school diploma in Spanish. I still have strong ties to Ecuador and my exchange family. During that time in the sun, I will say that my skin darkened and, after a while, I looked “latino”, possibly due to African blood on my maternal grandfather’s side. To this day, I feel strong ties to Latinoamerica.

After university, I moved to Japan and spent 3 years in Asia. It was a wonderful time where I learned Japanese and traveled throughout the continent. I would say that my time in Japan has greatly affected my sense of identity to the point that I joined the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) – Western, as an honorary member. I am not, of course, Asian Canadian.

As you can read from the above, my family has strong ties to many parts of the world. My wife’s family is from Romania. My sister married a British/ Indian citizen with family in Switzerland. My cousin married a Panamian.

I love learning about different cultures and exploring esoteric parts of our planet. I love to venture out and take the paths less traveled. I have moved 24 times and lived on 4 continents. Now that we are settled in Winnipeg, I love helping people come to Canada.

 

Success: Study Permit

Here at CIL,  we have helped hundreds of students achieve their immigration goals. Each case is taken very seriously and clients often come to us after they have applied for a Study Permit themselves, or with the help of a shady agent, and it was refused. Thankfully, we have many different strategies for dealing with previous refusals and getting the Study Permit for our clients. We have provided a Guide to Success: Study Permits that includes four (4) key tips. If you require professional help, please contact CIL and we would be happy to assist. 

Study Permit

Recently, we were able to help a Filipino student come to Canada to pursue her studies. She came to us after multiple refusals. Unfortunately, she believed that Study Permits are “easy” and she could do it herself. The first application, which she did herself, was refused. She was quite distraught as she had been planning to continue her studies in Manitoba and she has strong connections to Winnipeg. She has relatives here who agreed to help her with housing and provide support. Nevertheless, the Visa Officer refused her application.

After the first refusal, our client hired an agent in the Philippines. He looked at her documents and helped her file a second Study Permit application. From what we can see, he did not do much for her. It is not clear what she paid for. The second Study Permit was also refused.

Our client came to us with two (2) Study Permit refusals. She decided to give it one more chance. She let us know that if we could not help her, she would give up. We were able to identify weak parts of her application and work with her and her relatives to add important evidence.

Success! The Visa Office in Manila accepted our Study Permit application and our client came to Canada at the beginning of this month. She has the support of her relatives here in Winnipeg and she is looking forward to her studies.

Congratulations!

Study Permit Tips for Success

Many Study Permits are refused. This is a fact. We are providing 4 main Study Permit tips to help you get a positive result. A CEO of multiple post-secondary schools (designated learning institutions DLIs) contacted Clarke Immigration Law to help with appeals to Federal Court. The rule is that when an IRCC Visa Office outside Canada refuses a Study Permit application, the applicant has 60 days to file a judicial review with the Court. To understand the scope of this problem, here is part of his email:

I guess you are correct – one too many education consultants out of India and China have been misleading international students thus causing these study permit refusals.  In 2018 alone, we had close to 100 refusals and about 100 more in 2019. While 2020 has been relatively slow due to Covid19, we are expecting a surge in applications towards the 3rd quarter of this year.

100s of refusals. To protect his privacy and the reputation of the DLIs, I am not disclosing the CEO’s personal information.

Here are a few tips to help international students get approvals:

Study Permit Tip #1: Avoid agents & immigration consultants

Not all agents are bad. The problem is that many are very bad and there are many scams out there. The Government of Canada published a blanket warning against using any agent in India due to the high levels of corruption and scams.

Study Permit tips

From a lawyer’s perspective, agents are great. Lawyers can charge more $$$ when a client has a previous refusal and they have had a bad experience with another representative. When I worked at a Bay Street firm in Toronto, the Managing Partner would charge +$5,000.00 CAD for a Study Permit when the client had been previously refused based on the poor quality work of an agent.

In general, agents cause significant problems and headaches for clients. If an international student is planning to spend $50,000.00 CAD on tuition, it makes sense to get a good lawyer to help you with the first step.

Full disclosure: our fees for a client with a previous refusal are higher than for clients who come to us at first instance; however, our fees are lower than other firms and I believe we provide the best quality service. We are constantly communicating with other firms and doing research online to ensure we adhere to the principles of our firm: EXPERIENCE, TRUST, VALUE. 

Study Permit Tip #2: Contact a lawyer whom you trust at the beginning

Every lawyer that I know provides consultations for potential clients. This is an opportunity for you to talk to someone who may (or may not) help you with your application. The lawyer is not committed to taking the file but they will, hopefully, give you good information to help you achieve a positive result.

Good lawyers may be able to fix your situation after a refusal, but you will end up wasting your time and paying more in the end. For example, we had a Nigerian student come to us after 2 refusals. She hired a consultant who did a terrible job. (In fact, after the first refusal, the consultant sent another Study Permit application to IRCC without even telling the student which, of course, led to a 2nd refusal. The student did not even know she had more than 1 refusal.) To read more about that case, please click here.  

The other side of this point, of course, is that not all immigration lawyers are good. I worked at a large immigration law firm in Winnipeg where the lawyers scam their clients. The scam looks like this:

  • The lawyer will ask for an initial retainer (eg. $2,000)
  • They will start to work on the Study Permit application
  • They will find a problem or issue
  • They will contact the client and let them know that this “new” issue will need to be addressed and they need more $$$

In my view, the above is also a scam, although it is legal.

How do you avoid this? Do your research. Here is a review from a Winnipeg Law Firm:

DO NOT TRUST THIS COMPANY. THEY WILL STEAL YOUR MONEY!!

I am only writing this review to warn everyone about the kind of people they are. NONE of the work that I has asked was ever done. They didn’t even get back to me for more than a year. No phone call, no emails nothing. A year later they reach out to me and ask me to pay for work they hadn’t done. They will make up charges and expenses. “oh we spent 5 hours on reviewing your file” “oh we had to consult with another agency” and they will charge you for it!!

Like I said NO WORK WAS EVERY DONE. BUT I WAS FORCED TO PAY

TERRIBLE SERVICE. NO KNOWLEDGE ABOUT ACTUAL IMMIGRATION, NO CARE ABOUT THE CLIENT.

STAY AWAY. YOU ARE BETTER OFF DOING THE IMMIGRATION WORK ON YOUR OWN. ZERO STARS!

Based on my knowledge of this firm, the above review is probably accurate.

Study Permit Tip #3: Not all consultations are equal

Do your research. If you are an international student and you are keen to come and study in Canada, you have some research skills. Use them. Do the due diligence that you need to find someone you can trust. If the lawyer has a low score on Google Reviews and a reputation for making up fees, you may not be able to trust them.

The point of the consultation is for you to ask questions and get answers. If the lawyer is just giving you a sales pitch, you are wasting your time and money.

Study Permit Tip #4: Buyer Beware

The most frustrating situation is where a client hires an agent or a bad lawyer and it leads to a ban from Canada. This situation is worse than a refusal. The student cannot simply apply again. For example, where an agent puts false information (without even telling the client) and it leads to misrepresentation:

Misrepresentation

  •  (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

The “indirectly” part of the above section relates to agents or representatives. For example, we had a client contact us after they received a Procedural Fairness Letter asking for information that was included in the application. In that case, the agent included false information to “help” the application and the student was at risk of being banned from Canada for 5 years and being inadmissible.

Thankfully, we may be able to fix these problems but at a significant cost to the client.

Follow IRCC’s Tips

Former IRCC Minister John McCallum has publically stated the importance of international students. Visa Officers want to approve Study Permit applications:

“International students are the best source of immigrants, in the sense that they’re educated, they’re young, they speak English or French, they know something of the country,” he said. “So we should be doing everything we can do to court them.”

If you submit a good application that is done well, you have a high chance of getting approval. We look forward to working with you to achieve your academic goals.

Hopefully the above is helpful information for you. We wish you the best towards your immigration goals, whatever they may be.

Thank you! Best Immigration Lawyer – Winnipeg

We have been notified by Quality Business Awards that Clarke Immigration Law has been recognized as the Best Immigration Lawyer in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We achieved an average score of 95% or greater over the past 12 months (2020). This is the first time that we have received this award for best immigration lawyer and we had no contact with Quality Business Awards prior to today.

Best Immigration Lawyer

If you are a client with our firm, you know that we work closely as a team to produce top quality applications. If you are learning about us for the first time, you can be assured that we take each and every file very seriously. Our clients become like family members. We learn our client’s most personal details so that we can represent them to the best of our ability. Personally, I do not know if I am the best immigration lawyer in Winnipeg. There are other immigration lawyers in Winnipeg whom I respect. I can say, however, that the team at Clarke Immigration Law is the best team and it is a pleasure to do this work.

I am very thankful to be recognized as the best immigration lawyer in Winnipeg. This award is humbling. The only thing I can say is that we work hard to serve our clients. They put their trust and confidence in our services.

Earlier this year, we were awarded a Top Three Award by ThreeBestRated.ca. I know the other immigration lawyers and we consult with each other regularly. It is always nice to get recognition for the work that we do.

I would like to believe that we were granted this award because we are 100% open and transparent with our fees & services. For years, I have tried to persuade other lawyers to publish their fees online so clients can see their pricing. I have written about this many  many times and I continue to push this issue.

Please note: we had no influence or prior communication with Quality Business Awards prior to receiving this award.

 

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.