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.

Success: PR by Email

Congratulations to our Cuban spouse who just became a PR by Email! He was sponsored by his lovely Canadian partner and it has been a pleasure to work with them during this process. COVID-19 has caused additional stress and anxiety across the immigration system, as I recently testified to the Parliamentary CIMM Committee. I have to give credit to IRCC for making improvements and for all their hard work. We live in unprecedented times and the government has been working hard to address pandemic issues, as they arise. For more details, click here. 

PR by Email

PR by email is certainly nice.

No interview. No stress. This family has been a pleasure to work with and we had no doubt their SCLPC Class application with OWP would be approved. We made sure all the issues were covered and we provided evidence on every point. That said, every case is different and this one had its challenges.

I want to thank Naomi, in particular, for working on this application and getting the package ready to submit. Our team works closely to put these applications together to ensure positive results. Not all clients receive PR by email; however, I agree that this application warranted this action.

Immigration is a serious matter and applications to IRCC must be taken with the utmost care and attention.  CONGRATS to our client! Canada is a better place with him and his family.

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.

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: Citizenship for Minors

Depending on the circumstance, Canadians whose children were born abroad may apply directly for their citizenship so that they can easily come home. Since the pandemic hit the global collective consciousness, we have helped many families, including minors, with their move back home. Notwithstanding universal health care and the CERB, Canada has become a global model for governance and leadership. After less than 2 months of processing time, we recently received two (2) Citizenship Certificates for the children of a Canadian living in the USA. Due to COVID-19 and other factors, she does not feel safe in the USA and she will be moving home asap.

Minors

This photo is used with permission and it does not depict our clients.

Typically, Citizenship grants for minors take much longer than 2 months. In this case, our client demonstrated exceptional circumstances and the IRCC Officer agreed to urgent processing.

Our goal is to help our clients fulfill their immigration dreams. As far as I’m concerned, our country is built on immigration and, therefore, our work leads to a win-win situation. Our clients are happy they are able to come (or stay) in the best country in the world (we are bias, of course) and, at the same time, Canada benefits from the skills and experience.

Applications for minor children have their challenges. It can be difficult to obtain sufficient evidence and there may be objections by parents and/or guardians. The key is to prepare a strong application where the Officer clearly understands the best interests of the child (BIOC) or children who are directly affected by the application.

Congratulations to our clients! We wish them all the best on their relocation to Manitoba. As part of our plan to reopen the province and get the economy back on track, they will need to abide by their 14-day Quarantine Plan as we are trying to limit the number of infections from the USA.

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.

Manitoba Phase 2 Reopening

Based on the sacrifice and hard work of Manitobans, the province is very safe. We are extremely grateful for the good governance in our province to manage services during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are in contract with first responders, health care professionals regularly to ensure we have updated information for our clients. On Friday, I participated in a high level call with Minister Marco Mendicino (IRCC), organized by the Canadian Bar Association. The federal government as well as the provincial government have been working hard to manage our immigration system. Today marks Manitoba’s Phase 2 reopening and we hope that residents will continue to be conscientious of physical distancing guidelines.

Phase 2

At Clarke Immigration Law, we made significant changes in JAN2020 and we continue to adapt to the circumstances. Our goal is to operate in a manageable capacity without sacrificing the safety of our clients or our staff. We regularly review all of the options and variables to ensure that we can provide the best quality of service.

To date, Manitoba has only had 295 confirmed COVID-19 cases for a population of more than 1,200,000 residents and ZERO patients are in hospital. For comparison, our neighbours in North Dakota have more than 2,365 confirmed COVID-19 cases in a population of only 762,000. As per the graph, courtesy of Manitoba Health, there have been very few cases for weeks. I am not going to guess the myriad reasons why there are so many more cases in the USA on a per capita basis. It could be poor leadership. It could be poor services. It could be poor health care. It could be poor physical distancing. Regardless, Manitobans should be proud how we have managed this pandemic thus far.

For Phase 2, many businesses will be reopening, at different levels. I spoke with a business owner yesterday who was very excited to open his business at 50% capacity. Public gatherings of up to 25 people inside are now allowed and up to 50 people outside. Businesses & activities to resume include:

  • Golf courses
  • Gyms (limited)
  • Restaurants (limited)
  • School services (limited)
  • Bars (limited)
  • Bowling Alleys
  • Nail Salons
  • Tattoo Parlors
  • Sports activities for children (group max 25)
  • Daycares (group max 25)
  • School playgrounds

For more information on the government’s plan to reopen, please consult the details of Phase 2.  The PDF with additional details is also available.

We are assisting many clients who are eager to come to Canada. Please contact our office to book a consultation. 

PGWP Update

IRCC has announced increased flexibility with Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) for international students in Canada. This reflects the government’s recognition of the contribution of international students to the Canadian economy and to society in general. As stated by our former Minister of Immigration John McCallum, international students are the core of the Canadian immigration system and the government is committed to supporting these individuals who have proven their financial contributions to this country.PGWP

IRCC has explicitly stated the importance of international students to our immigration system. The Press Release states:

International education represents a significant economic benefit to Canada, with international students contributing $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supporting nearly 170,000 jobs in 2018. International students are also often excellent candidates to apply to remain in Canada permanently, with nearly 54,000 former students becoming permanent residents in Canada in 2018.

Indeed, the numbers are clear. Many int’l students go on to work on a PGWP and they apply for PR status. This is a proven path. In Manitoba, it is even easier with the MPNP program.

IRCC has shown commitment to ensuring students have the support they need during COVID19:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on international students. In response to the health and travel restrictions that are in place, many designated learning institutions (DLIs) are offering their courses online.

Post-secondary institutions and prospective students alike are considering their approach to the fall semester. Both have sought guidance from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada regarding eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) for students starting at an eligible DLI this fall.

The government has announced increased flexibility with PGWP applications:

Under normal circumstances, criteria for the PGWPP limit an international student’s ability to pursue a program via distance learning, from inside or outside Canada, and time spent studying outside Canada is deducted from the length of the work permit for which they are eligible.

PGWPP eligibility will not be affected for international students whose fall 2020 courses will be online due to COVID-19. This is in line with guidance provided to students already studying in Canada or whose program had a spring or summer start date.

Students in this situation may begin their classes while outside Canada and complete up to 50% of their program via distance learning if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.

In addition, they will not have time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit for studies completed outside of Canada, up to December 31, 2020.

This is very good news. We have many clients who can take advantage of these updates to the PGWP. On 29 MAY 2020, Clarke Immigration Law will participate in a meeting with the Minister of IRCC as well as the Minister of CBSA to discuss further changes to help our clients. Continue to watch this space for details.

UPDATE: We have been advised that PGWP application may be extended, in some circumstances. In this past, this was not possible. Please contact our office for more information.

Pandemic Passports & CIB

Unsurprisingly, clients who have the financial means are seeking “pandemic passports” to secure access to countries with strong health care systems and economies. Canada, of course, is at the top of the list. This is not a new idea. I was invited by EB5 to present at an international immigration conference in Las Vegas, USA (back when we were all flying around going to conferences) and I presented on a panel for Citizenship By Investment (CIB). For those interested, I would look at:Pandemic Passports

  • Malta
  • Cyprus
  • The Grenadines

As noted by the Robb Report:

Now the super-rich are buying the ultimate insurance policy to make sure they will be able to travel to whatever virus-free, sunny bolt-hole they choose, if a second spike in Covid-19 infections triggers another global lockdown. The world’s wealthiest are snapping up multiple citizenships in countries around the world.

We have contacts at law firms to assist high Net Worth clients and we provide referrals. Please note that Canada no longer offers CIB programs and I would caution any client who is promised a “quick & easy” path to Canadian citizenship. In my mind, that sounds like a scam. We have a torrid history of politicians taking advantage of such programs and they have gone the way of the Dodo bird. (Incidentally, the United Nations was gifted a gold Dodo bird while I was there in 2003. The symbolism was unmistakable!) As far as CIL is concerned, clients who are interested in CIB and/or Pandemic Passports are not beneficial for the long term growth of the country.

Our focus is on helping clients and their families for the long term benefit of our clients and our country. We have assisted many clients through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program – Business Investment Stream (MPNP-BIS). This is a points-based system for entrepreneurs and investors who seek to either purchase a business in Winnipeg or outside the Manitoba Capital Region (MCR) or create a new qualifying business. MPNP has published the basic requirements for interested applicants. To qualify, please book a consultation to discuss. We recommend:

  • Net Worth: +$750,000.00 CAD (NOTE: the minimum is not recommended)
  • Strong Business Plan
  • Documented Source of Funds
  • Extended Exploratory Visit to Manitoba

Successful applicants will receive temporary status in Canada and a Work Permit. Once they have worked and satisfied the MPNP Officer (note: discretionary power) on the viability of their business, they may apply for Permanent Resident status. After they are granted PR status, they may make an application for Canadian citizenship.

Indeed, “pandemic passports” may be important in the future. For individuals who value Universal Health Care and who want to contribute to a country with good governance, a fair legal system and a society based on merit, Canada may be a good option; however, the applications are neither fast nor easy.

Manitoba Reopens: Phase 1

We have posted many updates on this site and the pandemic has progressed. Like you, we are following news from around the world to monitor the situation and to provide advice to our clients. We have given interviews with the Winnipeg Free Press. We are concerned, for example, for our clients in Ecuador and Nigeria. Each jurisdiction has been handling this crisis differently, to various levels of success. Here in Canada, I am Manitobaextremely proud of how our government has handled this extreme situation. By all accounts, Canada has been faring much better than the USA, even on a per capita basis.

In Canada, Manitoba has done very well. We have very few cases and testing is easy. One of my staff was tested at a drive-through centre (negative) and results are available quickly. There is a screening tool and the province announced today they have a new website where anyone who is tested can access their results online. Easy and quick.

In a 34 page report, Manitoba has outlined 5 factors to determine when to reopen the province:

  1. LAB POSITIVITY RATE
  2. ACTIVE COVID-19 CASES
  3. HOSPITAL BEDS IN USE
  4. COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION
  5. PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)

I am no medical expert, of course; however, I fully support the Manitoba government and we can be extremely proud of their work.

We get calls every day from folks who want to come to Manitoba for a better life. With good governance, it is understandable that many people took to Canada as the best place on earth.

It is a given that the future is uncertain. My staff will tell you that I often say, “hope for the best, plan for the worst”. In this case, it is not clear we will have a vaccine in 2020. It is more likely the vaccine will not come until 2021 or possibly 2022. We need to plan for the worst.

We remain open and we continue to work on behalf of our clients. Stay safe. Stay healthy.