MB Enhanced ID Program Cancelled

The Government of Manitoba (MB) has announced the elimination of the Manitoba Enhanced ID Card (EIC) program. This has been a great program that has allowed residents in Canada and the USA to travel easily across the border without a passport. For business travelers who may forget their passport or from residents who were used to the “good old days” when they could cross the border with a Driver’s Licence, the Enhanced ID was a great option.

The government announced the Enhanced ID program was simply not popular enough to justify the costs. Due to COVID-19 and the impacts it has been having on immigration and other programs, the government is looking to cut costs. As reported, only 12,000 Enhanced IDs were in circulation in 2020 which accounts for only 1% of total IDs.

Alternative #1: NEXUS

Enhanced ID

This is a very good option. In fact, it is better than the Enhanced ID as it can be used for flights as well as crossing at land and water ports of entry.  As reported by CBC News:

The ministry points to Canada’s simplified passport application process and 10-year passport option as well as the growing popularity of the NEXUS expedited border control card which covers all methods of entry into the U.S.

Our fees for this application are $1800 CAD

Alternative #2: FAST

The Free and Secure Trade program (FAST) is for commercial truck drivers only. We have many clients in the transportation industry and this is a very good system. It allows drivers to move quickly and easily across the border with their goods.

Currently, we work with Owners on these applications that are bundled with other applications.

What if you have an Enhanced ID?

If you are one of the 12,000 people in Manitoba with an Enhanced ID, such as myself, you will be getting notification from the government. You will need to choose another option starting in 2022.

Success: Refugees In Canada

Good end to a tough year. We just got this positive decision from the IRB-RPD, granting refugee status to our clients from Somalia. I do not normally publish RPD decisions on this site as the hearings are “private” and we need to maintain confidentiality. We must make sure that we redact all the personal information to protect our clients. We did share a RAD appeal in 2020 on another important case. We have represented hundreds, if not thousands, of refugee claimants over the past 13 years and this work is vital. Our work is to save lives.

refugees

I will say that this case was quite different and very challenging. To be honest, this was a tough case and I was not sure of the decision even after the RPD hearing. This Somali family came to us after a previous refusal by a different RPD Member. At that time, they had a bad lawyer who did not give them enough support and he did not properly support or prepare the claimant for the hearing. She was not able to provide sound testimony to the tribunal. She made mistakes in her answers and she did not listen to the RPD Member’s questions. There were many things the representative could have done to help but he lacks the experience and understanding. The RPD Member refused their refugee claim and the decision was scathing.

This family came to us to do the RAD appeal. Thank you to Welcome Place for giving her a good referral. We take referrals very seriously and it is comforting to know that we have earned the trust of the staff at Welcome Place (Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council). We were able to show the problems of the previous representative and we could show the RPD Member was not able to make a decision based on all the evidence. We won the appeal to the RAD and we were awarded a new hearing at the RPD.

If you are aware of the system, there is no guarantee that a positive decision from the RAD will guarantee a positive decision from the RPD. After 2 years, this family had already been through a lot. We prepped them for the appeal with the help of their community and interpreters who donated their time and skills. We were able to explain to them that they must listen to the questions at the RPD, answer the questions with clear, detailed explanations. If they do not an answer, they can simply say, “I don’t know”. If they are asked about certain events, they must only talk about what they know and refrain from guessing. It does not help when claimants give testimony on topics they do not know.

After 2 years of work, we got this positive decision. We helped to save more lives.

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!

 

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.

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.

 

 

Success: PR for Child

Despite COVID19, we are continuing to serve our clients! A German father came to our office in 2018, in the midst of a nasty divorce. His child was afraid of their mother who suffers from mental health issues. She left her family in southern Manitoba and returned to Germany by herself. Then she went to a German court to seek child custody and our client was forced to fly to Germany to defend himself. Over the past 2 years, we worked with this German professional and we were able to secure PR status for his child – much faster than average processing times.

PR for Child

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

In this case, the child was conferred PR status through an Application for Permanent Resident status based on Humanitarian and Compassionate considerations. Our clients have significant support in southern Manitoba, a region that was selected for regional migration by IRCC. It is important to note that this application is a path of last resort. Based on the particular circumstances of this father and his child, the H&C was the only way for the child to obtain PR status.

As part of our Services, we spoke with the IRCC Officer many times and communicated with her by email. The IRCC Officer was sympathetic to this unique situation and she accepted our legal arguments. We cannot emphasize the importance of good communication with IRCC Officers. It is important to remember that they are people who are restricted to making decisions in accordance with Canadian laws and departmental policies.

Finally, we are very happy with the fast processing time for this H&C application. Even though only approximately 50% of H&C applications are approved, Alastair Clarke has never had a refusal in 12 years of practice. It is a pleasure to serve rural Manitobans.

After hours (and hours!) of work spent on this file, we are thrilled with the positive results! We wish this family happiness and success with their community.

Success: Refugee Appeal

refugee appeal

This photo is used with permission.

In early 2018, a Somali man came to us in distress and he asked us to help with a refugee appeal. His claim for refugee status was refused by the Refugee Protection Division (RPD). He was represented by a lawyer who was going through mental health issues and, unfortunately, that lawyer did not prepare a strong case. We agreed to assist with this individual with a refugee appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) based on the fact that significant evidence had not been considered and his particular circumstances.

We worked with the Somali community in Manitoba and our client’s network of supporters. We were able to prepare significant new evidence. For some reason, the previous lawyer did not prepare a strong case even though the documents were available. Based on the evidence, we put together a strong package on behalf of our client.

After ten (10) months, the RAD granted our appeal and overturned the RPD refusal. The RAD Member agreed with our significant legal arguments and agreed with our submissions that the new evidence may have had a significant impact on the refugee claim. To ensure full disclosure, we were fortunate to have a sympathetic RAD Member decide this refugee appeal. In this case, the client opted not to file a complaint against his former lawyer.

A refugee appeal is challenging and most appeals are dismissed. In 2019, only 12% of RAD appeals in the IRB Western Region were allowed. Building on our success with other appeals, we are thrilled with this decision and we strongly agree with the RAD. Our client’s previous lawyer did a terrible job and, thankfully, we have been able to fix this mess.

NOTE: Clarke Immigration Law accepts Legal Aid Certificates for RPD hearings only. Based on the amount of work involved with refugee appeals and the low rate of approval, we only accept refugee appeals on private retainer agreements and our fees are published online. Typically, our clients pay $500 monthly based on our flexible payment plans.

 

Lessons From 2019

We find ourselves at the end of another year. Indeed, the end of 2019 also marks the end of a decade. This is a time for contemplation and an opportunity to ponder lessons to learn for the future. I want to start but expressing my thanks and gratitude for my team. I am thankful every single day to work with an amazing group of professionals who put their hearts into their work. My main job is to provide guidance and support to ensure that we remain focused on providing the absolute best service for our clients.

I want to take time at the end of 2019 to think about lessons learned; hopefully, 2020 will bring positive change.

  1. Applicants Remain Vulnerable

Over and over and over and over, we have seen how applicants have paid thousands upon thousands of CAD dollars to shady representatives for poor service. I find it deeply frustrating and infuriating to see clients punished as a result of negligence. These applicants are the victims and they remain vulnerable. I recently attended an interview with a CBSA Officer and an Egyptian client shared her story. She paid an immigration consultant $15,000.00 for an application and she was not even eligible to apply. In my view, that is pure theft.

We are working with a Vietnamese family who paid a Chinese representative for a Study Permit. Completely wrong. Thankfully, CBSA started a criminal investigation against him and I hope his former clients are not punished.

In 2019, the Government of Canada took action “to help protect vulnerable people” against “fraudulent immigration consultants”. We will have to see if things get better in 2020 and the next decade.

  1. Canada is the New Hope2019

Clarke Immigration Law is based on Canada’s status around the world and I am constantly reminded how fortunate we are to live in one of the best (if not the best) countries. From our office, this past decade marks a strong collaboration with the news. We were called upon by CBC News, CTV News, Global News, Winnipeg Free Press and many other news sources to comment on different stories. Primarily, these stories stemmed from Canada as the New Hope in the world, replacing the United States as the “best” country for applicants from around the globe.

It was my pleasure as the only Canadian lawyer at the international EB-5 Conference in Las Vegas, USA. I was asked to present as a result of the interest by investors around the world in Canadian business opportunities, including the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program – Business Investor Stream. And, of course, I must mention the amazing people at TEDx Winnipeg who gave me the stage to talk about open borders and refugees which has been published on YouTube.

It is clear that 2020 will be a decade of growth for Canada and we will continue to work to build this country.

  1. Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

Generally speaking, I stay out of politics. I have worked with Members of Parliament from all political parties and we will continue to advocate on behalf of our client regardless of the party in power. That said, I firmly support the current Liberal government and I am hopeful for this coming decade.

My hope for positive political change in 2020 is also balanced with a plan to consider the worst. Minister McCallum made significant changes to IRPA that rolled back many of the inhumane changes by the former Conservative government; however, this government needs to do more. I feel privileged that we were able to work with the Liberal government to make changes to section 38 of IRPA (Medical Inadmissibility) on behalf of the Warkentin family.

  1. Uncertainty on the Horizon

As my mum often says, the only constant is change. There is no doubt that 2020 and the new decade will bring change. Here are a few predictions for this coming decade:

  • The Government of Canada and the Government of Manitoba will continue to buttress immigration laws to attract STEM graduates and professionals;
  • The current Liberal government will focus on quicker processing times, including Family Class applications;
  • Regional migration and new programs that focus on smaller communities will thrive;
  • International students are the strongest stream for Permanent Resident status;
  • Refugees will be recognized for their economic contributions;
  • The changes to regulation of Immigration Consultants will fail and the government will be forced to revisit this issue.

We wish you all the best for 2020 and the coming decade. We have many reasons to celebrate 2019 and, at the same time, learn from past lessons.

2019 Legal Fees

Here at Clarke Immigration Law, we want to ensure that we provide the best quality of service for reasonable fees. This is extremely important to us, as we are service providers. It is also extremely important that our clients understand exactly what they are paying for. You work hard for your money and you should expect legal fees in line with those expectations. Based on our research, we are the ONLY immigration law firm in Manitoba that publishes most of our legal fees on our website. These fees are calculated based on knowledge of our knowledge of immigration firms’ fees from Manitoba and Ontario, minus 20%. We want to pass along the savings to our clients. At the same time, we also provide the best possible quality of service because we know how important your applications are. We treat our clients like family and, just as family, we do not want you to suffer under huge legal bills.

Canadian Lawyer Magazine released its 2019 results for legal fees across Canada. These results are based on national averages. Some firms charge more, while others charge less. Clarke Immigration Law is pleased to report that our fees are in line with national averages. Across the board, you can see that we have met and/or exceeded expectations. Thank you to CLM for confirming that our legal fees put our clients first!

Legal Fees

To be clear, CLM has only published the average amounts for four (4) different types of applications: 1. Work Permits; 2. Family Class sponsorship (includes Spousal Sponsorship, both regular stream and SCLPC Class, Dependent Children and sponsorship applications for Parents and Grandparents); 3. Express Entry application, which would include the initial application; 3. Refugee Protection claim, which would include representation at the RPD.

Here is the above information in a clear chart:

SERVICES – CLM FEES – NATIONAL AVERAGE
Work Permit $2,501 – $3,000
Family Class sponsorship $5,601 – $6,000
Express Entry less than $3,700
Refugee Protection Claim $4,901 – $5,500

For comparison, our fees are published below:

SERVICES – CLARKE IMMIGRATION LAW BLOCK FEES
Work Permit $1,800
Family Class sponsorship $5,500
Express Entry $1,800
Refugee Protection Claim starting at $3,500

Please note that the fees quoted above are current as of 8 APRIL 2019 and may change at any time. In addition, the fees quoted above are based on cases where there are no previous refusals. Contact us directly if you have any questions and/or you would like to retain our services.

The last point that I would like to mention is the fact that only 28% of immigration law firms accept Legal Aid Certificates. On a personal note, this is a sore point. I strongly believe that immigration services should be provided by the government. Lawyers in BC planned to take job action starting 1 APR 2019 as the tariffs for legal aid are not sufficient. Tariffs in Manitoba are even worse than in BC and when I started this firm in 2015, many lawyers advised that I should not take Legal Aid Certificates. I decided, however, that is not the right thing to do.

Approximately 30% of the files at Clarke Immigration Law are on Legal Aid Certificates. You should be aware, however, that when you retain Clarke Immigration Law on a private retainer with the fees above, you are also helping to support our clients who are on Legal Aid Certificates. The only way we can accept Legal Aid Certificates and pay our bills is through our work on private retainers. For any lawyers reading this, I would strongly urge you to adopt this model. We need to put our clients first. Keep up the good fight!

Presentation on Human Rights

Alastair will be presenting at Global College, at the request of Professor Kristi Kenyon, on the topic of human rights law, Charter Rights in the context of immigration and refugee law. This presentation will focus on the Singh decision from the Supreme Court of Canada which was decided on 4 APRIL 1985 and which led to the creation of the Immigration and Refugee Board. This presentation is only open to students at Global College who are registered for this course. If you are interested in attending these types of presentations and you are interested in human rights law, Clarke Law would encourage you to contact the office and we can let you know when this type of presentation may be open to the public.

Human Rights

Here is a description of Global College:

The University of Winnipeg Global College fosters global citizenship and engagement in human rights through interdisciplinary teaching, research, dialogue, and action in local and global communities.

Alastair is looking forward to meeting the students at Global College. We will be having a discussion on the divisions within the Supreme Court. Justice Wilson penned the Majority decision by the Court but three (3) other Supreme Court justices disagreed with the grounds for the decision. Instead, they also held that there were breaches of Canadian constitutional principles based on Section 2E of the Bill of Rights.

The Singh decision was argued by Barbara Jackman and Mendel Green who both have strong connections to Clarke Immigration Law. Barb was a professor at Queen’s University, Faculty of Law in 2005-2006 and she passed along many lessons during the course. Alastair received one of the top marks in the class. Based on Barb’s guidance, Alastair ultimately decided that immigration and refugee law would be a rewarding practice of law. After Queen’s, Alastair articled at Green & Spiegel LLP, under the guidance of Mendel Green and the other partners of the firm. Mendel shared his experience and knowledge of immigration law and litigation strategy.