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.

Lawyer Fees Online

Clarke Immigration Law is founded on principles of being open and honest with our clients. Our reviews on Google, by verified clients, and our testimonials from our past clients reflect the quality of work that we do. When we first founded this firm, we wanted to create a relationship based on trust with our clients and part of that relationship means that we charge “fair” lawyer fees for our service.

From the beginning, we have published our pricing & fees on our website. I can see from the online traffic that our pricing page is very popular. Feel free to use our page to negotiate with other lawyers. Feel free to use this page to compare our services and lawyer fees for family and friends. We understand that lawyer’s fees are expensive; however, the work that we do is so important that it takes long hours and great care to ensure each and every application is handled properly and professionally.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash - Lawyer fees

When we first published our fees, there was only one other law firm in Canada who are publishing their fees online: North Star Immigration based out of Halifax, NS. Since then, many more firms have, perhaps, followed our lead and I want to encourage my colleagues to do the same. I want to give strong support to these firms:

The purpose of this page is to help you have a page with quick access to the fees published above so you can make an informed decision for yourself and your family. We recognize that you work hard and that every $dollar (or yen or dinar or euro, etc) matters. We fully understand you need to find the best representative and you need to consider many factors. Legal fees is only one of those factors.

For quick access, I will note that two of the most common applications done by immigration lawyers is a Spousal Sponsorship and a TRV. For comparison, here are the fees, respectively (all funds in Canadian dollars) and these are the fees that are published today:

  • Clarke Immigration Law:
    • SCLPC Class: $5,500
    • TRV: $1,800
  • North Star:
    • SCLPC Class: $6,000,
    • TRV: $2,500
  • Matkowsky:
    • SCLPC Class: $5,500
    • TRV: $3,000
  • Kahane:
    • SCLPC Class: $4,500
    • TRV: $2,000
  • ACM:
    • SCLPC Class: $6,000
    • TRV: $2,500
  • Kazembe:
    • SCLPC Class: $5,500
    • TRV: $2,000

I have published other posts on excessive fees charged by immigration lawyers including a Toronto law firm that charged $170,000.00 in lawyer fees. I have also published warnings by the Government of Canada on agents in India. I support the work done by Noel Semple, a faculty member at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law on the ethics of lawyer’s fees. This is important work. In 2019, we considered increasing our fees as we have not raised our prices since 2015; however, based on a review done in April 2019, we opted to keep our pricing & fees at the same rate.

 

 

Myths About Canada

A friend of Clarke Law posted an article on myths about Canada. He immigrated from the United States in 2004 and he has been happily living with his Canadian spouse. His article can be found here: What is it about Canada that American liberals are not getting? Suppose I’m an American liberal, and I successfully and legally move to Canada, what would be my first unexpected, and biggest surprise? Why? What is the biggest distortion about Canada?

Enjoy!

Free Presentation: Law in the Library

As part of the Law in the Library series, Alastair Clarke will be giving a free presentation to the public on October 19, 2017 at St. Boniface Library at 131 Provencher Boulevard. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Free Presentation

Topics:

Please note that we cannot give individual legal advice during this free presentation. The purpose of the presentation is for information purposes and to inform the public on changes to Canadian Immigration Law. We constantly talk to clients who hear wrong information or information that is out of date. The laws in Canada for immigration and refugees are constantly in flux. Our goal is to make sure that Manitobans understand the laws so they can avoid mistakes and they have clear expectations when they submit applications to IRCC or CBSA of any of the Visa Offices around the world.

For more information, check out the CLEA Website for more details and to RSVP.

CLEA’s Mission Statement:

CLEA is a charitable organization that provides legal information to Manitobans. We believe that legal knowledge is necessary for full and equal participation in our society.

CLEA develops programs and resources especially to work with communities where there are understood needs. These services help individuals better understand our legal system and how to resolve their legal issues.

Goals

Program Strategy

To meet the diverse information needs of our community, we have adopted the following objectives to help us plan our programs:

  • Individuals Focus To provide information about the law, legal system and sources of legal assistance in response to requests.
  • Intermediaries Focus To provide service providers and representative groups with information about: the law, legal system, sources of legal assistance and law reform.

Access to Justice Focus

To identify barriers and promote possible solutions to support a more equitable and accessible justice system that is responsive to the needs of Manitoba’s diverse communities.

Presentation: Refugee Crisis in Manitoba

Please note that Alastair Clarke accepted an invitation to present at Menno Simons College tomorrow on the Refugee Crisis in Manitoba. Regular readers of this blog will know that Clarke Immigration Law has provided legal services to many of the refugee claimants who are coming to Canada from the United States. Many of this people, including women and children, are crossing on foot.

The event itself is from 12:30-1:20. Each presenter has 10 minutes to share on some aspect of the current migrant refugee crisis affecting out city and surrounding areas.

Though our event is over lunchtime, we are only able to provide a snack.

Alastair will be talking about  areas of refugee law:

  1. How the Safe Third Country Agreement is putting the people at risk
  2. An overview of the relevant sections of IRPA

The main focus of the presentation is to answer questions from the public and to engage discussion on these important issues. There has been a huge increase in the numbers of people who have been entering Manitoba and this refugee crisis is only going to get worse as the weather gets warmer and it becomes easier to cross. In addition, there is no indication that the American government is taking any steps to help the refugee claimants on their side of their border.

Free Presentation: Law in the Library – Transcona

Please note that Alastair Clarke will be giving a free presentation on citizenship law and other changes to immigration law at Transcona Library as part of the Law in the Library Series presented by the Community Legal Education Association.

Here is a description of the program:

Are you new to Canada? Are you looking for help in some legal aspects of immigration? Join us for a free program to help provide you with legal information that you may need. Our guest lawyer Alastair Clarke will cover issues like immigration options, sponsorship, citizenship applications, bringing family members to Manitoba, MPNP and other options. Please bring questions for the lawyer to answer!

For more information, contact the library directly at 204-986-3954.

Spousal Open Work Permit – Extended to Dec 2017

As expected, the hugely successful Open Work Permit program for applicants under the In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship application has been extended for another year. Part of the announcement:

Ottawa, December 7, 2016 — Family reunification is a core immigration priority for the Government of Canada. In addition to the changes made today to process spousal sponsorship applications faster, we are also extending the open work permit pilot program until December 21, 2017, to give spouses a chance to work while their application is being finalized.

To be eligible for an open work permit, you must be a spouse or common-law partner living in Canada who is being sponsored under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada (SCLPC) class. You must have valid temporary resident status (as a visitor, student or worker) and live at the same address as your sponsor.

News: Americans Who Fear Trump Presidency

Winnipeg Free Press journalist published a piece on Americans coming to Canada who fear a Trump Presidency. The below is published on the WFP website here.

U.S.-Canada romance quite complex: lawyer

Could Manitoba become a north-of-the-border love nest for Americans escaping the prospect of a Trump presidency?

It could if you believe the hype surrounding the website MapleMatch.com and its promise to save Americans “from living through a Trump presidency by finding genuine ready-to-marry Canadians.”

‘My advice to Canadians who wish to help their American neighbours through a sponsorship application is to make sure they develop a relationship before they get married’

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke says scrutiny is thorough when it comes to immigration and relationships.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke says scrutiny is thorough when it comes to immigration and relationships.

Talk shows and cable news channels have joked about the website started by an Austin, Texas man who reportedly supports Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. It says it is signing up people on both sides of the border but isn’t as yet a full-fledged matchmaking website.

But if it ever gets up and running, MapleMatch.com may not be as sweet of a deal as it sounds, says a Winnipeg immigration lawyer who is the product of a cross-border coupling.

Alastair Clarke said cross-border matches may be easier to make today thanks to the Internet, but immigrating is a lot harder than it was back when his Canadian mom and American dad met and fell in love at university in Chicago.

“Marriages between American and Canadian spouses face significant scrutiny by IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) officers,” he said. Under Canadian law, couples have to show their relationship is both “genuine” and not for the “primary purpose” of immigration, said Clarke. Immigration officers have broad discretionary powers to conduct interviews and investigate the marriage to ensure the application meets the legal tests, he said.

“My advice to Canadians who wish to help their American neighbours through a sponsorship application is to make sure they develop a relationship before they get married,” said Clarke. The Federal Court of Canada has confirmed the time leading up to the marriage date is significant during the “primary purpose” investigation, he said. “The relationship should have breadth and depth before the wedding.” Couples who choose not to get married can file an application as common-law partners or conjugal partners, but those applications have to meet additional requirements, he said.

Would Americans seriously consider abandoning their country for the Great White North if Trump becomes president? Maybe, says the spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations.

“In the past we’ve joked about this kind of thing whenever there is a new Islamaphobic policy or some issue targeting American Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper in Washington, D.C. “I think people aren’t laughing as much anymore,” he said Friday.

The non-profit council doesn’t take a political position, he said. “We merely react to anti-Muslim rhetoric,” and Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has already hurt people even though the presumptive Republican nominee hasn’t won the presidency. One example he cited was a Muslim woman attacked in Washington by a Trump supporter, who said “When Trump gets in, you guys are gone.”

“He really has mainstreamed Islamaphobia in America,” Hooper said. “That is a really troubling phenomenon that will remain whether or not he is elected president.” Trump losing is nearly as worrisome as is his winning, he said. “It makes you wonder who will be blamed and targeted by his supporters.”

Talk of leaving the U.S. — so far — is just talk, said Hooper. “It’s mainly in comments online and in the discussion phase right now.” He hasn’t yet heard of any American Muslim feeling so threatened they’re planning to take refuge in Canada.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t go that far.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Carol Sanders.

 

Elimination of Conditional Permanent Resident Status

I recently met with a young Norwegian professional who wanted to know how to become a Canadian citizen. After I explained some of paths from temporary status (which he had, as a visitor) to permanent resident status to citizenship, he was visibly frustrated and said, “this is too complicated. I just want the form to become Canadian.” I had to admit that he’s right: the system is complicated. (And wouldn’t it be nice to have such a form?) Our former government made things more complicated by adding even more levels to our robust hierarchy of statuses. The most significant additions were the creation of “conditional permanent resident status” in 2012 (for Applicants in a spousal sponsorship application) and, with the changes to our Citizenship Act, “second class” Canadian citizens in 2014. Those changes are now being reversed by the current government. There still isn’t any plan for a form for my new Norwegian friend but we seem to now be on a path to simplify the system.

conditional permanent residentConditional Permanent Resident Status

Within the immigration bar, there were advocates for and against the creation of the “conditional” PR status before the 2012 amendments. We had all had clients like Cindy Green who came to us after their application has been approved and their spouse had ditched them after getting status. We met them, heartbroken, and they asked us to have their spouse removed. There was not a lot we could do. Most did not carry a door on their backs to Parliament but kudos to Ms. Green for shining light on the issue. I wish I could say these cases are rare but they are not. The creation of the conditional status (for 2 years) was a sincere attempt to resolve these issues but, unwittingly, created new issues. TStar reporter, good ol’ Nick Keung (what would we do without him?), wrote a nice piece outlining some of the issues:

The proposed amendments are part of a Liberal election campaign commitment and come on the heels of a new study that found women, racial minorities and those from Muslim-majority countries are disproportionally slapped with so-called “conditional permanent resident visas,” prompting concerns that they are forced to stay in abusive relationships to avoid losing their status.

To be fair, the legislation included protections for spouses in abusive relationships. That was a key concern from the start. But there is a big difference in drafting legislation that attempts to mitigate negative consequences and then the realities of misinformation and the precarious situation of the new immigrants. Unfortunately, many of the individuals negatively affected are unsophisticated and they rely on friends and family to explain the law. “You better put up with me for me for at least 2 years or I will have you deported.” This report documented the real dangers faced by new immigrants with “conditional” status. In the end, the victims of domestic violence (generally women) found themselves in situations of compounded fear that they would be deported if they sought help.

Protect the Applicants … or the Sponsors?

Our current government announced that it will reverse the changes and eliminate conditional permanent resident status. Personally, I agree that the reversal will help to protect many victims of abuse. (I also appreciate the effort to simplify the system and shrink the hierarchy of statuses but I’ll leave this point for another post.) The question becomes: what are the Liberals going to do to help the Permanent Residents and Canadian citizens, sponsors like Cindy Green, who find themselves, heart in hand, abandoned at the airport?

I initially planned to also address the proposed changes to citizenship law and amendments to the TFWP (cover all the groups of statuses) but that is going to have to wait for another week. The Slaw-bot has reminded me that my copy is due.

Published concurrently at slaw.com

Immigration Questions from Presentations

These past few weeks have been very busy and we wanted to thank everyone for their support. At the PCCM event on Jan 30th, more than 100 people came to the event. The room was full and the audience was engaged. Last night, we have a presentation at Munroe Library in Winnipeg and, again, the room was packed and there was active participation. We met folks from Ukraine, Philippines, India, Pakistan, the USA, Nigeria, Egypt, Australia, El Salvador and many others. We answered many immigration questions. Here are some of the questions that Mr. Clarke answered during the 5 hours of presentations:

  • If my Super Visa is going to expire but my husband has submitted an In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship application, do I need to apply to extend my Visa?
  • Can I sponsor my brother in Punjab?Immigration Questions
  • If my MPNP application is refused, how do I appeal the decision?
  • I want my mother from the Philippines to come and take care of my children. How do I bring her to Canada?
  • MPNP is no longer accepting applications from Nurses and my sister is a Nurse. How I can I help her come to Manitoba?
  • My son married a woman from Wisconsin and she has children from a previous marriage. Do the children become Permanent Residents too?
  • What are the benefits of becoming a Canadian citizen?
  • If I become a citizen, do I lose my American citizenship?
  • My brother was refused entry to Canada but we don’t know why. How can we find out?
  • How long does it take for a MPNP application?
  • How many people can I support for MPNP applications?
  • My brother wants to come to Canada but he is not sure if he will come to Manitoba. He is interested in Toronto. If I help him with his MPNP application, can he move to Toronto? Can Manitoba come after me?
  • How long does it take to process a Parental Class application?
  • How many times can I extend my visa?
  • And many more!

If you have any of these questions or you have other immigration questions, please come to the next presentation or contact our office. Click here for information on how to schedule an appointment.