Congrats to all CEC Applicants!

For more than 27,000 applicants in Canada, they have been selected to apply through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) on 13 FEB 2021. As reported by IRCC, the minimum CRS score for this draw was only 75 points. Essentially, all candidates in the pool who had any merit to their application were selected and invited to apply for Permanent Resident status.

To qualify for the CEC category, applicants must demonstrate:

  • minimum language skills established through either IELTS or CELPIP or TEF; and,
  • at least 1 year of skilled work experience in Canada in the past 3 years.

There is no education requirement for the CEC Class. Basically, this category is designed for foreign workers in Canada who have been contributing to the Canadian economy. IELTS or CELPIP or TEF results are valid for 2 years only and they must be valid on the application date. CEC

This past draw is unprecedented. The minimum CRS score of 75 is extremely low and we cannot predict whether this type of draw may occur again in the future. To be clear, if your Express Entry profile is in the FSW stream, the FST stream, the PNP stream or any other path to Permanent Resident status, your profile will remain in the Express Entry system.

If you have been selected, we advise:

  • You must act quickly to obtain all the required documents
  • We expect significant delays at IRCC based on the large number of applicants
  • We expect a bottleneck at the PR application stage and long processing times

The Liberal Government has previously announced its immigration target for more than 400,000 new Permanent Residents in 2021 and it is aiming to increase the number of immigrants in future years. With +27,000 Principal Applicants on track to submit PR applications on behalf of themselves and their families, the 13 FEB 2021 draw may lead to +100,000 new Permanent Residents in Canada.

This past CEC draw is a huge opportunity for many skilled workers in Canada. We urge all applicants to focus on gathering documents to establish the eligibility requirements. Any applicant who is inadmissible for any reason, including misrepresentation, criminality or any other reason may receive a Procedural Fairness Letter from IRCC to provide an explanation. If you are in this situation, we would advise you find a representative to help.

Remedies for Visitor Visa Refusals

The Temporary Resident Visa application (a.k.a. Visitor Visa) system is broken. This is not a controversial statement. Currently, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is in the midst of reviewing the system and, in particular, section 179 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). I gave testimony and they have heard from many experts. Officers often abuse their discretionary powers per R179 which may cause extreme hardship for applicants and their families. Over the past few years, Canada has developed a reputation of being extremely difficult for visitors, even for individuals who want to reunite with Canadian family members or fiancees. During this pandemic, many families have been separated and many efforts to be reunited have been thwarted by Visa Officers who quote R179 as the basis of their refusal.

In particular, the CIMM is looking at:

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;

We are currently waiting for a draft report from the CIMM, including recommendations for IRCC and CBSA, based on their study of the impact of COVID-19 on the immigration system. The report may lead to significant changes.

The Extent of the Problem

There is little doubt that Canada has become a top destination for skilled immigrants. To an extent, Trump’s ascent to power and his racist and discriminatory policies have buoyed Canada’s stature in the world. In my own practice, I have been retained by many clients over the past 4 years who initially intended to settle in the USA; however, they changed their minds and they focused their energy on coming to Canada. I have published on this topic here and here. I was invited to the EB-5 Conference in Las Vegas largely based on the fact many wealthy immigrants have become interested in Canada.

For individuals from non-visa-exempt countries, the first step is the TRV application. In the hierarchy of applications to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the TRV application is at the bottom. It is simply an application to visit. It does not confer authority to work or to pursue a university degree. It is issued for a short period, only for the purpose of the visit.

Anecdotally, I regularly meet with individuals who are able to obtain Visitor Visas to the USA, the Schengen Visa for the EU, and/or visas to multiple Asian countries; however, they come to me with refusal letters from Canadian Visa Officers and frustration with our system. This has led to a situation where refugee claimants know they can easily obtain Visitor Visas from the USA and then travel by land to a Canadian Port of Entry (POE). Assuming they fall under an exception to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), they can make their claim at the POE. If not, they may traipse across remote farmland, put themselves and their families at risk to the elements, and make an irregular entry. Of course, COVID-19 restrictions have essentially closed the border to refugees from the USA and the STCA has been held to be in breach of the Charter.

In addition to the above, we have data from the Globe and Mail that TRV refusals had been on the rise. In 2012, refusal rates for non-student TRVs was 18%. In 2017, the number of refusals rose to 33%. For applicants from some countries in Africa or the Middle East, the rate of refusal has been reported to be 75%.

Remedy #1 – Reapply

For an individual who has been refused, there is no easy remedy. Shady agents will simply reapply and cross their fingers for a different result. I have seen immigration files where the agent has applied 3 or 4 times for the same client, leading to 3 or 4 refusals. Needless to say, each refusal puts the applicant in a worse situation.

Smart lawyers will only reapply if they can show a significant change in circumstances. At times, that includes a complaint to ICCRC based on bad advice from unscrupulous agents. Other times, that includes a significantly different application. For example, a couple came to me after 2 refusals and we submitted a new application for the wife only. It would certainly be nice for the couple to come to Canada together; however, this couple decided the husband would stay behind to help allay the Officer’s concerns. It was granted.

Remedy #2 – Appeal

By law, an applicant can file an Application for Leave and Judicial Review (ALJR) within 60 days of a decision made outside of Canada. This is a lengthy and expensive process. As my former colleague and friend Chantal Desloges testified to the CIMM, it is relatively easy for lawyers to appeal the decisions of Officers. The refusals are often void of a reasonable basis and the applicants receive a boilerplate letter without any details of the decision.

If an applicant opts to submit an ALJR, the Federal Court of Canada will provide reasons per Rule 9. At that point, the applicant will have 30 days to provide their Record, including their legal arguments, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) then has 30 days to serve and file the Respondent’s Record. In clear cases, will settle the case and they will agree the application warrants special relief. Incidentally, I received an Offer letter from the DOJ today on an ALJR which is very positive news for our clients.

If successful, the application is sent back to the Visa Office to be decided by a different Officer. Yes, you read that correctly. After many months of litigation, a “win” on appeal simply means the application returns to the same Visa Office, back into the queue.

In one egregious example, I assisted a lovely teacher who submitted an application to come from India to Canada and it was refused. Her first lawyer submitted the ALJR and “won”, sending the application back. The Visa Office refused a second time and her second lawyer submitted another ALJR and “won”. Then the Visa Office refused a third time (under different grounds) and I met the client for a third ALJR. At this point, she had been trying to seek entry to Canada for 3 years, plagued by a messy immigration history.

Not many clients have the financial means or patience to pursue an appeal to Federal Court. Making matters worse, Officers know this. I managed to speak with one Officer on a TRV application that had been in process for more than 1 year and I was preparing a Mandamus Application. The Officer simply stated that if I want a quick decision, it is easy for them to refuse.

Remedy #3 – Reconsideration

As I stated during my testimony to the CIMM, the Request for Reconsideration remedy is “broken”. Unless a representative can show a clear mistake made by the Officer, the chances of the request making any difference are slim to none.

The Request for Reconsideration may be useful in 2 specific circumstances: 1. When a shady immigration consultant has submitted bad work. It is then possible for the representative to submit a complaint and a request for reconsideration with good evidence. 2. When a client is past the deadline to file an appeal to Federal Court and that is the best path for the applicant. The Request for Reconsideration may be denied; however, that new decision may lead to the ALJR and all the background evidence may be included.

As far as I can tell, there is no black letter law foundation to a Request for Reconsideration. This is a remedy based in common law that does not put any binding requirement on the Visa Office. I have spoken with other immigration lawyers in Canada and the vast majority of these requests are denied.

In the context of a humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) decision, Federal Court Justice Southcott, citing Kurukkal, reiterated the problems with this remedy:

[T]he decision-maker failed to recognize the existence of any discretion. Therein lay the error. The immigration officer was not barred from reconsidering the decision on the basis of functus officio and was free to exercise discretion to reconsider, or refuse to reconsider, the respondent’s request.

Indeed, Officers have the discretion to reconsider, or not. In the context of a TRV refusal, there is no legal obligation on the part of the Officer. In fact, this remedy is not even mentioned in IRCC’s Functional Guidance on Temporary Residents.

Remedy #4 – Members of Parliament

In the past, MPs have had more power to overturn bad decisions by Officers. I have spoken with MPs from back in the day who have been able to reverse bad decisions with a simple phone call. Alas, for better or worse, those days are in the past. My conversations with workers at MP Offices in Ontario and Manitoba are highlighted with frustration. While they are able to access officials at IRCC and highlight egregious errors, they are also expending huge amounts of time and resources. Keep in mind that MPs have an obligation to represent all their constituents.

Conclusion

I applaud CIMM to take up this cause. As I mentioned above, TRV applicants are at the bottom of the ladder of applicants to IRCC and they are all citizens of countries who require visas to enter Canada. We are not talking about applicants under the skilled worker category or overseas refugee claimants. Generally speaking, TRV applications are for tourists from particular countries. To be frank, it can be very difficult to visit Canada.

I have outlined some of the many issues with the system. I have not broached inconsistent decision making or lack of predictability. My Queen’s Law professor would also mention the discrimination within the system as a whole. I remember when I assisted an Iranian couple who sought to invite 16 members of the family for their wedding – 8 family members from the bride’s side and 8 from the groom’s. We submitted nearly identical TRV applications to the Visa Office. 10 were approved and 6 were refused. The couple was actually very happy with this result; however, I will say that I was quite frustrated. For example, an aunt was approved while her husband was refused. The notes from GCMS were scant. The couple simply accepted the results and celebrated their wedding with those who could attend.

The point is the R179 procedures are broken and I urge CIMM to consider the ample expert testimony. They heard from witnesses who certainly have more expertise than my own.

Proposed Remedy #1: Amend R179

In my view, we need to amend R179 and lower the legal requirements for a TRV. The law could explicitly require Officers to outline their reasons for the refusal. Currently, the law requires “an examination”; however, it is not clear what this entails. In many cases, for example, it not clear whether the Officer even skimmed the documents submitted. I will leave the details of the proposal to the experts in statutory interpretation and legislative drafting.

One potential amendment may be to allow monetary bonds for TRV applicants. These “cash bonds” have recently been adopted by the USA for certain countries per their Visa Bond Pilot Program. I have mixed opinions on this suggestion and I fear that it would impose serious limitations for low income applicants.

Proposed Remedy #2: Detailed Refusal Letters

IRCC Officers provide only generic refusal letters for TRV applicants, often with boxes that are checked with their concerns. The decision letters rarely include any particulars and applicants cannot know the details for the refusal. To get the actual notes, which are often scant, the applicant must make an application for their GCMS notes. This is time consuming and onerous. In my view, if Officers are required to justify their reasons and submit those reasons to each applicant, they may put more effort into each decision and, as the Officer above noted, it would not be so “easy” to refuse.

Proposed Remedy #3: IRCC Ombudsperson/ Ombudsman

The term “ombudsman” comes from the Old Norse word, roughly meaning “representative”. Its etymology is gender neutral but it may be modernized to “ombudsperson”.

Typical duties of an ombudsman include investigating complaints and making efforts to resolve those complaints, often systemic recommendations.

In my view, an Immigration Ombudsperson’s Office, with clear roles and responsibilities is necessary and long overdue. The Canadian immigration system is simply too important and our economy is too dependent on maintaining a strong stream of immigrants. As far as I am aware, there is no reason not to implement this suggestion. This office has the potential to alleviate some of the work done by MPs, in a centralized office that can take a systemic approach.

This proposed remedy has been supported by many witnesses to the CIMM including here and here.

Proposed Remedy #4: Lift Visa Restrictions

As of today, Canadians can travel to 183 countries without a visa. By contrast, citizens from only 58 countries can enter Canada without a visa. In my view, this list should be greatly expanded. Off the top of my head, I would add Argentina, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Fiji, Seychelles and a few others. Currently, citizens from more than 148 countries require a TRV to enter Canada.

Mexico is a complex situation and is the obvious barrier to this proposal. In 2016, the Trudeau government lifted the visa requirements for Mexican citizens. Since then, Canada has received a surge of Mexican refugee claimants and the Mexican ambassador has urged Canada not to re-impose visa restrictions.

In 2012, Canada imposed visa restrictions on St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland. Then Minister Kenney justified his decision by citing “unreliable travel documents” and potential criminality issues. He stated, “criminals from these countries can legally change their names and acquire new passports.” To be clear, there is no factual basis for his statement, as far as I am aware. In my view, the visa restrictions imposed on these countries should be lifted.

Closing Remarks

During this pandemic, we have the opportunity to step back and look at the big picture. The current immigration laws under IRPA and IRPR have been in place since 2001 and the system needs to be modernized. I urge the CIMM to consider broad systemic remedies.

Please note: this article has been cross-posted at Slaw.ca.

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.

Success: Request for Reconsideration

We specialize in fixing messes. A businessman came to us with 2 previous TRV refusals. He hired an immigration consultant to help him and, as you can imagine, it was a poor decision. It should have been an easy TRV application. His son is an international student at the University of Manitoba. His wife has a valid TRV and she is able to come and go from Canada as much as she likes. The consultant, however, messed up his application and he was denied. Then the consultant offered to “fix” the application at no additional fees and, I suppose, the businessman thought this would be a good option as it did not cost him any more money. The second TRV was also refused. The Applicant’s decision did not cost money but it meant that he could not visit his son in Manitoba.

Request for Reconsideration

We took the case and we cleaned up the mess. We were able to put together a strong TRV application that addressed the issues for the previous refusals. The Visa Officer refused, as expected, due to the previous refusals. We then made a Request for Reconsideration and we were able to connect with a Manager who gave our application proper attention. Finally, after much work, the TRV was approved.

Fixing messes is not an easy task. In this case, we were able to build a good application and the immigration consultant was clearly incompetent. In fact, when Alastair was on vacation in Toronto, he stopped by the consultant’s address to check out the office. It was a fake address. This consultant specializes in signing clients from Dubai, UAE who cannot see that his office is fake. He is registered with ICCRC and we could not find any previous complaints. Our client opted not to file a complaint because he did not want to get further involved and he was worried that it may impact his family. Similar Toronto firms have been caught. My guess is the consultant continues to find wealthy clients in Dubai who pay $$$$ for poor services.

We cannot guarantee positive results. Our only guarantee is that we will work hard and do everything in our power for our clients. Submitting a Request for Reconsideration is not an easy process. The Applicant must first submit a strong application so that a Manager can clearly see the circumstances and potential that the Applicant is the victim. In this case, we were successful with our Request for Reconsideration and the businessman was able to come to Winnipeg to visit his son at the University of Manitoba. It is our pleasure to reunite families and see the smiles. This is why we love our work!

Click here for 12 tips for finding a good representative.

Success: TRP/WP for MPNP

After significant time and work, we successfully obtained a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) and a Work Permit (WP) from Emerson POE for a client who has an MPNP Nomination Certificate and a PR application in process. This was a messy situation. Her previous representative mishandled her case. She came to us after IRCC refused her Work Permit application and she was outside the 90 day Restoration period. The TRP was issued after significant advocacy at the POE and it was evident that she was the victim. TRP

We are thrilled the Officer agreed with our assessment of this situation and he used his highly discretionary power to issue the TRP and the Work Permit so that our client could get back to work while she waits for her PR to be processed.

Here in Manitoba, we are very fortunate to work with the Officers at Emerson POE. Generally, they are professional, courteous and they are sympathetic to clients’ circumstances. That said, they also must follow Canadian immigration laws and regulations. As we have stated at numerous free presentations to the public, we do not encourage clients to put themselves in a position where they need a TRP to stay in Canada. This application is only for exceptional circumstances.

Please note that the successful TRP application above was obtained prior to the travel restrictions per COVID19. Currently, POEs are closed for such matters and the Officers are further restricted from handling these applications.

We wish our client all the best and we are pleased that we could fix the mess. She can now stay in Canada and continue to work while she waits for her Permanent Resident status with the support of the MPNP program. The TRP application was her best option based on the facts of this case and she was the victim of her previous representative. Alas, the immigration system is complex and many representatives give bad advice.

COVID19 – UPDATE 7/APR/2020

UPDATE: 7/APRIL/2020

Please note that we will not be providing additional updates to this page. There have been many changes to laws, regulations and policies due to COVID19. We have been in contact with lawyers from across Canada to stay up to date with changes and amendments.

If you have any specific questions on how the changes may impact your application or your situation, please book a consultation with a lawyer.

UPDATE: 24/MARCH/2020

OK – to mitigate the spread of COVID19, the Ontario government declared that all non-essential services must close starting tomorrow and we expect Manitoba will follow suit soon. The numbers of infected continue to rise and the governments are doing everything in their power.

LAWYERS ARE “ESSENTIAL” SERVICE

The list is out. Lawyers and law firms are considered an essential service. We will continue to monitor the situation. Again, most staff at Clarke Law are working remotely. We only have 2 staff in the office to keep things up and running; however, we are not holding in-person meetings in the office. Feel free to drop off documents and we have been getting daily packages.

NOTE: Immigration consultants are not on the list. As per usual, please contact an appropriate expert for assistance.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

I have to commend our valiant leader PM Trudeau who is working from home in isolation. He is managing his busy household, with 3 young children, by himself while leading our country through very difficult times.

We watch his daily briefings and he remains poised. Lead by example. Well done Sir!

BORDERLINES PODCAST

My colleagues in Vancouver have published an episode on The Canadian Immigration Consequences of COVID19. This does not seem to appear on their website (yet) so I would encourage you to find it in your podcast app.

In particular, it is nice to hear some optimism from Deanna!

START IN-CANADA REFUGEE CLAIM BY EMAIL

As the IRCC Offices across Canada have closed due to COVID19, refugee claims in Canada are being submitted by email: IRCC.RefugeeClaim-Demandedasile.IRCC@cic.gc.ca

We have been in regular contact with the IRB-RPD (Western Region) and we have been advised that all hearings have been postponed until 1 MAY 2020.

UPDATE: 23/MARCH2020

We had a busy weekend. The land border with the USA closed at midnight on Friday due to COVID19, causing a lot of confusion. I am not sure how “Tutor” became part of the definition of “immediate family member”.

COVID19

COVID19

IN-PERSON MEETINGS CANCELLED

In our office, most of our staff are working from home. We will continue to work on files and submit applications to maintain high standards. At the same time, we must do our part to fight this COVID19 virus from spreading. We encourage all our clients to contact us by telephone – 2045996966 or by email info@apply2manitoba.ca

MANITOBA STATE OF EMERGENCY

The provincial government has declared a State of Emergency to manage the spread of COVID19. These are extreme measures for extreme times. We are all taking these measures very seriously and we fully support any and all measures to protect the health and safety of residents.

This means that groups over 50 people are banned. Gyms are closed. Most retail will close. See the government website for details. We are taking this day by day.

UPDATE: 20/MARCH/2020

ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM USA

The Canadian government has further restricted border entries. Asylum seekers (refugee claimants) who seek to enter Canada at Ports of Entry will be refused entry. Asylum seekers (refugee claimants) who attempt irregular crossings into Canada will be returned to the US as part of an “exceptional measure” to protect residents in Canada.

During a news briefing, Minister Blair has acknowledged exceptions, including unaccompanied minors, to filing a refugee claim at the border. Claims at the US-Canada border have decreased by half from ~40 daily to ~20 daily. They will be returned to the USA and the Minister has advised that they will not be detained.

QUARANTINE ACT LEGISLATION

Emergency legislation through the Quarantine Act limits entry to Canada, including “immediate family members” as defined by the new Order. This provides clarity on the previous announcements that will limit access to Canadian soil.

Individuals crossing from the US may be required to spend a period of 14 days in the US due to COVID19 before they will be allowed to enter Canada.

FASTER PROCESSING TIMES

Minister Freeland has indicated that IRCC may be processing applications faster than usual. She has indicated that we need to recognize the need for “speed over attention”. She has emphasized the importance of processing files quickly. We are waiting for confirmation and details from Minister Mendicino’s office.

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UPDATE 19/MARCH/2020

US VISA OFFICES – CUTTING SERVICES

The US Government has announced that Visa Offices around the world will be cutting services and canceling appointments. This is an unprecedented decision that will impact thousands of applications.

We believe the Canadian government may issue a similar order to Canadian Visa Offices. If you are in process of submitting an application, we encourage you to submit ASAP while the Visa Offices are still open.

CANADA/USA BORDER RESTRICTIONS

Through a mutual agreement, the Canadian and US government have agreed to limit travel across the land border to essential travel only. This is an attempt to limit tourism and cross-border shopping. There are exemptions for trade and/or trucking. Governments are working hard due to the numbers of COVID19 infections.

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UPDATE 18/MARCH/2020

Please note that we have been dealing with the pandemic and monitoring the developments closely. We are trying to reply to all concerns in a systemic and orderly manner.

IRB – HEARINGS POSTPONED

Please note that most hearings at the tribunal have been postponed. This included refugee claims, admissibility hearings, and appeals. If you have a hearing that has been scheduled, we will provide updates from the IRB. Currently, the IRB front offce is closed to the public and they have released this message, published in 16/MARCH/2020. IRB Members are working on current cases and we received a positive decision today.

ENTERING CANADA

Please note that the Government of Canada has temporarily restricted entry to Canada. Previously, only Canadian citizens, PRs and a few exemptions have been permitted entry. Today, there may be additional restrictions. The situation has been changing daily, based on the risk assessment. If you or your loved ones are seeking entry to Canada, please review the changes that are published on news outlets, including CBC News.

REMOVALS AND DEPORTATIONS

CBSA has currently suspended all removals from Canada, including Departure Orders, Exclusion Orders and Deportation Orders; however, there are exceptions.

APPOINTMENTS WITH IRCC

IRCC has suspended in person meetings with Officers. Currently, they have announced that meetings may resume on 13/APRIL/2020; however, that may change depending on the pandemic.

Successful applications who are scheduled to land and become Permanent Residents, need to contact IRCC if they are unable to travel. This includes COPR and PRV cases.

BIOMETRICS

All biometrics appointments inside Canada have been cancelled until further notice. IRCC has granted an automatic extension of 90 days.

For biometrics appointments outside Canada, please contact the appropriate VAC or ASC.

CITIZENSHIP APPLICATIONS

Please note that CPC Sydney has temporarily closed and the office is not accepting packages. We will be submitting documentation as soon as they resume operations.

CROSSING THE BORDER & POEs

Please keep in mind that CBSA Officers at the border are on the front line. They have put in place measures to keep the Officers safe and, at the same time, follow instructions from Ottawa. We have been advised by other law firms in Canada that POEs may refuse to process applications that are not urgent.

PR APPLICATIONS

Applications for Permanent Residence and many other applications are being accepted. IRCC is encouraging all applicants to submit online, if possible.

FEDERAL COURT – APPLICATIONS FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW

The Court has issued a Notice regarding deadlines and ALJR. This information is effective 17/MARCH/2020

MIGRANT WORKERS & FARMING

We have been monitoring the situation. IRCC is acutely aware of the needs of the farming and agricultural sector. Current border restrictions may impact many workers who have travel plans. At this point, we encourage all temporary workers to monitor the situation closely.

LEGAL AID MANITOBA

LAM has announced that it will accept application online and their office is currently closed.

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13/MARCH/2020

We want to thank all our clients and partners for continued patience, cooperation and understanding during this COVID29 pandemic. We have taken unprecedented actions to keep our staff safe and healthy. These precautions have been put in place to ensure that we can continue to work and serve our clients. We will continue to do the work that we love; however, we also need to stay safe & healthy.

If you have come to the office recently, you have noticed the new signage. We announced the ban on shaking hands at the beginning of 2020 and we have put in place additional measures to limit personal contact and adhere to social distancing. In addition, starting on March 11th, we have put in place additional cleaning and other procedures to protect the office from viruses. We have added purification systems and many other measures for protection.

We have also put in place additional procedures so that staff can work remotely from home, if necessary. We are monitoring ourselves regularly to make sure we are safe and healthy. We are taking the COVID19 pandemic seriously and we want to make sure that we follow all precautions so that we are not infected and that we do not infect anyone who comes to our office.

Please take all measures to stay healthy.

Success: Regaining Status

As part of our series to share success stories, we are starting with a case where we were able to help an international student who has suffered unfortunately circumstances and she found herself without status in Canada in a desperate situation.

international student

international student

Thankfully, we were able to get her regain status. Life can be messy and there are situations that are beyond our control. Sometimes, the government needs to take into consideration that applicants have fallen under hard times for reasons outside of their control. It is also important to be reminded that IRCC Officers are people too and they want to help. Our job is to show the Officer all the reasons why our clients warrant special attention.

Success Story: Internation Student Regains Status

A Filipino student came to us for help after she had been living in Canada without status after her Study Permit expired. She was an international student who had been living in fear on a daily basis that CBSA would knock on her door and she could be deported. She has suffered from stress and anxiety. She came to us for help, desperate to regularize her status and she had almost no money left. We started by preparing and submitting a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) application based on her unique circumstances and strong ties to Canada. Our TRP application was approved in seven (7) months and now this international student has regained temporary status in Canada.

Now with status, the next step was to help this international student get to work. Our office worked hard to prepare and submit a Work Permit application. The Work Permit was approved in under two (2) months and our client was relieved and overjoyed she could finally continue to build her life in Canada without the threat of removal looming over her head. She is now working in Canada with status and looking forward to becoming a Permanent Resident in the near future.

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.

 

 

Enhanced Travel Document

The Manitoba government continues to provide “enhanced” documents that serve as alternatives to a Canadian Passport for crossing the border into the United States by land and/or water. In certain circumstances, this enhanced travel document makes it easy to travel between Canada and the USA. The enhanced features allow the individual to cross the border easily and efficiently.

Currently, the only Canadian provinces to offer the enhanced documents are Manitoba, Ontario and BC. As noted below, Ontario may be canceling their program in 2019. In my view, this document is a poorly understood and little-known document that is cheap and easy to get.

Features:

  • Alternative to a Passport;
  • Helps people cross easily over the border;
  • Less stuff in your wallet/ purse.

The Manitoba enhanced Driver’s Licence allows individuals to simply use their Licence to cross the border. We used to be able to do this when crossing into the USA; however, the laws changed so that regular (non-enhanced) Driver’s Licences are no longer sufficient to enter the United States:

By Land and Sea (including ferries) – Canadian citizens traveling to the U.S. by land or sea are required to present one of the travel documents listed below, and may generally visit the U.S. for up to six months. CBP will accept: Canadian passport, Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification Card, NEXUS, FAST/EXPRES and SENTRI enrollment cards.

Ontario recently proposed to discontinue this service and they have eliminated this option:

Ontario is proposing to eliminate an enhanced driver’s licence that allows people to enter the United States at land and water border crossings without a passport.

The driver’s licence option was introduced in 2009, when the U.S. required passports or other secure identification for anyone crossing into the country by land or sea, but it hasn’t had the anticipated uptake.

British Columbia and Manitoba have enhanced driver’s licences, and Quebec used to, but phased out the program — other provinces rejected the idea because it was too costly or there wasn’t enough public interest.

If you or your contacts are interested in the enhanced travel document, please contact our office and we can help with the application.