Reduced Residency Requirements for Citizenship Applications Now in Effect

November 2017

On October 11th, 2017 immigration lawyers received an early Christmas present. The residency obligation required to apply for citizenship was reduced, making many of our clients eligible earlier than originally planned.  Previously, applicants must have been physically present in Canada for 4 out of 6 years before qualifying to apply for citizenship. Now, applicants must be physically present in Canada for 3 out of 5 years. Applicants can also get credited ½ days for time spent in Canada as temporary residents, up to a maximum of one year.  You can find out whether you meet the new residency requirement by using the physical presence calculator.

Another change is that only individuals between the ages of 18 and 54 must pass the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship. If you are over 54 years old, you do not have to practise your test taking skills.

Initially, the changes did not go smoothly. On the first day, immigration lawyers across Canada were thrown into a frenzied panic as none of the newly typed forms could be printed. IRCC was keeping us on our toes by testing our technological skills. The glitch was eventually fixed by IRCC.

Another problem also emerged. IRCC continues to play one of my favourite childhood games of ‘Spot What’s Missing’. The new Citizenship Document Checklist did not list the Permanent Resident card and Confirmation of Permanent Residence document as being required, when the Instruction Guide said to include them. IRCC has since amended their Instruction Guide.

Then, the application form for adults, CIT 0002 and the form for minors, CIT 0003 were re-released with updated formatting. Since the version date (found at the bottom left corner) of the forms were also 10-2017, the same as the version of the forms released on October 11th, there is no way of knowing if a form dated 10-2017 is the correct version, short of examining the formatting and comparing it to the earlier version.

It certainly was not the smooth roll-out the government was hoping for.

So, before you race to the post office to send in your application, you should be aware that IRCC is no longer accepting any of the old forms. If you do not use the version of the forms currently on the IRCC website, your application will be returned to you as ‘incomplete’. Ensure that you use the new forms when you submit your citizenship application.

If you are unsure about whether you qualify for citizenship or if you need help with the application, then please contact us and we would be happy to assist.

 

The difficulties in travelling AFTER becoming a permanent resident but BEFORE your permanent residence card arrives

October 2017

When I was taking legal ethics courses prior to becoming a lawyer, I was warned against giving ‘cocktail party advice.’ This is when legal advice is given in a social setting, without obtaining the required background information, and properly documenting the advice given.  The Law Society of Ontario frowns upon giving advice in these circumstances.

Well, it wasn’t a cocktail party, but rather a wedding reception. The individual had become a permanent resident just that week.  He was a Christian missionary, and had travel plans to the United States to report to the churches who were supporting the missionary work he was doing in Canada.  He was struggling with how to re-enter Canada after his meetings, as his permanent resident card wouldn’t be mailed to him for about two months.  He was telling me he had been researching how to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD).  I couldn’t hold it in, ‘But you don’t need a Permanent Resident Travel Document’, I blurted out, ‘You are a US citizen.  You can just present your US passport and then get on the plane.’

Oops. I’d just given cocktail party advice.  Of course, I then had to explain why US citizens who are permanent residents do not need a PR card or PRTD to get on a plane to fly to Canada, even though there is absolutely no reference to this on the Canadian immigration website.  The short version is this:  US citizens do not need a visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA) to fly to Canada.  Airline staff are unaware of who is a permanent resident of Canada and who is not.  Upon arrival in Canada, alternate documentation can be presented to establish their permanent resident status to Canada Border Services Agency officials, including the signed Confirmation of Permanent Residence document. 

If he had not been a US citizen, entry into Canada would have been much more problematic. Most individuals need a visa or eTA to enter Canada.  Once you become a permanent resident, you are no longer a ‘visitor’ to Canada, and you cannot be issued a visa or eTA.  The airlines can only accept a permanent resident card or PRTD.  Short of flying into the US and driving to a land border (where alternate documentation can be presented to CBSA officials), flying into Canada before the permanent resident card is received is almost impossible.  PRTD applications must be made outside of Canada, and can take several weeks to process.  For someone travelling only for a week of meetings, this is not feasible. 

There is a very simple solution to this problem. Immigration could decide to make visas and eTAs valid for three months after permanent residency is confirmed, to allow time for the permanent resident card to be made then mailed to the individual.  (I am very hopeful someone from Immigration is reading this blog post!)

At the end of my conversation with the missionary, he thanked me, and told me that he and his wife had been praying for a solution to the problem which was created by not having his permanent resident card. Apparently, I was the answer to their prayers.  So, I would argue to the Law Society that it is okay to give cocktail party advice, so long as you're doing the Lord's work.

Visitor visas for romantic partners: tough to get, but not impossible

September 2017

When we hear someone say that they are planning a trip, we often assume their biggest worries are whether they’ve figured out accommodation, packed the right clothes, or were able to secure the time off work.

For those who are from visa-requiring countries, a much bigger hurdle exists: being able to secure visitor visas to actually enter Canada.

For those who are romantically linked to a Canadian, obtaining a visitor visa is especially challenging. This applies to those in long-distance relationships who want come to Canada to visit their loved ones, or those who are living abroad with their Canadian partners and are looking to make a trip back home together.


Why is it difficult?

When applying for a visitor visa, the applicant must prove to the Immigration officer that his or her intention is to come to Canada only temporarily. This is the case for all those seeking temporary entry to Canada, whether applying to study, work, or visit.

A central concern for the officer is whether the applicant will leave at the end of his or her authorized stay. Once approved, unless specifically noted, visitors are allowed to stay for up to six months at a time, until the expiry of the visa (except in the case of supervisas). The officer wants to know that once the applicants’ legal rights to stay in Canada have ended, they will respect the law and leave.

This is the opposite intent which exists when someone is looking to move to Canada. For example, in the case of spousal sponsorships, the intent is clearly to settle in Canada permanently.

In the case of a romantic partner of a Canadian seeking entry to Canada as a visitor, officers are naturally skeptical about the partner’s intention upon entering Canada. They worry that the partner will enter Canada as a visitor, but will not leave at the end of his or her authorized stay. Who wouldn’t want to stay with their loved one, right?

But what if you did just want to come for a visit, and really would go back home when required?
 

Dual Intent

It is legally permissible to have ‘dual intent’. It means having the intention of coming temporarily, with the eventual goal of applying for permanent residence. This is often the case for romantic partners visiting Canada, who have the long-term plan of settling here. International students also often have dual intent by looking to study here temporarily, with the eventual goal of applying for permanent residence.

While it is legally permissible to have dual intent, successfully proving it is where it gets tough. Permanent intent will be implied, especially if you are in a long-term relationship with a Canadian. As a result, when applying, romantic partners of Canadians should focus on providing as much proof of possible about the temporary nature of their visit.


Tips for romantic partners applying for visitor visas:
 

  • Get it right the first time. Once a visitor visa is refused, it becomes very difficult to overcome an officer’s decision upon resubmission. As is pointed out by Mr. Vic Satzewich in his book Points of Entry: How Canada’s Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In, the officer who is reviewing the resubmitted visa application may be sitting right next to the officer who refused the first one. Applicants will have to give a very compelling reason for him or her to make a different finding then his colleague. Our office recently succeeded at obtaining a visitor visa for a romantic partner after a refusal, however it required extensive documentation and explanations about the applicant’s changed circumstances since the first application.

  • Give extensive documentation, but in a clear, concise way. Remember, visa officers are only human. They have a large workload, and face time constraints. In his book, Mr. Satzewich points out that visa officers in a busy Asian office can make decisions on up to 75 applications per day. That translates to about 3 minutes per file! So, while you should give ample proof of your statements, you should also outline what is included in your application in a clear, concise cover letter. List the documents you are submitting. The goal is to be so clear that the officer doesn’t need to spend extra time sifting through your materials.

     

  • Explain why you are coming, but more importantly, why you will leave. Requesting the full six months for the visit, for no particular reason other then being together with your partner, signals to the officer that you’d likely have no problem staying even longer. If you have a specific reason for coming, such as attending an event or celebrating an anniversary, then give the officer proof. If possible, include a trip itinerary, proof of your plane ticket both there and back, and information about the particular event. You should also give convincing proof for why you need to return back to your home country, or current country of residence. This could include a letter from your employer outlining when you need to return to work. It could also include proof that you still own a house or car in your country, and would need to return to finalize the sale even if you were intending on being sponsored as a spouse at a later date. You should also give ample evidence of your ties back at home. If you have a child or elderly parent you take care of which would necessitate your return, prove it. A letter written by your parent could go a long way in showing that you do not have the option of simply hanging around Canada after your temporary visit ends.

Putting together a successful application will require careful planning. Unfortunately, despite providing as much information as possible, you may still not succeed. It’s simply very hard to convince the officer that your visit to your loved one is only meant to be temporary. However, it’s not impossible. By providing an application that addresses the officer’s concerns up front, you’ll give yourself the best chance of success.

 

Residency Obligations for Permanent Residents

Next month I will be speaking at the Canadian Bar Association’s National Immigration Law Section Annual Conference. Being asked to speak is an honour, however it comes with the requirement to submit a paper.  Finding time to research and write was an issue – much of the paper was written between basketball games in the hallway of a high school in Markham, Ontario, where my son was playing in a weekend tournament.

Misconceptions about Express Entry

March 2017

I do a lot of consultation appointments with individuals who want to know if they are eligible to immigrate to Canada through Express Entry.

The next question I’m always asked is ‘how long will it take until I get my permanent residency?’