Canadian Residency Shouldn’t Be for Sale

June 2017

…. instead of residency being seen as a set of ongoing obligations and privileges, it is reduced to the status of a commodity, bought and paid-for.

Can Canada’s immigration industry bring federal millionaire migration scheme back from the dead?

 

The Conference Board of Canada has released a report recommending reestablishment of entrepreneur and investor immigration programs.  I laud the idea of bringing in smart, accomplished people who will start businesses and create jobs.  But I’m completely adverse to the idea of an immigration program that will grant permanent residency based on payment (whether outright or in the form of a no-risk, interest-free loan).  While such programs may directly line government coffers and indirectly help the economy through the purchasing of housing and goods and services in Canada, it’s not just about the money. 

 

I want immigrants as my neighbours. I love the restaurants they start, the art and culture they share, and that they become my friends.  But I want them to ‘buy into’ Canadian society.  I want them to volunteer helping Canada’s needy, to help me clean up my neighbourhood park, to vote in elections, and to enroll their children in the half-empty school down my street.  Will those who ‘pay’ for a permanent resident visa do all of these things?  Maybe they would.  But I’m inclined to think that immigrants selected for their skills and talents, not the amount in their bank accounts, will be more likely to integrate into Canadian society.  Needing to earn a living in Canada makes integration a necessity.  My country is great, and I’m keen to share it.  But it became great only because a lot of smart, accomplished people helped make it like that.  Those wanting Canadian permanent residency must we willing to do their part to keep Canada the great place it is to live.

 

In addition to the release of this report, many other interesting things have been happening in Canadian immigration law. Some points of interest:

 

The Immigration and Refugee Board is now publishing statistics.  For example, it reports that in 2016, 23,665 refugee claims were filed.  9,972 claims were accepted, and 4,817 claims were denied.  128 claims were filed by citizens of the United States.  2 of these claims were accepted.

 

Less than half  of refugee hearings are proceeding on their scheduled dates.  My last two hearings were cancelled with only a few days’ notice.  I have no idea when they will be rescheduled, a situation that is incredibly stressful for my clients.  In response to the situation affecting clients like mine, Immigration Minister Hussen has ordered a review of Canada’s asylum system.

 

The Ontario provincial nomination program has had a major overhaul.  New is a program for qualified tradespeople with a year of work experience in Ontario, who are currently residing in Ontario with a valid work permit.  It may be necessary to delete and recreate your Express Entry profile to be selected for this program. 

 

New Express Entry points are now available to those with a sibling in Canada and French language proficiency.  You may need to amend your profile to add additional information to take advantage of these additional points.

 

Immigration is now providing regular updates on the number of individuals in the Express Entry pool, and their scores.  At the recent Canadian Bar Association national immigration law conference, Immigration department representatives suggested the score may go below 400 in the coming months. 

 

On May 26th, for the first time there was a draw just for individuals in the Express Entry pool who qualified for the Federal Skilled Trades Program.  The minimum score for this draw was 199.  I guess they finally read my blog post.

 

Last week, the government’s online immigration portals experienced massive technical issues. These problems were related to the June 6th changes to the Express Entry portal giving additional points for siblings and French language abilities.  In his keynote address at the national immigration law conference, Minister Hussen apologized for these issues.  The department is working on ways to allow people affected by the issues extensions to deadlines to file documents and submit applications.  But another departmental representative at the conference stated her opinion that the answer to such woes is simply not to leave filing ‘to the last week’.  Such is not an option when only 7 days is given to upload additional documents. 

 

Finally, yesterday evening (June 13th), the long anticipated changes to the Citizenship Act were passed in the House of Commons, 214 to 92.  We are now awaiting Royal Assent. 

 

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.

The topic, however, is one that I often get inquiries about. All sorts of things happen in life, and permanent residents who thought they were settling in Canada permanently sometimes find that they have not met the required residency obligation, due to travel or relocation outside of the country.  Where there are sufficient humanitarian and compassionate reasons for their absences, the breach of the residency obligation may be overcome.  However, for those who have simply chosen to take up more lucrative employment opportunities outside of Canada, loss of permanent residency is the likely outcome.  

There are exceptions to the physical presence obligation. For example, those residing outside of Canada with a Canadian spouse, and those working for certain Canadian businesses may maintain their permanent resident statuses. 

It is important to note that re-entering Canada without a valid permanent residence card can be very problematic, especially now that most visa-exempt nationals must have electronic travel authorizations (“eTA’s”) in advance.  Since permanent residents cannot apply for an eTA, without a valid permanent resident card, they will find themselves unable to board a plane flying to Canada.  Note US citizens do not need an eTA to fly to Canada. 

You can read my conference paper here.

 

Never a Dull Moment

April 2017

 

The joy of practicing immigration law is that there is always something new. A few things to let you know about this month:

 

Express Entry draw with lowest score to date – The score in todays’ draw was 423, lower than the draw on April 5th, which at 431 was at that point was the lowest ever. 

 

New Express Entry Points – as of June 6th, Express Entry applicants with siblings in Canada will get 15 additional points.  New language ability points will also be given where individuals have taken both an English and French language test:

  • 15 additional points for French test results of Canadian Language Benchmark 7 or higher, with English levels of CLB 4 or lower

  • 30 additional points for CLB 7 or higher in French, along with CLB 5 or higher in English

As of June 6th, applicants will also no longer be required to register with the Job Bank. 

 

Data released about the composition of the Express Entry pool – as of April 7, 2017, this is the distribution of applicants in the pool:

Comprehensive Ranking System                     Number of Candidates

Score Range   

601-1200                                                         49

451-600                                                           212

401-450                                                           9,878

441-450           52

431-440           86

421-430           2,973

411-420           3,157

401-410           3,610

351-400                                                           21,118

391-400           3,292

381-390           4,020

371-380           4,380

361-370           4,603

351-360           4,823

301-350           15,608

0-300                                                               2,789

Total                                                                                        49,654

 

Changes to the Citizenship Act – many of my clients are eagerly awaiting changes to the Citizenship Act, which will allows for a shorter residency period before being eligible to apply for citizenship.  Passage of the changes was slowed when the Senate proposed amendments to the Act that allow for hearing before an individual is stripped of citizenship.  These changes were passed on April 4th.  You can read the amendments here.  This article will help you determine if you will meet the residency requirements under the new changes.

 

Parent/Grandparent Lottery – we are still waiting for the government to make its sections from those who registered to be randomly selected for the opportunity to make an application. 

 

Ontario Immigration Nomination Program a bit of a mess - On February 21, Ontario reopened the Express Entry Human Capital Priorities Stream, the International Masters Graduate Stream, and the International PhD Graduate Stream.  At the same time, the province also launched an online application system for these streams.  Chaos ensued.  There was unprecedented application volume demand, crashing the website and causing error messages, and the 7 day deadline had to be extended to 14 days.  The Master’s and PhD streams reached their intake limits within three days. 

The Human Capital Priorities Stream has once again reopened, and Notifications of Interest are being sent out between April 10th and 14th.  Two clients at our office received Notifications of Interest this week.  However, one had sufficient points and received an Invitation to Apply today.  She will not need the provincial nomination.  With Express Entry draws in the 420’s, less applicants with scores in the 400’s will need this program. 

For this round of NOIs, the program targeted candidates in high-demand skilled trades in the construction sector, including carpenters, electricians and tile setters.  However, I’m not sure how many individuals from those occupations would actually qualify for the Human Capital Priorities Class, since one of the requirements is having a university degree.  Most people don’t go to university to become tile setters.

 

Trump, the Safe Third Party Agreement, and Canada’s role in the world refugee crisis – In the media, what we’re hearing about is Trump, the Safe Third Party Agreement, and what Canada’s role should be in the refugee crisis the world finds itself in.  These are the two best media posts we’ve read this month:

 

The Ungrateful Refugee: ‘We Have No Debt to Repay’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/04/dina-nayeri-ungrateful-refugee

The author of the above article reminds us that refugees are much more then just the single identity the media and society seems to assign to them. Instead, they are people with their own dreams, and their successes should not be overshadowed by this one aspect of their lives. By simplifying their experiences, we allow stereotypes to exist.

My associate recently attended a legal clinic held by the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program. She was running late and took an Uber, and to her delight, her driver was a recently arrived Syrian gentleman. He told her about the English classes he took every day, and how his teacher was happy with his improvement since he’d been practising with his customers. This gentleman was an already active member of Canadian society, and clearly hoped to be independent as soon as possible.

Once she got to the clinic, my associate met even more incredible refugees from Syria. While talking to the daughter of the family, Meriam (picture below), my associate couldn’t help but be amazed. Meriam was telling her about how she already had 6 job interviews at Bayshore Shopping Centre. She said she is going to work 2 jobs until she can get back to school. She’s also already applied to continue her studies at to a number of universities. Her long-term dream is to get a great education, and when the civil war is over, use her knowledge to help rebuild her home country. She also eagerly asked my associate whether she knew of any organizations she could volunteer with to assist newly resettled refugees.

Meriam Tayar, a former resident of Aleppo now living in Canada


My associate was speechless. This young lady only arrived this past October and she sounded like she’s lived here her whole life!

Sharing these stories are important, because they’re proof that refugees are so much more then the impersonal descriptions we see of them in the news. Whether they are just learning English, or they are jumping right back into their university studies, we have to remember that they are unique individuals whose goals are similar to ours. In fact, their goals are often even more impressive, because they’ve gone through a great deal hardship just to get to where many of us “regular” Canadians start out from. 
 
“After the Crossing: Refugees in Canada” – The Fifth Estate http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2016-2017/after-the-crossing-refugees-in-canada


This broadcast tells the story of what happens to asylum seekers once they get to Canada. These are different cases then resettled refugees such as Meriam, because they still need to go through the refugee determination process after they arrive. They need prove that they were forced to leave their home country due to persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. They also need to prove that their home countries would not be able to protect them. Until they are able to do this, they are considered asylum seekers and do not have the benefit of knowing what their futures will hold.

One part of the above broadcast tells the story of a Turkish man caught in backlog, who has waited almost 5 years without a hearing. In our office, we have two ‘legacy’ refugee claimants waiting for hearings before the Refugee Board.  One fled his country when his daughter was only a toddler, and unfortunately, he would be a stranger to her now. 

It is admirable that Canada has created the opportunity to sponsor refugees for resettlement. It is important to remember, however, that Canada must be must also deal with the cases of people who have been in limbo for half a decade. They have hopes and dreams too, and they cannot get started on them until they know they will be able to stay. 

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?’

Refugee Lives and Political Whim: On Trump, Trudeau, and the refugees they seek to shut out

February 2017

Incredulously, I watched a video of a crowd of hundreds of protesters chanting, ‘Let them see their lawyers NOW!’ The video was taken at a US airport over this past weekend.  Photographs taken in that same airport showed lawyers sitting in groups on the floor, hunched over their computers. They were drafting emergency court petitions in support of the individuals who were detained when their flights arrived – people who had been mid-air when Donald Trump’s Executive Order banned the entry into the US of individuals from seven predominately Muslim populated countries.  I have never been as proud of my fellow immigration lawyers and human rights activists as I was this past weekend.  And I have never felt more grateful for the rule of law, when those court petitions were successful.

Express Entry Missing out on Selecting Skilled Tradespersons

January 2017

My daughter just finished her first semester at the University of Ottawa. As a first year business student, she had no elective courses.  Her best mark after her first semester?  Philosophy.  Her worst?  Economics.  It seems to me that it should be the other way around.  But the problem is that although she’d probably do better in a social sciences or humanities program, she wants a job when she graduates.  So she has chosen a program of study that she feels will lead to job opportunities.