2021 Canadian Law Blog Awards Winner

Early Adopters of IRCC’s New Permanent Residence Portal Ignored by IRCC as Applications go Unacknowledged

by Ronalee Carey Law

June 2022

When IRCC came out with their new Permanent Residence Portal, I jumped on the chance to submit applications electronically through a portal that allowed me to log in on the first try without having to resort to a different browser, refresh, log in with incognito mode, hit the backspace key a dozen times, or offer my first-born as a living sacrifice. Submitting applications online meant no lost documents, no courier fees, and saving trees. Given a chance to submit online, almost all my clients opted for the electronic option.

I now regret having advised family sponsorship applicants to go this route. My clients, and those who were interviewed for a recent Toronto Star article, have been waiting months for an acknowledgement of receipt. Yet, paper applications submitted months later have already received application numbers, medical and biometric instructions, work permits, and in some cases, even approvals of their applications. 

I acknowledge that IRCC is under tremendous strain. There is a massive backlog of applications. IRCC is searching for case processing agents in multiple cities across Canada. However, a backlog doesn’t justify inequitable treatment.

Delays most impact spouses who are abroad. Recently, a colleague acquired IRCC statistics showing that while 91% of spousal sponsorship applications are approved, only 47% of visitor visa applications are accepted for people with spousal sponsorship applications in processing. Imagine being forced to live apart from your spouse for almost two years after marriage without being able to visit. I wonder, how many relationships are buckling under this strain?

Without an application number, there is no way to check the status of an application. IRCC’s new status tracker for sponsorship applications is virtually useless until the initial completeness check is done. And even then, it is of little utility, as it is often not updated.

IRCC is working on moving more applications online. Until I am assured that processing procedures for new online applications are established, I won’t be an early adopter.   

Reprieve for International Students Whose PGWPs are Expiring: 18 Month Extensions will be Granted

by Ronalee Carey Law

 April 2022

Today, IRCC announced that it plans to grant 18-month extensions for post-graduation work permits that expire in 2022. This announcement will be welcome news for international graduates who have been anxiously awaiting news of a program to help them stay in Canada while waiting to apply for permanent residence.

Extension applications can be submitted as of ‘summer 2022.’  According to the announcement, the temporary policy will be available to those ‘in Canada.’  It is not clear if those students whose PGWP permits have already expired and who have left Canada will be able to apply. 

Until clarification is provided, we must presume anyone whose PGWP has or will expire before they can submit a PGWP extension application should apply to remain in Canada as a visitor. A restoration application will be needed for anyone whose PGWP is expired when they submit their application for a Visitor Record. Restoration applications are available for 90 days after the PGWP expires. Anyone who is past the 90-days must leave Canada and re-enter as a visitor, applying first for an eTA or visitor visa if required.

Those with visitor status in Canada will not benefit from maintained status and will only be able to start working once they have their new PGWP. Those who will apply for their new PGWP before their current PGWP expires will have maintained status and will be able to continue working so long as they remain in the country until they receive their new PGWP.

The announcement also states that Express Entry draws will resume in ‘early July.’  The announcement refers only to ‘invitations’; presumably, they will be for all programs, including the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Federal Skilled Trades program. From December 2020 to September 2021, there were draws for the Canadian Experience Class but not for the FSWP or the FSTP. 

If ‘no program specified’ draws are held, international graduates will be looking at stiff competition, as there are currently over 200,000 applicants in the Express Entry pool. Of these, almost 50,000 have points over 450. If CEC-specific draws are held, this will reduce the minimum score required for an invitation to apply for permanent residence, as the pool of applicants will be lower.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Allowing PGWP extensions will negatively affect current international students. Upon graduation and acquiring a year of Canadian work experience, current students will be competing against individuals who have had the opportunity to acquire four years of work experience in Canada. One year of work experience gains 35/40 comprehensive ranking system points (depending on whether the applicant is single or has a spouse or common-law partner). Those with four years of Canadian work experience get 63/72 points. 

The announcement also contained welcome news for TR to PR applicants. They may obtain work permits valid until the end of 2024. Their spouse or common-law partner will be able to apply for an open work permit. Applicants who prefer to leave Canada until their application is complete may do so. These policy changes will also take effect ‘this summer’.

Exceptional Measures for an Exceptional Situation: Canadian Immigration Measures for Ukrainians

by Ronalee Carey Law

March 2022

In response to the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, Canada has implemented various measures to allow Ukrainians to come to Canada or to extend their temporary status in Canada. Of significance is the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET). This program provides:

  • Travel documents for individuals without valid passports
  • Granting of work or study permits
  • Waiving application processing fees
  • Exemptions to the requirement to be vaccinated for COVID-19

In addition to the Canadian government's response, members of the Canadian Bar Association are offering free legal services to Ukrainians.  

I wholeheartedly endorse Canada's measures to assist Ukrainians. It is an extraordinary situation, and extraordinary measures were necessary.

But…

What of the 40,000 Afghans that Canada promised to bring to Canada after the Taliban took control of the country? Only about 7,000 have made it here so far. What of Yemenis suffering in their eighth year of civil war? What of the Rohingya expelled from Myanmar?   Or Venezuelans who have been driven from their country because of hunger and violence? There are over 26 million refugees in the world today; no shortage of individuals for the Canadian government to help.

Canada is home to the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora globally, second only to Russia. Ukrainians are Canada's eleventh largest ethnic group. Approximately 1.4 individuals of Ukrainian descent are living in Canada. That's a significant voting bloc. Without question, political pressure from the Ukrainian community in Canada has impacted the government's response. 

I am not alone in my concern that Canada's response to the situation in Ukraine shows just how poorly we reacted to other groups of individuals when they needed Canada's protection. 

Canada needs refugees just as much as refugees need us. Newfoundland and Labrador know this well; provincial representatives are recruiting Ukrainians in Warsaw to settle there. 

I hope the extraordinary measures Canada has brought in for Ukrainians will be replicated in the future for groups who do not have millions of their brethren in Canada to pressure their Members of Parliament to allow them entrance. 

Limited Opportunities to apply for Permanent Residence through Express Entry until 2024

by Ronalee Carey Law

February 2022

Current to February 15, there are 198,061 applicants in the Express Entry pool. There has not been a draw for the Canadian Experience Class since September 14, 2021. There have been no draws open to the Federal Skilled Worker Program since December 23, 2020. We must look back to August 6, 2020, for a draw for the Federal Skilled Trades Program. That’s a lot of delayed hopes and dreams.

Read more