Some happy news!

by Ronalee Carey Law

November 2020

Especially these days, it seems that all we hear is frightening news.  Many countries are experiencing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Governments are running up deficits trying to provide financial support to businesses and individuals.  We are worried about our incomes, the impact on our children’s educations, and for the health of the elders in our communities. 

For those seeking to come to Canada, pandemic-related processing delays and travel restrictions are causing hardships.  Many with approved applications are waiting for permission to relocate to Canada.  Sponsorship applications are backlogged, causing families to remain apart.  And though essential temporary foreign workers are being allowed entry to Canada, that may mean leaving family members behind.

For immigration lawyers, this has been a particularly trying time.  Our clients are frustrated with delays.  We must keep up with seemingly daily changes to immigration processing procedures.  And like all businesses, we’ve had to alter how we provide services to our clients to ensure safety for both them and our staff. 

Thankfully, the Canadian government has confirmed its commitment to supporting Canada's economic recovery through immigration.  For those with an interest in coming to Canada, or who are in Canada and wish to stay permanently, increased immigration targets for 2021-2024 are very good news. 

Here at Ronalee Carey Law, we have some additional good news.  After a challenging pregnancy, our legal administrative assistant Morgan Court has given birth to a healthy baby.

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Welcome to the world, Presley!

While Morgan is on maternity leave, Flávia Pissoto Moreira will provide assistance to our clients.  Flávia has personal experience with Canada’s immigration system.  A citizen of Brazil, Flávia came to Canada as an international student.  She is anxiously awaiting the finalization of her application for permanent residency, after having secured a coveted nomination from Ontario through the Master's Graduate Stream.  Flávia is currently completing the Immigration Consultant certificate program through Humber College and hopes to become a member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.  Prior to coming to Canada, Flávia worked in public relations. 

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Welcome Flávia to our team!

Finally, for those of you who do not follow me on Twitter, and so won’t have heard the news, we now have an Office Dog.  Milo, a rescue from the Ottawa Humane Society, has been keeping me company while I conduct almost all my client meetings by videoconference.  His presence forces me to get out for a walk during the day.  Flávia says the best part of her new job is getting to dog-sit while I step out to do errands.

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Milo, our new Office Dog, stealing my chair

In Canada, we are looking ahead to a long winter, with limited opportunities to socialize with our friends and extended family.  The sale of outdoor winter sports equipment and clothing is frenetic, with people snapping up Nordic skills and snow pants.  I will be joining the ranks out outdoor enthusiasts.  The pandemic has brought challenges, but new babies, canine companions coming to the office, and an opportunity to try new things are small silver linings.

Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship Program Re-opening October 13th

by Ronalee Carey Law

October 2020

After much delay, the 2020 Parents and Grandparents Program will launch on October 13th

This highly popular program has gone through numerous changes over the past few years.  After being put on pause for two years while a backlog of applications was dealt with, the program re-opened in 2014 with a cap of 5,000 applications for the year.  From 2014-2016, interest in the program increased, leading to the yearly cap being reached within two days in 2016.  This led to the Canadian government moving to a lottery system for 2017 and 2018. 

The lottery system was highly criticized, as it left the reunification of families up to ‘chance’.  So, in 2019, the government tried an online first-come, first-served approach system.  It took only minutes for the program to reach capacity for the year.  Those without high-speed internet, individuals not fluent in English or French, workers not able to get to a computer during the business day, and those with physical disabilities were prevented from applying quickly enough to be selected.  In May 2019, the government quietly settled a lawsuit from potential applicants who were disadvantaged by the application system.

For the 2020 program, the government has returned to the lottery system.  Applicants have from between October 13 to November 3, 2020 to submit an online ‘interest to sponsor’ form.  Applicants who are randomly selected will then have 60 days to submit an application. 

Only 10,000 applications will be accepted for processing in 2020.  In 2021, the program will again re-open, for 30,000 new applications.

The government appreciates that many Canadians have suffered a loss of income this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A temporary public policy will lower the income eligibility requirement for the 2020 tax year.  However, because applicants provide their Notice of Assessment for the three previous tax years (2020 applicants will have to provide their 2019, 2018, and 2017 NOAs), the policy will not have an immediate impact. 

The program was critiqued in the past for failing to have an income verification process as part of the online interest to sponsor process.  The 2020 program has not rectified this issue.  Applicants may be invited to submit an application even if they do not meet the income requirements.  This can lead to heartache for the family whose application is likely to be denied, but also takes a spot away from a family which does meet the income requirements.  Perhaps the 2021 will see an introduction of a more sophisticated expression of interest system.

The interest to sponsor form will be available here at noon EDT, October 13, 2020. 

May the odds be ever in your favour.

Good news for couples - IRCC commits to speedier processing times in spousal sponsorship applications

by Ronalee Carey Law

September 2020

Yesterday, part of our day was spent moving large spousal sponsorship files from the office cabinet to our back room. Due to the slowdown in processing during COVID, spousal sponsorships are so backed up that we don’t have enough room in our cabinets for all our pending files. As an example, our office submitted a sponsorship back in March, and we have yet to hear back about whether the file was even received by IRCC over six months later. The couple has remained separated with no end in sight.

Being in long-distance relationships are already tough for couples who face long periods of separation due to processing times in spousal sponsorships. Pre-pandemic, the government committed to processing these applications in about 12 months. In the meanwhile, if the spouse living abroad was from a visa-requiring country, it was close to impossible to obtain a visitor visa to travel to Canada and live with the sponsor during the wait (see our September 2017 newsletter). This is because IRCC is typically reluctant to find that the visiting spouse is only coming for a temporary purpose, despite the dual intent policy stating that an individual can legally have both a temporary and permanent intent to stay.

When the pandemic hit, this already difficult time was exacerbated by more uncertainty. At first, many family members, even from non-visa requiring countries, were denied entry to Canada to visit loved ones (see our May newsletter). Later, IRCC updated its policy to exempt some family members, including spouses, from the travel ban (see our June newsletter). However, for those spouses who reside in visa-requiring countries, these changes offer little relief, as visas are still routinely denied for being the romantic partner of a Canadian citizen. These couples are at the mercy of their sponsorship getting processed as soon as possible, so they can be reunited with their loved one.

Prioritizing family reunification has been brought front and centre thanks to advocacy efforts of immigration practitioners, couples reaching out to news agencies, and MP’s such as Jenny Kwan (see her letter addressed to our Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, highlighting the issues these couples are facing). It appears the government has heard these complaints. In yesterday evening’s news release, IRCC announced its commitment to speed up spousal sponsorship processing times by implementing the following changes:

  • Increasing the number of decision makers by 66%
  • Leveraging new technology in a pilot to digitize paper applications, so they can be processed more efficiently by IRCC employees working remotely at various worksites
  • Implementing facilitative biometrics measures (see their recent welcome announcement regarding no longer requiring new biometrics from those who have provided them in that past 10 years)
  • Piloting the use of technology to conduct interviews with applicants remotely

The news release outlines that the goal is to finalize about 6000 spousal applications per month from October to December 2020. In total, they are hoping to make 49,000 decisions by the end of the year.

This announcement comes as a relief to couples waiting with no end in sight. It will also help IRCC in its recovery to meet its immigration levels plans, which were derailed when the pandemic first caused the system to grind to a slow trickle.

IRCC is a large bureaucracy, and there are still many rules that don’t make sense or could be addressed with simple technological solutions, such as scanning applications in after they are received. Processing procedures could also be streamlined. Currently, some applications can still only be made by paper, while others have moved completely online. Some require original signatures, whereas in others, scans are enough. In some cases, the signature has to be blue, while for others it must be black. Making submission requirements consistent would make it easier for officers to review and make decisions on applications.

This recent announcement demonstrates that IRCC has the ability make necessary changes that increases efficiency within the system. As we saw with the excellent processes implemented for those impacted by the Beirut explosions, where there is a will, there is a way. While the pandemic has created immeasurable hardships for so many, IRCC can provide a silver lining by stepping up to implement changes that create more efficient and compassionate processes for future applicants.

Applying for a Job in Canada - Some Tips

by Ronalee Carey Law

August 2020

My absolutely wonderful legal administrative assistant is expecting a baby. She will be leaving me mid-October for a maternity/extended parental leave. I have a few weeks to find someone to cover her while she is gone, so that she has time to train her replacement.

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