Biometrics can now be done in Canada

December 2019

The much-anticipated launch of in-Canada biometrics collection started on December 3rd.

First, an explanation as to what ‘biometrics’ are, and what they are used for.   ‘Biometrics’ refer to photographs and fingerprints. They are collected from applicants wishing to come to Canada as temporary or permanent residents. They are used to confirm identity, to check for criminality, to look for a record of previous entries to Canada, and to see if the individual has previously made a refugee claim or has adverse immigration history in a country Canada shares information with. We previously wrote about biometrics; you can read more here.

In order to give your biometrics, you must first have a biometrics collection letter. If you wish to have your biometrics taken in Canada, you can make an appointment at a Service Canada location. Check this link for locations where you can give your biometrics, both in and outside of Canada.

Now that biometrics can be given in Canada, those previously exempt must now give them. This will affect many individuals looking to extend their work or study permits. US citizens continue to be exempt for temporary resident applications but must give biometrics for applications for permanent residency. Visitors who do not require a visa to come to Canada do not need to give biometrics but will if they wish to study or work in Canada. Check this link to see if biometrics are required

Biometrics can be given in Canada even if the application is being processed at a visa office outside of Canada. This is great news for those applying for permanent residency who are in Canada with temporary status. Previously these individuals had to leave Canada to have their biometrics done. Similarly, those whose applications are being processed within Canada can give their biometrics outside of Canada. This provides more flexibility for frequent travellers.

What if I don't want to move to Canada after obtaining my permanent residency?

November 2019

At long last, you have received your Confirmation of Permanent resident document, and possibly also a permanent resident visa. The document you must sign before a border official upon entering Canada has an expiry date, and the letter accompanying the document states you must enter Canada by that date. What if you’re not ready to move to Canada by then?


There are a few considerations this brings up:


  1. What is the law on this issue?


The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states the following:


Obligation on entry


20 (1) Every foreign national… who seeks to enter or remain in Canada must establish,


(a) to become a permanent resident, that they hold the visa or other document required under the regulations and have come to Canada in order to establish permanent residence


So, what if you are not coming to Canada to establish permanent residence?


The policy manual used by border officials states the following:


POEs [border officials at ports-of-entry, such as land borders and international airports] confirm that the applicant intends to establish permanent residence in Canada in accordance with paragraph A20(1)(a). Persons unable to satisfy an officer of the obligations under this section may have valid reasons for not establishing immediately and may not be in a position to provide an address at the time.


ENF 27 - Permanent resident card, 7.4 Procedures at ports of entry


Accordingly, so long as you intend to reside in Canada once you’ve sold your home, or obtained employment, or once your children have completed their academic year, or any other valid reason, then you should be fine.


One caution, however. Individuals who are sponsored by Canadian citizen spouses who are residing outside of Canada are required to provide proof they will live in Canada after their spouse obtains their permanent residency. Applications can be denied if insufficient proof is provided. In addition, all permanent resident applicants sign the following declaration in their Generic Application form for Canada:

I understand that any false statement of concealment of a materials fact may result in my exclusion from Canada and may be grounds for my prosecution or removal. I also understand that should I be found to be inadmissible for misrepresentation under section 127 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, I may be barred from entering Canada for a period of two years [this is actually five, the form needs updating] following a final determination of my inadmissibility…


  1. How will you receive your permanent resident card?


ENF 27 continues to state the following:


On occasion, it may be appropriate for clients to provide the address of a third party (friend, relative, service provider or a paid representative) in Canada in order to facilitate processing and issuance of the PR card following their arrival in Canada, as new immigrants may not have a permanent address.


However, where there are clear indications that the initial entry into Canada is only of short duration and the client provided a third-party address for the purpose of forwarding the PR card outside of Canada, these cases should be flagged with an info-alert indicating that the client is outside Canada.


If the client plans to leave Canada prior to receiving the PR card, the officer should counsel the client with respect to the requirements under subsection A31(3) for a travel document issued at a visa office abroad.


Basically, this is saying that when you do not intend to take up residence in Canada, your permanent resident card will not be issued, and instead, you are instructed to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document prior to entering Canada the next time. You can then apply for a permanent resident card, once settled in Canada.


How this works in practice is a different story. Earlier this year, we had a family come to Canada to confirm their permanent residency. They said they were staying for a brief visit, then would be moving here permanently next year. The border official advised that they would not receive their permanent resident cards until they had a residential address in Canada. Two weeks later, their cards arrived at my office. We were then able to courier them to their address in the USA. It was quite confusing for all involved.


  1. When must you move by?


Permanent residents must live in Canada for 730 days (2 years) in every 5-year period. You must move to Canada with enough time to meet that obligation within the five-year period after you become a permanent resident, keeping in mind that you may want to travel after moving to Canada.


If you attempt to enter Canada without enough time to meet the residency obligation, the border official may issue a report against you. This report will initiate proceedings to remove your status in Canada, see ENF 23 Loss of permanent resident status, 7.8 Examining permanent residents at a POE.

Liberals Re-Elected: the good, the bad, and the future

October 2019

In Monday’s federal election, Canadians decided that the Liberals would continue to stay in power for the next four years. This time however, Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberals have a minority government.

Back in December 2015, we wrote a newsletter on what it would take for the Liberal government to change the many policies which were created by the previous Conservative party. We compared the Conservatives’ immigration policies to a tight knit blue scarf, which was created in over ten years of being in power. So, what has the Liberal party done so far in terms of unraveling that scarf and making a red scarf of its own? Below we’ve provided a list of some notable changes, as well as a few wish list items of our own.

Overall tone – In our practise, we have found that this administration is more respectful of immigrants and refugees. It has also attempted to have better client service. The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen, made the time to attend the last two Canadian Bar Association Immigration Conferences. He listened to feedback directly from the audience of concerned lawyers. During his latest visit, he also announced two new initiatives by IRCC: the eligibility of vulnerable workers to apply for open work permits, and a pilot program which allows previously non-declared family members to be sponsored at a later date (albeit, in limited circumstances).

Picture of Hon. Hussen speaking to the audience at the 2019 CBA Conference posted on Twitter.

Meeting a number of previous platform commitments regarding family sponsorships – In their 2015 Liberal Party Platform, Liberals made many promises as immigration was a front and centre issue. They promised to double the budget for family class immigration processing, in order to restore processing times to levels achieved before the Harper decade. They successfully did this, and spousal sponsorships are now generally processed within 12 months or less (although we have been seeing this creep up lately for in-Canada applications). While 12 months still seems like a long wait, compared to the previous 27 months, it is a welcome change. For more on this topic, see our previous newsletter.

When granting permanent resident status to sponsored spouses, the Liberals also promised to abolish the conditional status requirement, which required spouses to stay with their sponsors for two-years before their PR could be finalized. This created dangerous situations where spouses stayed with abusive partners out of fear of being deported. The Liberals successfully abolished this requirement, and created a fee exempt temporary permit category for family members who are victims of violence.

The Liberals also promised and implemented rules to increase the age of dependence from under 19 to under 22, allowing families to sponsor their children who were older yet still dependent.

Decreasing wait times in other programs – In a recent interview on IRCC’s attempts at clearing the backlog of irregular refugee arrival cases at the Immigration Refugee Board, we gave kudos for IRCC’s work in this area. We emphasized that the changes they’re trying to make are substantial. There are always ways they could improve, but they’re putting their money where their mouth is. Processing times for initial first permanent resident cards being issued are also seemingly decreasing, which is a welcome change from having to wait many months for them to arrive.


Twitter post of an especially surprising case

Increased focus on issues faced by international students – International students were having difficulty getting high enough scores to be selected for permanent residence under the Express Entry application system. This is unfortunate, as they spend large sums to study here, and have integrated well into Canadian society, making them excellent candidates for permanent residence. IRCC responded to this by providing additional points for Canadian education. We have seen this help our clients substantially. IRCC also announced changes which provided more flexibility when applying for post-graduate work permits.

Despite these changes, international students continue to face complicated and often unforgiving rules about studies and work, which put their ability to apply for permanent residence in jeopardy.

Other notable changes – The Liberals decreased the residency requirement for citizenship applications, making it easier to apply for citizenship. They also made major changes to the medical inadmissibility rules. Importantly, they also stepped in to provide funding to Ontario for refugee Legal Aid cases, after the province harshly made cuts which left vulnerable applicants in jeopardy. For more on this topic, listen to our discussion on CBC’s ‘All in Day’ Interview

Moving Forward

While the above changes are great, there is certainly room for improvement. Naturally, we have a wish list.

Improve the parent-grandparent sponsorship program- This program is a complete mess. There is a huge demand for parent-grandparent sponsorships, and clearly, managing applications is not going well. Previous attempts have also failed. Couriering in applications resulted in local couriers camping out overnight, the lottery format was criticized, and this year’s online system had technical issues that created unfair situations which were litigated. We offered our thoughts to CBC which you can listen to here.

Stop using refugees as political pawns – In 2015, PM Trudeau’s commitment to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees was hailed as impressive in the eyes of the international community. Since then, the government has quietly backed away from its generosity, leaving hopeful asylum seekers confused about what changed. We often find ourselves telling overseas refugee sponsorship clients that it is political will that’s changed. For more on this see this newsletter.

Further, the Liberals’ so-called commitment to refugees was seriously called into question when changes to refugee eligibility was buried in an April 2019 omnibus bill. We were left wondering – was this ‘hard on illegal immigration’ move in anticipation of an election? Making refugees political pawns and creating a duplicate system that has now promised an ‘interview’ for PRRA applicants didn’t even make any sense, from an administrative point of view.

 Increase the budget to address issues with technology– As practitioners, we notice the everyday problems which come up when making applications to IRRC. A major irritant has been trying to use IRCC’s online application systems. We have repeatedly submitted documents, to only be told that they have been lost in cyberspace. Further, when submitting a webform, there is no ability to get a copy. Nor is there any acknowledgment that it’s been received. When providing important documents, this is nerve racking as we have no way of knowing whether IRCC has received them.

As representatives sending these webforms on behalf of clients, we are also constantly being told that we are not on file, despite submitting Use of Representative forms with the initial application. This issue was brought up to the Minister at our latest conference, and we hope it will be addressed soon.

Give notice about changes with clear timelines – IRCC is constantly releasing new versions of forms, with no notice or indication of how long the old forms will be accepted for. This causes stress and potential delay, as full application packages can be returned months later if the wrong form is submitted.

IRCC has also made a habit of waiting until the last minute to announce important programs, such as the open work permit pilot for in-Canada spouses.


Twitter exchange with IRCC regarding the open work permit program. 

Clearly, the Liberals have been busy. In four years, they’ve been able to make so many changes that we can’t begin to capture all of them in this newsletter. As they work together with other parties and make changes moving forward, we look forward to seeing what the red scarf will look like during the next election.

How long can I stay in Canada as a visitor?

August 2019

How long visitors to Canada can stay is an issue that frequently comes up with my clients.  The general policy is that visitors to Canada may stay for up to six months, unless the border services officer at the airport or land entry limits or extends the six-month time period.  If the time period is to be something other than six months, then either the passport will be stamped, with a date underneath indicating when the person must depart Canada, or a Visitor Record will be provided with an expiry date for the length of the stay.  If a visitor wishes to extend their stay after entering Canada, they may apply to do so.   If granted, they will be provided a Visitor Record indicating the new date they must leave Canada by.

Why setting up your own business after graduation is a really, really bad idea for international students in Canada

June 2019

We recently had a client come to us for a consultation appointment. Her post-graduation work permit is expiring in November of this year.  Since graduating with her master’s degree in 2016, she had been working at building her own business.  The client started her own business as this was the norm for those in her profession.  She had registered the business and was doing well.  She had many clients and was paying Canadian income taxes. 

Working Too Hard in Canada Can Get you Arrested – A Cautionary Tale for International Students

May 2019

Earlier this month I presented at the Ottawa Immigration Law Conference on the topic of study permits. I help clients submit study permit applications regularly, so I am quite familiar with the challenges associated with these applications. However, by preparing for this presentation, I was able to step back and look at the study permit system as a whole. I wanted to share some of the information I learned with you.