More Angst about the Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program - Is It Time to Expand the Concept of 'Family'?

January 2020

Well, January 1st came and went without the re-opening of the parent and grandparent sponsorship program. First, on December 16th, the government announced that details of the 2020 program would be ‘available soon’. Then, on December 30th, the government sent out a second announcement that opening of the program would be ‘postponed’. Further information will be available by April 1, 2020.

I was not surprised that the program’s reopening was delayed. In May 2019, the Canadian government quietly settled a lawsuit over the 2019 version of the program, and allowed 70 sponsorship applications to proceed despite the sponsors not having been able to submit the online application form. To avoid litigation again this year, the government must do the hard job of coming up with a program that is fair to all applicants, in a situation where there are many more applicants than allotted spaces.

As much as I enjoyed the opportunity to be interviewed about the issue for CBC, the delay is causing much stress for families affected.

It could also cost us skilled workers. Last October, a leading child psychiatrist threatened to leave the UK to go to Australia if his mother was not permitted to remain in Britain. He was her only child, and she was widowed with no one to care for her in India. Similar concerns were expressed regarding the immigration program in New Zealand, where an increase in financial requirements meant many immigrants would no longer be able to get visas for their parents.

In the Canadian immigration system, skilled immigrants can only include their spouses or common-law partners and dependent children under the age of 22 in their applications for permanent residency. For the purposes of skilled worker immigration, their ‘families’ do not include their parents, grandparents, or siblings, even though we normally consider these individuals as immediate family members. For example, the Canada Labour Code provides bereavement leave for the following ‘immediate family’ members: The employee's spouse or common-law partner; the employee's father and mother and the spouse or common-law partner of the father or mother; the employee's child(ren) and the child(ren) of the employee's spouse or common-law partner; the employee's grandchild(ren); the employee's brothers and sisters; the grandfather and grandmother of the employee; the father and mother of the spouse or common-law partner of the employee and the spouse or common-law partner of the father or mother; and any relative of the employee who resides permanently with the employee or with whom the employee permanently resides.

Maybe it’s time that we expanded our definition of ‘family’ for immigration purposes. The amount of settlement funds required is based on family size. If applicants want to include their parents, then they would be required to meet the settlement funds needed for a family size that includes those parents. Also, all members of the family must pass an immigration medical examination. If any family member cannot pass the examination, then the entire family is excluded. This should allay concerns about undue strain on our heath care system. When designing the program, the government can also restrict who can be included as a family member as it sees fit. Perhaps only siblings under a certain age, or who unmarried, could be included (similar to the definition of a dependent child). Perhaps parents could only be included when the applicant has a child who will need care in Canada. This would reduce the strain on our childcare system, especially as we’ve yet to develop a national childcare system in Canada.

100,000 people tried to apply for 20,000 spots in this program last year. Allowing people to immigrate with their families would reduce the stress on this program and allow Canada to attract skilled workers. It will also prevent ‘reverse migration’, which happens when skilled workers leave Canada to return to their countries of origin in order to care for their parents.

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.

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.