Getting to Ronalee Carey Law on Ottawa's new LRT

September 2019

After years of construction and interminable delays, Ottawa’s new light rail transit system is finally operational. Our offices are a mere 350 metres from the Lyon station, which is located at the corner of Lyon and Queen streets.

All of us at Ronalee Carey Law use OC Transpo to get to work.  Reviews of the train are generally positive, but shorter members of our staff have noticed the overhead bars are outside of reach. We’ve noted the odd smell that OC Transpo is investigating. However, the ride is smooth and quick. We’re hoping it will be more reliable than busing in snowy winter conditions.  

Bicycles are always permitted, in the first car. One of our associates is especially happy about this, because it’s opened the amount of Ottawa which can be accessed by cycling.

Bussing services from the end of the line have been problematic. Trains discharge hundreds of passengers, who all then want to get on their commuter buses home. Hopefully after bussing schedules are changed on October 6th, this will improve.

There are limited options for park and ride, which is a major hurdle for individuals living outside the city.

Ottawa is growing up! So many of our outside-Canada clients plan to move to Toronto or Vancouver. Housing prices in these cities are skyrocketing, and especially in Toronto, commuter times are very long for those who want to live outside of the core, where housing is more affordable. Ottawa is an alternative to be considered.

If you have a scheduled appointment with one of our lawyers, we suggest you plan your route prior to commuting. You can plan your trip to our office at the OC Transpo website: http://plan.octranspo.com/plan

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.

This seems straightforward, but consider the following scenarios:

  • A citizen of China with a multiple entry visa valid for another five years was in Canada as a visitor.  She was caring for her Canadian citizen children who were studying in Canada while their father worked abroad.   She had a visitor visa for the USA.  She travelled by vehicle to the USA for a day trip, leaving Canada a few weeks short of the end of her six-month permitted stay.  Upon returning, she could have been permitted another six months of stay, since each time you enter Canada, the six-month ‘clock’ starts anew.   The border services officer at the port-of-entry instead issued her a Visitor Record valid for only for a few weeks and told her to apply to extend her stay from within Canada.  We did so, and she was granted a Visitor Record valid until the children’s academic year was to conclude.  They returned to China for the summer and came back to Canada for the next academic year.  At the airport, the border services officer granted her a two-year stay, giving her a stamp in her passport with the extended date.

The lesson from this case?  The length of visit granted by border services officers is discretionary.  You might want to avoid the Johnston, Ontario/Ogdensburg, New York (Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge) land crossing! 

  • A citizen of Syria with residency in the United Arab Emirates enters Canada with a visitor visa valid for only another two months.  She is advised at the airport by the border services officer that she must leave Canada by the time her visa expires.  However, he does not stamp her passport, which means she is permitted to stay for six months, regardless of when her visa expires.  The difference between the validity of a visitor visa and the permitted duration of stays in Canada is explained on the immigration department’s website.  We apply to extend her stay from within Canada, submitting the application after her visa expires but prior to the end of her six months stay, and a Visitor Record is granted allowing her a further six months in Canada.

The lesson from this case? Visitor status rules are complicated, even for border services officers.

  • A ‘super visa’ (I always imagine it with a superhero cape, fluttering out of the passport) allows the parents and grandparents of Canadians to visit for up to two years at a time.  Since passports are not routinely stamped upon entry to Canada, there is no way of documenting the length of stay permitted.  When I pointed this out to the immigration department, I received this response:

When the holder of a Super Visa enters Canada, if an officer does not limit their stay, they are eligible for a stay in Canada of 2 years, regardless of a stamp in the passport. Please note we are aware that this information is not available on IRCC’s external site and are currently working to have it updated. 

I received the response February 28, 2019; the website still has not been updated.  No wonder border services officers, who are primarily responsible for keeping our borders safe, have trouble keeping up with the policies surrounding temporary residency in Canada. 
 
If you would like to apply for a visitor or super visa, or wish to extend your stay in Canada, we would be happy to assist you with your application.

Why I Won't be Accepting Parent-Grandparent Sponsorships Next Year

July 2019

Last month, lucky applicants who were selected to apply to sponsor their parents and grandparents had to submit their completed applications. Our firm submitted four applications.

I completed three of the applications. All were complex; one included applications for both the couple’s parents (incredibly, both of them managed to complete the online interest to sponsor form), one included a 61-year old dependent child, and the third had not met the required income level for 2016, short by just over $5,000.  Legal representation was definitely needed for each application, due to their complexity and for the second two, the legal submissions required due to the specific issues raised in the applications.  The law in this area is interesting and I enjoyed doing the legal research required for my submissions.

However, I have decided not to take on any parental sponsorship applications next year.

Why?

My blood pressure can’t handle it.

I am fortunate to have a very sharp-eyed assistant. When doing a final review of one of the applications, she realized that I had mistakenly printed two copies of the same page of the Use of a Representative form, rather than pages for two different people.  It was a simple mistake made when printing multiple forms.  But this would have been enough to have had the application returned as ‘incomplete’.  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is merciless; any application missing the smallest item, a form not signed in the proper place, a date missing next to a signature, or a postal code missing from an address, any of this is enough to have the application summarily dispatched back to the sender. To complicate the process further, IRCC constantly updates forms making it difficult to figure out which form they will accept. There are no requests for the missing document or for a corrected form. The applicant is told to fix the error or include the missing document, and to submit the application again.

The Federal Court of Appeal has agreed with this approach. In Gennai v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) the Court found that “an incomplete application is not an application within the meaning of IRPA and the Regulations.”

Other than causing a delay in processing time, having an application returned as incomplete it is not normally a problem. For parent-grandparent sponsorship applications, however, it is not possible to simply re-submit the application.  The applicant must wait until the next year, when the program re-opens, because the quota for the year will have already been filled.  This year, it filled in less than eleven minutes after the program opened to online applicants. Because the program is so popular, there is no guarantee that an applicant could re-apply the next year. This might mean the client could never sponsor their parents or grandparents. 

When I was a guest on CBC’s Ontario Today, one teary caller said this happened to her.

The stress of working on these applications, knowing the stakes, simply isn’t worth the legal fees they bring in. So long as IRCC doesn’t allow for human mistakes, I don’t want to take these applications on anymore, nor do my associate lawyers.

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.

Shocker: Your Canadian Immigration Application is More Likely to be Accepted if Prepared with the Assistance of a Lawyer

March 2019

On its Twitter account, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada recently advised  potential applicants that they don’t need to use representatives to apply to immigration programs. Apparently, all the information needed to apply for any program is available on their website. If following directions on a website is all it takes to succeed, then why does our office see so many clients after their self-prepared applications were refused? Also, if the requirements are clear, then why do so many applications get sent back for being incomplete?

 

 

 

Statistics show that in 2017, Canada obtained 342,145 applications for temporary residence. Out of this number, 18.9% applications were refused. When the application was prepared by self-represented individuals, the refusal rate was 19.3%. When assisted by a paid consultant, the refusal rate was 18%. However, when the application was prepared by a lawyer, the refusal rate dropped to 10.4%.

 

Without getting into the important debate about the effectiveness of hiring a lawyer over a consultant, the above statistics tell a truth: hiring a lawyer will provide you with a better chance of your application succeeding. This gap in success rate is especially significant as lawyers tend to take on more difficult cases that carry higher risks of refusal.

 

Canadian immigration lawyer Aryana Rousseau recently tweeted the following:   

 

Aryana Rousseau (@aryana_rousseau) tweeted at 1:30 PM on Tue, Mar 05, 2019:

If you cut your own hair, file your own taxes and fix your own car, you are probably brave enough to do your own immigration application without professional help. If not, consult an immigration lawyer. #cdnimm #cba #aqaadi


(https://twitter.com/aryana_rousseau/status/1102999792576352257?s=09)

 

So what do we lawyers do to that make the above statistic possible?

 

First, we devote a significant amount of time keeping up with new developments in immigration law. We understand that the website is just one source for getting information. Immigration law is based in statute and programs that are constantly changing. In many cases, the website isn’t updated immediately to reflect new changes. Even more frustrating is when the website conflicts with what the law says. IRCC is constantly releasing new versions of forms without notice to applicants. Programs are opened, extended or closed with little or no warning. Our careers are based on keeping up with these changes, yet we still may not catch all of them. Expecting an applicant who holds a full-time job in another career to keep up with these changes is expecting too much.

 

When clients ask us questions about their issues, our answer is often ‘it depends’. This is because this immigration law has lots of grey areas. Officers have a wide range of discretion in making decisions. The difference between a positive and negative decision could be whether they are feeling sympathetic to the client on that particular day. Our job is to understand this and prepare applications in a way that gives our clients the best chance of success. We also ensure that if the application is refused, there are sufficient documents to ground an appeal.

 

We devote our days (and often our evenings and weekends) figuring out what new developments mean for our clients. To maintain our licenses as lawyers, we are required to undertake a certain number of hours pursuing Continuing Professional Development. The lawyers in our office usually end up with almost triple the minimum amount needed, because it would be careless to not learn about new developments as they roll in. Most immigration lawyers in Canada also belong to a listserv, where experiences are shared. This bank of information is invaluable in providing effective services, as the answers to questions are often not found on the website.

 

Gone are the days when if an application is refused or returned as incomplete, the applicant has the option of contacting an actual human being to sort out the problem. IRCC receives too many applications, and simply does not have the capacity to do this. Applications can be refused for many reasons, including if the applicant was ineligible to apply in the first place, didn’t provide the right documents, or provided misleading information. In the latter case, failing to declare information (whether on purpose or not) could lead to a finding of misrepresentation. This carries the possibility of being banned from Canada for 5 years. In cases where the application is returned for being incomplete, the applicant may not know for months, and the application fee isn’t refunded. Both time and money are wasted. In our office, three sets of eyes review applications before they are sent out, to try to prevent this from happening.

When there is a previous refusal, trying to succeed in a new application could feel like climbing Mount Everest. Officers are hesitant to overturn their colleague’s findings, and a previous refusal casts a shadow over that person’s attempts to apply again. By hiring a lawyer to assist with preparing an application, you are increasing the chance of success on the first try. If we think you won’t be successful, we’ll tell you because our job is to advise you of the risks involved.

 

In our opinion, the riskiest thing you can do is trust that IRCC’s website will give you enough information to succeed.  Ask any self-represented person who's had a refused or returned application, and they’ll be the first to agree.

 

Positive Changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

February 2019

IRCC loves announcing major changes around the holidays. It is probably because it is easier to roll out changes during quieter times, but I choose to believe it is because IRCC likes to give us presents on holidays. This time it was a change to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, which came as a Valentine’s Day gift.

Paddling a Canoe While Impaired Can Lead to Deportation from Canada

January 2019

This past November, the Huntsville Forester reported that a criminal court judge had ruled that a canoe was a vessel under the Criminal Code of Canada.  This meant that charges against a man could go ahead for impaired operation of a vessel causing death.  He had been paddling a canoe that capsized, while allegedly impaired by alcohol.  The other occupant of the canoe, an eight-year-old boy, drowned.