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.


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. 

The client wanted to apply for permanent residency in Canada. She was 38 years of age.  She scored well on the English language exam.  Her plan was to apply through the Express Entry application management system.

During the consultation appointment, the client was shocked to learn that her self-employed work experience in Canada was worthless.


The Canadian Experience Class is a special program designed for individuals who have obtained one year of work experience in a skilled position in Canada. Candidates are eligible for this program if they obtain one year of Canadian work experience in a skilled position.  Unfortunately, self-employment in Canada does not count as skilled work experience.  This is set out in section 87.1(3) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations:

(b) any period of self-employment or unauthorized work shall not be included in calculating a period of work experience

Further, paragraph 15 (7) (b) of the Ministerial Instructions respecting the Express Entry system states that in calculating points for Canadian work experience, ‘A period of self-employment or unauthorized work is not to be included in calculating a period of work experience.’

It is also not possible to obtain points for self-employed work as ‘foreign work experience’.   The Ministerial Instructions specifically state that this work must be done outside of Canada: 

25 (1) For the purposes of sections 23 and 24, foreign work experience is work experience that

(a) is acquired by a foreign national outside Canada in one or more occupations listed in Skill Type 0

Since self-employed work in Canada cannot be counted as skilled work experience in Canada, and it cannot be considered foreign work experience, self-employed work in Canada is not awarded any points under the Express Entry system. Without these points, many international students, especially those who get reduced points for age, will find they do not rank high enough to be drawn from the Express Entry pool of applicants. 

In some specific situations, it might be possible to technically be self-employed, but not be considered as such for the purpose of immigrating to Canada. The Program Delivery Instructions for the Express Entry application management system entitled  Canadian Experience Class selection criteria - Qualifying work experience states the following:

In determining whether an applicant under the CEC was an employee or a self-employed individual during their period of qualifying work experience in Canada, CIC officers should consider factors such as:

  • the degree of the worker’s control or autonomy in terms of how and when work is performed, and the method(s) used to do the work;

  • whether the worker owns and/or provides tools and equipment to accomplish the work;

  • the degree to which the worker has to perform the work personally and whether the worker has the option of subcontracting work or hiring others to help and assist with completing the work;

  • the degree of financial risk assumed by the worker, including whether the worker is required to make any investment in order to complete the work or provide the service and whether the worker is free to make business decisions that affect his/her ability to realize a profit or incur a loss (as opposed to the opportunity to earn commissions or other productivity bonuses); and

  • any other relevant factors, such as written contracts.

Further, there is a program for self-employed athletes and those engaged in cultural activities, but this, of course of limited applicability.

There are also provincial nomination programs, but these are of limited scope and have small quotas. It can be challenging to find a program that is open, and that has relevant eligibility criteria.

Working for an employer in Canada for a year prior to setting up her own business would have allowed her to apply under the Canadian Experience Class, with enough Express Entry points to be invited to apply for permanent residency. Unfortunately, with only months left in her work permit’s validity period, she has few options. Post-graduation work permits cannot be extended. She will only be able to continue working in Canada if she can meet the eligibility for another type of work permit.

The lesson to be learned from this client’s story is to get legal advice early, before starting down any kind of path that involves self-employment. Unless your employer is taking income tax deductions from your pay, and issues you a T4 statement for income tax filing purposes, you could be considered self-employed and are putting your permanent residency dreams in jeopardy.

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.

You can find a copy of my presentation here.

In 2018, the overall refusal rate of study permit applications was 34%. Refusal rates vary significantly by country. Japan for example, had a refusal rate of only 1%. The top three source countries of study permits also had refusal rates below the average; India at 29%, China at 17% and Korea at only 2%. Other countries did not fare as well; Pakistan’s refusal rate was 80%, Nigeria’s 81% and Ghana’s a whopping 89%.

International students who successfully obtain a study permit face more hurdles once they arrive in Canada. According to the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, international students pay, on average, four times more tuition than domestic students. To offset tuition and living expenses, international students may choose to work. What are the rules concerning working during studies? Well, they are complicated. I wrote a newsletter explaining the rules in April 2018 which can be found here.

Here are the three key rules for international students who are considering working:

  • Before school starts – Work is not permitted

  • During the school year – 20 hours off-campus, unlimited number of hours on-campus

  • Regularly scheduled academic breaks – Unlimited number of hours

Jobandeep Sandhu’s story is a cautionary tale for international students who are considering working in Canada during their studies. Jobandeep was an international student from India. He was studying to become a mechanical engineering technician at a college in Mississauga. To pay for his living expenses and $27,000 tuition, Jobandeep got a job as a truck driver. In 2017, just 10 days before finishing his diploma, Jobandeep was pulled over by police in a routine traffic stop and was arrested. What was his crime? Working too much. Jobandeep had been working an average of 35 to 40 hours per week which exceeded the limit of 20 hours per week permitted by his study permit. Jobandeep says that working full time was the only way he could stay in school. Jobandeep is now facing deportation. He has applied for a temporary resident permit, but if it is not accepted, CBSA has given him until June 15th to go back to India.

You can read more about Jobandeep’s story here and here.

Students who work without the proper authorization will be in violation of Section 30 (1) of the Immigration and Refugee Act and are ‘inadmissible’ to Canada. A finding of inadmissibility can lead to refused future applications and removal from Canada. On future applications, students must disclose if they worked without the proper authorization. Failure to disclose periods of unauthorized work is considered misrepresentation. If a finding of misrepresentation is made, then the student will be barred from entering Canada for a five-year period.

This is important information to know, because many international students come to Canada with the goal of becoming permanent residents and then Canadian citizens. If successful, they would join the 22% of Canada’s 36.5 million population who were born outside of the country. Applications for permanent residency are made through Canada’s Express Entry immigration program which is a points-based competition. Applicants receive points for personal characteristics including language, post-secondary education and Canadian work experience. This means that international students, particularly those who obtain a Post-Graduate Work Permit, are often ranked highly when they apply for permanent resident status. However, the Express Entry immigration program has an annual cut-off, and Canada is accepting an unlimited number of international students. This means there is a growing pool of highly qualified candidates, and not everyone will be selected.

There has been a steady increase in study permits year after year. There were 16% more study permits issued in 2018 than there were in 2017 and 20% more in 2017 than 2016. Last year, there were 572,415 international students studying in Canada. In 2017, Canada admitted 65,417 new permanent residents in the Economic Class through the Express Entry application management system. As more international students come to Canada, the Express Entry pool will become more competitive, and people will be left disappointed.

If you are unsure of whether you can work while studying, then please contact us and we would be happy to assist. We would also be happy to assist with study permit applications and applications to become a permanent resident through the Express Entry application management system.

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



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.

No Shortcuts - Study Permit Requirements for Elementary and Secondary School Students

December 2018

Last June I did a consultation appointment for a family who wished to apply for study permits for their two children. One was an elementary school student, and the other was a secondary school student. The family was in Canada as visitors.  They had been accepted by the school board they applied to.  The school board advised that they could study in Canada for the month of June, without a study permit.  When they came to see me, the children had already been attending classes for two weeks.