Citizenship Requirements to Change October 11

The Government of Canada today announced that its long awaited changes to Canadian citizenship requirements will take effect on October 11, 2017.

Here are some key changes that you should know about.

1. The amount of time that a permanent resident must spend in Canada before being eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship is decreasing.

Currently, permanent residents have to have been physically present in Canada for four out of six years before applying for Canadian citizenship. As of October 11, 2017 applicants will instead need to be physically present in Canada for three out of five years before applying for citizenship.

As well, permanent residents will no longer be required to be physically present in Canada for 183 days in four out of the six years preceding their application.

2. Physical presence will continue to be the test for meeting the citizenship residency requirement.

Prior to 2014, it was possible for permanent residents who were not physically present in Canada but who had substantial ties to Canada to meet the citizenship residency requirement.

In 2014, Canada’s citizenship law was changed so that only the days that a permanent resident was physically present in Canada counted towards the residency requirement. This will continue to be the requirement after October 11, 2017.

3. Part of the time that a permanent resident spent in Canada as a visitor, worker or student can now count towards the citizenship residency requirement.

Currently, time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident does not count towards the physical presence requirement for citizenship.

As of October 17, 2017, applicants may count each day they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident (such as a worker, visitor or student) or protected person, before becoming a permanent resident, as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum credit of 365 days, within five years preceding the date of application.

4. The age exemptions to knowing English / French and writing a language test are increasing.

Currently, applicants between 14 and 64 years have to meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship.

As of October 11, 2017, applicants between 18 and 54 years must meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship.

More information about the changes to Canada’s citizenship residency requirements can be found here.


Upfront Medicals in the Family Class

On September 20, 2017 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada affirmed that upfront medical examinations are no longer available for Family Class applicants.

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/updates/2017/09110950.asp

The inability of Family Class applicants to do upfront medical examinations was one of the changes introduced when the Liberal Government of Canada announced that it had reformed the Family Class application processing system to reduce backlogs.  At the time it was unclear why removing the ability of applicants to complete their medical examinations before applying for permanent residence would speed things up, and it is still not clear if (or why) this is the case.

It is also problematic for those who want to work in Canada during the processing of their application in certain occupations.

The issue involves Inside-Canada Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class (“SCPCC“) applicants who work in health or education professions and who are eligible for SCPCC work permits.  Because of IRCC’s announcement, applicants have had difficulty obtaining work permits that do not have medical restrictions. Indeed, in at least one case a Panel Physician refused to do a medical exam for a nurse who needed the medical restriction on her work permit removed, on the basis of IRCC’s instructions.

I hope that if anyone at IRCC is reading they reconsider their decision to not let Family Class applicants do upfront medicals, or at least clarifies that applicants who are applying under the SCPCC are exempt from the upfront medical restriction.


Working without a work permit: what jobs can a visitor do in Canada?

The following is an article that I recent wrote for The Canadian Immigrant:

It is generally understood that visitors to Canada cannot work without work permits. The consequences for doing so can include removal from Canada, being unable to apply for work permits for six months, year-long prohibitions on returning to Canada and even possible criminal sanctions for employers.

Canadian immigration legislation defines “work” broadly. It includes any activities for which wages are paid or commission is earned, and any activity that competes directly with the activities of Canadian citizens or permanent residents in the Canadian labour market. Because of this, volunteer work, unpaid internships and practicums may also require work permits.

However, while the definition of what constitutes work is broad, there are many activities that people would generally consider work that do not require work permits.

Remote work

In our increasingly globalized and digitized world, perhaps the most important work permit exemption is for remote work. Canada’s immigration department allows visitors to Canada to perform long-distance (by telephone or internet) work if their employer is outside Canada and they are remunerated from outside Canada. As such, many people who work remotely for companies abroad are able to reside in Canada for extended periods and continue working for their foreign employers. Typical examples include IT consultants, website developers, accountants, and so on.

Self-employment in a purely remote business can also be permitted. For example, an individual who runs a subscription-based website may be able to do so while residing in Canada as a long-term visitor. However, the legality of this may become questionable if the individual begins selling products directly to Canadians.

Volunteer work

The fine line between work that requires a work permit and work that doesn’t is also apparent when it comes to volunteer work.

While unpaid work can require a work permit, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website also states that people can volunteer for positions “which a person would not normally be remunerated, such as sitting on the board of a charity or religious institution, being a ‘big brother’ or ‘big sister’ to a child, or being on the telephone line at a rape crisis centre.” As well, unpaid remuneration for family members that is incidental to why the person is in Canada is typically permissible, including, for example, a mother assisting a daughter with childcare or an uncle helping his nephew build a cottage.

Business visitors

The largest category of people who are able to work in Canada without a work permit is business visitors. To be a business visitor, the activity must be international in scope, the primary source of the worker’s remuneration must be outside Canada, the principal place of the worker’s employer must be outside of Canada, and the accrual of profits must be outside Canada.

A very popular business visitor category includes intra-company trainers and trainees. Indeed, most business visitors to Canada typically perform some combination of attending meetings, and either giving or receiving training.

Finally, Canada’s immigration department has proclaimed that film producers employed by foreign companies for commercial shoots and any essential personnel can work in Canada without work permits.

Other exemptions

Canadian immigration legislation lists many other types of work that do not require a work permit, including some performing artists, clergy, athletes, convention organizers, public speakers, emergency personnel and more. In fact, given how many exemptions there are to needing a work permit, the starting point for any tourist wondering how to apply for a work permit should be to first determine if one is even needed.


Meaning of Dependent Child

I was recently asked whether the lock-in age for dependency is when an application is submitted or when it was assessed. In short, in Hamid v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [2007] 2 FCR 152, 2006 FCA 217, the Federal Court of Appeal stated:

A child of a federal skilled worker who has applied for a visa, who was 22 years of age or over, and who was considered dependent on the skilled worker at the date of application by virtue of his or her financial dependence and full‑time study, but who does not meet the requirements of a “dependent child” within the meaning of subparagraph 2(b)(ii) of theImmigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002‑227, when the visa application is determined, cannot be included as part of his or her parent’s application for permanent residence in Canada.

In Anata v. Canadathe Federal Court affirmed that there is nothing in the jurisprudence or the Rules or Guidelines relevant to a live-in caregiver application to suggest that “dependent child” in this context should have a different meaning, or should be assessed at the time the application is submitted, and should not take into account what happens between the time of the application and the time of the decision.



Borderlines #16 – The History of the Immigration Consultant Profession in Canada

Ron McKay is a past Chair of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council’s (“ICCRC”) Board of Directors. He is a former Immigration Officer who spent ten years at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. He is also a past National President of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants.

In this episode we discuss the history of the immigration consultant profession in Vancouver and current issues that it faces.

Topics

3:30 – We discuss the history of immigration consultants in Canada, including an in depth discussion of the Mangat case, in which the Supreme Court of Canada determined that the federal government could allow non-lawyers to practice immigration law. We also discussed the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (“CSIC”), the first regulatory body of immigration consultants in Canada.

24:00 – We get into governance issues at regulatory oversight issues at both CSIC and the ICCRC.

38:30 – We talk about ghost consultants and what the immigration consultancy profession can do about it.

50:00 – We discuss how the immigration consulting profession needs to be regulated yet at the same time be independent of the government.

53:00 – Steven asks how the ICCRC determines how many consultants there should be. Are we reaching a saturation point? Should there be limits as to which aspects of immigration law they can practice?

 

 

 


Weeding Out Crooked Immigration Consultants

The following is an article that I wrote for Policy Options.

The first paper that I wrote in law school was about legal ethics. I submitted a seven-page essay arguing that restricting the practice of law to graduates of law school was unethical, given the crisis of access to justice that so many face, and that the free market should instead regulate who can and cannot charge fees to provide legal representation. I got my lowest mark in law school.

The study and practice of law moderated many of my views, and my opinion on who should be able to practise law has been adjusted accordingly. It has become clear to me that those who receive fees in exchange for the provision of legal advice must be regulated, and that in an era of easy Internet marketing, paid-for reviews and fake news, the free market is incapable of performing this role. However, I still believe that access to the ability to practise law should be extended beyond those who have completed three years of law school.

It may not be surprising then that, unlike many immigration lawyers, I do not consider the existence of immigration consultants to be inherently problematic. When I started practising immigration law, a local immigration consultant was an important mentor to me, and some of the most passionate people I know who are advocating for greater justice and fairness in Canada’s immigration system are consultants.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to practise immigration law for long before encountering people who have been the victims of immigration consultants who provided extremely bad representation, ranging from sheer incompetence to fraud. In many other cases, the prospective immigrants were not victims of fraudulent consultants but willing participants in their schemes. What’s more, it is also apparent that many unscrupulous immigration consultants do not fear any consequences from their regulator and seemingly act with impunity.

I do empathize with their regulator, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). In 2003, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) was established as the first independent governing body of the immigration consulting profession. In 2008, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration determined that the CSIC was not providing adequate regulation, and in 2011 the CSIC was replaced by the ICCRC. Now, in June 2017, the same parliamentary committee has determined that the ICCRC is not doing a sufficient job of regulating consultants and protecting the public, and has again recommended that a new regulatory body be created. It is not difficult to envision this cycle repeating itself every five years.

The deficiencies of the ICCRC are constantly contrasted with the strengths of provincial law societies, which hardly seems fair given that most provincial law societies are over a hundred years old, while the ICCRC has existed for only six. Perhaps the best approach that the government could take to the regulation of immigration consultants is to allow the consultants’ regulatory body time to gain experience and mature.

However, until the immigration consulting profession demonstrates that it can be effectively self-regulated, the government must act to protect the public from unscrupulous and incompetent consultants. The people who would benefit most are the many hard-working immigration consultants who constantly see their profession’s reputation dragged through the mud.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency are both responsible for investigating licensed immigration consultants who engage in fraud. A representative of the CBSA recently told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration:

We have just over 200 criminal investigators across Canada who are responsible for investigating an array of crimes under IRPA [Immigration and Refugee Protection Act], as well as under the Customs Act. As a result, we use a tiered process with respect to issues that involve consultants. Generally, we go after individuals, or investigate individuals, who are the organizers of, let’s say, mass misrepresentation or mass fraud, rather than the one-offs. In terms of how we’re approaching this, we are looking at where the greatest deterrent could occur. We are looking at the big organizers, rather than the individual who may have provided information for profit in one case, and so forth. I do believe that we are using the resources that we have to the best of our ability, based on a risk profile.

It is understandable that the CBSA would want to pursue the most flagrant ethical breaches, such as the misdeeds of a Vancouver “ghost” (unlicensed) consultant who recently went to jail for eight years after putting fraudulent passport stamps in people’s passports. But the cumulative effect of the everyday misrepresentations — including, as recently reported by the CBC, consultants facilitating the illegal charging of fees by employers to employees for jobs — is just as great a threat to the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.

Criminal prosecutions require a high level of proof, and the criminal justice system has limited investigatory and prosecutorial resources. In any case, incompetent (as opposed to fraudulent) representation would not result in criminal charges. So, in seeking ways to protect the public, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) must look beyond the criminal justice system.

There are several other measures that IRCC and the IRB can take.

First, the government should amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to provide IRCC with the power to temporarily refuse to process applications submitted by people represented by consultants whom IRCC has previously determined to be unscrupulous. Prospective immigrants should be advised that the processing of their applications will not continue until they retain new representatives. IRCC should also be allowed to charge fines. IRCC has already implemented both bans and fines to penalize employers who misrepresent themselves in applications to hire foreign workers. These have proven to be excellent deterrents, and the same principles and techniques could be utilized to deter fraud by consultants.

This is not to suggest that IRCC should become a permanent regulatory body for consultants, as some people have suggested. It is crucial that immigration consultants be able to be passionate advocates for their clients, including those accused by the government of being inadmissible to Canada and those who are clearly being deliberately blocked by the bureaucracy even though they are legally qualified to immigrate. If IRCC becomes both the visa adjudicator and the regulator of consultants, many consultants would likely be wary of aggressively challenging it. However, until immigration consultants fear crossing their regulator as much as lawyers fear breaching the rules of their respective law societies, the IRCC should have the ability to refuse to interact with known unscrupulous consultants.

Second, the IRB should be given the power to refuse to allow certain consultants to appear before it. An IRB official recently told the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration:

Board members use a kind of compensatory mechanism in a hearing room. If they’re dealing with a consultant who is not able to present the client’s case, they get drawn into the arena and they have to start eliciting the evidence. It’s not something a lot of members like to do, but sometimes they feel they have to do that in order for the case to go ahead that day and for there not to be a miscarriage of justice.

This is a tremendous waste of scarce resources. The Immigration and Refugee Board should be able to simply refuse to allow incompetent consultants to represent clients before it. The IRB should work with the regulator to develop appropriate standards and testing that any consultants who wish to appear before it must pass.

Third, a significant obstacle to combatting fraud by consultants is that prospective immigrants who learn that they committed misrepresentation in an application because of poor advice fear lodging complaints against their representatives; they believe, often accurately, that they may be considered complicit in misrepresentation and could be removed from Canada or barred from entering. IRCC should allow such persons to correct their applications without fear of being barred from Canada for five years, which is the current penalty for any misrepresentation. While granting entry to someone who misstated a fact in an application may leave a bad taste in IRCC’s mouth, making progress against fraud by consultants should provide some satisfaction in compensation.

Finally, one of the principal reasons that people hire third-party representatives is language barriers. Most applicants in Canada’s economic-immigration programs must demonstrate a certain level of fluency in English or French, but this is not the case in Canada’s family reunification programs. People applying to immigrate under family reunification who do not speak either language are especially vulnerable to receiving bad advice, because they often do not understand the forms they must fill out. IRCC should provide as many of its forms as possible in the greatest number of languages possible. Any online forms should be able to connect to free translating services like Google Translate. When applicants can communicate with IRCC in their own language, unscrupulous consultants will be much less able to provide information on forms that does not reflect what their clients told them, and applicants will be less able to claim that they did not know what an immigration consultant wrote on their behalf.

In my experience, the majority of immigration consultants are ethical and provide very valuable services. It is they, frankly, who have been let down by both the government and their regulator. They deserve better, and well-considered actions are needed to remove the bad individuals who are ruining their profession’s reputation.


The Bill of Rights and Canadian Immigration

The Canadian Bill of Rights, S.C. 1960, c. 44 (the “Bill of Rights“) is a Canadian federal statute that was enacted in August 1960. It is quasi-constitutional in nature. As it is an Act of Parliament it applies only to federal law. It also predates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has largely superseded the Bill of Rights in importance.

However, not all of the provisions of the Bill of Rights were reproduced in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 2(e) of the Bill of Rights provides:

2. Every law of Canada shall, unless it is expressly declared by an Act of the Parliament of Canada that it shall operate notwithstanding the Canadian Bill of Rights, be so construed and applied as not to abrogate, abridge or infringe or to authorize the abrogation, abridgment or infringement of any of the rights or freedoms herein recognized and declared, and in particular, no law of Canada shall be construed or applied so as to […]

(e) deprive a person of the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice for the determination of his rights and obligations.

In Canadian National Railway Company, the Federal Court established that four basic conditions must be met in order for paragraph 2(e) of the Bill of Rights to be engaged:

  1. The applicant must be a “person” within the meaning of paragraph 2(e);
  2. The arbitration process must constitute a “hearing […] for the determination of [the applicant’s] rights and obligations”;
  3. The arbitration process must be found to violate “the principles of fundamental justice”; and
  4. The alleged defect in the arbitration process must arise as a result of a “law of Canada” which has not been expressly declared to operate notwithstanding the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Hassouna v. Canada

In Hassouna v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), the Federal Court addressed whether the citizenship revocation procedures for misrepresentation contained in Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government of Canada’s Bill C-24 constituted a hearing for the determination of the applicant’s rights and obligations.  In determining that it did, the Court also ruled that while acquiring Canadian citizenship is a privilege, once a person becomes a citizen their citizenship is a right.

The Federal Court also found that in order for Canada’s citizenship revocation process to be procedurally fair, people need to be entitled to: (1) an oral hearing before a court, or before an independent administrative tribunal, where there is a serious issue of credibility; (2) a fair opportunity to state the case and know the case to be met, (3) the right to an impartial and independent decision-maker, and (4) that all factors of their case, including humanitarian & compassionate considerations, be considered.

The Federal Court also determined, however, that there is no expertise threshold required for a tribunal to determine whether a person’s citizenship should be revoked.