Procedural Fairness Where Credibility is an Issue

In any application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC“) the burden is on the applicant to put forward a complete, convincing and unambiguous application which provides sufficient evidence to establish that the requirements of Canadian immigration legislation have been met.

Visa officers are not under an obligation to ask for additional information where the submitted material is insufficient.

However, where there is a concern regarding the credibility or the genuineness of the evidence submitted, as opposed to the sufficiency of or weight to be given to that information, then the duty of fairness generally requires that the applicant be given the opportunity to address the concern.

Examples from Jurisprudence

Farooq v. Canada, 2013 FC 164 (“Farooq“) is a useful example of how to distinguish a refusal based on credibility concerns vs. one of insufficient evidence. There, IRCC’s refusal letter stated:

He claims he worked from January 2005 to August 2006 as software developer and from 2006 to present as manager (software development) for Tricastmedia PVT Ltd in Lahore Pakistan. Such rapid promotion is not credible as computer and information systems managers normally require several years of experience in systems analysis, data administration software engineering, network design or computer programming, including supervisory experience. Some of the duties in his employment letter repeat verbatim the duties of NOC 0213 which raises the question of the credibility of that employment letter. The other duties are similar to those of information systems analysts and consultants (NOC Code 2171).

Although the NOC Code 0213 corresponds to an occupation specified in the instructions, the information submitted to support this application is insufficient to substantiate that applicant meets the occupational description and/or a substantial number of the main duties of NOC 0213.

Justice Roy’s reasons in determining that the failure of the visa officer to provide the applicant with an opportunity to respond to his concerns about credibility was a breach of procedural fairness provide a comprehensive summary of the law on this issue, and I have reproduced them in full, bolding the key points:

Justice O’Keefe was confronted to the same kind of situation in the case of Patelsupra. (“Patel“) Paragraphs 24 to 27 seem to me to apply squarely to the situation at hand. They read:

Regulation 75 clearly indicates that a foreign national is only a skilled worker if he can show one year of full time employment where he performed the actions in the lead statement of the NOC and a substantial number of the main duties.

As such, if the visa officer was concerned only that the employment letter was insufficient proof that the principal applicant met the requirements of Regulation 75, then she would not have been required to conduct an interview.

However, the officer states that her concern is that the duties in the employment letter have been copied directly from the NOC description and that the duties in the experience letter are identical to the letter of employment. I agree with the principal applicant that the officer’s reasons are inadequate to explain why this was problematic. I find that the implication from these concerns is that the officer considered the experience letter to be fraudulent.

Consequently, by viewing the letter as fraudulent, the officer ought to have convoked an interview of the principal applicant based on the jurisprudence above. As such, the officer denied the principal applicant procedural fairness and the judicial review must be allowed.

The narrow issue that needs to be decided here is whether or not this is a case regarding the sufficiency of the evidence, in the sense that, in the words of Justice Richard Mosley in Hassani v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2006 FC 1283, [2007] 3 FCR 501:

there is no obligation on the part of the visa officer to apprise an applicant of her concerns that arise directly from the requirements of the former Act or Regulations …

It is also certainly true that a visa officer does not have an obligation to provide a “running score” of the weaknesses in an application. However, where the issue is credibility, “the duty of fairness may require immigration officials to inform applicants of their concerns with applications so that an applicant may have a chance to “disabuse” an officer of such concerns, even where such concerns arise from evidence tendered by the applicant” (Rukmangathan, above, at paragraph 22). Justice de Montigny, in Talpursupra, finding support inHassani, summarized clearly what I believe is the state of the law:

It is by now well established that the duty of fairness, even if it is at the low end of the spectrum in the context of visa applications … require visa officers to inform applicants of their concerns so that an applicant may have an opportunity to disabuse an officer of such concerns. This will be the case, in particular, where such concern arises not so much from the legal requirements but from the authenticity or credibility of the evidence provided by the applicant.

Here, the visa officer indicates clearly that the credibility of the applicant, or lack thereof, is the fundamental concern he has. Contrary to other cases where an opportunity is given to the applicant to address the concerns, there is nothing of the sort in this case. It would seem to me that both Patel and Rukmangathanare dispositive of the issue and that the matter should be remitted to a different visa officer for the purpose of a re-determination of the matter.

Another example of this principle can be found in Madadi v. Canada, 2013 FC 176.  There, in determining that an applicant did not perform a substantial number of the Main Duties in NOC 0711, IRCC did not consider any duties in the applicant’s confirmation of employment which either copied the NOC descriptions or closely paraphrased them.  After not considering those job duties, the officer found that the applicant did not perform a substantial number of the duties listed in NOC 0711.  The Court determined that procedural fairness was breached, because the visa officer’s concerns related to the genuineness of the confirmation of employment.

Examining Whether Credibility is an Issue

When reviewing refusal reasons it is important to examine whether credibility may have been an issue leading to refusal.

Sometimes it is obvious.  For example, in Azizian v. Canada, a visa officer wrote:

 Given the availability of the information [about the CBI], I found it difficult to believe that the applicant has never heard of these concerns during his employment at CBI and since retiring… I do not find credible that the applicant would have not been involved in policy decision making and decisions concerning allocation of funds, especially since the PA held the position of Secretary General of the bank and because he indicated in his affidavit that his duty in 2003-2009 was to develop and supervise the implementation of the by-laws and guidelines for the Iranian banking system.

This was found to clearly be a credibility concern.

Credibility assessments are often implicit, however, rather than explicit. In Khodchenko v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), IRCC’s refusal reasons in part stated that:

REVIEWED INFO SUBMITTED FOR THE FILE. PI’S EXPENCES WILL BE PAID BY MR. NAZAREVICH – FAMILY FRIEND. IT IS NOT CLEAR WHY HE WOULD PAY SUCH AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PI. NOT SATISFIED PI IS FORTHCOMING ABOUT THE PURPOSE OF THE TRIP. TIES TO UKRAINE ARE WEAK. REFUSED. (sic) [emphasis added]

The Federal Court found that the officer made a veiled credibility assessment of the benefactor and the applicant in questioning that the employment arrangement was what the applicants said it was, and that the officer accordingly owed a duty of fairness to the applicant to put his concerns directly and explicitly and give her an opportunity to respond.

In Rani v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), meanwhile, Madam Justice Strickland found that a visa officer’s  statement that “evidence of [the applicant’s] involvement with spouse’s business comes only from her own statements and that of her supporting relative in Canada. It is therefore not clear to what extent the context of English language use…could be considered familiar” to also be an implicit credibility assessment, and ordered the matter re-decided.

Another Helpful Summary of this Principle

Bajwa v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship) contains another helpful summary of the distinction between credibility and insufficient evidence. There, Justice Russel wrote:

These words give rise to a familiar dispute in the jurisprudence as to whether the Visa Officer is questioning the credibility of the Applicants or simply deciding that the evidence is not sufficient to support the criteria that must be established in order to qualify for the status applied for. Justice Kane provided a summary of the Court’s approach to this issue in Ansari v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2013 FC 849:

If the concern is truly about credibility, the case law has established that a duty of procedural fairness may arise [Hassani]. However, if the concern is about the sufficiency of evidence, given that the applicant is clearly directed to provide a complete application with supporting documents, no such duty arises. Distinguishing between concerns about sufficiency of evidence and credibility is not a simple task as both issues may be related.

The case law has established that each case must be assessed to determine if the concern does in fact relate to credibility. In several of the cases referred to, although the duties were copied or paraphrased from the NOC, there were additional factors confirming that the concern of the officer was about the authenticity or veracity of the document or the credibility of the author of the document. Simply using the term credibility is not determinative of whether the concern is about credibility, though the use of the term cannot be ignored.

Applicants often find it very difficult to understand this distinction. They reason that if their own representations are not accepted then they are not believed, so the officer concerned must be questioning their credibility and this requires an interview or an adequate opportunity to address credibility on grounds of procedural fairness.

I think the issue is best explained in lay terms by recognizing that applicants have a double obligation. First of all, they are under a duty of candor to tell the truth and not to conceal relevant facts. If an officer suspects that the duty of candour is not being met, then he or she must put the matter to the applicant and provide a reasonable opportunity – either in writing or in person – for the applicant to address the officer’s concerns. Where misrepresentation or breach of the duty of candor is the issue, then an application is usually refused on the basis of misrepresentation and s 40 of the Act.

But applicants also have an obligation – over and above the duty of candor – to support their applications with documentation that confirms their positions. Documentation is required by the legislation in all applications and a failure to provide adequate documentation can result in a refusal that is not based upon credibility. If this were not the case, then all applications would have to be accepted upon their own unsupported assertions. There will be situations where documentation is not available and the Act makes adequate allowances for this. Applicants are permitted to explain why they cannot provide documents that are required and/or expected in their particular situations.

In the present case, the treatment of the two letters from Mr. Singh has to be read in the context of the Decision as a whole in order to determine what the Visa Officer means by “satisfied.” Does she mean that the evidence is inadequate to support the application or does she mean that she questions the veracity of that evidence when she says that “I am not satisfied that the client is a bona fide worker under R 205 (D) or will leave after her authorized stay.”

In all work permit applications and extension applications, the officer has to decide on the evidence whether the applicant is likely to leave at the end of the period requested. And interviews and/or fairness letters are not required in most situations. As the Respondent points out, it is generally not a procedural fairness requirement that work permit applicants be granted an opportunity to respond to the concerns of officers. However, there have been situations in the context of work permit applications where officers have been required for reasons of procedural fairness to seek further clarification for credibility concerns in particular.

In Hamza v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2013 FC 264, the application was rejected on the basis that the work experience letter mirrored the job duties of the NOC description, which the visa officer described as “self-serving.” Justice Bédard found that by stating the letter was self-serving, the officer was saying that he or she doubted the veracity of its content. It was thus distinguished from Kaur, above, because the applicant had provided sufficient evidence and a duty to provide the applicant an opportunity to respond was found. The decision quoted Justice Snider in Perez Enriquez v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2012 FC 1091:

The first duty raised by the Applicant is the duty to seek clarification. When an Applicant puts his or her best foot forward by submitting complete evidence and a visa officer doubts that evidence, the officer has a duty to seek clarification (Sandhu, above at paras 32-33). Although this duty is not triggered in situations where an applicant simply presents insufficient evidence, it will arise if the officer entertains concerns regarding the veracity of evidence; for example, if the officer questions the credibility, accuracy or genuine nature of the information provided (Olorunshola, above at paras 32-35). On the facts of this case, a duty to clarify may have arisen but was discharged by the Officer’s questions to the Applicant during the interview. There was no breach of fairness.

The second duty raised by the Applicant is a duty to provide an opportunity to respond. When an applicant submits information that, if accepted, supports the application, he or she should be given an opportunity to respond to the officer’s concerns if the officer wishes to make a decision based on those concerns (Kumar, above at paras 30-31). Procedural fairness may require an interview; for example, if a visa officer believes an applicant’s documents may be fraudulent (Patel, above at paras 24-27). (…)

(some references omitted)

Justice Zinn’s decision in Madadi v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2013 FC 716 at para 6 provides a succinct summary:

The jurisprudence of this Court on procedural fairness in this area is clear: Where an applicant provides evidence sufficient to establish that they meet the requirements of the Act or regulations, as the case may be, and the officer doubts the “credibility, accuracy or genuine nature of the information provided” and wishes to deny the application based on those concerns, the duty of fairness is invoked[.]

(references omitted)


Sponsoring Relatives other than Spouses, Parents, and Children

Canadian immigration legislation provides that a Canadian citizen or permanent resident may sponsor their spouse, common-law partner, child, parents or grand-parents to immigrate to Canada.  It also provides that in certain circumstances a Canadian may sponsor another relative.

Section 117(1)(h) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPR“) provides that:

A foreign national is a member of the family class if, with respect to a sponsor, the foreign national is

a relative of the sponsor, regardless of age, if the sponsor does not have a spouse, a common-law partner, a conjugal partner, a child, a mother or father, a relative who is a child of that mother or father, a relative who is a child of a child of that mother or father, a mother or father of that mother or father or a relative who is a child of the mother or father of that mother or father

(i) who is a Canadian citizen, Indian or permanent resident, or

(ii) whose application to enter and remain in Canada as a permanent resident the sponsor may otherwise sponsor.

The following are key things to know about sponsoring relatives other than spouses, common-law partners, children, parents or grand-parents.

1. The Canadian sponsor must not have a spouse, common-law partner, child, parent or grand-parent that is either a Canadian citizen or one that they can sponsor. 

Indeed, when assessing such applications, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) will often ask applicants to provide detailed family trees listing all family members and to provide evidence as to whether a person’s parents and grandparents are deceased.

2. It does not matter if the Canadian sponsor is not close to, or estranged from, his or her parents. 

In Bousaleh v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), Justice Fothergill stated that although the results may seem unfair, it does not matter if a potential Canadian sponsor is estranged from his or her parents. The fact that they can legally be sponsored means that the Canadian cannot sponsor another relative instead.

3. There is uncertainty in the law as to whether a sponsor’s parents or grand-parents have to be deceased, or simply likely inadmissible to Canada. 

Traditionally, most people have interpreted Canadian immigration law as requiring that a Canadian may sponsor a relative only if they do not have any living spouses, children, or parents who they can sponsor.  However, the Federal Court in Sendwa v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) ruled that this is too restrictive.  The Federal Court found that the stated that the purpose and intent of paragraph 117(1)(h) of the IRPR is “to favour persons who do not have relations in Canada and have no possibility to sponsor any relations under other provisions.”  The Court went on to state:

In the present case, the Immigration Appeal Division held that the Applicant’s application was rejected simply because her parents were alive. The Immigration Appeal Division did not consider whether the Applicant would (even) be eligible (or in position) to sponsor her parents. As a result, the IAD’s decision is unreasonable.

In Bousaleh, Justice Fothergill certified the following question of general importance:

Does determination of a person’s eligibility to sponsor a relative under s 117(1)(h) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227 require consideration of whether an application to sponsor a person enumerated in s 117(1)(h) has a reasonable prospect of success?

 


Retrospective Legislation

In a recent Borderlines episode, Garth Barriere, Eric Purtzki, Peter Edelmann and I discussed the constitutionality of laws that are retroactive or retrospective.  This episode can be found here:

A link to this episode’s synopsis can be found here.

The following post provides a more detailed written summary of retroactive and retrospective legislation in the immigration context.

Continue reading “Retrospective Legislation”


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.