When Procedural Fairness Requires a Fairness Letter

One of the most complicated topics in immigration law is determining when procedural fairness will require an immigration officer who is assessing an application to seek clarification in the form of a fairness letter or interview.

As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) the the concept of procedural fairness is eminently variable and its content is to be decided in the specific context of each case. When a visa officer does not rely on third party extrinsic evidence to make a decision it can often appear unclear when exactly it is necessary for an officer to afford an applicant an interview or a right to respond to the officer’s concerns.  However, there will be a right  to respond under certain circumstances.

Requirement to Provide Complete Applications

Visa officers do not have any legal responsibility to advise applicants of incomplete or inadequate applications.

In Kaur v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 758, for example, the Federal Court dismissed a judicial review application of a visa officer’s refusal of an applicant under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. A visa officer determined that the application was deficient as it failed to include required information regarding the applicant’s salary and benefits. The applicant argued that the Canadian embassy should have told the applicant that this information was missing, and given her a chance to provide what was missing. However, the Court noted that there is no duty to advise an applicant of a deficient application. As Justice Mandamin noted, the process is clear. An applicant must provide a complete application.

As such, and to reiterate, visa officers do not have the obligation to notify applicants of inadequacies in their applications nor in the supporting documents. They do not have to seek clarification or additional documentation, nor provide an applicant with an opportunity to address concerns, when the material provided in support of an application is unclear, incomplete or insufficient to show that someone meets legislative program requirements.

Credibility Concerns

A duty may exist, however, to provide an applicant with the opportunity to respond to a visa officer’s concerns when the officer is concerned with the credibility, the veracity, or the authenticity of the documentation provided by an applicant as opposed to the sufficiency of the evidence provided.

In Sandhu v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 759,  for example, an application was complete.  However, the visa officer rejected the application because he did not believe the genuineness of one of the applicant’s answers on the application. The Court acknowledged that the duty of procedural fairness in the decisions of visa officers [is] at the low end of the spectrum. However, Justice Mandamin, the same Justice as above, also noted that where the application is adequate, but the officer nevertheless entertains a doubt on the evidence, there remains a duty to clarify the information. The judge thus allowed the judicial review.

Grewal v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2011 FC 167 provides another example of this principle. There, an application was rejected because of a poor IELTs score.  In brief, the applicant had arranged employment in Canada as a Retail Trade Manager, but the visa officer determined that she would be unable to perform the required duties  of the arranged employment because of her poor IELTS marks. The visa officer refused the application without providing the applicant with an opportunity to respond to this concern.

Justice Noel noted numerous factors that resulted in the officer having a duty to seek additional information from the applicant, including 1) that immigration guidelines specified that additional information would be required for doubts over Arranged Employment Offers, 2) that the language proficiency concern derailed the individual’s entire claim for permanent residence, and 3) that the applicant’s consultant had thoroughly explained the reason for the poor test and had stated that another would be forthcoming.  Accordingly, Justice Noel determined that procedural fairness dictated that a fairness letter or interview be provided.

Singh v. Canada, 2010 FC 1306 is a final example.  There, an officer rejected a work permit application because the only documents which the applicant provided to support her claimed employment experience as a Ragi were reference letters.  The officer stated that she saw “many such letters which turn out to be fictitious”, and that she required “more than letters, for instance, newspaper cut outs, photos of them practicing or letters of reference, to properly corroborate claims of training, knowledge, and experience.”  The Federal Court, however, overturned this decision, noting that the applicant was not put on notice that the officer was concerned with the veracity of letters, and did not request further documentation.


In 2011, Justice O’Keefe in Kaur v. Canada, 2011 FC 219 provided  an excellent articulation of the current jurisprudence, and what should be the starting basis for any analysis of whether procedural fairness required the providing of the applicant with an opportunity to respond to a given concern.  The Court stated that:

An officer is not under a duty to inform the applicant about any concerns regarding the application which arise directly from the requirements of the legislation or regulations (see Hassani v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2006 FC 1283, [2007] 3 F.C.R. 501 at paragraphs 23 and 24).

The onus was on the applicant to satisfy the officer of all parts of her application and the officer was under no obligation to ask for additional information where the applicant’s material was insufficient (see Madan v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) (1999), 172 F.T.R. 262 (F.C.T.D.), [1999] F.C.J. No. 1198 (QL) at paragraph 6).

However, the officer was obligated to inform the applicant of any concerns related to the veracity of documents that formed part of the application and the officer was required to make further inquires in such a situation (see Hassani above, at paragraph 24).

The message from the courts seems clear. Visa applicants have one shot, and they should ensure that the effort that they put forward is their best, because if they do, procedural fairness will require that immigration officers provide them with the opportunity to address concerns.

If they don’t put their best foot forward, however, then their applications will be rejected outright.

Do Cruise Ship Employees Need Work Permits?


Attributed to mjb84 on Flickr.

Regulation 186(s) of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (the “Regulations“) regulates when crew members are permitted to work in Canada without first obtaining a work permit.  The Regulations state:

R186(s). A foreign national may work in Canada without a work permit as a member of a crew who is employed by a foreign company aboard a means of transportation that

(i) is foreign-owned and not registered in Canada, and

(ii) is engaged primarily in international transportation

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC“) has published helpful guidance as to how this Regulation is to be interpreted (the “Guidelines“).

What is a Member of a Crew

As per the Guidelines, on a cruise ship, crew members include:

  • licensed officers: master, first officer, chief officer or chief mate, first engineer or chief engineer, and subordinate officers and engineers;
  • non-licensed crew: ordinary seamen, able-bodied seamen, bosun (deck crew foreman), engine- room crew (oilers and fitters), and kitchen and mess-room staff (cooks, stewards and messmen); and
  • the hotel manager, cruise director, purser, medical staff, managers and staff of the ship’s bars, restaurants, boutiques and casino, as well as house-cleaning staff and entertainers.

Crew members do not include:

  • supernumeraries: spouses, children and other dependants of crew members;
  • foreign contractors and shipping company technicians: foreign nationals temporarily assigned to a vessel for the sole purpose of making repairs;
  • shipping company superintendents, including persons referred to as supercargo, superintendent engineers, or port captains;
  • employees or executives of a marine transportation company who travel aboard or who visit ships to monitor or supervise operations such as maintenance and repairs, preparation of cargo holds, preparation for inspection, and the loading or unloading of cargo; and
  • insurance company representatives who travel on vessels to familiarize themselves with shipboard operations on behalf of ship-owners’ insurers.

“Engaged Primarily in International Transportation”

IRCC’s Guidelines state in order to determine whether a means of transportation is “engaged primarily in international transportation” that an officer should consider whether the transportation falls under the definition of “coasting trade” in Canada’s Coasting Trade Act.  If the transportation does fall under the definition of “coasting trade” in the Coasting Trade Act, then a work permit will be required.

The Coasting Trade Act defines “coasting trade” as (definition simplified for ease of reading):

(a) the carriage of goods by ship from one place in Canada to any other place in Canada, either directly or by way of a place outside Canada;

(b) subject to paragraph (c), the carriage of passengers by ship from any place in Canada situated on a lake or river to the same place, or to any other place in Canada, either directly or by way of a place outside Canada;

(c) the carriage of passengers by ship from any place situated on the St. Lawrence River northeast of the Saint Lambert lock or on the Fraser River west of the Mission Bridge

(i) to the same place, without any call at any port outside Canada, other than one or more technical or emergency calls, or

(ii) to any other place in Canada, other than as an in-transit call, either directly or by way of a place outside Canada,

(d) the carriage of passengers by ship from any place in Canada other than from a place to which paragraph (b) or (c) applies

(i) to the same place, without any call at any port outside Canada, other than one or more technical or emergency calls, or

(ii) to any other place in Canada, other than as an in-transit call, either directly or by way of a place outside Canada,

(e) the carriage of passengers by ship

(i) from any place in Canada to any place above the continental shelf of Canada,

(ii) from any place above the continental shelf of Canada to any place in Canada, or

(iii) from any place above the continental shelf of Canada to the same place or to any other place above the continental shelf of Canada;

where the carriage of the passengers is in relation to the exploration, exploitation or transportation of the mineral or non-living natural resources of the continental shelf of Canada, and

(f) the engaging, by ship, in any other marine activity of a commercial nature in Canadian waters and, with respect to waters above the continental shelf of Canada, in such other marine activities of a commercial nature that are in relation to the exploration, exploitation or transportation of the mineral or non-living natural resources of the continental shelf of Canada; (cabotage)

Given how complicated the definition of coastal trading is, the following should provide a useful summary of when crew members do and don’t need work permits.
Foreign National Crew Will Need a Work Permit When

A work permit may be required if a cruise ship embarks passengers at a Canadian port and disembarks any of these passengers permanently at another Canadian port. For example, if a cruise ship embarks all passengers in Montreal, disembarks some passengers in Charlottetown, and continues to New York where the remaining passengers disembark, then foreign crew members will require a work permit.

Foreign crew members will also typically require a work permit if the ship embarks passengers at one Canadian port and then ends the cruise and disembarks passengers at another Canadian port. For example, if passengers embark in Victoria, make a stop in Anchorage, Alaska, and end their cruise in Vancouver, then the foreign national crew will likely need require a work permit.

Foreign National Crew May Be Exempt When

Foreign crew will typically be exempt from the requirement to obtain a work permit when a cruise ship embarks and disembarks at the same destination within Canada, even if it makes stops in foreign jurisdictions. For example, if a cruise ship embarks passengers in Halifax, makes a stop in Boston, and then returns to Halifax then a work permit may not be required.  If this seems odd given that the start and end destinations are in Canada, it is simply because of how the Coastal Trading Act defines coastal trading.

Foreign workers may also be exempted if a cruise ship starts at a Canadian port of call, and ends its itinerary at a foreign port of call, so long as passengers do not disembark elsewhere in Canada. For example, if a cruise ship embarks in Vancouver, and disembarks in Portland, then foreign crew will likely be exempt.

Continue reading “Do Cruise Ship Employees Need Work Permits?”

How the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program Works

The Post-Graduation Work Permit (“PGWP“) allows students who have graduated from most Canadian public post-secondary institutions to stay and work in Canada upon graduation.  As someone who remembers when I was in undergrad the frustration of international students who had to leave Canada upon graduating even though they would have jumped at the opportunity to stay, work, and pay taxes in Canada, it is certainly a welcome program.

PGWPs are open work permits. This means that international graduates who possess them can work for any employer.  There is no restriction on the type of work that can be performed.  Having said that, if a student wishes to work in health care or in education they will need to first obtain a medical exam. And, as with all work permits, PGWP holders are prohibited from working in the sex industry.

There is no requirement for a job offer prior to applying.


Outside of Quebec, in order for an international graduate to obtain a PGWP after graduating, an international student must:

  • have a valid study permit when applying for their PGWP;
  • have continuously studied full time in Canada, except for the final academic session, where part-time studies are permitted;
  • have completed and passed a program of study that is at least eight months in duration at either a public post-secondary institution, a private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as public institutions, or at a Canadian private institution if the student was enrolled in a program of study which led to a degree; and
  • apply for the work permit within 90 days of receiving written confirmation from their educational institution that they have met the requirements for completing their program of study.

If an international student in Canada completes a post-secondary program of study that is two or more years, the student can apply for a three-year work permit. If the program of study is between eight months and two years, then the student will be eligible for a work permit lasting for a period equal to the duration of the student’s  studies.

How to Apply

An international graduate must submit the application for a PGWP within 90 days, from either the date their final marks are issued or when they receive a formal written notification of graduation from the institution, whichever comes first, indicating that they have met the requirements of their program of study.

As well, their study permit must continue to be valid when you submit your application for a work permit.

The work permit application package and guide can be found on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website here. The checklist can be downloaded here. In addition to the standard forms and documents that are required for work permit applications, PGWP applicants are required to provide the following:

Combining Programs

One question that frequently arises is what would happen if a student obtains a second one-year diploma after having already completed a one-year diploma prior to that.  Would the student be eligible for a one year PGWP or a two-year one?

The answer is that the length of the two one-year degrees may be combined to obtain a three-year work permit.  For example, a student who obtains a one-year diploma program in Canada, and then completes a one-year MBA, well receive a three year PGWP.

Distance Learning

Students who complete a program of study by distance learning (from outside or inside Canada) are not eligible for the PGWP.

After much uncertainty over how this distance-learning policy was to be interpreted, pursuant to the IRCC website officers are recommended to use the following guidelines in their assessment of an applicant’s PGWP eligibility when they have taken distance or online learning in Canada:

  • when less than the majority of all the credits earned by the student toward the completion of a program of study were earned by completing online courses, a post-graduation work permit may be issued based on the length of the program as confirmed by the school, including credits earned from both in-class and online courses; and
  • when the majority of the credits earned by the student toward the completion of a program of study were earned by completing online courses, the applicant is ineligible for the PGWP, as the program may reasonably be considered a distance-learning program.

Implication of Doing a Victory Lap and Going on Exchange

While the PGWP requires full-time study, there is an exception for people in their last semester.

As well, going on exchange outside of Canada will not result in someone being ineligible to obtain a PGWP.

Open Spousal Work Permits

The spouse or common-law partner of a PGWP holder can obtain a work permit only if the PGWP holder is working in a skilled occupation as defined in National Occupational Classification 0, A or B of the National Occupational Classification website. To demonstrate this, the spouse or common-law partner should show the following.

  • a letter from their current employer confirming employment or a copy of their employment offer or contract; and
  • a copy of 3 of their pay stubs.

Refusal Rates

One of the more surprising things about the PGWP is its rather high refusal rate.  Indeed, during the first six months of 2016, the PGWP refusal rate exceeded 20% in every month except May, and in both June and March the refusal rate was 40% or more.

Although a breakdown of the reasons for refusal of PGWP applications has not been published, it is likely because international graduates either:

  • attended a private school whose graduates are not eligible to receive PGWPs (which, contrary to the opinion of some private institutions) is mot of them;
  • their application was returned for being incomplete and when they tried to apply again their study permit had expired; or
  • a visa officer determined that they did not meet the full-time studies requirement.

In order to avoid such rejections, it is important that students:

  • research their prospective educational institution so that they know whether it qualifies;
  • ensure that their PGWP application is complete and that it includes the correct fee amount; and
  • if there is any question about whether their studies were full-time, to make sure that it is explained in their application.

As with all applications, the onus is on the applicant to make sure that they have shown that they meet the requirements of the PGWP.  If something is unclear, the visa officer is not under any obligation to seek clarification, but can refuse the application. For this reason, it is imperative that international graduates ensure that their application is complete and satisfactory.

Global Skills Strategy – Short Term (15 or 30 days) Work Permit Exemption

On February 6, 2018 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) clarified how its short term work permit exemption under the Global Skills Strategy would work.  Previously, the IRCC website simply stated:

Now, the IRCC website provides a much more comprehensive explanation of how the short term work permit exemption under the Global Skills strategy works.

General Conditions

The short-term (15 or 30 days) work permit exemptions are for certain high-skilled work and apply to foreign nationals coming to Canada to perform work that is both of a short duration (15 consecutive calendar days or 30 consecutive calendar days) and is in an occupation that is listed in skill type 0 (management occupations) or skill level A in the National Occupational Classification (“NOC”) matrix.

Such individuals may work in Canada without a work permit.

The periods can be as follows:

  • 15 consecutive days (if the foreign national has not been granted a work permit exemption under the Global Skills Strategy facilitating entry into Canada for short-term work in the last 6 months); or
  • 30 consecutive days (if the foreign national has not been granted a work permit exemption under the Global Skills Strategy facilitating entry into Canada for short-term work in the last 12 months).

The short-term work permit exemptions do not exempt people from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa or an electronic travel authorization, if applicable.

Entering and Exiting Canada

While foreign nationals are allowed to exit and re-enter Canada within the prescribed time frame (15 or 30 consecutive days) of work under the exemption, the authorized work period begins on the date the exemption is granted and is counted consecutively, regardless of whether the person is actually working in Canada.

IRCC is now specifically stating that any travel outside Canada after the date the exemption was granted will not extend the length of the exemption period. They provide the following example:

The foreign national was granted a 15-day exemption on August 1, 2017. If they travel outside Canada for 2 days within that 15-day period (August 6 to August 7, 2017), they may resume work activities on August 8 under this exemption until August 15, 2017, only.

Applicants from Inside Canada

Applicants already in Canada are not eligible to make an initial application within Canada for this exemption.


Applicants can benefit from these short-term exemptions only if the necessary amount of time has elapsed since their last short-term exemption was granted. Consecutive uses are not permitted.

IRCC provides the following example on its website:

If a foreign national entered Canada under the 15-day work permit exemption and is required to work in Canada for another 15 days, they will not be eligible to renew their stay as a temporary worker. Six months must pass before foreign nationals are eligible to use the 15 day exemption again.

Working with Multiple Employers

IRCC on February 6, 2018 also clarified that the short term work permit exemption applies to the foreign national and not to the employer.

As well, if a foreign national enters Canada under the 15-day or 30-day work permit exemption and intends to work for more than one employer during that period, the foreign national is required to demonstrate that the work they intend to perform during that period meets the requirements of the short-term exemptions for all of their employers.


The Caring for Children Class, and the Caring for People with High Medical Needs Class


The Government of Canada has very quietly announced that it is closing the Caregiver programs described below on November 29, 2019.  Applicants who did not start working as caregivers prior to that date will be unable to apply under these programs.



On November 28, 2014, the Government of Canada issued Ministerial Instructions completely overhauling Canada’s caregiver immigration programs.

The changes consist of:

  • Suspending the in-take of applications under the existing Live-in Caregiver Program;
  • Establishing the Caring for Children Class; and
  • Establishing the Caring for People with High Medical Needs Class.

The above changes all take effect on November 30, 2014.

Continue reading “The Caring for Children Class, and the Caring for People with High Medical Needs Class”

The Super Visa

Parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents can apply for two types of Temporary Resident Visas to visit their relatives in Canada.  The first is a standard, multiple-entry visa.  The second is what is known as a Super Visa.

A normal Temporary Resident Visa generally is a multiple entry-visa valid for the duration of an applicant’s passport, or 10 years, whichever is shorter.  Unless the Canada Border Services Agency authorizes indicates, it allows applicants to stay in Canada for up to six months without having to apply to extend their temporary resident status.

A Super Visa is also valid for up to 10 years, or the duration of the applicant’s passport, whichever is shorter.  It allows parents and grandparents to stay in Canada for up to two years without having to renew their status. Parents and grandparents who are from visa-exempt countries can also apply for Super Visas in order to receive Letters of Introduction that will allow them to stay in Canada for up to two years without having to renew their status.  It is important to note that the two year entry only applies to the initial stay.

A parents or grandparent is eligible for a Super Visa if the parent or grandparent has:

  • provided proof of the parent or grandparent relationship to the Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • undergone a medical examination and is admissible to Canada on health grounds;
  • provided satisfactory evidence of private medical insurance from a Canadian insurance company, valid for a minimum period of one year from the date of entry which:
    • covers the applicant for health care, hospitalization and repatriation;
    • provides a minimum of $100,000 coverage; and
    • is valid for each entry to Canada and available for review by the examining officer upon request; and
  • provided a written and signed promise of financial support, e.g. a letter of invitation, from the host child or grandchild for the entire duration the parent or grandparent intends to stay in Canada. The letter must be accompanied by evidence of their means of providing such support.

The Super Visa is meant to be a facilitate program, and if an applicant meets the Super Visa eligibility criteria, and is not otherwise inadmissible to Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will normally issue the visa.

Continue reading “The Super Visa”

Labour Market Impact Assessments – Recruitment Requirements (2016)

Employers wishing to apply for Labour Market Impact Assessments are required to conduct recruitment efforts to hire Canadian citizens and permanent residents.  The Ministry of Economic and Social Development (“ESDC” or “Service Canada“) is very stringent in its recruitment requirements, many of which are not publicly available.  In this blog post I seek to provide a comprehensive overview of Service Canada’s recruitment requirements, including providing a summary of the publicly available information on the Service Canada website, as well as summarizing and reproducing internal ESDC directives.

I would like to thank Jacobus Kriek, an immigration consultant with Matrixvisa Inc., for providing me copies of the internal Service Canada directives and e-mails that he has obtained.

Please note that what I have reproduced below should not be viewed as legal advice by ESDC or Service Canada.  The reproduction of the material below has not occurred with the affiliation of the Government of Canada, nor with the endorsement of the Government of Canada. As well, given the nature of relying on internal documents, some of the information may be out of date.

Continue reading “Labour Market Impact Assessments – Recruitment Requirements (2016)”

Returning to Canada After Previously Overstaying

It is not uncommon for people who have previously overstayed in Canada to wish to return.  Many people worry that it will not be possible to do so. However, regardless of whether one previously overstayed but left Canada before Canadian immigration authorities discovered the overstay, or even if one was ordered to leave Canada, it is certainly possible and common that a Canadian visa office abroad will approve a visa to allow that person to return to Canada, despite the previous non-compliance.

The following is a reference letter that an applicant used in the case AlOmari v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration). It is as a good example of the level of detail that should go into such a letter, and can serve as a useful reference for others.

In November 2015, I made the mistake of not renewing my study permit because I was not able to complete my flight training during the unstable weather conditions of the fall and winter seasons. This bad decision and judgment call is what led me to overstaying.

I could not leave until July 11, 2016 because I was required to remain with my wife and sisters who were actively studying. As outlined in the translated Saudi government scholarship rules, female students are required to travel and live with a male relative, such as a father, husband or brother. Leaving my wife and sisters would have led to them losing their scholarships, and ability to study.

I should have sought the assistance of a lawyer to discuss how I could extend my stay in Vancouver, even though I could not complete my flight training during the fall and winter seasons. My current lawyer informed me that I could have extended my stay in Canada as a visitor until I was ready to get back to my studies. I wish I knew that because it would have saved me and my family a lot of time, stress and grief over the past four months.

My wife and sisters were expecting to return to their studies in September 2016. However, the denial of my study permit and visa application has put their plans and dreams of completing their education in Canada at risk. They were unable to contact their schools in Vancouver, and postpone their classes until January 2017.

As you may know, I have been living and studying in Canada since April 2008, and this was the first time I failed to renew my status. This experience has taught me an unforgettable lesson, because my mistake has impacted the ability of my determined, ambitious, and hardworking wife and sisters to complete their English studies and to obtain undergraduate degrees from Canada.

I know clearly understand the rules for visitors in Canada, and the consequences of not following the rules. I understand that I must renew my status before it expires, and that overstaying could lead to the denial of future applications and it could lead to me being deported from Canada and to the denial of future applications and it could lead to me being deported from Canada and denied entry for a year. I have no intention of overstaying ever again, and I commit to returning to Saudi Arabia with my family at the end of our stay in Canada.

I also understand that I cannot study or work in Canada without the proper authorization and permits. I will not return to my flight training until I apply for and receive a study permit to do so. My plan is to take care of my children while my wife is studying, and to apply for a study permit around spring time. I am applying for a visitor visa at the moment because it takes less time to process than a study permit, and my wife and sisters are anxious to return to their studies in January 2017.

I apologize sincerely for my mistake, and I hope that you forgive me. My wife, sisters and I are praying to return to Vancouver together at the end of this month. We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible, and I am available to answer any questions you might have.