Section 40 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides that a permanent resident or foreign national is inadmissible to Canada for directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of Canada’s immigration laws.
The general consequence of misrepresenting is a five-year ban from entering Canada.
Canada is very strict on misrepresentation. In Bundhel v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2014 FC 1147, for example, Mr. Bundhel had been charged and convicted with an offence, which had been overturned on appeal. Mr. Bundhel would accordingly not have been criminally inadmissible to Canada. Because of this, he put on his immigration forms that he had never been charged or arrested. When it discovered thathehad been previously charged, Citizenship and Immigration Canada wrote to him and provided him with an opportunity to explain why he misrepresented. After the immigration officer reviewed the Mr. Bundhel’s explanation that it was an innocent mistake, the officer refused the application, and declared the person inadmissible to Canada for misrepresentation. The Court wrote (citations removed):
Mr. Bundhel’s complaint that the Officer should have considered the fact that he owned-up to the problem at the first available opportunity is also unjustified. Mr. Bundhel only acknowledged the true facts when he was confronted with them. This is not equivalent to a situation where an applicant owns-up to a mistake before it is brought to light or where the file already contains the correct information. In such a case, a favourable inference is more likely to be drawn because it is suggestive of an innocent mistake and not a wilful omission. The same point is made in Uppal v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), where Justice Anne Mactavish stated the following:
The misrepresentations in this case were made in the context of the applications for permanent residence that were under consideration by the officer. In such circumstances, the fact that the misrepresentations were disclosed by the applicants prior to a final decision having actually been taken in relation to their applications does not assist them. Indeed, this Court specifically rejected this argument in Khan v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship & Immigration)
That is, the Court held in Khan that such an interpretation would lead to situations where individuals could knowingly misrepresent their circumstances, but nevertheless escape an inadmissibility finding, as long as they disclosed the misrepresentation right before a decision was made. Not only would such an interpretation encourage the abuse of the Act, it also ignores the requirement to provide truthful information in applications under the Act.
The Court’s concerns in Khan are amply illustrated by the facts of this case, where the applicants only came forward with their “clarification” once they knew that their lies were about to be uncovered through genetic testing.
As a consequence, I am satisfied that the officer’s conclusion that the applicants had misrepresented material facts relating to a relevant matter that could have induced an error in the administration of the Act was one that was reasonably open to him on the record before him.
The fact is, our system of immigration control relies heavily on the truthfulness of those who apply to come here. Those who misrepresent their histories or withhold material information with a view to enhancing their chances for entry are undeserving of special consideration. The consequences for Mr. Bundhel are undoubtedly serious but they result from his failure to disclose material information. The integrity of Canada’s control over its borders demands nothing less than scrupulous honesty from applicants and the rigid enforcement of that obligation. The Officer’s decision fulfills this principle and is in all respects reasonable.
There are several important things to understand about misrepresentation:
- If someone who is sponsoring a foreign national makes a misrepresentation, then it is the foreign national who will be found to be inadmissible.
- It is important to note that the rule against misrepresentation applies to permanent residents as well as foreign nationals. A permanent resident can be removed from Canada and/or lose their status if they commit misrepresentation.
- If someone hire a shady consultant or lawyer that lies on the forms, that person cannot use their representative as an excuse. It is applicant who will be punished.
- Once Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC“) makes an allegation of misrepresentation, it is insufficient for the applicant to simply withdraw the application. As the Federal Court noted in Zhang v. Canada, 2015 FC 463, “such an approach would encourage claimants to misrepresent material information in the expectation their visa applications could simply be withdrawn if the deceit was later uncovered.”
- For IRCC to make a misrepresentation finding it is necessary that the misrepresentation actually have had the possibility to cause an officer to reach an erroneous decision, and induce an error in the administration of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In Murugan v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration Canada), the Federal Court found that omitting a visitor visa refusal from a permanent residence application could not have resulted in an error in the administration of the Act.
- If IRCC believes that there is a discrepancy between what an applicant says at a port of entry interview and what was in the application then procedural fairness will at a minimum require IRCC to advise the applicant of the general concern, and, as was the case in Guerrero v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration Canada), even provide the applicant with the exact statements that were allegedly said at the port of entry. The Federal Court found a similar duty regarding inconsistent statements at spousal sponsorship interviews in Huang v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration). However, there is no obligation to specifically state that an officer is concerned that there is a misrepresentation. As the Federal Court found in Narang v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), simply asking for comment on an inconsistency is sufficient.
- There is an important distinction between insufficiency of evidence and misrepresentation. While an officer can often find that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that an applicant meets the requirements of immigration, this is distinct from the test for misrepresentation, as the Federal Court found in Seraj v. Camada (Citizenship and Immigration).
- A visa application must be considered in its totality. It cannot be compartmentalized, particularly when making a finding of misrepresentation carries such serious consequences. In other words, where there is a misrepresentation in one portion of an application, but the truth can be found in another part, then a finding of misrepresentation may be inappropriate, as was the case in Lamsen v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration).
- Officers must be vigilant that the misrepresentation findings are sound, given their serious and lasting consequences.
- Typically, although not always, it is insufficient for an officer to assign little weight to documentary evidence simply by stating that the “easy availability of inauthentic documents” in a country.
- The materiality analysis is not limited to a particular point in time in the processing of the application.
To conclude, a few Federal Court decisions have cited paragraph 28 of (Goburdhun v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2013 FC 971, to provide a summary on how Canada’s misrepresentation inadmissibility works. I have reproduced it below, with citations removed for ease of reading:
Section 40 is to be given a broad interpretation in order to promote its underlying purpose. Section 40 is broadly worded to encompasses misrepresentations even if made by another party, including an immigration consultant, without the knowledge of the applicant.
The exception to this rule is narrow and applies only to truly extraordinary circumstances where an applicant honestly and reasonably believed that they were not misrepresenting a material fact and knowledge of the misrepresentation was beyond the applicant’s control.
The objective of section 40 is to deter misrepresentation and maintain the integrity of the immigration process. To accomplish this, the onus is placed on the applicant to ensure the completeness and accuracy of their application. An applicant has a duty of candour to provide complete, honest and truthful information in every manner when applying for entry into Canada. As the applicant is responsible for the content of an application which they sign, the applicant’s belief that he or she was not misrepresenting a material fact is not reasonable where they fail to review their application and ensure the completeness and veracity of the document before signing it.
In determining whether a misrepresentation is material, regard must be had for the wording of the provision and its underlying purpose. A misrepresentation need not be decisive or determinative. It is material if it is important enough to affect the process.
An applicant may not take advantage of the fact that the misrepresentation is caught by the immigration authorities before the final assessment of the application. The materiality analysis is not limited to a particular point in time in the processing of the application.