English Language Skills: What can I do to qualify?

English Language skills

Mary Keyork
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My English language skills are not strong but I want to apply for permanent residence. What can I do?

If you are interested in moving to Canada, or applying for permanent residence, it is important to have skills in English or French (or both)! Many permanent residence application categories require you to demonstrate that you can speak, read, write and understand either French or English at a level that will allow you to work in Canada and integrate into the community.
First, it is important to understand your goal. For Canadian immigration, the accepted English and French language tests are:
English: CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
French: TEF (Test d’évaluation de français)
These tests all have listening, speaking, writing and comprehension components, so make sure you prepare all areas when you are brushing up on your language skills.
How can you improve?
Take a course – since you will be tested on speaking, understanding and writing in your test, we recommend taking an in-person class where you will get to practice speaking and have the opportunity to have a teacher help you.
If you cannot attend in-person classes, some online or self-study language programs can also be useful. If you are going to study alone, try focusing on your weakest area and pick the study guide or program that matches what you need.
Get a language buddy – lots of people want to learn, or practice, another language. If you need help with English but are fluent in another language, find someone to pair up with. They can help you with your English reading and speaking while you help them with to learn your language and improve their vocabulary and pronunciation.

Do some practice tests – if you are not sure where to improve, it might be a good idea to take a practice test. You might be able to find practice material through an in-person language institute, a self-study book or program or online. Once you have take a practice exam, you will know your strengths and weaknesses and can spend your time studying up in the areas where you need to improve.

Read English or French books – if you have basic skills but want to improve, reading books written in French or English can help you. It is a good way to practice reading and comprehension skills. If you read aloud, you can also improve your pronunciation. There is no shame in starting with books for children or young adults and working your way up to adult reading when you are more comfortable.

Read English or French newspapers or magazines – just like books, newspapers and magazines are a great way to improve your reading comprehension and keep up with relevant news and issues.

Watch English or French television and movies –watching television shows, movies and listening to music in French or English can help you improve your language skills, especially your listening comprehension. You will become familiar with common terms, phrases and pronunciation. Listening to music in another language can help your brain adjust to the different pronunciation as well, which may make it easier when you are practicing speaking and reading.

Consider a language app – there are some excellent apps available on a variety of platforms, including mobile devices, tablets and computers. Check out the relevant app store to see if any of these systems is right for you.

Start a vocabulary book – start to write down words and phrases as you learn them and refer back to it often in order to refresh your memory.

Practice, practice, practice – it is important to practice consistently. As we age, it becomes more difficult for our brains to grasp a new language. Practicing every day and immersing yourself in the language can help your brain adjust and pick up the new words and sounds. Tell people in your life that you are trying to learn French or English – if they know the language too, they can help by only speaking to you in that language, instead of your native tongue.

Don’t forget – everyone has their own learning pace. We suggest identifying your goals, the areas where you need to improve and not giving up. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. They will help you succeed!

Related posts

How do I proof English proficiency for Canadian Citizenship application?



IRCC’s International Compliance Regime and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Temporary foreign worker program

Canada’s approach to temporary foreign workers has evolved over time, however, it is clear that protecting Canadian jobs is a priority for the government. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) work together to regulate, manage and oversee foreign worker programs in Canada and the government has emphasized that foreign workers should be brought into Canada primarily when no Canadian or permanent residents are available for the position. In addition, the government has developed and implemented a rigorous compliance process to monitor employers and has mandated harsh penalties for employers that are found to be non-compliant with the rules.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (“TFWP”) includes work permits that are issued based on positive Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) granted by ESDC. In these cases the employer will need to first demonstrate that there is no Canadian or permanent resident who can perform the role before they can hire a foreign workers.

In contrast, the IMP includes all work permits that do not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”), such as spousal work permits, post-graduation work permits, intra-company transfers, global mobility work permits for youth, NAFTA and other free trade agreement work permits, and many others. If an individual and their prospective Canadian employer meet specific criteria under this program, no labour market test is required and the individual can apply directly for a work permit.

In the 2018 federal budget, the government pledged $196 million to the International Compliance Regime, as it relates to the International Mobility Program (“IMP”) and Temporary Foreign Worker Program (“TFWP”), over the next 5 years.

The government’s newly announced funding will go toward continued labour market data collection relating to open work permits issued under the IMP. Open work permits require no LMIA and allow a foreign national to work for any employer, with some exceptions.

In addition, the government will utilize the allocated funds in the budget to support the International Compliance Regime and continued unannounced in-person and paper-based government inspections of employers participating in the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

Employers can be found non-compliant for failing to meet their obligations to foreign workers, failing to adhere to labour market test rules or for misrepresenting information to the government or failing to provide information when requested on inspection. Often, employers face penalties for failing to pay workers the amount that they indicated in a LMIA or work permit application, not providing an employee with the job they indicated in a LMIA or work permit application, not providing the working conditions promised, or failing to have sufficient compliance-related documentation during an employer compliance review or a random inspection. Employers are required to keep all relevant documents for a period of six years.

With the enhanced level of oversight and funding for employer compliance with these programs, what are the consequences for non-compliant employers? Employers who are found non-compliant through an inspection can face monetary penalties of $500 to $100,000 per violation (up to $1 million for multiple violations within the same notice), or a ban from hiring temporary workers for a period of time determined by IRCC. Usually, bans are imposed for two year periods. In addition, the employer’s name will be published on IRCC’s website, including details of the infraction, location of the business and the monetary penalty issued, if applicable.

When the new compliance regulations were first implemented in 2015, we did not see the government taking significant action or issuing many fines. In 2017, the government ramped up its efforts and issued two-year hiring bans and fines to several employers.

Canada has yet to see employers fined in the $100,000 to $1 million range, as has happened in the US under their immigration compliance system; however, employers are regularly receiving fines in the thousands.

In today’s compliance environment, it is important to understand the obligations of hiring a foreign worker before you issue an offer of employment and support a work permit application. It is equally important to ensure that your business has systems in place to ensure compliance, and that it has appropriate record keeping in the event of an employer compliance review or random government inspection.

Related posts

I have a job offer in Canada, Can I apply for a work permit?

I have applied for the extension of my work permit but I want to switch employer – Can I?

Inland spousal sponsorship open work permit pilot program extended into 2019!


IEC Update – Limited Spots Still Available!

IEC update

Mary Keyork
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Earlier this year, we provided details about the International Experience Canada (“IEC”) program. The IEC program still has spots left in some countries. Check out our recap of the IEC process below and the list of countries with spots left for this year.

If you meet the eligibility requirements and want to apply, get your documents together as soon as possible so you do not miss out on your last chance for an IEC work permit in 2018.
Once these spots are gone, the program will be closed until late 2018 – early 2019 (depending on your home country).

IEC Eligibility
There are three categories of work permits that fall under the IEC program, Working Holiday, Young Professionals and International Co-op Internship. The Working Holiday category is the most common and has the least restrictions.

The requirements are slightly different for each category, and also vary by country. However, the general requirements that you must meet are:
You must be a citizen of a participating country or go through a Recognized Organization. Recognized Organizations assist those who are not from participating countries (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/work/iec/ros.asp);
You must be within the age range specified for your home country. It is usually 18-30, but some countries allow applicants up to 35 years of age;
You must have a valid passport;
You must be able to demonstrate that you have at least CDN $2,500 in liquid funds (i.e. in your bank account) to support yourself;
You must obtain health insurance (if approved) before you travel to Canada. It must be valid for the full duration of your stay; and
You will have to pass standard admissibility checks.

The Process
If you are eligible and your country is still accepting applicants, you will need to create an online profile and provide personal and background information.Your profile will be submitted into a pool with other candidates and if you meet the requirements, and there is still space, you will receive an Invitation to Apply. From there, you can apply online for your work permit.
You can only complete and submit one profile; however, there are multiple pools – one for each category and country combination. If you are eligible for more than one IEC category, your profile will be viewable in all of the relevant pools based on the answers you provide in your profile questions.

If you do receive an Invitation to Apply, you must be prepared to provide IRCC with documentation supporting the information that you included in your profile, as well as additional details regarding your education, work history and background.

Participating Countries with Available Spots
The countries listed below still have some spots left but they may not last long. Please apply as soon as possible for a chance to make it this year.

AustriaEstoniaSouth KoreaSweden
BelgiumFranceNew ZealandSwitzerland
Costa RicaHong KongPolandUnited Kingdom
CroatiaIrelandSan Marino
Czech RepublicItalySlovenia


Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program for Entrepreneurs

Canada start-up visa program

Mary Keyork
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On February 28, 2018, Canada announced the details of its federal budget. Included in this year’s budget was nearly $5 million for the Start-Up Visa Program. This post is for everyone interested in hearing more about this program, and how it may be a good option for you to obtain Canadian permanent residence.

A Brief History
Back in 2013, Canada rolled out the Start-Up Visa program as a five-year pilot to see how the program would perform in attracting new immigrants and fostering innovative new start-ups for Canada’s economy. Through the program, the government was hoping to attract foreign entrepreneurs with desirable skills, innovative ideas, global competitive potential and the ability to create new jobs for Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Although uptake in the program was originally slow, the government tweaked the requirements and decided to make it permanent in the summer of 2017. Now, in early 2018, we are seeing further investment and commitment to this program.

I am an Entrepreneur! Am I Eligible?
You must meet these four main criteria to be considered for the program:

1. Your business is supported by a designated organization
Designated organizations are entities that have been government-approved to invest in and support potential start-ups under the program. They fall under three categories: venture capital funds, angel investor groups and business incubators. You can find them all here and visit their websites to learn more about the requirements for each: Designated Organizations. In order to obtain a Letter of Support, you will need to prepare a detailed business plan and pitch your idea to a designated organization. VCs or angel investors approach investment decisions differently than incubators, and each designated organization has a different process. We are seeing a lot of creativity in this space and encourage potential applicants to do their research and contact several different organizations to find the best fit.

2. You meet the ownership requirements
Under the program, up to five people can apply as owners of one business. In order to qualify, each owner that is applying must have at least 10% voting rights and all applicants must jointly hold more than 50%voting rights, including the designated organization’s voting rights.

3. You can demonstrate language skills in English and/or French
Most applications for Canadian permanent residence require applicants to pass a test proving that they can speak, read, write and listen at a minimum defined level in English and/or French. You can take the language test multiple times before you apply, but you must score at least a Canadian Language Benchmark 5 in either language.

Tests must be taken from an accredited agency, which includes IELTS or CELPIP, otherwise your results won’t count.

    4. You have enough money to settle in Canada and support yourself
Similar to language requirements, having settlement funds is a requirement of many Canadian permanent residence application programs. Each year, the government publishes minimum settlement fund requirements, adjusted for the number of family members included in your application. If you are applying as a single individual, the number of family members is one. If you have a spouse or common-law partner, the number of family members would be two.

For one person, the minimum level of funds is CAD $12,475 at the time this blog was published (remember, this is subject to change every year, so double check before you apply to confirm). For a family of 4, the amount is CAD $23,181.

When you apply, you will have to show evidence that you have access to these funds in a transferable, unencumbered form. This essentially means the funds are yours, are liquid and are not tied down by any debt or other obligation that would impair you from accessing them.

If you meet all of the requirements above, plus other general requirements that apply to everyone applying for Canadian permanent residence (i.e. background criminal and medical checks, etc.), you can gather your documents and apply.

Given the nature and business-related documentation required for a Start-Up Visa application, we strongly recommend working with an experienced legal professional to assist you in preparing the strongest application possible.

Who has a right to Canadian citizenship?

Canadian Citizenship












Mary Keyork
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We previously discussed the current eligibility criteria for permanent residents who wish to apply for Canadian citizenship through a process called citizenship by naturalization. But that is not the only path to citizenship. This week, we will look at individuals that have a right to citizenship.

Born inside Canada (Citizenship by Birth)
If you were born inside Canada but do not have proof of your citizenship – for example, you do not have a Canadian passport, citizenship card or certificate – you have a right to citizenship. You will need to get proof of where you were born, such as a provincial or territorial birth certificate. If you have this, the process is relatively straightforward.

If you do not have a birth certificate, there may be other types of documentation that you can use to demonstrate your citizenship rights.
Generally speaking, individuals born in Canada have a right to Canadian citizenship, even if their parents are not citizens. This does not apply to children born in Canada to foreign diplomats.

Born outside of Canada (Citizenship by Descent)
If you were born outside of Canada to a Canadian parent, or Canadian parents, you might have a right to apply for Canadian citizenship without first becoming a Canadian permanent resident.

This applies to anyone who was born (or granted citizenship status) in Canada before January 1, 1947 but stopped being a British subject and did not become a citizen on that date. For Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, the applicable date is April 1, 1949, which is when the province joined Canada. The same applies to British subjects living in Canada on January 1, 1947 but who were not able to obtain citizenship at that time. Again, the confederation date applies to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Similarly, an individual born to a parent (or parents) who meet one of the situations above have a right to citizenship. There are also rights extended through adoption under the scenarios outlined above. The adoption rules add an extra layer of complication to the citizenship rights, so we won’t get into those details in this blog; however, we will note that there is a one generation limit to citizenship passed down through adoptions. Essentially, children born outside of Canada and adopted by a Canadian are not eligible if either: (1) their adoptive parent was born outside of Canada to a Canadian; or (2) their adoptive parent gained citizenship based on adoption by a Canadian. This does apply if a Canadian-born adopts a foreign child or a naturalized Canadian citizen (i.e. someone who became a permanent resident then applied for citizenship) adopts a foreign child.

While there are limits to the rights of citizenship for adopted children in Canada, that does not mean that adopted children without a direct right cannot become naturalized. In fact, adopted children who do not meet the requirements can still be sponsored by their adoptive parents, allowing them to become permanent residents who can later obtain citizenship by naturalization.

What about children born to Canadian parents outside of Canada? Are they automatically citizens? The answer is likely yes if at least one of your parents was either born in Canada or was a naturalized citizen before you were born. This means that you may not automatically have a right to citizenship if your parents were not born or naturalized in Canada and gained their citizenship status by descent (i.e. having it passed down from past Canadian parents).

Misconceptions about Citizenship Rights
Many people mistakenly believe that they will automatically become Canadian citizens, or be allowed to remain in Canada and enjoy the rights of a citizen, if they marry a Canadian, have a Canadian parent or have lived in Canada for a long period of time.

Although these scenarios do not give rise to an automatic citizenship grant, there are still ways to become a Canadian citizen by becoming a permanent resident and subsequently meeting citizenship eligibility criteria.

We also want to note that if you voluntarily renounced citizenship status, even if you meet one of the situations discussed above, you will have to become a permanent resident and meet the citizenship criteria to become a citizen again. You are not eligible to apply for proof of your status.

We know all of these rules may be confusing. We can help you sort through the details and determine if you have a right to citizenship.

Citizenship: Current rules and application backlog

Citizenship eligibility rules

Mary Keyork
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Since 2014, there have been several significant changes to the Citizenship Act and the requirements to becoming a Canadian citizen. Today’s rules look a lot like the previous rules that were in place before 2014.

Current Eligibility Rules
First of all, what are the current citizenship rules? What criteria does a Canadian permanent resident need to meet to become a citizen and get a Canadian passport?

There are five main areas that you will need to meet, as well as some criteria that will inhibit you from applying for citizenship, outlined in the table below.

Eligibility CategoryRule
Permanent resident statusYou must be a Canadian permanent resident
Time present in Canada before you fileYou must have been physically present in Canada for at least 1095 days during the five years before you sign your application formsnnAny time spent in Canada as a legal temporary resident during the five years before you sign your application can be counted as a half day of physical presence, up to a total of 365 days out of the 1095 day requirement
Income tax filing requirementsIf you are required to file Canadian taxes under Canada’s Income Tax Act, you must have filed taxes in three tax years within the five years before the date you apply
English and/or French language skillsYou must be able to show that you are proficient in English and/or French. Anyone between 18-54 needs to demonstrate that they can speak and listen at the required level in order to be eligible
Knowledge of Canada’s culture and historyAnyone between 18-54 will have to take a citizenship test to show that they have an understanding of Canadian values, history, symbols, institutions, rights, responsibilities and privileges of citizenship
Prohibitions – You cannot apply ifYour permanent resident status is in question or you have not fulfilled conditions of conditional permanent resident statusnnYou are subject to a removal order
In some cases, have committed a crime in or outside of Canada (there are rules relating to criminality, citizenship applications and periods when anyone who falls under a specific category of criminality cannot apply)

We want to be clear that the rules above apply to individuals applying for a grant of citizenship, or who want to become naturalized Canadian citizens. Different rules apply to those who have a right to citizenship and need to obtain proof of their citizenship. Look out for a future blog for details on who can apply for proof of citizenship, or get in touch and ask our firm.

What Changed After 2014?
Before 2014, the rules were very similar to those we have today (which just reverted back in 2017). From 2014 to 2017, the main differences included: applicants needed to prove their intent to live in Canada after becoming citizens, applicants had to have resided in Canada for four of six years before applying (compared to three out of five years currently), applicants needed to show income tax returns for at least four years out of those six years, applicants between 14-64 needed to prove language abilities and take the citizenship test (compared to 18-54 currently) and applicants were not able to count days in Canada as a temporary resident toward their physical residence requirement.

What was the point of all the back and forth? Partly, a change in government saw changes to many immigration policies and laws, including citizenship rules. In 2014, there was a significant backlog of applications in the citizenship processing queue – some applicants had to wait 3 years or more for a decision. With the stricter rules that came into effect in 2014, people had to wait longer to become eligible and there was a dip in the number of people applying. This allowed the government to get some breathing room to work through the backlog of applications.

In 2016, the government increased the filing fees for citizenship applications which seemed to also lower the number of applicants applying that year. There was a 50% decrease in the number of applications received from January to August 2016, compared to the same period in 2015 [Sources: 1 2]. This gave the government another opportunity to work through the backlog and cut down on application processing times.

At the close of 2017, we saw citizenship application processing times down to one year, as published on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) website. We will have to wait and see how the latest rule change will impact processing times and if it will lead to a marked increase.

On a positive note, the rule changes have benefits for those who have been waiting to apply. Permanent residents can apply as soon as they accumulate three years of physical residency within the five years before they submit an application (including any qualifying time as a temporary resident).


New rules regarding citizenship revocation in effect

citizenship revocation

Mary Keyork
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In our last two blogs, we covered some of the ways that individuals can become Canadian citizens, either through naturalization or birth.
This week, we look at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (“IRCC”) latest announcement regarding revocation of citizenship and the rights of people going through the revocation process.

The old revocation process
As always, we like to give our readers a quick overview of the past rules before we explain what has changed.

Before this year, any Canadian citizen who was facing revocation of citizenship based on misrepresentation, fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances (for example, using fake documents or information to obtain citizenship) would have their case reviewed by the Immigration Minister, or a Minister’s delegate.

If a case involved security, human or international rights violations or organized crime, it was heard by the Federal Court.

If a citizenship officer suspected misrepresentation or fraudulent behavior, they had no right to seize documents provided in support of citizenship or proof of citizenship applications.

What has changed? The new revocation process

Now, with the latest changes in effect, citizenship officers can seize documents that they suspect are fraudulent or were gained through fraudulent means related to citizenship applications. In revocation cases, an IRCC official will review the facts and evidence to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring the matter to Federal Court, which could result in some revocation cases being terminated.

In addition, in the summer of 2017, IRCC repealed the rule that citizenship could be revoked for dual citizens (i.e. anyone holding Canadian citizenship and citizenship to another country at the same time) if they were convicted of treason, terrorism or spying, or were engaged in armed forces that were engaged in conflict with Canada. As a result, dual citizens are not subject to revocation but instead face prosecution in Canada for their crimes, no matter what the sentence, just like every other Canadian citizen. Essentially, having dual citizenship no longer gives these individuals lesser rights under Canadian laws.

The Federal Court will be the primary decision maker for all citizenship revocation cases. Individuals facing revocation will still have a right to have their case heard by the Minister if they choose, but it will not happen automatically.

What does this really mean for individuals potentially facing revocation? It means an opportunity for greater fairness in the revocation process. By having cases heard by the Federal Court, people facing revocation have the chance to be represented in an independent court and play an active role in the proceedings.

Phone scam targets international students in Canada

Phone Scam targets International Students

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Mary Keyork
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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) have been advised of yet another telephone scam, this time targeting international students living in Canada.

International students across Canada have reported that people claiming to be employees of IRCC have called to threaten them with arrest or deportation if the students do not obtain an immigration lawyer and, in some cases, transfer money to the callers. The caller tells the student that there is an immigration or arrest warrant against them and that the student could be removed from Canada if they do not comply with the caller’s request. IRCC has reported that some students have transferred thousands of dollars because they believed that they were following IRCC’s instructions or retaining an immigration lawyer who would ensure that they would not be deported from Canada.

These calls can be frightening and it is important to remain calm if you are contacted by an individual claiming to be from IRCC and requesting you to pay money or hire a particular lawyer to avoid deportation. Do not respond to these requests, give the caller any personal information, or transfer any funds to them.

An IRCC employee, officer or legitimate lawyer or legal representative will never make a phone call of this nature. Further, no IRCC officer or lawyer would ever request you to transfer the money as a guarantee to avoid deportation or the revocation of your study permit or another immigration status.

IRCC has issued an alert on its website confirming that it never contacts individuals over the phone, in person or online asking for fees or fines related to preventing deportation proceedings or avoiding revocation of immigration status. IRCC will never ask applicants to deposit money into a bank account, send an email money transfer or deposit money through a private money transfer service (e.g. Western Union).

Also, if you receive an email from an individual claiming to be from IRCC, check the sender’s email address. Government employees will never contact you from a Gmail, Yahoo mail, Hotmail, or other free email service account and will have an email that contains “@gc.ca” or another government identifier.

Choosing a Legal Representative

It is also important to understand who is legally authorized to provide immigration advice and help you with an application. Authorized professionals are lawyers or paralegals in good standing with a Canadian law society, immigration consultants who are members in good standing with the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, or notaries who are in good standing with the Chambre des notaires du Québec. No other individual or company is legally allowed to charge a fee for immigration advice.

You can confirm the identity of a potential legal representative by asking them for their professional registration information and checking with their licensing organization over the phone, or online. If they are not registered as a professional in one of the official organizations listed above, then they are not legally authorized to give you advice.

If you are contacted by an individual who claims to be an immigration lawyer or consultant and they tell you that you must transfer them money so they can keep you in Canada, you should report them to Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre or the Border Watch Tip Line.

How to Report Immigration Fraud

If you suspect that you have been contacted by a fraudulent individual or company, do not engage with them or give them any personal information. You should immediately report the activity to IRCC by calling the Border Watch Tip Line (Toll-Free): 1-888-502-9060 or Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501. All information you provide will be kept confidential and can help prevent others from being targeted. Law enforcement authorities would be happy to receive relevant information so that they can investigate and arrest the scammers involved.

Confirming Permanent Residency over the phone; a New pilot program!

Permanent Residency

Mary Keyork
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Government Pilot Project will Confirm Permanent Residence over Phone: Selected Participants will not have to Travel to Confirm PR Status

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) announced a pilot project last month that will test out a new way for selected foreign nationals who are already in Canada to be confirmed as Canadian permanent residents – over the phone.

Currently, foreign nationals who are approved to become Canadian permanent residents must confirm permanent residence in person Under the regular process, applicants receive an approval letter in the mail along with a document called a Confirmation of Permanent Residence, or CoPR. In order to confirm permanent residence status, depending on the type of application, applicants must either schedule and attend an in-person interview at a local IRCC office, or leave Canada and return through a port-of-entry. In-person interviews can take a few weeks, or more, to schedule and leaving/re-entering at a port-of-entry can be costly and time-consuming. The current process is inflexible and cannot accommodate individuals who face difficulty traveling to a port-of-entry or in-Canada office.

Of course, if you already have travel plans when you receive your CoPR, you can simply take it with you (along with other documents you may need to confirm your status) and confirm your status when you re-enter Canada by air, land or sea, but many in-Canada applicants do not have travel plans, and prefer to confirm permanent residence inland.

How the Pilot Project will Work

The pilot project may alleviate some of these issues by allowing selected individuals already in Canada who have been approved for permanent residence to confirm their status through a telephone interview. CoPRs will be either mailed or uploaded online into the individual’s IRCC account (for those who applied online under an eligible program). During the telephone interview, the same questions that would normally be asked in an in-person interview will be asked, and the process is expected to take approximately 15 minutes.

Selected applicants will receive a notification through their IRCC application portal, if they applied through the portal, or they will get an email from an address ending in “@cic.gc.ca.” If you receive a positive decision on your permanent residence application but have not been notified that you were selected for telephone confirmation, then you must either schedule an interview or attend in-person at a port-of-entry.

IRCC will select candidates for participation in the pilot project. Right now, clients cannot request a telephone interview but depending on its effectiveness, the project may be expanded in the future. The results of the project and the experiences of its participants will be taken into consideration by the government in determining whether to roll this program out for all applicants in the future.

The government has not indicated how long they will run this pilot project or how many individuals will be selected to participate.

Issues Not Addressed by the Pilot Project

One issue that still exists in the process of becoming a Canadian permanent resident is Permanent Resident Card issuance. As many new Canadian PRs know, there is a significant lag time in the date that PR status is confirmed and the time that a Permanent Resident Card is received in the mail. It can take up to six weeks, or more, from the day you are confirmed as a permanent resident to the day you receive your Permanent Resident Card. This is a significant issue because the Permanent Resident Card is a vital travel document for Canadian permanent residents traveling outside of Canada. Without it, they run into trouble boarding commercial airlines flying to Canada.

The Permanent Resident Card issue has been affecting foreign nationals for many years and is a common complaint. If IRCC is having a look at procedural issues that cost time and money for Canadian newcomers and permanent residents, we hope that they will look at improved solutions for the latter half of the process beyond the confirmation of permanent residence stage.

Inland Spousal Sponsorship Open Work Permit Pilot Program Extended into 2019!

Inland Spousal Sponsorship

Mary Keyork
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In December 2014, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) launched a two-year inland spousal sponsorship open work permit pilot program for individuals being sponsored from inside Canada. Just before the pilot was set to expire in December 2016, the government extended it for a one year period into 2017.

In December 2017, right before the holidays, the government announced that it would extend the pilot for another year (and a month) until January 31, 2019.

IRCC initially introduced this pilot program as a means of supporting and keeping families together in Canada. By giving sponsored spouses and partners the option to obtain an open work permit while their inland application processes, many families are able to support themselves while they wait. In addition, the inland processing option opens up and lets families remain together. In contrast, many families are not able to remain together during application processing if they file under the overseas sponsorship category.

Who Qualifies?

This pilot program should not be confused with the bridging open work permit program for permanent resident applicants who are in Canada on a valid work permit.

To qualify under this pilot program, applicants must be a spouse or common-law partner living in Canada and being sponsored by the Spouse or Common-Law Partner Class. On top of that, applicants must:

• Have valid temporary resident status – this can include status as a visitor, student or worker; and
• Live in Canada at the same address as your sponsor.

Stages of a Sponsorship Application

Sponsorship applications are processed in two stages: (1) the sponsorship application where the sponsor is assessed for eligibility; and (2) the permanent residence application where the applicant is assessed for eligibility for a permanent residence grant.

When a sponsorship application is approved, the sponsor and applicant will be notified that the application will move onto the second stage of processing. When an initial review of the permanent residence application is completed, and if everything checks out, the applicant will receive approval in principle.

Approval in principle means that an applicant meets the permanent residence eligibility requirements but there are still some background checks (i.e. medical, security) happening that can take time.

How to Apply

Sponsored spouses and common-law partners can apply for an open work permit whether they have received approval in principle or not. There are three options for first-time open work permit applicants:

• If no sponsorship and permanent residence application have been submitted – submit the open work permit application on paper along with the sponsorship and permanent residence applications. It will be processed once IRCC has completed the sponsorship assessment and moves onto the permanent residence application;

• If a permanent residence application was submitted but no approval in principle has been received – submit the open work permit application on paper, along with all supporting documents and the processing fee;

• If a permanent residence application was submitted and approval in principle has been received – submit the open work permit application online.

If you were already issued an open work permit under an earlier pilot program and need to extend it you must apply to extend it before it expires under the regular work permit extension process. This can be done by paper or online. The forms, supporting documentation and fees for the extension application will not be the same as those you submitted for the initial open work permit application. Make sure you give yourself enough time to gather what is required and complete the forms so that you can submit in advance of your work permit expiry.

Note that work permits being extended under the pilot program will only be issued until January 31, 2019, at the latest, or the date your passport expires, if it is before January 31, 2019.

Back in October, we wrote about bridging open work permits – what they are, who qualifies and how to apply. Bridging open work permits are different than the inland sponsorship based work permits. If you are interested in learning about bridging open work permits, you can check out our blog here Bridging open work permit & PR for all of the backgrounds.

Can I come to Canada to look for a job?

Temporary Work Program

Mary Keyork
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Can I come to Canada to look for a job?

Yes, it is not illegal for a foreign national to visit Canada to look for a job. However, foreign nationals need be part of a temporary work program or have a valid work permit before they can start work. Visitors on a job hunt will need to have a strong application to support a temporary, job-seeking, stay in order to avoid refusal from a visa office and gain entry at a Canadian port-of-entry.

When you apply to enter Canada as a visitor, either by making an application at a visa office outside of Canada or applying to enter directly at a Canadian port-of-entry, you need to demonstrate the reason for your visit. If you have prospects in Canada and can show evidence of interviews that you have scheduled, it may be helpful to show this in your application. In addition, it is important to show that you only intend to stay in Canada temporarily, that you have the means to support yourself while you visit (i.e. finances and accommodations) and that you have ties to your home country to return to. If you are applying directly at a port-of-entry, it is helpful to show that you have return travel booked already. If you need a Temporary Resident Visa and are applying at a visa office, hold off on purchasing air flight tickets until you receive an approval. There are no guarantees, after all.

It is important to have a plan before a job search and return you come to Canada – the chances of you being refused entry are higher if you have no contacts in Canada and do not have the financial means to support your stay. Immigration officers want to see that your reason for visiting is valid, that you intend to leave at the end of the period they authorize for your stay and that you can support yourself for the time you are in Canada.

Types of Work Permits

If you are successful in finding a job opportunity, you cannot start working right away. You must have a valid work permit first. There are different work permit categories that depend on your skill set, the type of job you have been offered and your country of citizenship.

We are not going to cover the details for every type of work permit, but we will discuss the basics as a starting point. There are two work permit programs (each with its own types of work permits).

1. The Temporary Foreign Work Program

This program includes all positions that require work permits based on Labour Market Impact Assessments (“LMIAs”). In order to obtain an LMIA-based work permit, there is a two-part process. In part one, the employer needs to complete certain requirements and apply to the government for an LMIA. Then, with a positively issued LMIA, a foreign worker can apply for a work permit. Workers have to wait for both the LMIA and work permit approval to start work. Having just an LMIA is not enough.

2. The International Mobility Program

This program includes all positions that require LMIA-exempt work permits. If a foreign national qualifies for an LMIA-exemption under this program, they can apply directly for a work permit and the employer does not need to obtain an LMIA first.

Some LMIA-exemptions include Intra-Company Transferees, NAFTA or other Free Trade Agreement Professionals and Open Work Permits (generally issued to spouses or dependent children accompanying workers in Canada). The International Experience Canada program also falls under the LMIA-exemption umbrella and allows citizens of participating countries who meet a specific age range (usually 30-35 or under) to obtain work permits for a one or two year period to allow them to gain Canadian work experience. A list of participating countries, including the age range for each country, can be found on the IRCC website.

If you do not fall under a specific LMIA-exemption, then your potential employer will need an LMIA before you will be issued a work permit.

If you are considering relocating to Canada and are starting to think about a job search, take some time to familiarize yourself with the work permit requirements and what options are available to you based on your background and the industry you are interested in entering. Also, if you are 35 or less, you should start by looking at the International Experience Canada program to see if your country qualifies. If so, you could be lucky enough to have the chance to apply for an open work permit for a year or two.

Related posts for additional help:

Do I need an Immigration Lawyer?

eTA – What is it and who needs it?




Permanent Residency Application Refusals

Permanent Residency Application Refusal

Mary Keyork
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I am facing Permanent Residency Application Refusal. Should I appeal the decision?

Before we discuss when it makes sense to pursue an appeal, we should provide some background on how immigration and refugee-related appeals work in Canada.

Types of appeals

The Immigration Appeal Division (“IAD”), Refugee Appeal Division (“RAD”) and Federal Court of Canada hear appeals of decisions made by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”).

You can appeal to the IAD if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You want to appeal a decision on a sponsorship application
  • You want to appeal a removal order
  • You want to appeal a residency obligation decision

Refugee applicants that receive a refusal from the Refugee Protection Division may be able to apply for an appeal at the RAD, depending on the details of their case and the nature of the refusal.

Otherwise, you may be able to make a request for judicial review to the Federal Court of Canada. The Federal Court will review your request and decide whether a hearing will be granted or not. The Federal Court will take applications for judicial review from decisions made by IRCC decision makers in or outside of Canada, including IAD and RAD decisions.

Deciding whether to appeal or not

If you feel that your application was strong and met all of the required criteria for approval, and you do not understand why a refusal was issued, we encourage you to speak with an immigration lawyer about your options.

Deciding whether to appeal will depend on each case and the information that was submitted in a particular application. In some cases, it may be best to reapply with additional information or evidence that was not included in your initial application and that can make a difference in getting an approval. Other times, there may be strong grounds to appeal the decision based on the documentation that was submitted. Depending on the type of application, there may be no option to reapply and an appeal may be the last option.

Since the appeal process can be lengthy, it is important to understand the benefits of reapplying and appealing before you go ahead. You should also keep in mind that there are strict deadlines for appeals.

For example, you have only 15 days to apply to the Federal Court for leave for a judicial review after you have received a refusal that was made from an IRCC decision-maker inside Canada. If the decision was made outside of Canada, you have 30 days. For appeals made to the IAD, you generally have 30 days to apply and 60 days in the case of a residency obligation refusal. These dates are all counted from the day you receive notification of the decision.

We encourage anyone thinking of the appeal process to speak with an immigration lawyer as quickly as possible. While a lawyer is not required to represent an individual in proceedings, the process and evidence required can be complex and the chances of success are improved if you have an experienced individual or team on your side. In Canada, immigration consultants and paralegals are not authorized to represent cases in Federal Court.

Positive Appeal Decisions

You should also understand that a positive decision from the Federal Court does not mean that you will get an approval. Instead, the Federal Court will send your application back to IRCC for review by a different officer or decision maker. The same is true for sponsorship appeals heard by the IAD. The IAD itself will grant permission for the appeal and then send your file back to a processing office for further review.

If a residency obligation is being appealed, the IAD will make a decision on whether or not a Canadian permanent resident has fulfilled their residency obligation or not and the file is not sent back to an office for a second review.

Given the repercussions of receiving a negative decision on a residency obligation and losing PR status, it should be carefully reviewed. If you lose PR status, you will need to reapply and meet PR requirements based on current conditions and not based on your past application.

It is strongly recommended that you work with a lawyer during any stage of the appeal process. You have one chance to apply on time, submit all of the required forms and information and make your case once the appeal is heard.

More about Medical Inadmissibility

medical inadmissibility

Mary Keyork
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Medical inadmissibility is a complicated subject and while we cannot address every set of circumstances that can lead to a finding of inadmissibility on medical grounds, we can provide the following brief overview.

What Does It Mean to Be Medically Inadmissible?

There are two grounds for medical inadmissibility:
(1) a risk to public health or safety; and
(2) excessive demand for health or social services.

Essentially, this means that foreign nationals can be refused entry to Canada if they have a medical condition that is considered a threat to the public health or safety of Canadians or that will create a demand on medical or social services that will impact the quality or availability of healthcare for Canadians. If a foreign national’s dependent family member is medically inadmissible, all members of the family will be denied entry, whether the dependent is planning to accompany the applicant or not. The exception is that spouses, common-law partners and minor children who are sponsored by Canadian family members are exempt from the excessive demand evaluation.

Risks to public health and safety include contagious diseases that could put Canadians at risk, and can also extend to mental health and addictions issues causing violent or abusive behaviour.

Excessive demand is more complicated. When assessing whether a foreign national will cause an excessive demand for health or social services, officers must consider all types of services, including doctor’s and hospital visits, hospital stays, surgeries and procedures, as well as social services such as government-funded personal support, disability support, educational support, mental health services or housing services. Officers will not only consider the cost of services, but also the availability of services and the potential for an increase in wait times for Canadians.

When considering medical inadmissibility, officers look at whether a foreign national will cause excessive demand over the next five years, and in some cases up to ten years, if there is evidence to suggest significant costs past the five-year period. To determine excessive demand, officers compare the estimated cost of services and medical care a foreign national would need, to the average per capita cost for a Canadian. If the cost is deemed to be higher than the average over a 5- or 10-year period, the officer will likely make a finding of medical inadmissibility.

The cost threshold is determined every year. In 2017, it was CAD $6,655 per year, which would be CAD $33,275 over five years.

Applicants with Special Needs

Foreign nationals with special needs, or who have children with special needs, should be aware that conditions including autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, deafness or blindness will be assessed for excessive demand and can lead to a finding of medical inadmissibility.

If you or your dependent have existing special needs, it is recommended that you discuss them with an immigration lawyer before making an application so that you understand any risks, and develop a strategy to deal with the issue and try to either prevent or overcome a finding of inadmissibility.

How should I Respond to a Request for More Information?

In most cases, officers request individuals with medical issues to complete an additional medical exam and/or provide additional information. If the officer intends to refuse an application on grounds of medical admissibility, they will normally provide the applicant with an opportunity to respond to the finding and provide additional submissions and documentation. The response should be extremely carefully crafted and include details of how the applicant will not pose a threat to the health or safety of Canadians and/or why they will not be a burden on Canada’s health and social services, with proper supporting documentation. This could include medical reports from specialists or other expert reports, as well as a detailed plan of care along with the means of payment for such care.

It is important to note that having personal finances to cover healthcare costs is not enough to overcome a finding of medical inadmissibility. This is because most health and social services are free in Canada, and there is no way that the government can charge a foreign national for certain services. However, officers will look at each case individually and holistically, and an individual’s ability to pay for various services may be taken into account. Similarly, the existence of other types of support, such as a family member who could assist with care, is highly relevant.

Given the complicated nature of medical admissibility and the detailed government policies and procedures that officers have to follow in these situations, it is helpful to get a lawyer with expertise in this area to assist you in preparing a response.

Can I Appeal a Refusal on Medical Grounds?

Foreign nationals applying for permanent residence can apply for leave and judicial review to the Federal Court of Canada if they believe that there has been an error in the determination of their case. A judicial review application is narrower in scope than an appeal, and it is essential to obtain a legal opinion from a qualified lawyer to determine if there is any basis for such an application. If a foreign national has been sponsored as a member of the family class, the sponsor can appeal the refusal to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Ultimately, if you are facing a potential finding of medical inadmissibility, it is best to prepare a strong submission to the officer and try to avoid refusal. If your application is ultimately refused, your lawyer will provide you with advice on whether an application to Federal Court or the IAD is available and viable.

Medical Exams and Inadmissibility

medical exams

Photo by Hush Naidoo of Unsplash

Mary Keyork
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Do I Need a Medical Examination Before Coming to Canada?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) recently updated its list of countries that need to undergo medical exams before they come to Canada.

We thought this would be a good opportunity to update everyone on who does and does not, need a medical exam before coming to Canada and what exactly medical examiners look for during examinations.

Who Needs an Immigration Medical Examination?

Temporary residents from designated countries who apply to come to Canada for six months or more, and everyone applying for permanent residence, need medical examinations.

The designated country list applies to anyone who has lived in a designated country for six months or more in the last year before applying to come to Canada. This means that, even if you are a citizen of a country that is not on the list, you may still need an exam if you worked in or visited a country on the list for at least six months in the last year.

IRCC has a list of countries requiring medicals on their website (List of designated countries for medical exams). As of November 23, 2017, Fiji, Singapore and Tunisia were added to the list. Argentina, Bahrain, Belize, Colombia, Portugal, Seychelles, Surinam and Venezuela were removed from the list.

If you made an application for temporary residence before November 23, 2017, and you now need an exam, your application may be processed without one or the visa office may request you to undergo an exam. You will be contacted if an exam is now needed.

Who Provides Immigration Examinations?

IRCC has an authorized list of doctors, called Panel Physicians, who are able to complete immigration medicals. If you are examined by a doctor that is not on the IRCC Panel Physician list (Panel Physician list), it will not be accepted. Don’t worry – there are Panel Physicians in countries all over the world and you can locate them by searching for your country through the link provided.

When you call to book your appointment, make sure you tell the office that you need an immigration medical exam. The office will confirm what information you need to bring and the fee you will be charged.
Panel Physicians send your results directly to an appropriate Regional Medical Office (“RMO”), so you are not responsible for submitting your exam results; however, you are responsible for submitting proof that you underwent an exam. The doctor’s office will give you a document as evidence of the date of your exam. Each visa office around the globe is linked to an RMO and, once your results are processed by the RMO, details of your exam will be sent to the visa office automatically and updated in your file.
If additional tests are required, you will be contacted by the visa office to let you know what you need to do and whether you need to visit the Panel Physician for follow-up.

Should I Get my Immigration Medical Completed Before I Submit My Application?

There are two types of medical exams: (1) up-front medical examinations; and (2) medical examinations that are completed once you receive a request from the visa office processing your application. Visa offices generally give you a 30-day deadline to undergo your exam when they send you a request.

In order to understand when up-front exams are a good idea, it is important to know about the validity periods for exams and take those into account with application processing times. Medical exams are generally valid for one year from the date of the examination. If your exam results expire before your application is processed, you will have to undergo another exam and pay another fee. Since many permanent residence applications can take a year or more to process, permanent residence applicants should wait until the visa office makes a request.

For temporary residents applying to visit, work or study in Canada, processing times are generally shorter and an up-front exam can be taken before an application is submitted. The Panel Physician will give you a document confirming that you had an up-front medical and it is critical that you include this with your application to the visa office can link your results to your application. Again, the estimated processing time of the application and the date you plan to visit Canada should be considered. While this blog provides general guidance, each situation should be evaluated based on its specific factors.

Jobs Requiring Medical Exams

If you plan to work in Canada, there are certain jobs that require you to have a medical exam. This is true even if your country of residence or citizenship is not on the designated country list.

Generally, these jobs include anything that brings you into close contact with others or agricultural work. For example, if you work in a medical service setting, as a caregiver to children or persons with disabilities, or as a teacher you will need an exam.

If you are already in Canada with a work permit and have not undergone a medical exam, you can apply to remove the restriction that prohibits you from working in these fields by having a medical exam and applying to change the conditions of your work permit. You cannot start working in one of the restricted jobs until your application is approved, even if your physician advises that there were no issues with your exam.

What Are Visa Offices Looking For in Medical Exam Results?

Individuals who pose a danger to public health or may cause excessive demand on the Canadian healthcare system may be deemed medically inadmissible to Canada.

Individuals with highly contagious conditions, like tuberculosis, may be seen as a threat to the public health of Canadians if their condition is active and is transmittable. Excessive demand can be a complicated issue, but it generally refers to individuals that likely need access to medical resources that place a strain on the Canadian healthcare system and have the potential to decrease available services, or increase wait times, for Canadians. For example, if a foreign national has a chronic heart condition that is not well-controlled and is likely to require serious surgery during the period they wish to come to Canada, they could be deemed inadmissible due to excessive demand.

There are options to overcome medical inadmissibility in some cases. If you have been refused temporary or permanent status in Canada due to medical inadmissibility, you can contact us to discuss your refusal and what options are available to you.

Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications Explained

Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications

Mary Keyork
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The humanitarian and compassionate, or H&C, category, exists for foreign nationals that are not eligible to apply for permanent residence under other categories.

This category gives immigration officers some flexibility in exceptional situations where a family or individual does not qualify for an existing immigration category but extenuating factors exist that could warrant the granting of permanent resident (“PR”) status.

This category is truly for exceptional situations and is not for everyone who simply does not fit into another category.

What are the H&C factors?

Officers do have discretion under this category; however, there are a set of factors that they review to support their decision. Overall, officers are looking at what would happen to the applicant, and any children involved if the H&C application were refused.

The list below represents some of these factors:

Place of application (inside or outside of Canada) – generally, foreign nationals must apply for PR from outside of Canada unless they qualify for an exemption or category that allows for in-Canada applications. For example, some spouses or common-law partners can be sponsored from inside Canada allowing them to remain with their family while their application processes. For H&C applicants that are inside Canada, officers will look at the impact on that person, and any children involved if they had to apply for PR from outside of Canada.

Factors relating to a person’s stay in Canada – if the applicant is presently in Canada, officers will look at the circumstances of their stay. If a person does not have valid status but has been unable to leave Canada because of factors beyond their control, it may be seen as more favorable than if a person was able to leave Canada but simply refused. For example, if a person’s home country refused to accept them and they could not return, this would be out of their control. Of course, the specific reasons why a person cannot return to their home country will be considered.

An establishment in Canada or Ability to Establish – if the applicant is present in Canada, or previously spent time here, officers will consider how established and integrated they have become. Officers will look at factors like length of time in Canada, employment history, community involvement and integration, financial stability and whether there is a history of obeying Canada’s laws and cooperating with immigration authorities. Similarly, if an applicant is outside of Canada, officers will look at these factors in their country of residence to understand if they have the ability to establish themselves in Canada.

Best interests of a child – officers have to look at the best interests of any child directly affected by the decision. This can apply to children inside or outside of Canada, whether they are Canadian citizens or foreign nationals. Interests of children are taken very seriously and, sometimes, even if it is decided that an adult would not face hardship if they had to leave the country, an application might be granted if a child would face hardship based on a negative decision. This assessment not only applies to parents but can also be extended to relatives or other individuals that have a significant presence in a child’s life. The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate the relationship and any impact on the child if PR status is refused. This assessment applies to children that are 18 or under when an application is filed.

Statelessness – people can become stateless from discriminatory practices, inheritance, administrative and social barriers or renunciation. If a person is stateless and they have successfully established in Canada, it may be looked at positively in the overall application. As with other factors, it is up to the applicant to demonstrate that they are stateless.

These factors are not looked at in isolation. Instead, immigration officers take a holistic view of an applicant’s life to determine, overall, if it would create hardship for the applicant if they were not able to remain in, or move to, Canada.

Who Cannot Apply

There are some individuals that cannot apply under H&C grounds, including:

• Foreign nationals asking for temporary status. H&C grounds are only applied to permanent residence applications;

• Foreign nationals asking for an assessment based on refugee ground risk factors ((i.e. persecution, risk to life, etc.) or who have a pending refugee claim;

• Foreign nationals who have had a negative IRB decision within the last year. Exceptions to this apply if any children under 18 will be impacted by the decision, or if the applicant or their dependents have life-threatening medical conditions that cannot be treated in their home country.

Designated foreign nationals are restricted from making an H&C application until five years have passed since:

• They became a designated foreign national;
• The IRB made a negative and final decision on a refugee claim; and/or
• They received a negative decision on a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment.

If you have established yourself in Canada, and do not qualify for permanent residence under the economic, family or refugee classes, you may be eligible to apply on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Expiring Passports and applying for immigration. What to do?

expiring passport

Mary Keyork
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My passport is expiring, and I am about to apply for immigration status. What should I do?

We strongly recommend that you extend your passport if it is due to expire in the next six months and you have plans to travel to Canada, make an application for Canadian temporary resident status or extend your status.
As a general rule, immigration officers can only issue status documents for the length of validity of an applicant’s passport at a maximum.

Visa-Exempt Foreign Nationals

If you are visa-exempt (i.e., do not need a Temporary Resident Visa to travel to Canada) you are eligible to make an application for temporary residence at a Canadian port-of-entry. There is no rule that prohibits you from entering if your passport is not valid for at least six months; however, timing is important because your status will be limited to the duration of your passport, at a maximum.

Consider an example: Marwa is visa-exempt, and she is planning to enter Canada as a visitor. Her passport is expiring in 30 days, and she wants to stay in Canada and travel the country for three months. With her current passport, Marwa will only be granted visitor status for 30 days at the most. If she wants to stay in Canada longer, she must either renew her passport before she enters or obtains a new passport before her temporary status expires and then apply to extend her status with her new passport from inside Canada. If she does not do either of these, Marwa will have to leave Canada in 30 days.

Don’t forget – most visa-exempt foreign nationals need an Electronic Travel Authorization (“eTA”) to travel to Canada. Your eTA is linked to your passport electronically. Whenever you obtain a new passport, you need to apply for a new eTA.

Non-Visa-Exempt Foreign Nationals (Applications Made Outside of Canada)

If you are applying for temporary status from outside of Canada, we suggest that you have a passport with at least six months validity before you submit your passport for visa issuance.

Non-visa-exempt foreign nationals need a Temporary Resident Visa (“TRV”) to travel to Canada. TRVs are issued for the duration of a valid passport, at a maximum, and foreign nationals cannot enter Canada once the TRV expires. It is therefore important to ensure that your passport is valid on the date that you wish to enter Canada, and ideally for the entire duration of your intended stay in Canada. If your passport expires before you intend to exit Canada, you will have to apply to extend your temporary status once a new passport is received.

Let’s look at an example: Shelley has a Canadian job offer and meets all of the requirements for the worker class. She is planning on coming to Canada as a worker for two years. Shelley needs a TRV to travel to Canada and will be applying at the visa office in her home country. Shelley submits her work permit application and, when it is approved, she mails her passport to the visa office for TRV stamping. When she receives her passport back, she notices that the TRV is only valid for the next 60 days. This is because Shelley’s passport expires in 60 days and the visa office could not extend the TRV past the validity of her passport. Shelley has two options: she must enter Canada, obtain a new passport and extend her work permit all within the next 60 days; or, she will have to apply for a new passport before she travels and then submit an application for a work permit and TRV from outside of Canada again in order to get a two year TRV.

Non-visa-exempt foreign nationals who extend their status from inside Canada should note that there are two applications required to extend temporary status. In Shelley’s case, she would need to first apply to extend her work permit and then, once that application was approved, she would need to apply to obtain a new TRV. This includes mailing a valid passport to an office inside Canada.

This process should be carefully timed to ensure that temporary status is maintained and travel plans are not interrupted while applicants are without their passport.

Family Members Included in an Application

The information above also applies to family members included in an application. If your spouse or child is accompanying you to Canada and their passport expires before yours, their status will be limited to the validity of their passport at a maximum. This may mean that, once your spouse or child’s passport is renewed, you will need to submit an extension application for them before you extend your status to ensure they are legally authorized to remain in Canada with you.

Permanent resident applicants

Once you are approved for permanent residence, you will need a valid passport to complete the landing process and officially become a Canadian permanent resident.

For non-visa-exempt foreign nationals, you will receive a permanent resident (“PR”) visa in your passport when your application is approved, along with your Confirmation of Permanent Residence “CoPR”). Like a TRV, your PR visa will only be issued to the validity of your passport at a maximum. You will have to enter Canada to validate your CoPR on or before that date. If your PR visa expires and you do not complete the landing process in time, you will have to apply all over again.

Visa-exempt foreign nationals who do not require a PR visa to complete the landing process still need a valid passport at the time of landing.

CoPRs also have an expiry date, and you must ensure that you can complete your landing with a valid passport on or before that date.

Can I extend my status at a port of entry using flagpoling?


Mary Keyork
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My status is expiring. Can I flagpole and extend my status at a port-of-entry?

Applications to extend visitor records, study permits and work permits should be made in Canada prior to expiry. However, in some circumstances, foreign nationals who are visa-exempt can apply at a port-of-entry for a new visitor record, study permit or work permit.

Visa-exempt foreign nationals are individuals from countries that do not need a visitor visa to enter Canada. The list of countries that fall into this category can be found on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada site here: List of Visa-Exempt Countries.


Flagpoling refers to the process of leaving Canada to travel to the United States (or St. Pierre & Miquelon) and then quickly returning to make an application for temporary Canadian status at a port-of-entry. Sometimes, this is done immediately and individuals will drive to a Canada-US border crossing, turn around, and drive back through to make an application. A lot of people will even walk through the border crossing and back because it is quicker than lining up with the vehicles. Individuals who need to validate their Confirmation of Permanent Residence can flagpole too.

Why do people choose to flagpole? It can be a quicker option, avoiding long application processing times or the need to make an inland appointment with an immigration officer. People who have waited too long to extend their documents and have urgent upcoming travel needs might choose to flagpole instead of waiting for an application to be processed, which can take up to four months or longer.

While flagpoling is a legal practice, it carries risks and is frowned upon by border officers, especially when it is used to extend work permits. Before 2017, flagpoling was allowed at any day and time. Since the summer of 2017, the Canada Border Services Agency has restricted access to flagpoling at some border crossings in an effort to discourage the practice and limit the amount of time that their officers are dealing with issuing documents during peak crossing periods. Now, foreign nationals seeking to flagpole can only do so on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at some crossings. If you show up to flagpole from Friday to Monday, you will likely be turned away. This applies to the Queenston, Niagara Falls, Rainbow Bridge and Fort Erie (Peace Bridge) crossings.

Often, border officers encourage individuals to re-enter Canada and apply to extend their work permit online or on paper if there is still some validity left on the applicant’s work permit. In cases where an individual did apply from inside Canada to extend a work permit but they need to travel before a decision is received, an officer may use their discretion to issue a new work permit on re-entry or they could ask the applicant to enter Canada and wait for processing.

Who can apply at a port-of-entry?

If you are from a visa-exempt country, you may be eligible to make an application for a work permit, study permit or visitor record at a Canadian port-of-entry, if you have all of the required documentation. It is important to note that if your application is refused, you may not be granted entry to Canada or may be required to leave Canada within a short period of time (i.e. within 24 or 48 hours).

Individuals who want to apply for a visitor record, study permit or work permit can only do so at a port-of-entry if they are:

1. Visa-exempt foreign nationals seeking entry as a temporary resident;
2. Visa-exempt foreign nationals who meet the requirements to obtain a study permit;
3. Visa-exempt foreign nationals whose jobs do not require an LMIA; or
4. Visa-exempt foreign nationals who have a positive LMIA; or
5. Visa-exempt foreign nationals who want to confirm their permanent resident status document.

For those seeking entry as students or workers, make sure a medical has been completed, if required, well in advance of entry.

Don’t forget that you may also need an electronic travel authorization (“eTA”) if you are visa-exempt. See our previous blog post on eTAs for more information.

Foreign nationals who need a temporary resident visa to enter Canada, but do not have a valid temporary resident visa, are exempted from the requirement to obtain a new visa under very limited circumstances, specifically, if they are seeking entry to Canada and:

1. Are returning from a visit to only the US or St. Pierre & Miquelon; and
2. Have a valid study or work permit that they held before they left Canada; or
3. Are validating their new permanent resident status.

Foreign nationals under this category have to re-enter Canada before their temporary status expires or they will not qualify for this special exemption and will likely be refused entry. Also, if an individual who requires a temporary resident visa leaves Canada and travels to a destination other than the US or St Pierre & Miquelon, they can no longer qualify for this exemption and will not be able to apply for a visitor record, study permit or work permit, nor confirm their permanent resident status when they return to Canada.

Maintaining Valid Status Documents

Ultimately, the best thing to do is to apply well in advance to extend your status documents so that you can avoid any interruptions if you need to travel outside of Canada while your extension is being processed. We suggest filing extension applications several months before the date your document will expire, if possible.

If you are considering flagpoling and are concerned about maintaining your status, our firm can assist you in the best strategy and prepare you for what may happen during a trip to the border.



eTA- What is it and who needs it?

Electronic Travel Authorization

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Mary Keyork
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Electronic Travel Authorization – What Is It and Who Needs It?

An Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is an electronic travel document that you may need if you are a citizen from one of more than 50 visa-exempt countries traveling to Canada to visit, or transiting through, by air. Essentially, if you do not need a visa to travel to Canada and you are not a US citizen, then you need an eTA before you fly. If you are traveling by land or sea, you do not need an eTA.

Airlines may refuse to let you board a plane to Canada if you have not obtained an eTA.

The eTA requirement has been in effect since November 2016, with updates in May 2017, but many travelers still are not aware that they need it, or how to obtain it.

Canadian Permanent Residents, US Citizens, and Dual-Canadian Citizens

Canadian permanent residents do not need an eTA but should always travel with their permanent resident card or travel document or they risk not being allowed to re-enter Canada.

If you are a US citizen, you do not need to get an eTA to board a flight to Canada. US permanent residents (i.e. green card holders); however, still need to get an eTA until they obtain a green card.

Canadians with dual citizenship will face difficulty re-entering Canada unless they show a Canadian passport. The eTA is linked to the traveler’s passport, so, if you hold two passports, did not get an eTA because you are a citizen and decide to travel with your EU passport, then you could run into issues. As a guideline, Canadian citizens should always use their Canadian passport as their travel document when re-entering Canada. Don’t have a Canadian passport? You will need to get one before you travel.

Brazilian, Bulgarian and Romanian Nationals with US Nonimmigrant Status

Updates were made to the eTA rules in May 2017. The new rules cover Brazilian, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals and allow them to apply for eTAs if they:

• Have had a Canadian temporary resident visa in the last 10 years (counted from the date they make their application, not from the date the rule came into effect); and
• Have a valid US nonimmigrant (NIV) visa when the eTA application is submitted.
If nationals from these three countries do not meet these requirements, they still need a temporary resident visa before visiting Canada.

How to Obtain an eTA

The good news is, the process is fairly simple for most people. You can easily go to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website, fill out an online form and pay a nominal fee to apply.

Most applicants receive their eTA approval within the same business day. In other cases, additional review and processing may be required and delays can be experienced. This is why it is important to apply in advance to make sure that you are not stuck without one on your travel date.

Once issued, your eTA is linked to the passport you used to apply, so there is no need to print anything or bring anything extra in your carry-on. The eTA is electronically linked, so there is no need to mail in your passport.
If approved, you will get a confirmation email. If further screening is needed, an officer will contact you to let you know what additional documents they may need and the process to submit them. If your application is refused, the reasons will be emailed to you.

Workers and Students

Only visa-exempt visitors need to apply for an eTA. If you apply for a work or study permit, an eTA will be automatically included, or linked, to your status document.

With one exception – if you applied for your work or study permit before August 1, 2015, and you have not received an extension since, then you will need to apply online for an eTA because the program was not yet in effect.

Passport and eTA Expiry

It is important to note that your eTA will be linked to your passport. So, if your passport expires, so does your eTA. Whenever you renew your passport, make sure you go back online and reapply for your eTA so it is up to date and always linked.

Otherwise, eTAs expire five years after they are issued and need to be renewed once they expire.


Express Entry Trends and Draws

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Mary Keyork
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The Express Entry system was first introduced in January 2015 and there have been several changes to how the application process works and how points are awarded under Express Entry.
The most significant recent changes came into effect in June 2017, with minor changes in October 2017.

Backgrounder – What is Express Entry?

Express Entry is an online management system for permanent residence (“PR”) applications under the Federal Skilled Workers Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, and Canadian Experience Class. Provincial Nominee Programs can recruit Express Entry candidates through the online application pool.

Under Express Entry, PR candidates create online profiles with details of their work history, educational background, language ability, skills and other personal information. Candidates then enter the Express Entry “pool” and are awarded a score through Express Entry’s Comprehensive Ranking System (“CRS”). CRS points are awarded based on specific criteria up to a maximum of 1200 points. Most candidates score under 600 points.

Once in the pool, candidates must be invited by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) to apply for permanent residence. These invitations are generally issued at least once a month, but there has been a biweekly trend in the second half of 2017. Each invitation sets a minimum CRS score and a select number of applicants are invited to each round. The CRS cutoff and number of invitations fluctuates in each round. If an applicant is invited, they can then make an online, or electronic, application for permanent residence (“eAPR”). An application for permanent residence begins processing once the complete eAPR is submitted.

In addition to meeting the cutoff score for an invitation, candidates must also qualify for a permanent residence application stream (i.e. Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Workers Program, etc.) and need to have a valid job offer, also known as an offer of arranged employment, from a Canadian employer.

Express Entry provides the option for candidates to register in a Job Match program when they enter the initial pool (before they receive an invitation). Job Match allows candidates to be matched with Canadian employers seeking qualified employees.

Employers need to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) to support candidates unless the candidate is LMIA-exempt under certain conditions, including:

– Having worked full-time for the employer on their valid work permit for at least one year (or equivalent part-time work);
– Having a valid job offer (i.e. the employer is making an offer of indeterminate employment to you upon obtaining PR). Skilled trade positions can have two employers make a job offer and the candidate would need to work for both employers; or
– Having an LMIA-exempt work permit under a qualifying category.

Recent Changes

Two recent sets of changes came into effect for the Express Entry system.

On June 6, 2017, the following changes were made:

• Applicants can receive points for having a sibling living in Canada that is a Canadian permanent resident or citizen;

• Applicants can receive more points for strong French language skills;• The Job Match feature became optional, not mandatory; and

• A new method for separating candidates with tied CRS scores was put into place. Now, candidates are separated based on the date and time of profile submission, so, if there are candidates tied at the cusp of the maximum number of invitations received, those who submitted their profile first will get an invitation first.

Additional minor changes to the wording of the Ministerial Instructions that govern Express Entry, as it relates to the June 2017 changes, came into effect on October 24, 2017.

Latest Draws and Trends

Every year, IRCC has a target number of new permanent residents to hit their immigration levels targets. In 2017, the goal is 300,000 new permanent residents under all immigration programs. Of that, the government targets more than 170,000 new permanent residents from economic categories, and around 70,000 of those are managed under Express Entry. This means that Express Entry applications will account for just under a quarter of all new Canadian permanent residents in 2017.

As of mid-October, most candidates in the pool waiting for invitations were in the 351-400 or 401-450 point range with another significant portion at 350 points or less. Based on the recent trends of invitations, the 401-450 point range is a good place to be if you are hoping for an invitation before 2017 closes. Only about 200 candidates (out of approximately 60,000 currently in the pool) had scores above 600 and those applicants would have received invitations in the most recent draw.

Throughout 2017, we have seen higher and higher numbers of invitations issued, and more frequent draws from the pool than in 2015 and 2016. This can be attributed to government immigration targets and the clearing of pre-Express Entry applications in the processing backlog. As older applications are cleared out, there is room for more Express Entry applications that are processed much more quickly than pre-Express Entry economic category applications.

We can likely expect to see continued bi-weekly draws of 2500+ invitations throughout the rest of 2017.

The table below details the latest rounds of invitations this year.

Latest Rounds of Invitations Under Express Entry (2017)

Date CRS Points Number of Invitations Issued
Oct 18, 2017 436 2,757
Oct 4, 2017 438 2,801
Sept 20, 2017 433 2,871
Sept 6, 2017 435 2,772
Aug 23, 2017 434 3,035
Aug 9, 2017 433 2,991
Aug 2, 2017 441 3,264
July 12, 2017 440 3,202
June 28, 2017 449 3,409
May 31, 2017 413 3,877

Bridging open work permit & PR

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Mary Keyork
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I Applied for Permanent Residence and My Work Permit is Expiring. Do I Have to Stop Working Until My Application is Approved?I Applied for Permanent Residence and My Work Permit is Expiring. Do I Have to Stop Working Until My Application is Approved?

The answer depends on the type of work permit you have and the category of permanent residence (PR) you applied for. You may be eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) if you made an Application for Permanent Residence under one of the Economic categories.
If you have not applied under an Economic category, you may still be able to extend your existing work permit. Your eligibility and the documents required will depend on the type of work permit you hold.

Bridging Open Work Permits

The BOWP category lets foreign nationals with pending applications for PR under an Economic category obtain an open work permit. The BOWP will bridge the gap between your temporary and permanent residence. If you hold a work permit that is likely to expire before your PR application is processed, you may be able to get a BOWP.

In order to be eligible for a BOWP, you must:

• Be physically present in Canada;
• Hold a work permit that is expiring in the next four months;
• Be the principal applicant on an application for permanent residence under one of the Economic categories. These categories include: Federal Skilled Worker Class; Canadian Experience Class;       Federal Skilled Trades Class; Provincial Nominee Class; Caring for Children Class; or Caring for People with High Medical Needs Class; and
• Meet certain PR application eligibility check requirements, which depend on the type of application you submitted.

In order to apply for a BOWP, your application must have passed an initial eligibility check from IRCC and you must be able to provide proof. This looks a little different depending on the category you apply under:
• For applicants who applied under Express Entry, you can apply as soon as your electronic Application for Permanent Residence (e-APR) has been submitted online and you have received the initial Acknowledgement of Receipt letter from the online system. It is important to note that this Acknowledgement does not confirm that your e-APR has passed the initial completeness check and, while you can apply right away, your BOWP application will not be processed until your PR application passes this check and you receive your second Acknowledgement of Receipt letter. If your application does not pass this completeness check, your BOWP application could be refused; or
• For applicants who applied on paper, you can apply once you receive a letter confirming your positive eligibility assessment.

It is very important that you make your BOWP application at the correct time – if your PR application has not passed the required processing stage or your work permit is not expiring within the four month timeframe, your application will be refused and your ability to work in Canada can be impacted.

BOWPs and Family Members

If you qualify for a BOWP, you may also be able to extend your family member’s status at the same time you apply for your BOWP. Spouses or common-law partners of BOWP applicants may be eligible to extend or obtain open work permits.

In order for a spouse or common-law partner to qualify, the BOWP applicant must be a skilled worker (working in a NOC 0, A or B position in Canada) and be applying for a work permit for a duration of at least six months. The relationship between the BOWP applicant and spouse or common-law partner must also be proven.

Children that are in Canada as students or visitors will also be eligible to extend their study permits or visitor records along with the principal applicant’s BOWP application.

What If My Work Permit Extension Application Is Not Approved Before my Work Permit Expires?

It is important to consider the timing of your application and apply as soon as possible once you are within the four-month expiry timeline.

Once your work permit application is submitted you, and any family members included in your application, have implied status until a decision is received. Implied status means that, if your work permit or other status document expires after you submit your application but before you get a decision on that application, you can remain in Canada and continue to work until a decision is received.

It is very important to note that implied status is lost as soon as you travel outside of Canada. You could lose your right to re-enter Canada if you exit while under implied status.

We have over two decades of experience handling permanent residence and work permit applications. If your work permit will expire before your PR application is processed and you are concerned about maintaining your status and ability to work, we can guide you through the process and proper timing of your application.

Approved for Canadian permanent residency-What do I do now?

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Mary Keyork
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I was finally approved for my Canadian permanent residency! What do I do now? #HelpMe

Well first of all, congratulations!

We know how hard and long the process can be, but you made it through to the end. If you are wondering when you are going to receive your PR card, it can take about 1-2 months and this is completely normal. But you don’t need it in order to start getting some of your documents in order as you will have the Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR), which you received during your landing at the border or at an IRCC office.

Once you have landed in Canada, we recommend that your first stop be at the Service Canada office and get your Social Insurance Number (SIN). This is the number you will need in order to be able to work in Canada and of course, to pay your taxes.

Next, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with the department of motor vehicles in your area (the SAAQ in Quebec, Service Ontario in Ontario) if you wish to obtain a Canadian Driver’s License.

With respect to your health care coverage, you will need to apply for this at the designated office. We recommend that you inquire about this at the respective health office immediately after you land as each province has different instructions and requirements in applying and obtaining health care coverage – note that there is usually a delay from the date that you become a permanent resident to the day that you will have your health care coverage. In most provinces, there is a period of a few months where you will not have health coverage as this is a federal policy – we, therefore, recommend that you take the necessary precautions in order to have travel health insurance for that period of time in the event of a medical emergency.

Once you receive your PR card, it will be valid for a period of 5 years. In order to be able to renew your PR card when it expires, you will have to meet the residency requirement of 2 years out of 5 of physical presence in Canada. If you travel very often outside of Canada, we recommend that you keep all the dates and details of your travels as this can be helpful in calculating your residency at the time of your renewal.

Finally, as a Permanent Resident of Canada, if you live in Canada 3 years out of 5, you will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship. Once you become a Canadian citizen, you will no longer be a Permanent Resident and you will be issued a Canadian citizenship certificate, which you can use to apply for a Canadian passport.

We wish you all the best in your new life in Canada!

Do I need a Immigration Lawyer? Part 2

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Mary Keyork
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When do you really need an immigration lawyer?

If you’re a person who’s not very diligent with paperwork and isn’t going to take the time to go over each sentence, every document you’re including to make sure that the application is perfect, then it’s recommended that you get professional assistance. Unfortunately, the Canadian immigration system it’s a complex bureaucracy where thousands of applications are filed and processed each month. Very often, if you missed a signature, or didn’t fill out a section on a form, your application might get returned to you in it’s entirety, or it could be refused altogether. That can cause a lot of issues and delays in your professional and personal life, especially if you had specific plans to move or travel to Canada.

If you have already applied and have been denied, the safest and best thing to do to make sure that your application is on the right track is to consult with an immigration lawyer to determine whether your new application should be handled by an immigration expert.

In immigration law, rules and regulations are changing all the time. Combined with this is the complex administrative system by which immigration applications are processed.

For example, you might think that submitting five photos in your spousal sponsorship application are sufficient to demonstrate the genuineness of your relationship. However, as lawyers, we usually recommend that you submit at least 30 to 50 photos, in colour, with descriptions and dates. These little nuances make a big difference.

Or another example – you prepared your application, and you mailed it by regular mail to the immigration office. This is not recommended – immigration applications should always be submitted by registered mail or courier for you to have a tracking number if your application is lost or delayed.

You wouldn’t set your broken bones, would you? If you think you have a complex application that requires attention, consulting and maybe hiring an immigration lawyer is what you need!

Do you always need a lawyer to submit an immigration application?

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Mary Keyork
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In short, no you don’t. A lot of people decide to handle their immigration application process on their own. It really depends on the type of person you are and if you like doing paper work!

However, there are so many benefits to hiring an immigration lawyer. For example, the likelihood of your application being denied is significantly reduced simply because you’re hiring a professional who understands the entire legal process, from what words to use, how to write things, what supporting documents you need or should include (even if it’s not written on any website/document check list.)

The biggest benefit in having an immigration lawyer is less stress. You don’t have to worry that you forgot to send in one of the oh so many forms or documents required. You don’t have to worry that you filled in the wrong section of an application or that you filled out the wrong application altogether. That’s what your lawyer is for! Immigration application forms can be extremely confusing and are constantly changing!

Now, here’s where a lot of people get discouraged. Most law firms do charge a consultation fee. And it’s usually between $150-$300 for an hour depending on the firm and the level of expertise. But this fee is usually deducted from the over all legal fees if you decide to hire the firm – most immigration law firms have this policy. So it’s not a waste of money since you’re not only getting valuable information that can change your future, but you’re also putting a deposit on your lawyer.

In the grand scheme of things, although looking for and hiring the right lawyer might seem overwhelming and confusing at times, working with a qualified and experienced immigration lawyer can exponentially change the outcome of your immigration application.

Love conquers everything – one couple’s spousal sponsorship story

Spousal sponsorship story
Mary Keyork
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Love conquers everything – one couple’s spousal sponsorship story

Nina first contacted us by phone; she was reserved and wanted to make sure that her life story will not be judged. Once the initial trust was established, Nina asked to come in for a follow-up consultation as she didn’t feel too comfortable in discussing her story by phone.

Nina and Anna were engaged; the couple met at a mutual friend’s birthday party in Vietnam and slowly they became friends first, and then a couple. Their first date was memorable; both Nina and Anna loved picnics, so Nina organized a picnic outside of Anna’s town. They took a picnic basket full of amazing food, and wine and spent the whole day together, laughing and getting to know each other.

With each passing day they spent together they both realized that they found something meaningful and worth fighting for. Both Anna and Nina were in long-term serious relationships before and never really considered a long distance relationship. However, life rarely goes as we plan it to and since they both were certain that the relationship was worth it if they decided to give it a try and exchanged WhatsApp contact details and made tentative plans to meet again soon.

Both Nina and Anna were working professionals and had a busy life; however, they would always make time for each other. Nina was working at an international humanitarian organization as a policy advisor and grant manager. She worked hard to get there, but unfortunately, was never lucky in her personal relationship.

At some point, it would always come down to choosing between the work and the relationship, and while Nina hated to make that choice, it always ended up being another promotion or job opportunity. It was always a combination of having very demanding partners and an inner voice that would tell her the relationship was not the right one for her.

With Anna everything was different; they were able to understand each easily and communication was effortless. While they had different personalities, they complimented each other perfectly. Anna was working in the financial sector and had to travel a lot for business, nevertheless, they both managed to keep in touch often enough to keep the sparkle alive. After a couple of months, they took their first trip together to Italy.

The itinerary was exciting; Rome, Venice, and Florence. Anna and Nina spent days exploring the cities together; food, museums, shopping. The trip was packed with activities and emotions; they got along well and found out that their travel styles were similar to each other’s’ too.

Almost half way to their trip Nina noticed that Anna was concerned about something. She would be happy one minute, and then the shadow of concern would appear. At first, Nina ignored it; she thought that maybe Anna was too wrapped up in her work and it would take her more time to relax and enjoy the trip. However, one night Nina didn’t hold back and decided to ask Anna if something was bothering her. Anna looked relieved; she was going to tell Nina a secret and was hoping that it would not affect their relationship. Anna was born HIV positive and had to live with HIV her whole life. Her father did not know she was HIV-positive and her mother got it from him. When Anna was born she and her mother tested HIV positive, but the doctors were not sure whether it would be a permanent condition for Anna.

Unfortunately for her, frequent tests showed that it would be something that Anna would have to live with her whole life. Anna’s parents were sad; they knew that judgmental society would make it harder for Anna to live her life to the fullest. There was little they could do and they did their best; Anna was surrounded with love and care and had the best medical services available to her.

Nevertheless, given the bias society had about HIV her family decided to keep it a secret from Anna’s extended family. When Anna was younger, she was very self-conscious about her condition and had a fear that no one would want to date her or be friends with her if they learned about her condition. Apart from her fear of judgment, Anna had no issues with building relationships with people, but still stayed vulnerable when it came to opening up.

It was hard for her to understand that despite the information readily available to many, people were afraid of HIV and would react negatively. Anna always lived with the fear that if people found out they would tell her to stay away from them, as many still believe that HIV can be transmitted through touching. Society’s ignorance played a big role in forming Anna’s personality and her approach to relationships and life.

Fortunately for Anna, aside from her condition, she was very healthy and never had to go to the hospital because of her condition. She had been taking the same medicine for 8 years and had to switch her medicines only once.

It took courage to tell her secret to Nina, and Anna could only hope that Nina would not love her less. The relationship Anna and Nina had was too precious for Anna to hide something this serious from Nina, and she only hoped that Nina would be understanding and supportive.

Nina took the news well; she was worried that Anna was concerned about their relationship and was contemplating a breakup. While Nina was sad to learn about Anna’s experience and health condition, she was, nevertheless, relieved that the talk was not leading to a breakup.

Nina hugged Anna tight and told her how much she appreciated her honesty and that she would always be there for her. After the talk, they went out for a walk and some Italian ice cream. Three days later they had to go back to their respective countries.

Not so surprisingly, after having the talk, they grew closer and realized how much they meant for each other. During the next two years, they kept visiting each other and taking vacations. They both met each other’s families and friends and even spent the Christmas with Anna’s family.

During one of their visits, they started talking about the future and marriage, and at the end, they both proposed to each other and agreed that it was the right time to legalize the relationship. The wedding was in Canada since there are few countries where same-sex marriage was legal. The wedding was short, simple and intimate.

 Both Anna and Nina were wearing short wedding dresses and had matching bouquets. After the courthouse ceremony, the newlyweds and their families and close friends had a three-course dinner in one of the best restaurants in Montreal. After the dinner the party continued till 2 am; there was live music and a DJ to make sure that the wedding was fun and memorable.

After taking a week off to Cozumel in Mexico for a honeymoon, they had to say goodbyes. Anna left and Nina started her research into sponsoring Anna to Canada so they can be together.

After asking around and reading forums, Nina became concerned; it was mentioned that the application could be refused if there was a ground of medical inadmissibility. Nina wondered if Anna’s HIV status would deem her inadmissible.

Thankfully, after consulting with us Nina learned that permanent residency could be refused on medical grounds only if the health condition is either a danger to the health or safety of the public or if the person with the health condition would represent an excessive demand on health or social services in Canada. However, immigration does not consider HIV a danger to the health or safety of the public as long as it is a stable condition, well monitored and meeting certain medical requirements. In addition, an excessive demand criterion does not apply to refugees or those who are being sponsored as the spouse or a child.

Fortunately for Nina and Anna, this meant that being HIV positive would not be an obstacle for spousal sponsorship application.

After being assured that with the complete application including all necessary documents Nina’s application had all chances to be approved Nina decided to start the process and messaged Anna telling her that soon they will be together.

 On the other side of the world, Anna was waiting for Nina’s message that her HIV status would not be an obstacle to be together. Despite knowing that should it become an obstacle Nina would have moved to be with her, Anna wished that her health condition didn’t affect Nina’s life negatively. After all, Nina loved living in Canada and worked hard to get where she was.

“Love would have conquered everything”, Anna thought, “but having reasonable immigration policies in place did help the couple to have a life they both would be happy with”.

Spousal Sponsorship – Maria’s Story

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Mary Keyork
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A Complicated Spousal Sponsorship Situation with a Good Ending

Maria first contacted us online by submitting a form; later in the week, we had a Skype consultation. For the past 7 years, she had been living in Eritrea and working in an international human rights organization. Maria was extremely well traveled, educated and open-minded, and thoroughly enjoyed her time in Africa.

Her travels and work experiences taught her valuable life lessons; she grew as a professional and made lifelong friendships. While in Eritrea she also had a beautiful daughter, named Valeria and was enjoying both the joys and struggles of motherhood. Unfortunately, her relationship with Valeria’s father and her common-law partner did not last, but she was very thankful for being able to raise a daughter like Valeria. Maria’s ex-partner and colleague, Dan, also Valeria’s father had signed off his rights and was absent since the day Valeria had turned two years old.

Despite the struggles, Maria had to face in a new country she loved her job and the privilege to raise her daughter. Maria was a hard worker, and her supervisor appreciated her dedication. Nevertheless, it was time for Maria to contemplate returning to her home country, Canada since she was pregnant with another child and in a committed relationship with Hani. Despite the age difference between Hani and Maria with Hani being five years her junior, they had a stable relationship and were committed to each other.

How did Maria meet Hani?

Hani had a construction business and came from a politically represented family, even though he was not involved in politics. Maria and Hani met at a mutual friend’s birthday party and instantly became attracted to each other. They spent the whole evening talking and laughing with each other and made plans to meet the next day again. Despite his age, Hani was very mature, and Maria admitted to herself that with him she was feeling safe and secure and taken care of. After dating for four months, Maria finally introduced Hani to her daughter.

Much to Maria’s surprise and delight, Hani and Valeria became best friends; Valeria loved spending time with her mother and Hani. All three traveled around the country, enjoyed cooking and watching movies, and spending time together. Hani also taught Valeria how to ride a bike and swim. Every time Maria looked at how fatherly Hani was towards Valeria, her heart became filled with love and warmth towards the man she was ready to spend her life with.

Nevertheless, Maria was against the idea of marriage, and after discussing her stance on marriage with Hani, they both agreed that legal aspects of marriage were not necessary and they were perfectly happy with establishing a common law relationship. Shortly after the talk, they moved in together. Not only Maria and Hani were overjoyed, but Valeria was also jubilant to have Hani in the house.

Life was good. However, living conditions were not the best given the poor economic situation in Eritrea and political tensions, but Maria was dedicated to her job and a huge believer in making a difference. At the same time, she missed Canada and was sure that at some point she would go back.
With her work experience and skills, she was confident to contribute to her home country’s policy development. What Maria was not satisfied with was the timing of when she would eventually make the decision about relocation. As it usually happens, life had a surprising answer in store; after experiencing morning sickness for about a week; Maria eventually got a pregnancy test and realized that she was pregnant! When Maria told Hani about her pregnancy, he hugged her as tight as he could and whispered that she made him the happiest man alive.

Unfortunately, given Maria’s age and the state of the health system in Eritrea, she traveled to Canada to get a medical assessment of her pregnancy. In Canada, she was advised that ideally, she should have the child in a Canadian hospital to escape any complications that might not be addressed adequately in Eritrea. After traveling back to Eritrea, Maria and Hani decided to apply for spousal sponsorship for Hani to become a Permanent Resident of Canada and live with Maria in Canada; it was time to go back home.

Despite the fact that Maria and Hani were not married, they had been living together for more than a year and would qualify as common-law partners. After determining the fact that Maria would be able to sponsor Hani to Canada, the couple decided to get professional legal advice to navigate the confusing process efficiently since Maria wanted to have the child in Canada and ideally with Hani present at the moment of birth.

After retaining our office and gathering all necessary documents the waiting game begun. Maria was anxious about the timeline, but she also was realizing that the process would take time. At the same time, while waiting for the sponsorship to be approved, Hani started looking at alternative options to secure a safe birth for Maria and to make sure that their child’s health will not be compromised.

Being from an educated and well-off family, Hani was privileged enough to finish international school in Denmark and happened to have some friends still living there. Maria decided not to quit her job yet since her pregnancy was going well and work was keeping her busy while she was anxiously waiting for the process to move forward. In the meantime, Hani left for Denmark; he wanted to secure an apartment and find out about possible options if Maria had to have the baby outside Eritrea.

Unfortunately, as life would have it, local political tensions in Eritrea became an issue; while Hani was not involved in politics, he was still his father’s son, and just the fact of that made him a target to the point that his father advised him not to come back. Lately, he had been getting threats that were addressed not only to him but also to Hani.

When Hani called Maria to let her know that his life was in danger, Maria’s heart just sunk. Hani was trying to be as calm as he could be in the given circumstances, but Maria knew he was anxious and lost not knowing what to do. The sponsorship application was still pending, and Hani told Maria that she had to either leave for Denmark and give birth there or leave for Canada.

After thinking about the pros and cons, the couple decided that given their circumstances, it would be better for Maria and her baby to be in Canada. Unfortunately, that would have meant that he might not be present during the childbirth. However, given the fact that Maria’s family lived in Canada and they would be able to help her with Valeria and a newborn, it made more sense.

Since Hani was not able to go back to Eritrea and lost his construction business, he was limited in choices. The best he could do was to try and find a job in Denmark before his visitor visa expires or even consider applying for a refugee status since it was no longer safe for him to go back to Eritrea.
Finally, Maria left for Canada, and Hani stayed in Denmark.

After a couple of months, Maria gave birth to a healthy boy they named Fraser. Unfortunately, Hani was not present during the birth. Both Maria and Hani felt blessed, but also sad that despite their dreams, Hani was not able to be there for Maria physically. However, their relationship was surviving the long distance and they were more certain than ever that they will be able to be a family again soon. Every night Maria and Valeria would Facetime Hani and at times it seemed that there was ocean between them.

Little did they know that at the Canadian embassy finally made a positive decision on their applications. Despite the special circumstances of their relationship, age difference, and political uncertainty, positive news was around the corner.

From a refugee to a permanent resident of Canada

Canadian permanent residency

Mary Keyork
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Ahmad contacted our office first via phone and then booked an in-person consultation. He came to Canada as a visitor ten days ago; being a citizen of Syria, he was working in Croatia as a temporary worker. Ahmad was lucky enough to get his work visa in 2009 and has been working in Croatia since then. Although he loved Syria, he was happy to get the chance to gain international work experience and to be far from politics. Most of his friends were involved in politics in one way or another, and his mother was very worried that Ahmad would too at some point.

Ahmad contacted our office first via phone and then booked an in-person consultation. He came to Canada as a visitor ten days ago; being a citizen of Syria, he was working in Croatia as a temporary worker. Ahmad was lucky enough to get his work visa in 2009 and has been working in Croatia since then. Although he loved Syria, he was happy to get the chance to gain international work experience and to be far from politics. Most of his friends were involved in politics in one way or another, and his mother was very worried that Ahmad would too at some point.

His mother continued to live in Syria, and Ahmad used to visit her as frequently as his work allowed him to. Unfortunately, when the civil war erupted in Syria, the visits were less frequent, and at some point, his mother prohibited him from visiting. In 2014, she had to flee Syria for Lebanon since her life was in danger when the city she resided in was attacked. She had to leave behind everything she and her late husband worked so hard for.

Sadly, in 2015, Ahmad’s mother had a heart attack and passed away without seeing her son for the last time. She was sick, and her health was disorienting; the thought of never seeing her son took a toll on her. She knew he was not able to visit. She was mourning the loss of her home and all the dreams she had, hoping to see the day her son would return to Syria. None of her wishes were set to become for; Ahmad would never return home because there was no home.

When Ahmad heard of his mother’s death, it was one of the worst moments in his life. He lost his father when he was 16, and his mother was everything he had. Ahmad’s parents got married only after the had their son, Ahmad, whom they gave all their love and affection.

Ahmad was lost and confused; while he certainly appreciated the chance to work in Croatia and to gain a valuable experience in his field, he never really intended to stay there. He loved Syria, where his mother and friends lived and were planning to relocate once he saved enough money to open his tech company. Unfortunately, with the recent developments, it did not seem possible. Ahmad was lost as to what options he had now. His work visa in Croatia was about to expire and it was not possible to renew.

In fact, despite living in the country for almost seven years, he did not qualify for citizenship or permanent residence and was asked to leave once it expired. When he tried to negotiate with his employer, he was told that even though they liked him, there was nothing they could do. They already hired new staff as per the Croatian employment law regulations on foreign workers. All that his soon-to-be former employer could have provided him with was a recommendation letter and best wishes.

Apparently, these were not enough, especially given the fact that Ahmad lost his Syrian passport and home, he had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Ahmad tried his best to keep in touch with his Syrian friends, and the news from his country was devastating. Everyone he knew was trying to survive; most left their cities and became refugees, without hope and home, just praying that they would survive long enough to see their home again.

Sitting on the floor of his small rental studio in Zagreb, Ahmad felt lonely and desperate. Where could he go? He could not justify going back to Syria, where the death and sufferings reigned. Millions of women and children were fleeing their homes, becoming refugees and welcomed in very few countries. The pain Ahmad felt was indescribable; he was hurting for everyone that were affected by the Syrian civil war. He was hurting because he was alone. The war in Syria might never end, and even if it did, the country would never be the same.

His dreams and plans for the future came crashing down on him. He remembered how he dreamt about travelling the world; places he would take his mother and Canada among the first countries he would want to travel to. After all, he still had memories of his childhood when a family friend who was studying in Canada visited them and brought them maple syrup candies. Those quickly became Ahmad’s favorite, and he was always looking forward to his visits.

The next day, Ahmad started gathering documents to apply to Canada for a visa. He did not know what life had in store for him since he did not have a home to go back to, but he knew for certain that he had to try at least and make one of his and his late mother’s dreams come true. He heard that Canada was accepting refugees from Syria, but he was not sure how the mechanism worked exactly. In fact, he just wanted to visit and see the country. Fortunately for Ahmad, his visa was approved and he boarded the plane to Canada.

After arriving, he realized that Canada was even more beautiful than he imagined, and for a second he thought about how would that feel to live here. It seemed that Ahmad found the long-lost hope. He decided to inquire about the refugee programs and eventually contacted our office. He did not know whether he would qualify. After all, he didn’t want to think of himself as a refugee.

It was breaking his heart to think that the home he once knew was long gone and now he was left to the mercy of an international community. Ahmad was advised that for his refugee claim to be approved, there were certain things to be proved. His life was certainly in danger, which was the case. As a Christian, he was victim of discrimination, but he never acted on it since Syria was the only home he knew. His mother was a non-practicing Muslim, his father was Christian, and Ahmad was raised as a Christian.

The Syrian government was not able to provide adequate protection to their citizens, especially Christians, and Ahmad would not be able to seek refuge anywhere in Syria. His family residence was destroyed. Ahmad is a man in his early thirties and had nothing to go back to; no family, no house, nothing. If he were to be sent back to Syria, he would have died or would have been kidnapped sooner or later. Was Ahmad afraid of death? Certainly, but he knew that he was left at the mercy of the Canadian Judicial System, and there was nothing he could do. He only explained his genuine fear to go back to Syria because the country he once knew was long gone. However, Ahmad was ready to accept his fate, should he be sent back to Syria. Croatia was not an option and, at the refugee hearing, Ahmad truthfully answered all the questions.

His refugee hearing was an emotional one; he reminisced about his life in Syria with his parents and their home. No one chooses to lose everything they love and believe in; no one chooses to never go back home. He never thought that he would become a refugee, seeking rescue from pain, death, and suffering.

Three weeks later, Ahmad received a phone call from his lawyer that his refugee claim was approved, and soon he would be able to apply for a Canadian permanent residency. There was hope to build a new life in a safe and respectful environment. Although he will never be able to relive the life he had in Syria, he has a chance to live a life he would be forever grateful for in Canada that has become a second home to him now.

Moving Back to Canada – Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility

criminal inadmissibility

Mary Keyork
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May and Jack contacted our office just before Christmas. They were married for seven years and anxious about the steps to take to permanently move to Canada. May was born in Canada and moved to Spain when she was seventeen.

She studied contemporary art and was working as a private gallery manager and exhibition coordinator. Jack was born in the United States. After his parents divorced, he moved to Europe to live with his mother. May and Jack met at a student party; the attraction between the two was immediate. Both young and ready to love, they started dating.
Through thick and thin, they managed to keep the spark alive in their relationship. As students, they sometimes struggled with compromising with one another and the financial burden was at times too heavy to carry.

Nevertheless, they built a wonderful relationship and started a family. Jack proposed to May when he took her to a surprise helicopter ride on her birthday. He spent countless hours planning the surprise proposal. He wanted to make sure May not only loved the surprise but also was actually surprised by his proposal as they had already discussed engagement.
May believed that the engagement should not come as a surprise but the proposal should. Jack tried his best to hide the excitement and the fact that he was working night shifts to save for the ring and the helicopter ride. He finally picked a date. May would have never guessed that he would take her on a helicopter ride and propose on the same day.

Jack was also excited that he was able to save enough money to buy May her dream ring; six prong princess cut diamond ring with a halo. The day of the proposal was perfect; the weather was warm and sunny, and Jack managed to surprise May to the point that she cried tears of joy. Having gone through some struggles together, they both realized that from now on they would face life together and hopefully forever.

In the evening, May called her parents who still lived in Canada to share the news. Everyone was thrilled for the couple and the wedding planning began. The couple had a wedding in a small town in Spain. May’s family and close friend traveled all the way from Canada and Europe to participate in the celebration of love.

Jack’s immediate family and friends were also able to join. Jack’s parents were able to put aside their painful past to join their son’s celebration of finding the woman of his dreams despite their non-amicable divorce.

After the reception, the couple took a seven-day honeymoon to Portofino, Italy. After the honeymoon, they went back to Spain and settled in their routine. As time went on, May started missing her family more and more. When she learned that her mother’s health was deteriorating she started considering going back to Canada and settling there permanently.

She wanted to return to Canada not only because she greatly missed her family, but also because Jack was not entirely happy with their life in Spain. May started her research on possible ways to get them to Canada. As someone who had a mixed heritage and darker skin color, Jack did not feel as welcomed in Europe as he used to. He didn’t face any direct discrimination; however, he had a growing feeling that he wasn’t that welcomed in Europe. As a Canadian, May was free to go back to Canada and to live there permanently; however, with Jack it was not that simple.

Being a citizen of Spain and the United States, he was free to visit for six months in the normal circumstances. Unfortunately, Jack had a criminal record that was old, but, nevertheless, made him criminally inadmissible to Canada.

In order to sponsor her husband, May would not only need to go through the spousal sponsorship process, but would also need to address her husband’s criminal record so he becomes admissible.

When Jack was young, he was charged with DUI and never thought that his reckless actions at a young age would, later on, affect his life. As a student, he was very involved in extra-curricular activities and university clubs, but also enjoyed his free time of drinking and partying with his friends from a modeling agency.

He had an exotic look and was working part-time as a model. At one of the parties, he had too many fancy cocktails and decided to drive home instead of staying the night at his friend’s place. He was speeding and had the music on, so naturally, the police car patrolling the streets that night stopped him. He was not only charged with DUI but also with resisting the officer. Jack had to pay a fine and take a course on driving under the influence.

Since then, he has apologized to the officer and cut back on his drinking mainly because the incident made May very upset. It was also then that he realized how much she meant to him and that upsetting her over trivial things like his drinking did not seem like a good idea anymore.

Five years later, the past came to haunt him even though he is not dangerous or violent. Both May and Jack were confused on how they should address this incident in their spousal sponsorship application. Clearly, simply stating that he was young and reckless would not have been enough. What if Canadian immigration officials are not satisfied with the fact that he has changed since then? What if they refuse because he was not able to prove that he has changed and will be a law-abiding citizen in Canada? What if that DUI is going to cost them their dream to live in Canada?

Would May be forced to give up on her dreams of living in Canada? She could not bear the thought of being away from her husband, but she also knew how hard it would be for her to not be able to visit Canada freely or to never spend holidays being surrounded both with her family and her husband. In addition, they were already trying to conceive a child. They put it on hold because of travel and financial goals they set for themselves, but now that everything seemed to be more stable, both May and Jack wanted to have children.

Apart from DUI Jack had no other criminal record. However, it was enough to question his admissibility to Canada. There are too many accidents involving drunk drivers for the Canadian government to not take these DUI charges seriously. Too many people lose their health and life by the irresponsible behavior of young or not so young drivers. Both May and Jack were certain that his DUI was a serious incident and they both firmly believed that it should be addressed properly.

When they contacted our office, Jack was remorseful and made it very clear that he wanted to address his DUI in the application not only because it is a requirement but also because he felt that he has changed so much since then. During the consultation, the couple was advised to submit not only the supporting documents to attest to the genuine nature of their relationship but also supporting documents that would support Jack’s application for criminal rehabilitation. Depending on the nature of the criminal charge as well as the time that has passed since the charge, there is a possibility of either applying for an individual criminal rehabilitation to cure criminal inadmissibility or to have it deemed rehabilitated.

Being equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge, Jack and May felt at ease. Just like anyone who has made mistakes, they were happy to learn that this mistake would not have to cost them their dream of living in Canada.

May was thrilled that she would finally be able to go back home. She enjoyed her time in Spain, but never really thought that she would live in Spain for the rest of her life. After all, she missed the beautiful British Columbia mountains and her family. Having always been extremely close to her mother, she always made sure to spend important holidays with family, but because of Jack’s DUI they never visited Canada together.

There is always hope to fix the mistakes people make during the times they are young and reckless; it takes not only courage but also a true dedication and truthful remorse.
Thankfully for May and Jack, Jack’s attitude and the life he led after the incident are the best proof that will support the smooth processing of their spousal sponsorship.
Currently, the couple awaits the finalizing of the application and is looking for an apartment in the beautiful city of Vancouver.

Overseas Spousal sponsorship approved

Spousal sponsorship process

Mary Keyork
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Dreams do come true on Christmas – Overseas Spousal sponsorship process approved!

We first spoke to Alex on the phone at the beginning of 2015 about their spousal sponsorship process. He was gathering as much information as he possibly could about the spousal sponsorship process. Him and his wife, Elizabeth, had been together for 2 years and Alex was anxious about the appropriate process to get her to Canada. Elizabeth had been married before and had a child from her previous marriage; in addition, she was 7 years older than Alex.

While the couple was genuinely in love, they both were not sure on how to proceed with the spousal sponsorship application process. First, they asked a couple of friends, who had a long distance relationship that resulted in marriage and subsequent sponsorship and read forums about the process for different situations couples found themselves in. However, the more information they gathered the more confused they became.
Everyone’s love story was so different that at some point, both Alex and Elizabeth realized that without proper guidance they would just damage their relationship since the stress of the unknown had put a strain on their relationship already.

Alex and Elizabeth met online on a language tandem and exchange website. None of them was actually looking for a relationship; Alex was trying to improve his French before heading to Alsace to visit his extended family, and Elizabeth wanted to practice her English. She worked and lived in the small French town of Colmar as a hairdresser.
After spending hours of not only practicing French and English but also of getting to know each other they decided to meet up when Alex visited Strasbourg where his extended family lived.
Alex was very excited to arrive early in the morning in Strasbourg; his plane was on time and the security checks went effortlessly. After his cousin picked him up, on the way to the house Alex told him about Elizabeth and his plan to meet her in Colmar on the weekend.

The way his eyes lighted up when he talked about her was enough for the cousin to realize that Alex was madly in love, even though he hadn’t realized that yet.
Elizabeth and Alex met on a beautiful Saturday at one of the oldest French pastry shops in Colmar. The moment they saw each other both had a feeling that they knew each other for a very long time. It was like the meeting of old friends who were to realize that they had feelings for each other and were more than friends.

The coffee and éclairs were delicious as promised in the pastry shop touristic ad, and they ended up talking for three hours non-stop, sharing their most precious dreams and memories with each other. Later that day, they took a walk in the old part of Colmar, petit Venice, and ended the date with a kiss. It was passionate but also innocent; they both were longing for it, but were cautious to give in their emotions, as none of them planned to fall in love when there was a long distance involved.

Nevertheless, the next few days that Alex spent in France, they went out every day after Elizabeth’s shift was finished. She told him about her life story and how she ended up in living in Colmar. Elizabeth’s father was French, and mother was Guyanese; they met while on exchange in Germany and started dating shortly after.

However, they both were very young, and when Elizabeth’s mother realized that she was pregnant, their relationship eventually broke down. First, the couple tried to negotiate with their conscience; they both suggested abortion or adoption, however, after the initial shock wore off, Elizabeth’s mother decided that she would keep the baby.
Her father, even though wanted to be present in the kid’s life, was not able to keep his relationship with Elizabeth’s mother alive. Eventually, they decided to be co-parents and to move on with their personal lives. Elizabeth’s mother went back to Guyana, and the father stayed in France. They kept in touch and managed to successfully resolve their issues and be good parents to Elizabeth.

At the age of 16 she finally moved to France, where she took some hairdresser courses and started working. Her relationship with her father was not the best, unfortunately, since he married for the second time and had children, who were not very thrilled to make friends with Elizabeth.

At the age of 20 Elizabeth got pregnant; both her and her husband were happy together and welcomed the pregnancy, however, when the baby turned 4 the relationship broke down and they got a divorce. Alex’s life was very different from Elizabeth’s. He was born and raised in the small city of Guelph in Ontario, the family of a nurse and an engineer.

He had two siblings with whom he was very close and led a comfortable middle-class life, working in the banking industry. Unfortunately, he was never successful in personal relationships as he never found the connection that would make his heart skip a beat. With Elizabeth, everything seemed different, and upon returning from France, they both were determined to make their relationship work.

After a year of long distance and frequent visits, Alex finally proposed to Elizabeth; they were overjoyed and immediately shared the news with family and friends. It was a very special proposal, as Alex not only asked Elizabeth to marry him, but also asked her son whether he would have minded having Alex as his father.

The wedding ceremony was small and intimate, in the beautiful Chateau d’Isenbourg with family and close friends in attendance. Elizabeth’s son was the ring bearer, and Alex’s nieces were flower girls. Elizabeth wore a beautiful open back mermaid style dress and her bouquet had ranunculus, peonies, and olive branches.

After the wedding, the couple did some research and asked around on how to approach the sponsorship process. They knew they loved each other, but there were an age difference and so many questions that forum members were not able to answer:

  • Would they be able to prove that they truly loved each other?
  • Should they submit all the photos and proof of communication?
  • How would they go about their age difference?
  • Should they submit all the photos and proof of communication?
  • How would they go about their age difference?

The step by step guidance was much needed, and the couple opted for our immigration law firm. In a month the application was submitted and the waiting started. The couple was anxious to get the positive answer and be finally together in Canada.

Alex and Elizabeth planned to spend the Christmas together and would usually end their daily Skype wishing each other the best gift they both could have ever dreamed about – their spousal sponsorship approved.

On a Christmas day of 2016, Alex did not believe his eyes when he received an email from us. The title said “Congratulations – the application is approved! Merry Christmas and happy new year!”

Alex, as an adult, stopped believing in the miracles many years ago; wishful thinking, he would refer to his dreams about being reunited with Elizabeth and her son in the new year. Alex only believed in hard work and deadlines; after receiving the email he spent 10 minutes just staring at the screen, not being able to do anything. After the initial shock, he called Elizabeth without even noticing the time difference.

Christmas time is full of miracles; a wish that the desires of the heart will make the whole universe to conspire to make it true!

Permanent Residence Process: A Story of Love and betrayal

Permanent residence
Mary Keyork
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    Love and betrayal- CBSA investigation on the genuineness of a relationship

    We first met Maria later in the evening in December, when she stopped by our office to discuss the permanent residence process; she was distraught and appeared very stressed. Her relationship with her husband had been crumbling, and Maria was not sure whether there was anything an immigration law firm could have done for her.

    She was ashamed that her love story did not turn out exactly as she would have dreamt when picking a wedding dress and coordinating the color scheme for the wedding theme. She was heartbroken that her husband, the man with whom she thought had built a loving and healthy relationship and with whom she was planning to start a family, would betray her and leave her shortly after he arrived in Canada.

    Maria first met her husband, Paul, when she was taking a vacation with friends in Bali three years ago, in early spring of 2013. He was charming and kind and happened to work as a diving instructor on the island. Maria was very excited to finally take some diving lessons, as she always wanted to.

    Maria learned how to swim at a very early age, and water was always her element. Getting a driving license was her dream for a very long time and finally, it was about to become real. Maria decided to take the full 10-day licensing course; coincidentally she also happened to like the instructor. However, she was never a big fan of long distance and did not plan to start a relationship with Paul.

    The lessons were intense, but Maria enjoyed them every single day. In the evenings, she would spend time with her friends and Paul would frequently join them. Shortly after, both realized that they liked each other and had so much in common that keeping in touch after Maria left for Canada only seemed natural.

    After going back to Canada, Maria and Paul quickly established a routine; in the mornings they would call each other on Whatsapp, and on the weekends they would chat on video calls. It was a challenging time for the couple, but also rewarding. All they had was communication tools, and the distance required the use of communication tools so they could get to know each other and build a relationship.

    About two months into their long-distance relationship, Paul confessed his love to Maria, and they officially became a couple. Both realized that distance was going to be challenging and their relationship would not be anything like they had before. However, they decided to give it a try and did their best to keep in touch throughout the day and planned the next visits.

    Unfortunately for Maria, her family was not thrilled about their relationship; her sister especially was against it, since she heard many stories from her friends experience when Canadian citizen was tricked into a relationship and was used just to get a permanent residence in Canada.

    There is always a risk that long distance does not work out or that it is simply an attempt on the part of a foreigner to get permanent residence in Canada. However, Maria was confident that her relationship with Paul was different; after all, she was the one spending time with him, and she believed he was genuine about his feelings.

    Indeed, when Paul found out that Maria was from Canada, he told her during one of their diving lessons that he always wanted to move to Canada, but never actually looked into it, as it seemed like a long and complicated process.

    Maria did not consider this as a red flag, unlike her sister, who didn’t trust Paul and was very skeptical of their relationship. Maria did not become alarmed by this, as she sincerely believed that the fact that he did not hide that information from her was a good indicator of his honest character.

    In October of 2013, Maria left for Bali for a week to visit Paul; she was very excited and was looking forward to their reunion since she last saw him seven months ago. The week flew by, and when Maria went back to Canada, she was even more confident that her relationship with Paul was genuine. She visited him again in April of 2014 and then in October 2014, when Paul asked her to marry him. The proposal was very romantic; he set up a small candle and flowers table on the beach.

    While the engagement did not come off as a surprise, the proposal caught Maria off guard. She was excited to start a new chapter in her life with a man she believed she would grow old together. Before the proposal, Paul and Maria already discussed the prospects of their life together and decided that it would be more beneficial for the couple if Paul moves to Canada.

    While Maria would be able to move to Bali, since she was a yoga instructor and would not mind trying to establish herself in Bali, Paul convinced her that regarding financial security Canada seemed like the best option. Shortly after the proposal, the couple started planning the wedding for the May of 2015.

    With her day and yoga classes in the evening, Maria struggled to keep the same level of communication with Paul; however, she noticed he was also not very involved in the planning. Text messages would become less frequent, and the calls would only happen if Maria called Paul.

    Maria’s sister did not like that Paul was acting cold and slightly disinterested and tried to warn Maria. Maria, however, was convinced that Paul’s behavior was just wedding jitters and everything would go back to normal once they are married and his sponsorship application is approved.

    On May 23, 2015, the couple got married in Bali with close friends and family present. They had a small but beautiful ceremony and spent a week together honeymooning on the island before Maria had to leave for Canada. Once she arrived in Canada, Maria started the process of spousal sponsorship, and in June 2016 the application was approved.

    Maria was excited to finally have her husband with her and was hoping that his behavior would change once they are together. The time apart was very hard, and Paul was not always as kind to her as he was at the beginning of their relationship.

    However, love is blind, and Maria would never believe that at the end he simply used her to get to Canada. After all, they have been through so much together already and survived the distance.

    The day Maria was supposed to go pick up Paul from the airport promised to be one of the best and most memorable days in her life. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the day Maria’s heart would be broken.

    Paul was cold; he was complaining during their entire ride back, but Maria thought it was because of the stress. Later in the evening, he sat with her and told her that he needed to take a break from their relationship because he was not sure how he felt about her. Maria was shocked; how could Paul do that to her? Suddenly, all her suppressed worries that he had been using her all along became a reality.

    She cried and cried, and did not even notice that he already left. After six days of not hearing from him, she finally gathered the courage and called her sister to tell her what happened. Surprisingly, her sister was very understanding and did not resort to usual “I told you so”.

    However, she was very adamant, that Maria should get in touch with an immigration law firm because after all Paul used her to get to Canada and faked his way to permanent residence. It is important to realize that family reunion programs in Canada are aimed for those who have genuine feelings towards each other and just happen to have different nationalities.

    As her sister explained to her, this was not only betrayal of Maria, but also family values that Canada’s immigration system embraces. Contacting an immigration law firm to figure out what can be done is the least Maria owed to herself; it was not a punishment for Paul, but the first step towards healing from this painful end of her relationship.

    While her sister was right, Maria still waited until December to contact the immigration law firm, because she was hurting and hoping he would come back.

    Sadly, Paul did not get in touch with her after their first and last conversation, and she knew it was over. He simply used her; she had to accept the reality and finally gathered the courage to move towards the healing process from her failed marriage.

    Maria contacted our office to obtain some advice. We advised her that she can submit a package to Canada Border Services Agency detailing her entire story with ideally some paper evidence and request CBSA to open an investigation. Should the investigation go through, Paul will be interviewed by immigration, and it will be determined whether he is allowed to maintain his permanent resident status. We comforted her by advising her that immigration takes these matters very seriously.

    Maria decided to put in the investigation package.

    One girl’s long way home

    permanent residence in Canada

    Mary Keyork
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      One girl’s long way home – Permanent residence granted on humanitarian and compassionate grounds

      Miriam first contacted us on a sunny and crispy Montreal morning regarding obtaining permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds; she sounded anxious and was looking for answers that would essentially determine her personal and professional life.

      A young professional in her mid-twenties, Miriam lived most of her adult life in Canada; however, she had no real status in Canada and had a complicated life story.

      She was born in the family of foreign diplomats in Ottawa. She was born in Canada, but she was not a Canadian citizen!

      Her parents, people of Belarus, were stationed in Canada for five years. During those five years, they had Miriam, who was completely immersed in Canadian culture and thought of herself as a Canadian.

      Unfortunately, despite being born in Canada and having a Canadian birth certificate, Miriam was not a Canadian in the eyes of the law. As she was born in the family of foreign diplomats during posting, she, therefore, was exempted from claiming Canadian citizenship.

      Of course, at the time, her parents were not aware of this existing rule and only did not give enough thought to how Miriam would feel when they eventually would have to leave Canada.

      While her parents were grateful for the opportunity to get accustomed with Canada and made lifelong friends during that period of their career, they knew that Canada was not their home. Unlike her parents, Miriam didn’t know any other home than Canada.

      It was heartbreaking for her parents to watch their little girl cry during the whole flight back to Belarus, but there was little they could do.

      As a consolation, Miriam’s mother packed a small bag of “Smarties” candies, Miriam’s favorite Canadian snack, and hoped that it would help her daughter’s sadness caused by leaving Canada.

      After returning to Belarus, the family stayed there for a year and then eventually left on another diplomatic mission. Sadly for Miriam, she never quite assimilated in Belarus during that one year, and never felt home in any of the countries that her parents’ career took them to.

      Soon after turning 18, Miriam decided to move to Canada and get her education here. Her parents were back to Belarus and settled, and while they were sad to let their daughter go, they knew she should follow her dreams.

      Canada had always been on Miriam’s mind; she would always read about Canadian news, watch Canadian TV shows, and was always up to date with what was going on in Canada.
      On a beautiful summer day and with just two bags, Miriam arrived in the beautiful city of Montreal ready to build her life in Canada. She was excited to discover the French heritage of Canada and to study at the University of her choice.

      It is safe to say that Miriam thoroughly enjoyed her student experience in Montreal, made friends with locals and discovered how much she loved smoked meat. Four years of intense studies in the marketing field flew by, and Miriam was ready to jump-start her career.

      Just like millions of young Canadians, Miriam started the challenging but eventually rewarding process of a job hunt and finally landed a great entry level position in one of the most reputable marketing agencies in Montreal.

      In the meantime, she also met Andrew, a graphic designer whose studio was in the same building as her marketing agency. Miriam and Andrew made it a ritual to get lunch together every Tuesday and Thursday, and shortly after they both realized that they had romantic feelings for each other.

      Canada had become everything Miriam had ever wanted; she had a job she adored, a man with whom Miriam was falling in love more and more with every passing day, great friends and the never-ending feeling that she was home.

      During one of the conversations, Miriam was telling Andrew how she dreamt of the day she would acquire Canadian citizenship and would become a proud owner of a Canadian passport.

      Naturally curious, she Googled the process of applying for citizenship to get some idea as to what documents she would need for the application and quickly realized that despite being born in Canada and her Canadian birth certificate, it did not entitle her to Canadian citizenship because she was born in the family of foreign diplomats during posting.

      Miriam just froze, and the reality hit her; she was not Canadian, and she was out of status all these years.

      • What is going to happen to her?
      • Would she be asked to leave the country eventually?
      • What about her job?
      • What about her relationship with Andrew?

      They sat there, staring at each, both anxious and not knowing what the future held for them. Andrew cared about Miriam, but he was nowhere near ready to ask her to marry him. In fact, they both wanted to date for a while and get to know each other, travel the world and focus on their careers before committing to starting a family.

      Besides, that was not how Miriam would want her relationship to progress; being proposed out of fear that she would be asked to leave Canada eventually? Being proposed out of necessity?

      No, no, no; there should be some other way. After all, she was so established in Canada, with an extensive network of friends and coworkers, with her employer being euphoric with her performance, with Andrew.

      Right then and there, Miriam knew she had to contact an immigration lawyer and find out what her options would be. After all, all these years she lived in Canada should count for something. That was what Miriam hoped and prayed for when she was getting ready for the consultation with an immigration lawyer.

      Thankfully, there is a possibility to apply for permanent residence from within Canada based on an establishment in Canada as well as compelling humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It’s an exception that allows people who are out of status in Canada but who are so established that removing them out of the country would cause them.

      Miriam gathered all the documents she was asked to provide to prepare her application and waited impatiently for the answer.

      Weeks and months went by; Miriam kept working in the marketing agency and her relationship with Andrew was progressing. They celebrated Canada Day together, took trips to Quebec City, Mont Tremblant, and explored small towns in the province of Quebec.

      Some days she would catch herself thinking about how much she would miss Canada if eventually she would be asked to leave the country. What scared her even more – where would she go?

      Even the thought of that made her sick; she missed her parents and would want to visit them whenever possible, but Belarus was never her home. Leaving Canada would have meant leaving a vital part of herself; leaving Canada would only mean losing herself.

      In early November Miriam received an email from her lawyer; she was excited and ecstatic. The title of the email already revealed the content – “Wonderful news!” she read and quickly proceeded to open the email. Her application was approved!

      Miriam’s voice was shaking because of how excited she was when she finally managed to call Andrew to tell him that Canada officially became her home! It was a long way home, filled with uncertainty and anxiousness, but she finally reached her destination.

      Miriam knows that her story is unique. How many foreign diplomats based in Canada have children while being posted? How many of these kids make Canada their home? Miriam wonders.

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