Friday, 29 January 2016

An Open Letter to the Immigration Minister

Filipiniana News –  January 2016
RHYME & REASON

An Open Letter to the Immigration Minister

Dear Minister McCallum:

First of all, this is to congratulate you on your appointment as the new Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.   Your and your party's election platform and promises, especially with respect to immigration policies, have given many people great hope for a better, fairer and more humane Canada.

Thank you for your leadership in the government's valiant efforts to admit and resettle as many Syrian and Iraqi refugees to Canada as soon as possible.  We understand that resettling refugee families to Canada is literally about saving precious lives hence the extreme urgency of Canada's response to this great humanitarian crisis.  We also understand that targets and timelines need to be adjusted but are glad that the noble objective of saving as many lives as possible, remain.  

We trust that the current focus on Syrians and Iraqis however, will not lead to a neglect of Canada's commitment to resettle refugees from other parts of the world who were similarly forced to flee their homelands in search of peace and safety and whose applications may have been languishing for years at Canadian visa offices.

We also trust that that you have not forgotten the many other aspects of Canada's immigration policies which equally deserve immediate attention and corresponding action. 

Among others, you must be well aware of the thousands of temporary foreign workers who have lived and toiled in Canada for years  but who continue to live their lives in limbo either because of the lack of a clear path to permanent residence or due to the arbitrary refusal of their immigration applications stemming from human errors or unfortunate technicalities.  

There are likewise numerous Canadians, permanent residents and foreign nationals in Canada, who have long been waiting to be reunited with their families in Canada.  However, due to the ever-increasing processing times for sponsorship and other immigration applications, many of these families continue to endure prolonged and painful family separation. 

It is welcome news that some of the existing problematic issues were specifically addressed by the Prime Minister in his mandate letter to you which states, among others, that:
  • "As part of the Annual Immigration Levels Plan for 2016, bring forward a proposal to double the number of entry applications for parents and grandparents of immigrants to 10,000 a year. 
  • Increase the maximum age for dependents to 22, from 19, to allow more Canadians to bring their children to Canada.
  • Develop a plan to reduce application processing times for sponsorship, citizenship and other visas.
  • Modify the temporary foreign workers program to eliminate the $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment fee to hire caregivers and work with provinces and territories to develop a system of regulated companies to hire caregivers on behalf of families."

In fairness, we do not expect all of your promised reforms to occur overnight.  We understand that there are administrative and other relevant aspects to consider before these changes can be enacted and implemented.   So we will wait, but hopefully, not for much longer. 

Meanwhile, we also respectfully call your attention to a few related issues which deeply affect the Filipino community in Canada, particularly those who came as temporary foreign workers and/or as caregivers.  

As you are well aware, the previous government introduced a myriad of changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) in general and to the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) in particular.  While some of these changes have benefited some TFWs including caregivers, many more have in fact been prejudiced by these very same changes.   More specifically:
·          The four-year cumulative duration limit which mainly affects so-called low-skilled TFWs, have left many of these workers in limbo and/or working precariously in the underground economy.  Having lived and worked in Canada for years and contributed their share in nation-building, it is only fair to grant them and their families the opportunity to permanently reside in this country instead of being removed after a limited period of stay.
·          The creation of new pathways to permanent residence for caregivers as an alternative to the LCP may have some positive features (e.g.  quick processing times and removal of the live-in requirement) but it has also imposed additional requirements on caregivers which prevent many of them from applying under these new pathways
·          The new features which are causing hardship for many caregivers include the added cost of meeting minimum levels in the official English language test and education credential assessment, a second medical examination requirement (which had been removed under the LCP) and the limited ability to apply concurrently for open work permits . 
·          While many of those who applied for permanent residence under the new caregiver pathways are being processed quickly, those who applied for permanent residence under the LCP are still waiting several years (even lasting up to a decade!) for their applications to be finalized.   As a result, many of them continue to suffer insecurity arising from their temporary status, on top of the sad consequences of prolonged family separation such as marital breakdown and estranged parent-child relationships.   

Past experience proves that the introduction of piecemeal changes to the TFWP and the LCP will likely lead to further problems arising from precarious immigration status and the need to fulfil certain conditions before being granted permanent residence in Canada.  If the TFWP is completely overhauled in that temporary workers are granted permanent residency at the outset, many of the issues identified above will be greatly reduced if not eliminated.  

The grant of PR status upon arrival may sound too idealistic, even impossible  - but not so, if there is strong political will.  We are counting on you, Mr. McCallum, on Prime Minister Trudeau and the rest of your leadership team, to exercise that political will and to make true your promise of  a government that will bring about "real change."    

The author is a Filipino-Canadian immigration lawyer and may be reached at deanna@santoslaw.ca or tel.  no. 416-901-8497.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Why does Canada resettle refugees?

Filipiniana News –  December 2015
RHYME & REASON

Why does Canada resettle refugees? 

In the past weeks, the new Liberal government's determined efforts towards fulfilling its election promise of admitting 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 have dominated news reports in Canada and internationally.  Most recently, this target had been modified to 10,000 Syrian refugees by end of 2015, an additional 15,000 by end of February 2016 and another 10,000 before the end of 2016.   These quantities may sound generous but put in perspective, this is actually a very tiny portion of about 9 million Syrian refugees who have been displaced from their homes since the civil war started in their country in early 2011. 

While the Canadian government and private sponsor initiatives to welcome Syrian refugees are truly commendable, many are still asking the basic question: why is Canada resettling refugees?   To get the official answers, I have provided below some excerpts from the website of the government agency tasked to oversee this matter, namely, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) or the recently renamed Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). 

First, CIC cites Canada's "tradition of humanitarian action"  and explains that: "Canada resettles refugees to save lives and to provide stability to those fleeing persecution who have no hope of relief.  Canada’s resettlement programs are respected internationally because they provide permanent residence as a long term solution."   

In response to frequent comparisons between refugees and immigrants, the CIC website states that:   "A refugee is different from an immigrant, in that an immigrant is a person who chooses to settle permanently in another country. Refugees are forced to flee."

On this comparison, I do not fully agree, as there are also various levels and types of so-called economic immigrants, but I digress...

The official government position is that,  "Refugees selected for resettlement to Canada have often fled their homes because of unimaginable hardships and have, in many cases, been forced to live in refugee camps for many years. When they arrive in Canada, they basically pick up the pieces of their lives and start over again."

"As a member of the international community, Canada helps find solutions to prolonged and emerging refugee situations and helps emerging democracies try to solve many of the problems that create refugee populations. To do this, Canada works closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)."

"Under our legislation, all resettlement cases must be carefully screened to ensure that there are no issues related to security, criminality or health. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) works with its security partners such as the Canada Border Services Agency to complete this work as quickly as possible" 

CIC also noted that the Canadian refugee system has two main parts:
  • the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, for people seeking protection from outside Canada; and
  • the In-Canada Asylum Program for people making refugee protection claims from within Canada.
 The Syrian refugees who are the subject of existing government or private sponsorships are admitted under the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program.   On the other hand, the refugee claimants whose cases are heard by the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refigee Board, fall under the In-Canada Asylum Program. 

 

Another major bone of contention among skeptics involves the various forms of services and financial assistance provided to resettled refugees to help them integrate into Canadian society as quickly as possible.  

 

On this, the CIC website explains that:

 

"Refugees - resettled from overseas or granted protection in Canada - often do not have the resources to easily establish themselves.  As such, the Government of Canada, working with an extensive network of partners and stakeholders, supports the delivery a broad range of settlement services to support successful integration of all refugees."

 

These services and other forms of direct assistance which are provided by the government and/or private sponsors, may include immediate and essential services as well as income support to help with their initial settlement in Canada.

These supports are in addition to settlement services funded by CIC to help all newcomers, including refugees, settle and integrate into their new communities such as:  language training, employment services, childcare, transportation assistance, translation and interpretation services, provisions for persons with a disability, as well as short-term/crisis counselling to deal with settlement issues.

On the whole, CIC assures Canadians that:   "Canada’s refugee protection programs have helped the world’s most vulnerable, while ensuring the health and safety of Canadians.   Through our refugee protection programs, refugees bring their experiences and skills as well as their hopes and dreams to Canada which, in turn, has contributed to an even richer and more prosperous society for us all."  

With these in mind and especially during this season of giving, the best answer to the question posed above can only be:  why not?

A very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all!


The author is a Filipino-Canadian immigration lawyer and may be reached at deanna@santoslaw.ca or tel.  no. 416-901-8497.

Monday, 30 November 2015

LCP PR Refusals Due to Non-Compliance

Filipiniana News –  November 2015
RHYME & REASON

LCP PR Refusals Due to Non-Compliance

Sadly, there appears to be a continuing trend of refusals of LCP permanent residence applications due to alleged non-compliance with instructions from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to provide further information or documentation.

Just prior to the October Federal elections, the previous Conservative government announced that they were on track to meeting their target of eliminating the backlog of about 60,000 LCP permanent resident application within two years or  by end of 2016.   Juxtaposed with the increasing number of LCP PR application refusals, one could reasonably suspect that in CIC's haste to meet this target, procedural fairness efforts are being applied very strictly, if at all, to the detriment of hapless caregivers who have been waiting years for their PR applications to be finalized. .    

I used to find it quite bizarre to learn of CIC refusals based on "non-compliance" after the  applicants allegedly fail to  respond to instructions for further documentation from CIC.  How can this happen when it is so obvious that most, if not all, applicants are extremely eager to obtain a final decision on their applications and are thus more than willing to immediately provide whatever CIC will require?   In most of these cases, the applicants and their families insist that they never received those letters requesting further information hence their failure to respond.  If the applicants are telling the  truth, then the problem lies either in the postal or email system, or in the CIC bureaucracy itself. 

In some of these cases, CIC may reopen the applications and give the applicants another chance to comply.  In other cases however, requests for reconsideration are flatly denied and applicants are simply asked to resubmit new applications if they wish to have any new information considered.  Some applicants are thus forced to resubmit a new application to avoid losing status since there is no clear timeline as to when CIC will decide on administrative requests to reopen or to reconsider an application that had already been refused. 

Since only permanent residents and refugee claimants have a right of appeal, the only formal  avenue of appeal for refused immigration applicants is to file an application for leave and judicial review with the Federal Court.   Aside from the costs and further delays involved, clients are often discouraged upon learning about the nature of a judicial review.  That is, a Federal Court judge can only review the fairness or legality of an immigration officer's decision and at best, can only send the application back to another CIC officer for redetermination.   Thus, even if one "wins" at the Federal Court, there is still the possibility of being refused by another immigration officer based on similar or other grounds.  Understandably, only the most patient of clients and those with the deepest pockets, can afford to take this expensive and circuitous route. 

Hence, many unjust refusals arising from administrative errors go unchallenged and are simply repeated in other applications.   It was therefore welcome news when CIC announced earlier this year that that internal reviews are supposedly being conducted and trying to resolve these longstanding problems in Canada's immigration bureaucracy.   For even the seemingly minor clerical mistake can lead to serious consequences and ruin the lives of unfortunate applicants and their families.   Hopefully, the new Liberal government will intensify these efforts towards rectifying the unfair refusals which arose from these administrative errors.

Meanwhile, since mistakes are more likely occur if applicants will not put their best foot forward in ensuring that they have made things as easy as possible for any officer who will review his/her application, I have listed some tips below to avoid these problems.    Although nothing can guarantee perfection or a smooth-sailing ride, especially when one deals with a bureaucracy, some measures can still be taken by the applicants themselves to avoid or minimize the negative impact of these errors.   These include the following:

Be Thorough

In filling up the required CIC forms, please ensure that all information required are provided.  Be as accurate and as thorough as possible especially with regard to names, dates,  work and address history, etc.  If you provide complete and accurate data at the outset, there will be no need for CIC to send follow up communications requiring corrections or clarifications.  

Also, try as much as possible to include all required forms and supporting documents to avoid the need for mail room clerks and immigration officers missing other supplementary documents that you may have sent after the initial package was submitted. 

Be Organized

In addition to being thorough, it would greatly help if the documents are properly organized and logically arranged.  The CIC document checklists are a useful tool in organizing the documents; a cover letter with a table of contents could be another.  

Keep copies of all communications sent to and received from CIC.     Take note of expiry dates of important documents such as passports and work permits and ensure that you will apply to renew these documents well in advance to avoid losing temporary resident status or shorter validity period for immigration documents.  

Be Proactive

After the application package is submitted to CIC,  keep track and take note of the processing times.   Exercise due diligence.  Contact the CIC call centre to follow up the status of your application or monitor the application status on the CIC website at reasonable times and intervals.  When contacting CIC call centre agents, document the day, time, name of agent and information provided.  If you are not satisfied with the response received from an agent, you may try calling again to speak with another agent who may be able to provide a more helpful response.    

I  hope that the above will be helpful in avoiding the likelihood of being caught by administrative errors involving immigration applications.   If problems still arise, you should consult an experienced and trusted immigration professional at the earliest opportunity, to minimize the risk of a refusal and/or devise an appropriate legal strategy for your particular situation.

The author is a Filipino-Canadian immigration lawyer and may be reached via email at deanna@santoslaw.ca or tel.  no. 416-901-8497.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Caregiver Reforms in the Time of Elections

Filipiniana News –  October 2015
RHYME & REASON

Caregiver Reforms in the Time of Elections

Early this month, an email invitation was circulated to members of the Filipino-Canadian community to attend a supposed "major policy announcement"  by the former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Jason Kenney at the Mt. Zion Church in Toronto.  Based on the press release circulated shortly afterwards, the announcement simply reiterated the promises and pronouncements made by CIC Minister Chris Alexander in late October 2014 upon launching the supposed "Improvements to the Caregiver Program."

Excerpts from the related press release are reproduced in italics below while my non-italicized comments follow. 

The Harper Conservative government remains on track to admit 60,000 caregivers in 2015 and 2016, the highest admissions for caregivers in Canadian history. 

When the supposed improvements to the Caregiver Program was launched with much fanfare nearly a year ago, Minister Alexander also claimed that the government will eliminate the  backlog of 60,000 permanent residence applications by 2016 -  30,000 of these will be processed by end of 2015 and the other half of 30,000 will be processed by 2016.   

However, recent trends show that many of the processed caregiver permanent residence applications have resulted in refusals due to alleged non-compliance to requests for additional documents by CIC.  That is, many were refused due to the failure of the applicants to respond to emails or letters allegedly sent by CIC requiring updated forms, supporting documents or immigration medical examinations for the applicants and/or their overseas family members.  

In many cases, the applicants and dependents deny having received the CIC emails or letters or that they have actually submitted the additional documentation required.  Yet, when these refused applicants tried to explain, clarify or request a reopening or reconsideration from CIC, many were still refused and simply instructed to submit new permanent residence applications with new fees, forms and other required documents.  Aside from causing undue hardship to the refused applicants and their families, these permanent residence reapplications are even adding to the already huge backlog of pending caregiver permanent residence applications.   

One can reasonably surmise therefore, that in the process of trying to eliminate the backlog, the government bureaucrats are either becoming too careless in tracking communications sent and received or are conveniently denying requests to rectify administrative or technical errors for the sake of expediency.   

It might have been more newsworthy if Minister Kenney or Minister Alexander provided more specific and updated information not only on the number of applications processed but as to how many of these led to positive decisions as opposed to quick and convenient refusals.

The Conservative Government removed the requirement that a caregiver live in the home of their employer, provided additional pathways to permanent residency with better career options, and reunited families faster than ever before.
The removal of the live-in requirement under the new Caregiver Pathways is already a well-known fact and part of the Caregiver Program reforms which took effect in November 2014.   Although the intent behind the removal of the live-in requirement is commendable, most of the so-called reforms  are deemed prejudicial to caregivers due to the additional language and education requirements as well as limited quota in the number of applications to be accepted each year.  

Moreover, the reforms have been causing some confusion in that many are unaware that those who came to Canada under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) are still entitled to apply for permanent residence under the terms and conditions of the LCP and are not limited to applying under the new Caregiver Program.  Since the new Caregiver Program is less preferred by many caregivers due to the added expense entailed by the official language test and educational credential assessment, many caregiver participants who apply under the old LCP continue to  experience delays in their PR application processing and suffer prolonged family separation as a result.  

Caregivers will receive permanent residence in less than a year, and in many cases within six months, a huge improvement over the previous program that had caregivers wait away from their families for 4-5 years.

Again,  Minister Kenney simply reiterated the same promise made by Minister Alexander at last year's launch of the new Caregiver Program.  In reality however, the expedited processing of PR applications is mostly felt only by applicants with no dependants.  While the expedited processing of some applications is greatly appreciated, it seems unfair that the same benefit is not extended to caregiver applicants with dependent family members who still continue to experience long processing delays in obtaining their permanent residency.

Under the improved Caregiver Programs, 90% of all completed Labour Market Impact Assessments applications have been approved.

Since many prospective employers and employment agencies have been reporting high refusal rates for LMIA applications lately, this statement sounds specious if not accompanied by details on actual numbers and how a "completed" LMIA application is defined. 

After first being elected in 2006, our Conservative Government acted quickly to reverse 13 years of Liberal failure on the caregiver program. Caregivers can continue to count on Conservatives to ensure they receive permanent residence and are reunited with their families quickly, and have a safe work environment.

Reiterating the very same promises  and  repackaging them as part of a "major policy announcement" regarding the Caregiver Program in the thick of a tightly-fought political campaign, sadly smacks of unabashed electioneering.  The following last statement from the same press release actually makes this even more clear:

Since 2006, the Conservative Government has welcomed more than 271,000 Filipinos to Canada, an increase of 135% compared to the Liberals over the same period of time.

I thought that the press release is about a major policy announcement on Canada's Caregiver Program?   A way of pandering to the Filipino-Canadian voters?   Hopefully, Filipino-Canadian voters are smarter that they are being given credit for. 

The author is a Filipino-Canadian immigration lawyer and may be reached at deanna@santoslaw.ca or 416-901-8497.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Refugees and Migrants

Filipiniana News –  September 2015
RHYME & REASON

Refugees and Migrants

It took one heartbreaking photo of the lifeless three-year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, for the world to suddenly pay attention to a bloodbath which had in fact been going on for years.  Prior to this, it seemed that the rest of the world is just content in passively watching if not ignoring the massive exodus of people from Syria and several other countries in Africa and the Middle East caused by widespread persecution, social and political unrest, extreme poverty and other systemic problems within those countries.   

While the recent collective awakening and outpouring of compassion and support is a welcome development, this had also been giving rise to a lot of confusion, misinformation, fear and paranoia owing to the very complex origins of the crisis, varying perspectives and  wide range of human emotions and experiences involved.  

For one, people tend to conflate "refugees" and "migrants" in discussing recent events.  This is due to the fact that the waves of people fleeing Syria and other source countries often have the characteristics of both.   For while all refugees are also considered  migrants, not all migrants can be considered as refugees. 

For those who may still be quite confused with the differences between these two terms, let us look at some basic definitions.   The term "refugee" was codified under international law by the 1951 Refugee Convention which provides in section 1(A), the following definition of a refugee:

"A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other related international agencies consider refugees and so-called economic migrants as being fundamentally different hence treated differently under modern international law.
Economic migrants are loosely defined as those who choose to move in order to improve their lives and future prospects for themselves and their families.  Their admission are thus subject to the immigration laws of their destination countries. 

Refugees on the other hand, are those who are forced to move out to save their lives and/or preserve their freedom.  They are unable to obtain protection from their own state as it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them.   Hence the more urgent need for external assistance to protect their rights and to provide them with basic survival needs.  Although they are also subject to the destination countries' immigration laws to some extent, refugees are nonetheless protected by certain universal principles such as "non-refoulement" or the duty of the receiving state not to return them to real risk of harm such as torture or worse, death. 

There is no question therefore, that bona fide refugees deserve our urgent compassion and concrete assistance.   If we have the means and capacity, we should not hesitate to extend any help we can provide to ease human pain and suffering and to literally, save lives.  

At the same time however, we should also try to deepen our understanding of the social ills which precipitate migration in general and to help push for genuine and lasting solutions to this timeless human conundrum.  To achieve a balanced and reasoned perspective, we should try to work towards eliminating deep-seated prejudices, unfounded hostility and sweeping condemnation of certain groups or cultures often based on limited understanding of the complex issues involved.  Cliche as it may sound, but opening both our minds and hearts, is truly key towards creating a better world.

Consequently, the so-called economic migrants should also be treated with equal understanding compassion and respect.  Although their needs may not seem as urgent as those of refugees who are fleeing for their lives, we should not be too quick to conclude that they are not in equally desperate need.  In many cases, especially those caring for young children and frail elderly people, enduring extreme poverty is viewed as a fate worse than death.   Hence, the situation of refugees and economic migrants, may not differ all that much in many cases.  

When we hear news of boatloads or truckloads of migrants drowning or starving to death after paying scandalous sums to human smugglers, it often seems irrelevant whether they are refugees or economic migrants as defined under international or domestic laws.  Having gone through the same extreme risks to leave their homes and countries, we can only imagine the depths of their misery and desperation to find safer alternatives and/or build better lives elsewhere. 

Understandably, people are concerned that the indiscriminate opening of national borders to all refugees or economic migrants will overwhelm the system or risk the safety, security  and livelihood of the country's citizens and residents.  However, historical experience had proven that these are largely unfounded fears and are often merely excuses to mask racism, cultural prejudices and exclusionary policies.

In fact, historical experience had also taught us that a spirit of human solidarity and empathy with our less fortunate neighbours enriches the lives of both the givers and the recipients in various tangible and intangible ways.   

It may be the job of governments, legislators and decision-makers to enact laws that will  define legal limits to help maintain peace and order, political and economic stability.  But it is ultimately the job of every single person to ensure that we are not losing our humanity in the process. 

The author is a Filipino-Canadian immigration lawyer and may be reached at deanna@santoslaw.ca or tel.  no. 416-901-8497.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Avoiding CIC Refusals Due to Non-Compliance


Filipiniana News –  August  2015
RHYME & REASON

Although I have discussed this issue in a previous article, the recent spate of CIC refusals due to alleged non-compliance with CIC instructions prompted me to resurrect this topic.  Hopefully, this will save applicants from suffering similar grief that others had to undergo needlessly.   

Summer being a time when many government workers are taking vacations or simply enjoying the nice weather, many could be getting too relaxed (i.e. careless) or too stressed  out with the sudden deluge of work left behind by the vacationers.  Hence, mistakes may even more likely occur if applicants will not put their best foot forward in ensuring that they have made things as easy as possible for any officer who will review his/her application.  

First of all, I find it quite bizarre to learn of CIC refusals based on "non-compliance" after the  applicants allegedly fail to  respond to instructions for further documentation from CIC.  How can this happen when it is abundantly clear that most applicants are only too eager to obtain a final decision on their application and are thus more than willing to immediately provide whatever CIC will require.   In most of these cases, the applicants and their families insist that they never received those letters requesting further information hence their failure to respond.  If the applicants are telling the  truth, then the problem lies either in the postal or email system, or in the CIC bureaucracy itself. 

In some of these cases, CIC may reopen the applications and give the applicants another chance to comply.  In other cases however, requests for reconsideration are denied and applicants are simply asked to resubmit new applications if they wish to have any new information considered.  Some applicants are thus forced to resubmit a new application to avoid losing status since there is no clear timeline as to when CIC will decide on administrative requests to reopen or to reconsider an application that had already been refused. 

Since only permanent residents and refugee claimants have a right of appeal, the only formal  avenue of appeal for refused immigration applicants is to file an application for leave and judicial review with the Federal Court.   Aside from the costs and further delays involved, clients are often discouraged upon learning about the nature of a judicial review.  That is, a Federal Court judge can only review the fairness or legality of an immigration officer's decision and at best, can only send the application back to another CIC officer for redetermination.   Thus, even if one "wins" at the Federal Court, there is still the possibility of being refused by another immigration officer based on similar or other grounds.  Understandably, only the most patient of clients and those with the deepest pockets, can afford to take this expensive and circuitous route. 

Hence, many unjust refusals arising from administrative errors go unchallenged and are simply repeated to other hapless applicants.   It is therefore welcome news that internal reviews are supposedly being conducted and trying to resolve these longstanding problems in Canada's immigration bureaucracy.   For even the seemingly minor clerical mistake can lead to serious consequences and ruin the lives of unfortunate applicants and their families. 

Although nothing can guarantee perfection or a smooth-sailing ride, especially when one deals with a bureaucracy, some measures can still be taken by the applicants themselves to avoid or minimize the negative impact of these errors.   These include the following:

Be Thorough

In filling up the required CIC forms, please ensure that all information required are provided.  Be as accurate and as thorough as possible especially with regard to names, dates,  work and address history, etc.  If you provide complete and accurate data at the outset, there will be no need for CIC to send follow up communications requiring corrections or clarifications.  

Also, try as much as possible to include all required forms and supporting documents to avoid the need for mail room clerks and immigration officers missing other supplementary documents that you may have sent after the initial package was submitted. 

Be Organized

In addition to being thorough, it would greatly help if the documents are properly organized and logically arranged.  The CIC document checklists are a useful tool in organizing the documents; a cover letter with a table of contents could be another.  

Keep copies of all communications sent to and received from CIC.

Take note of expiry dates of important documents such as passports and work permits and ensure that you will apply to renew these documents well in advance to avoid losing temporary resident status or shorter validity period for immigration documents.  

Be Proactive

After the application package is submitted to CIC,  keep track and take note of the processing times.   Exercise due diligence.  Contact the CIC call centre to follow up the status of your application or monitor the application status on the CIC website at reasonable times and intervals.  When contacting CIC call centre agents, document the day, time, name of agent and information provided.  If you are not satisfied with the response received from an agent, you may try calling again to speak with another agent who may be able to provide a more helpful response.    

I  hope that the above will be helpful in avoiding the likelihood of being caught by administrative errors involving immigration applications.   If problems still arise, you should consult an experienced and trusted immigration professional at the earliest opportunity, to minimize the risk of a refusal and/or devise an appropriate legal strategy for your particular situation.

The author is a Filipino-Canadian immigration lawyer and may be reached via email at deanna@santoslaw.ca or tel.  no. 416-901-8497.

Friday, 31 July 2015

More Express Entry Updates


Filipiniana News –  July  2015
RHYME & REASON

Having reached the six-month mark after the implementation of the much-touted Express Entry system, many people are still trying to figure out the kinks in this new system and to understand what it is truly all about.   

Although much of these have been discussed in previous columns, it may help to review some of the main features of the Express Entry system to avoid further misinformation and resulting frustrations for all concerned. 

First, the Express Entry system did not create another immigration or permanent residence category.  It is simply a new way of admitting applicants to the existing immigration programs, namely: the Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades, Canadian Experience Class and selected Provincial Nominee Programs.  

Second, the Express Entry system has reversed the immigration application process in that instead of the applicants being allowed to submit then wait for their applications to be processed, they are simply asked to express their interest by creating a profile then made to wait until they are given an invitation to apply (ITA) before they can submit their application for permanent residence.   In other words, the waiting period has become much more uncertain (albeit relatively faster for those who are given an ITA) for those wishing to immigrate to Canada. 

Third, since the criteria for the existing immigration programs (Federal Skilled Workers, Federal Skilled Trades and Canadian Experience Class) remain the same, the Express Entry System continues to apply only to immigration applicants who qualify under the so-called high-skilled  occupations, i.e. those falling under skill levels O, A or B in the National Occupation Classification (NOC).   Those who are working in, or have work qualifications that fall under levels  C or D (or the so-called "occupations requiring lower levels of formal training"), are not qualified to apply for permanent residence under the Express Entry.   This was true before the introduction of the Express Entry system and remains true at present.  

Only some provincial nominee programs (PNP) qualify under the Express Entry system  because there are some PNP categories that are open to those working in NOC C and D occupations.  The latter applicants can still apply for permanent residence under the relevant PNP class but they will not qualify under the current Express Entry system.

Similarly, caregivers under the Live-in  Caregiver Program or the newly-created Caregiver for Children and Caregiver for People with High Medical Needs pathways, do not quality under the current Express Entry framework.   Although there are NOC A and B occupations under the new caregiver programs such as registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses or licensed practical nurses, the Express Entry system still does not allow permanent resident applications under the caregiver programs within this new framework.   To qualify under Express Entry, these registered nurses must meet the criteria under the Federal Skilled Worker, Canadian Experience Class or one of the PNP programs.

Once the candidate is determined to have met the Express Entry criteria, he or she will be entered into the Express Entry pool and will be ranked based on the total points garnered under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).  The total maximum points one can get under the CRS is 1,200, with a maximum of 600 points allotted for the various skill/experience and skill transferability factors and another 600 points for a validated offer of employment (i.e. a positive labour market impact assessment or LMIA) or for an approved  provincial nomination.   CIC will then draw the highest ranking candidates from this Express Entry pool who will be given an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence. 

To date, CIC has conducted a dozen draws, with the following numbers of invitations to apply (ITAs) issued:
·        On 31 January 2015,  779 ITAs for those with a CRS score of at least 886 points
·        On 7 February 2015,  779 ITAs for those with a CRS score of at least 818 points
·        On 20 February 2015, 849 ITAs for those with a CRS score of at least 808 points
·        On 27 February 2015, 1187 ITAs for those with a CRS score of at least 735 points
·        On 20 March 2015,  1620 ITAs for those with a CRS score of  at least 481 points
·        On 27 March 2015,  1637 ITAs for those with a CRS score of at least 453 points
·        On 10 April 2015, 925 ITAs for those with a CRS score of  at least 469 points
·        On 17 April 2015, 715 ITAs for those with a CRS score of at least 453 points
·        On  22 May  2015, 1361 ITAs for those with a CRS score of at least 755 points
·        On 17 June 2015, 1501  ITAs for those with a CRS score of at least 482 points
·        On  26 June  2015, 1575 ITAs for those with a CRS score of  at least 469 points
·        On  10 July 2015, 1516 ITAs for those with a CRS score of at least  463 points

The total number of Express Entry pool candidates who have been issued ITAs from the above twelve rounds of draws is 14,444. 

Once an ITA is issued, the candidate will have 60 days within which to submit the permanent residence application.   Those who receive an ITA will need to take this deadline seriously and ensure that all required documents are submitted by the deadline date.  Extensions are rarely granted and only in exceptional circumstances.  If the deadline is not met, the permanent residence application will be refused and the applicant will have to create another profile and be accepted into the EE pool once again before being considered for future ITA draws.

Another possible issue to watch out for is misrepresentation which could not only lead to a refusal but will bar one from reapplying for five years.  Applicants must therefore ensure that the information they will enter in their profiles will match with the documents to be submitted after one receives an ITA.  If you are unsure or are having problems navigating the Express Entry system, it is best to seek the assistance of a trusted immigration legal professional. 

The author is a Filipino-Canadian immigration lawyer and may be reached via email at deanna@santoslaw.ca or tel.  no. 416-901-8497.