Friday, 30 December 2016

More Immigration Policy Updates


Filipiniana News  -  December 2016
Rhyme and Reason

More Immigration Policy Updates

Last month, a number of changes were introduced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and were summarized in this column.   Early this month, a few more changes were announced that could significantly impact the lives of many who intend to make Canada their home. 

Faster Processing of Spousal Sponsorship Applications

On 7 December 2016,  immigration minister John McCallum announced that the IRCC will further expedite the processing of all spousal sponsorship applications.   He said that new spousal sponsorship applications will be completed in less than 12 months.   All pending spousal sponsorship applications or those  submitted prior to 7 December 2016, will also be processed quickly and "should have a decision no later than the end of December 2017."    

However, "complex" cases may require more time.   IRCC did not explain what may be considered as complex cases nor how much longer time they will require.   It can only be assumed that these will consist of those applications where IRCC doubts the genuineness of the relationship or where the sponsored spouse or their dependents may have admissibility issues.  

The IRCC also announced that: 
·         The application kit for new sponsors has been redesigned to be simpler and easier to understan and would have been made available on December 15, 2016.
·         To bring families together, IRCC plans to admit 64,000 spouses and dependants in 2017, well above the average over the past decade of about 47,000.

Visa Requirement for Mexicans Lifted

Effective 1 December 2016, Canada has lifted the visa requirement for all Mexicans who wish to travel to Canada as visitors.   It will be recalled that the previous Conservative government imposed a visa requirement on Mexicans in 2009 as a measure to discourage refugee claims after arriving in Canada, most of which were later deemed to be unfounded hence denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board.   

Now that the visa requirement had been removed, Mexicans would instead be required to apply for electronic travel documents (ETAs)  before entering Canada.   In fact, a week earlier, or on 26 November 2016, IRCC already started allowing Mexicans to apply for ETAs even before the visa requirement was lifted less than a week later.   

Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) Requirement

As explained in this column last month, the ETA requirement had been strictly implemented starting 10 November 2016 after a few months of leniency.   Hence, all visa-exempt nationals who wish to travel to Canada need to obtain ETAs online (which costs $7 per person) before they can be allowed entry to Canada.  

Canadian citizens, permanent residents, US citizens and non visa-exempt nationals cannot apply for ETAs.   US green card holders will only need ETAs if travelling to Canada by air.

Consequently, Canadian citizens (including dual citizens), must always travel to and from Canada with valid Canadian passports.    This is to remind dual Canadian/Philippine citizens therefore, who wish to travel outside of Canada, that they must have valid Canadian passports to be allowed re-entry to Canada.   ETAs cannot be issued to Philippine passport-holders since the Philippines is not a visa-exempt country.  
 
Express Entry Changes

Starting 19 November 2016, the new Ministerial Instructions regarding the Express Entry System  changed the CRS points for those with LMIA-based job offers.   Instead of the 600 points previously allotted to LMIA-based job offers, only 200 points will be given if the job offer is in a NOC skill level 00 (senior managerial) position and an even lower 50 points for all other LMIA-based job offers in NOC skill levels 0, A or  B.   :LMIA-exempt job offers like NAFTA work permit holders or intra-company transferees will also get points for arranged employment. 

Upon receiving an invitation to apply (ITA), the candidates will now have 90 days instead of the previous 60 days, within which to submit the complete permanent residence application package to IRCC.

During the last round of invitations issued on 16 November 2016 (before the recent Express Entry changes took effect), there were 2,427 invitations issued with a minimum CRS score of 470 points.   Prior to that, the number of ITAs issued were averaging about 1000 to 1500 with a minimum CRS score of about 470 to 500 points.  

After the changes took effect, the next round of invitations were issued on 30 November 2016 with only 559 candidates having been invited and with a minimum CRS score of 786 points.  
It is not yet known if this trend will continue or if it is merely a transitional  aberration.   If it will become a trend, then it will continue to be difficult for those who have no provincial nominations or an LMIA-based job offer to receive an ITA since they can only receive a maximum of 600 CRS points, still short of the 786 minimum score of candidates who received ITAs most recently. 

It remains to be seen therefore, if the recent Express Entry changes will indeed level the playing field and give a better chance for highly-skilled candidates who do not have an LMIA-based job offer or provincial nomination to receive ITAs.    

As always, the above are meant for information purposes only and not as specific legal advice.  To seek legal advice about your particular situation, please consult a trusted immigration legal practitioner.  

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to All! 

The author is an immigration lawyer in Canada and may be reached at deanna@santoslaw.ca or tel. no. 416-901-8497. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Recent Immigration Policy Updates


Filipiniana News  -  November 2016
Rhyme and Reason

Recent Immigration Policy Updates
On November 8, the night of the US presidential elections, the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) crashed as the election results started showing a trend in favor of Donald Trump winning over Hillary Clinton.  This led many to suspect that many Americans were scrambling to find more information on how to move to Canada if Trump becomes the next US president (as many had threatened during the long and bitter campaign period). 

When the IRCC website was restored later the next day, November 9, others wondered whether the high traffic was also due to the last minute scramble to apply for electronic travel authorizations (ETA) which was due for strict implementation starting 10 November 2016.    

In any case, there is no doubt that the IRCC website (http://www.cic.gc.ca) continues to be a very much in demand and dynamic repository of information as it tries to keep pace with the ever-changing world of Canadian immigration law and policy.

As can be seen below, the past month was no exception. 

2017 Immigration Targets

On 31 October 2016, the Immigration Minister announced that the
immigration intake target for 2017 will be the same as the 2016 target of 300,000 new immigrants.   This is about a 10% increase from the previous government's annual immigration target of between 250,000 to 280,000 in the past recent years.  The current 300,000 target will be distributed among the different immigration classes as follows:  172,500 in the economic class including 18,000 caregivers (LCP, Caring for Children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs);  84,000 family class including spouses, children, parents and grandparents;  43,500 refugee & humanitarian classes. 

While these projected numbers seem promising, it is unclear how the present government intends to meet its targets in light of the fact that it is still way off the mark in meeting its 2016 targets.  For instance, the number of invitations to apply (ITAs) issued by early 2016 under the Express Entry system had only totalled approximately 25,000.  Considering that the Express Entry system has been touted as IRCC's flagship program for economic class immigrants, one cannot help but wonder how the government will meet the balance of its target in  a little less than two months before the year ends, and how the expected 2016 shortfall will affect the 2017 targets. 

Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) Requirement

As stated above, the ETA requirement would have been strictly implemented starting 10 November 2016.   The ETA requirement had been introduced a few months ago but the so-called "leniency period" ended on 10 November 2016.   Hence, all visa-exempt nationals who wish to travel to Canada need to obtain ETAs online (which costs $7 per person) before they can be allowed entry to Canada.  

Canadian citizens, permanent residents, US citizens and non visa-exempt nationals cannot apply for ETAs.   Therefore, Canadian citizens (including dual citizens), must always travel to and from Canada with valid Canadian passports.  

However, a further "leniency period"  of until 31 January 2017 is given to dual Canadian citizens who may be granted a special authorization if they 
  • have a flight to Canada that leaves in less than 10 days, and
  • have a valid passport from a visa-exempt country.
And one of the following:
  • have previously received a certificate of Canadian citizenship, or
  • held a Canadian passport in the past, or
  • were granted Canadian citizenship after having been a permanent resident of Canada.
The dual citizen's information will be verified in the IRCC electronic systems to confirm Canadian citizenship. The special authorization, if granted, will be valid for only 4 days from the date of travel selected on the application form.  If not used within this time, the dual Canadian citizen will need to submit a new request for special authorization.

Since the Philippines is not a visa-exempt country, special authorizations will not be issued to dual Canadian/Philippine citizens who wish to travel to Canada with a Philippine passport.  

U.S. immigrants or green card holders will need ETAs only if travelling to Canada by air. 

Reduced Express Entry Points for LMIA-based Job Offers & Other Changes

Starting 19 November 2016, the new Ministerial Instructions regarding the Express Entry System  changed the CRS points for those with LMIA-based job offers.   Instead of the 600 points previously allotted to LMIA-based job offers, only
200 points will be given if the job offer is in a NOC skill level 0 (managerial) position and an even lower 50 points for all other LMIA-based job offers in NOC skill levels A & B. 
Future Expected Changes

In addition, IRCC also announced that the following long-awaited changes are expected to be implemented by 2017: 
·        the conditional PR status for sponsored spouses will be repealed by spring 2017 and
·        the age of dependents will be increased to below 22 by fall 2017.

Hopefully, these upcoming changes will benefit those whose PR status may be in jeopardy due to a breakdown in marriage or common-law relationship with a sponsoring spouse, or whose dependents are over the current age limit of 19 years old.  So if these apply to you, please watch out closely for these expected changes. 

As always, the above are meant for information purposes only and not as specific legal advice.  To seek legal advice about your particular situation, please consult a trusted immigration legal practitioner.

The author is an immigration lawyer in Canada and may be reached at deanna@santoslaw.ca or tel. no. 416-901-8497.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Temporary Residents and the Removal Process


Filipiniana News  -  October 2016
Rhyme and Reason

Temporary Residents and the Removal Process

Legal temporary residents in Canada  consist of those who have valid status as students, workers or visitors.  Due to the ever changing state of Canada’s immigration laws and regulations, they are often the most negatively affected to the point of losing their status due to plain ignorance, misinformation or even carelessness. 

Those who may have lost their status are understandably fearful of being removed anytime soon and thrown on the next flight back to their home country.  However, misconceptions about the removal process abound and are misleading even temporary residents who may still have valid status in Canada. 

For instance, there are those who are  here as visitors, workers or students whose initial permits may have expired but whose extension applications are still pending, who fear that they may just be picked up by the authorities and detained since they could not show any proof of legal status.  Such fear is premature if the temporary resident has submitted an application to renew their temporary resident status before the expiry of their current status in Canada and a decision on the application is not yet received.   Provided all legal requisites are met, the temporary resident who has a pending renewal application will have the benefit of “implied status” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its regulations.   The implied status ends on the day that a decision is received on the renewal application, granting or refusing the extension requested.   It is only when the renewal application is refused, will the applicant lose temporary resident status in Canada and may be well-advised to leave the country as soon as possible so as not to prejudice any future applications to return to Canada.

There is also the option of applying for a restoration of status within 90 days of having lost temporary resident status if there are reasonable legal bases for requesting the restoration (e.g. justifiable reason for inability to request an extension prior to expiry of previous status, compelling reason to extend visit, a positive labour market impact assessment based on an existing job offer,  continuing studies, pending PR application, etc.).   If the 90 days have passed, the option of seeking a restoration will not anymore be available but there may still be other options, depending on the circumstances.  

It must be noted however, that unlike the period of "implied status,"  the temporary resident is already without valid status during the 90-day restoration period.   Therefore, although the restoration option is still available, so is the possibility of being subject to enforcement proceedings for non-compliance with IRPA and its regulations.  

That said, a person who had lost legal temporary status in Canada need not simply live in  fear of being “picked up” by enforcement officers and thrown on the next plane out of Canada.  If there are compelling reasons or factors involved, it will be best to consult a trustworthy immigration advisor to discuss possible options to legalize one’s status. 

If there is a genuine risk to one’s life if returned to one’s home country, there are applications that can be made to seek protection from such harm provided they meet applicable criteria.  These remedies however, should never be abused by agreeing to unscrupulous advice such as concocting stories to support one’s application for permanent resident status in Canada.   These unethical activities are not only morally and legally wrong, but also prejudice the many other applicants who are really trying to escape various forms of persecution in their home countries.  If a genuine refugee is refused simply because the adjudicator has heard too many similar concocted stories, then a travesty of justice has been perpetrated against those truly deserving of Canada’s protection.

There are also cases where other compelling humanitarian and compassionate considerations exist (other than risk to one’s life) which could be raised in support of one’s application to remain in Canada.  These include factors such as strong establishment in Canada, best interests of children affected and other types of undue, undeserved and disproportionate hardship that would result from a refusal.

It used to be that a marriage or common-law relationship with a Canadian or permanent resident can almost guarantee a stay of removal and eventual grant of permanent residence to a foreign spouse who may have already lost status.  However,  the proliferation of bad faith marriages or so-called marriages of convenience have put even genuine relationships at a great disadvantage by also being refused for being found to be a “bad faith marriage” (defined as either non-genuine relationships or those which were primarily entered into for immigration purposes). 

Once a removal order is issued against a temporary resident, there are administrative and judicial remedies that can be pursued to stay the removal process.  However, these procedures and their effectiveness would depend on the specific circumstances in each case, as well as the favorable (or unfavorable) perspectives of the decision-makers. 

Thus, the removal process does not simply mean that once a person loses status in Canada, he or she is immediately arrested by the authorities, detained and thrown on the next flight to the home country. 

There are various criteria, legal processes and principles involved which could result in varying treatments and outcomes.     

It must be noted as well, that even permanent residents may become the subject of removal orders.  However, that is already beyond the scope of this article. 

As always, the above are meant for information purposes only and not as specific legal advice.  To seek legal advice about your particular situation, please consult a trusted immigration legal practitioner. 

The author is an immigration lawyer in Canada and may be reached at deanna@santoslaw.ca or tel. no. 416-901-8497.