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IRCC Has Announced a Plan to Make a Plan

by Ronalee Carey Law

September 2022

 On May 11, 2022, the Canadian parliament approved a Private Member’s Bill, M-44, brought by Randeep Sarai, a politician from British Columbia. The motion required the Immigration department to develop a plan to expand the economic immigration streams available to individuals with Canadian work experience. The motion required the government to develop the plan within 120 days.

As soon as the Bill was passed, I started getting emails from clients holding post-graduate work permits. Some have already set up an Express Entry profile, and others are waiting to obtain a full year of work experience to be able to do so. They wanted to know what documents they should have prepared so they could apply for the new program when it was announced.

This past week, the Strategy to Expand Transitions to Permanent Residency was released. In a ‘five pillar’ approach, the government sets out how it plans to support Canada’s economic development by helping key workers to transition to permanent residence. It’s a plan to make a plan. It’s not a program through which individuals can apply for permanent residence.

There are some gems in the plan. For example, currently, IRCC does not recognize the Canadian work experience of physicians who bill provincial health insurance plans directly in ‘fee for service’ arrangements, as they are considered self-employed. The plan promises that the government will address this barrier.

However, much of the plan reads more like a history of immigration policy in Canada. For example, section 3.3, Economic Permanent Resident Programs and their Role in Transitions set out all of the existing programs, the number of individuals accepted through these programs, and the proportion of these programs comprised of international students. It was nice to learn that 64% of admissions in the economic category were from post-graduate work permit holders. But how does that help my current clients whose Express Entry scores aren’t high enough to be invited for permanent residence?

Skipping to the conclusion portion of the 39-page report, the government’s plan is summarized as follows:

  • introduction of category-based selection in the Express Entry system (allowing draws based on occupation or other criteria)
  • implementation of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2021 in November 2022 (which will have the impact of denying access to the Express Entry system for a few occupations while opening it up to a few others)
  • development of streamlined work and permanent residence pathways for international student graduates in highly skilled, in-demand sectors (a plan to make a plan…)
  • the extension of existing pilot programs, including the Agri-Food Pilot (which is of limited utility to post-secondary graduates, but other pilots, such as the upcoming Municipal Nominee Program, may help some)

Unsurprisingly, the government has come under fire for failing to announce an actual program to help individuals apply for permanent residence.

The reality has been and will continue to be that many international students will not transition to permanent residence, despite having graduated from a Canadian school and perhaps even having a permanent employment position. Future immigration programs will favour those who have studied at schools ‘outside major urban areas’, are willing to work in less populated areas of the country, who have job offers supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment or a provincial or municipal nomination program, or who have work experience in occupations being targeted by the government, such as hospitality, healthcare, and IT services.

Ronalee Carey Law Celebrates a Decade of Helping Clients Achieve Their Dreams in Canada

by Ronalee Carey Law

September 2022

Ten years ago, I ‘hung up a shingle,’ opening my own law firm exclusively focused on immigration and refugee law. It’s not where I expected my life’s journey to take me. I started law school keen on criminal and family law. I summered with a lawyer (now a judge) practicing in both areas of law and later articled for a general practice firm with a focus on family law.

The first bump in the road came only a year after starting work as an associate lawyer. A beautiful baby girl came into my life by way of adoption. Bumps two and three came shortly thereafter, also by way of adoption. With three children under the age of four, going back to work as a full-time lawyer didn’t seem feasible. I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mother.

When bump number three started school full-time, a chance encounter at a Law Society of Ontario function led to a part-time position with a law school colleague then practicing as an immigration lawyer. I knew nothing about immigration law. I hadn’t taken any courses in the subject matter in law school. Heck, I hardly even knew any immigrants. I grew up in a small town in northern Ontario where there were exactly two immigrant families. One, a Black family, included my fifth-grade teacher. The other family, who were practicing Sikhs, owned the local movie theatre. I remember my entire school was invited, free of charge, to a showing of the movie Gandhi when it came out.

When I started assisting my law school colleague in her firm, there were very few resources available to immigration practitioners. I learned immigration law by reading the IRCC website, scouring through binders of past conference papers, and joining the Refugee Lawyer’s Association of Ontario listserv.

When the law school colleague I was working for told me she was moving to Toronto, I had a decision to make. I could look for a job or go out on my own. After she offered to give me a few legally aided refugee files to get me started, the decision was made.

I now live and breathe immigration law. Evenings include time reading listserv posts from three different organizations. Weekends are often spent preparing to speak at a conference, and sometimes my day gets hijacked by a request to speak to the media. I’ve taught advanced refugee law at the same law school where I earned my degree. Some days are hard. Today, both a client and I were in tears as I explained to him that his same-sex partner’s application for a work permit to reunite with him in Canada was likely going to be denied, regardless of how brilliant my legal submissions were going to be and how many supporting documents they provided me. But other days are just glorious. And sometimes they are both on the same day. Today, I had two clients receive their electronic Confirmation of Permanent Residence documents after six months of delay. Another client’s application for permanent residence was approved only 4.5 months after submission when the listed processing time is 15 months. She will be ecstatic; I can’t wait to tell her the good news.

I am grateful that my life’s journey has brought me to where I am. It has given me the opportunity to meet wonderful people from all over the world. I feel like I’ve travelled the globe even though I’ve rarely left the country.

I had another milestone this month. Bump number three moved into college residence last weekend. I am an empty nester. But the nest won’t stay empty for long. I am about to receive a young Afghan woman sponsored by the refugee sponsorship group I’ve been a part of for many years. She will stay with me until she sorts out her next step in life.

I started this newsletter in July 2013. Reflecting on immigration law and policy over the years through my writing has allowed me to see the bigger picture. I have been heartened by the emails I have received from readers about the topics I have engaged in. It is a pleasure to be connected to so many smart, compassionate, and politically engaged individuals.

Thank you for reading. I plan to around another two decades or so, so I hope I continue to pique your interest.

New Measures to Tackle Backlogs Will There be Relief To Those Waiting?

by Ronalee Carey Law

August 2022

Last week, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced plans to hire 1,250 new employees to help address the backlogs that continue to plague the department. If you’d like to apply, here is the link. Of course, you must be legally entitled to work in Canada, and the advertisement states, ‘Preference will be given to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.’

This hiring comes in the wake of unprecedented backlogs of immigration applications. In IRCC’s announcement, they admitted that at the end of July, 54% of applications in their inventory were considered to be in the backlog. The Minister stated, ‘responding to humanitarian crises and updating aging technology to meet demands have led to processing delays and longer wait times.’

IRCC has a new webpage detailing how many applications are in inventory and their targets for when they will have reduced the backlogs.  

I applaud IRCC’s transparency in admitting how many applications it has to process. However, as an advocate for many of the individuals waiting in the queue, I wish for the following:

  • Process applications on a ‘first in, first out’ basis. I constantly see clients whose applications are finalized before those I send in earlier, with no factors in the older applications that would cause delay.
  • Complete the initial review and send correspondence acknowledging receipt of the applications as soon as possible. Until this correspondence is received, there is no application number assigned. We cannot provide updates without an application number, such as changes in the client’s residential address.
  • Support visa offices carrying the highest inventory, particularly those in India. As reported by the CBC, nearly a million of the (then) 2.4 million applications in the backlog are from India. Other countries, including Iran, have also been disproportionately affected.

As an advocate, I can do little to help clients stuck in the backlog. It is virtually impossible to contact IRCC by telephone; I don’t even try. Webforms take up to two months for responses, which often say no more than ‘your application is in process.’ For clients in Canada, I can direct them to their Member of Parliament, but this option is unavailable to my overseas clients.

I must place my hope on the 1,250 new employees that IRCC will hire. If you become one of them, please know you will carry the hopes and dreams of thousands of people.

British Columbia Will No Longer Hold Migrants In Provincial Jails: Will Other Provinces Do The Same?

by Ronalee Carey Law

July 2022

I formerly assisted a refugee claimant who arrived from an African country through a human smuggler. He made his refugee claim at the airport upon arrival in Canada, immediately admitting that the passport he carried was not his and that the photo of the passport holder had been replaced with his own. My client had no identity document in his own name; the smuggler told him only to carry the false documents he had been provided. He was fleeing for his life and had done what he was told.

My client spent the next ten days in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, a provincial jail notorious for its poor conditions. He was finally released after his cousin couriered his photo identification.

Arrivals to Canada can be detained, like my client, where they cannot establish their identity. Those to be deported may be detained if there are concerns that they are a flight risk. Individuals can also be detained if they are deemed a risk to public safety.

Canada has only three immigration detention centres. They are located in Toronto, Ontario, Laval, Quebec, and Surrey, British Colombia. Immigration detention centres are similar to minimum security prisons, and children are allowed to stay with their parents. In cities with no immigration detention centre, individuals are placed in provincial jails alongside the general inmate population.

Imagine fleeing for your life, arriving in Canada, being handcuffed, put in a prison jumpsuit and placed in jail even though you’d never committed a crime.

Sixteen people have lost their lives while detained since 2000. The horrible conditions for migrants in prisons have long had advocacy groups fighting for change.

Finally, one province is standing up for migrants. Citing human rights concerns, British Columbia has ended an arrangement with the Canada Border Service Agency to house detained migrants in its provincial jails.

We will now wait to see if other provinces will follow suit.