For Canadian immigrants, impaired driving just got even more serious

In December 2018, the Canadian government made changes to Canada's impaired driving laws which have important implications for foreign nationals and Canadian permanent residents. The penalty for impaired driving (commonly known as "DUI") was increased from a maximum of 5 years in prison to a maximum of 10 years. This makes drinking and driving a serious crime for the purposes of Canadian immigration law. 

Background

Changes to Canada's impaired driving laws came into effect around the same time that cannabis consumption became legal in Canada. With its reformed impaired driving regime, the Canadian government is seeking to protect the public and raise awareness about the dangers of operating a vehicle after having consumed drugs or alcohol. 

Immigration consequences

All immigrants to Canada are screened for criminality issues, along with background checks and medical exams. An immigrant who has committed a crime in Canada or abroad can be barred from immigrating to Canada or face the loss of their permanent residence status. There are two broad categories of criminal inadmissibly: "criminality" and "serious criminality."  

Prior to December 2018, impaired driving was considered "regular" criminality under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. When the maximum sentence for impaired driving was increased to 10 years, the offence became serious criminality for immigration purposes. As a result, potential immigrants to Canada who are convicted of impaired driving will no longer be eligible for "deemed rehabilitation" and may have a harder time getting a Temporary Resident Permit. For those who are already permanent residents of Canada, being convicted of impaired driving may increase the chance of being deported from Canada and may make it harder to get Canadian citizenship. 

Critiques and silver linings

Many stakeholders in the Canadian immigration industry objected to these changes and lobbied extensively to have them modified, as they have "disproportionate immigration consequences for non-Canadians." For now, applicants may take some solace in the fact that Canada's new impaired driving laws will only apply to offences committed after December 18, 2018. So the next time you consume drugs and alcohol, be sure to take a taxi!

Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice. Each case is different and your options may vary depending your situation. If you need assistance overcoming inadmissibility for immigration purposes, please contact me for assistance.

Biometrics are coming

 

On July 31, 2018, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will begin to expand its biometrics program to include most visa applicants. Previously, only applicants from certain countries believed to pose a higher risk of immigration fraud were required to provide biometrics. 

By the end of the month, biometrics will be required from all applicants from Europe, Africa and the Middle East and by the end of 2018, applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas will be required to provide biometrics. The expansion of biometrics from 30 to 150 countries is intended to facilitate the entry of legitimate applicants to Canada and to reduce identity theft and immigration fraud. Please read on to learn more about biometrics and Canadian immigration. 

What are biometrics?

Biometrics are your identification photo and fingerprints, which are deemed to be effective data for proving your identity. Fingerprints can be checked against past immigration or criminal records. Also, Canada will engage in biometrics-based information sharing other countries, such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom in order to support the integrity of Canada's immigration system. 

Do I need to provide biometrics?

Effective July 31, 2018, all applicants from Europe, Africa and the Middle East who apply for a visitor visa, study or work permit, or for permanent residence will have provide biometrics. Biometrics will be valid for 10 years.

Is there a fee for providing biometrics?

Yes. The fees for biometrics are as following:

  • Individual applicants: $85 CAD
  • Families applying together at the same time: maximum fee of $170 CAD
  • Groups of 3 or more performing artists and their staff who apply for work permits at the same time: maximum fee of $255 CAD

Where can I provide biometrics?

If you are outside of Canada, you can provide your biometrics at an Application Support Center (in the United States) or a Visa Application Centre (across the world). Asylum claimants and work or study permit applicants who are eligible to apply at a Canadian port of entry will also be able to give biometrics upon entering Canada. In-Canada applicants are exempt from providing biometrics until the in-Canada service is established in 2019.

Do you have questions about biometrics? Please contact me to discuss further. 

Quebec's new immigration system

 

Last week, the government of Quebec unveiled a new plan for immigration in the province. This announcement is welcome news for many potential applicants who have been waiting for a chance to submit an immigration application for Quebec. 

One more chance under the "first-come, first-served" system?

It was announced that between April 1, 2018 and August 15, 2018, Quebec's Ministère de l'immigration may still accept up to 5000 applications under the Regular Skilled Worker Program, to be processed on a "first-come, first-served" basis. However, no official date has been set for the opening of the Program. The government has likely delayed accepting more immigration applications because it already has a large inventory of applications waiting to be processed. It was announced that about 36,000 applications were awaiting processing in January 2017 and about 26,000 applications were awaiting processing in January 2018.

Also between April 1, 2018 and August 15, 2018, applications will continue to be accepted from candidates in the Quebec Experience Class and the quota-exempt Quebec Skilled Workers (workers who have been admitted to Quebec for at least one year, among other conditions).

A new system

After August 15, 2018, the Quebec government plans introduce a "declaration of interest" system in which candidates interested in immigrating to Quebec will submit a profile detailing their qualifications. Then, the candidates deemed to have the best chances of integrating successfully into the Quebec workforce will be given an Invitation to Apply for a Quebec Selection Certificate. No information has been published yet about how candidates will be ranked or chosen, nor is any information available about processing times. However, this new system is expected to reflect the Express Entry system used for immigration by Canada's federal government and hopefully it will result in shorter processing times for Quebec applicants. 

Stay tuned for more developments!

Do you need assistance with immigrating to Quebec? Please contact me to discuss further. 

Love a Canadian - Part Four

This is a series about Canadians who love non-Canadians and their journeys to getting Canadian permanent resident status for their loved ones in Canada. Please read on for stories of love, Canadian immigration and taking the "long-distance" out of a relationship.

The story of Wyanne (Canada) and Werner (Guatemala)

How did you meet and how did your relationship develop?

We met in Guatemala when I was working for a Canadian solidarity organization that has partners in Guatemala.  We went out on a couple of dates and then our relationship really developed through writing to one another when I went back to Canada.  We got to know each other that way over the course of more than a year before we decided that we wanted to be together and I was able to coordinate being based out of Guatemala for my work.  We were married and had our first child in Guatemala before moving to Canada in 2014.

What was the best part of the immigration process?

The best part of the immigration process was getting Werner's approval to come to Canada as a permanent resident!  There were some fun "walks down memory lane" as we put the application together, but to be honest the best part of the process was being done with it, and being able to introduce my partner to a part of my life that I hadn't been able to share with him up until that point.  

What was the worst part of the immigration process?

The worst part of the immigration process was the paperwork, trying to make sure everything was in order, and the waiting.  Unfortunately, Werner was not able to get a visitor's visa, so one of the difficult things was having to make a choice to resettle in Canada without him having a chance to visit. 

How did you handle being in a long-distance relationship?

When we were apart, we corresponded every day.  We are fortunate that with technology it is easier to communicate across long distances than it was in the past.  When we decided that we wanted to make a life together, I made the choice to go to Guatemala to live since Werner was not able to come to Canada.  We lived together there for a couple of years before beginning the process for Werner to come to Canada as a permanent resident.  

If you had to do the immigration process again, would you do anything differently?

I don't think so.  Once we got all the paperwork together (which was a lengthy and detail-oriented job), the process actually went pretty smoothly and quickly for us.

How is life now?

Life is good!  We just had our second child (our first born in Canada), and we have put down roots in Nova Scotia.  We miss our family and friends in Guatemala, but I am happy to be closer to my family and to be part of a great community.

Do you have any advice for others going through the sponsorship process?

I think that attention to detail is really key.  Talk to others who have been through the process, read up on message boards or enlist the help of an immigration lawyer.  I think it is much better to spend the extra time and attention to do things right the first time than to have your application returned.  

Thank you so much to Wyanne and Werner for sharing their story here. If you love a Canadian or want to live in Canada with your beloved, please contact me to discuss your options. 

How to sponsor your parent or grandparent for Canadian immigration

Canadian citizens and permanent residents have another 3 weeks to express their interest in sponsoring their parents or grandparents for Canadian permanent residence. The Canadian government will be accepting online "interest to sponsor" forms until February 1, 2018 at noon EST. 

For the second year in a row, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will use a lottery system to fill the 10,000 spots available in the popular Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship program. After February 1, 2018, the government will review the list of interested sponsors and issue Invitations to Apply for permanent residence using a randomized selection process. 

To be eligible to sponsor a parent or grandparent, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada;
  • be at least 18 years old;
  • meet certain income requirements; and
  • undertake to financially support the sponsored relative for up to 20 years.

The lucky applicants who receive an Invitation to Apply will have 90 days to submit a complete immigration application, including forms, documents and applicable government processing fees. 

At this time, it takes about four years for an application under the Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship program to be processed, although processing times can change without notice. In the meantime, parents and grandparents may be able to visit Canada for an extended period of time by applying for a Super Visa.

Last year, approximately 90,000 Canadian citizens and permanent residents expressed an interest in the Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship program. Although many were disappointed not to receive an Invitation to Apply, the Canadian government believes that this lottery system is fairer than the previously used "first-come, first-served" system. 

Would you like to sponsor your parent or grandparent for Canadian immigration? Please contact me to discuss your eligibility.

Overcoming unauthorized work or study in Canada

Sometimes well-meaning foreign workers and international students unwillingly contravene the terms of their work permits or study permits. While all foreign nationals are expected to know the conditions imposed upon them, mistakes can still happen. Here is what to do if you realize that you have studied or worked in Canada without authorization:

1. Stop working or studying immediately

It is very important to immediately cease the unauthorized activity. Stop working or studying as soon as you realize you are not authorized to do so. 

2. Get legal advice

While some immigration matters can be handled without the assistance of a professional, preserving your status in Canada can be tricky after engaging in unauthorized work or study. Remember that only Canadian lawyers and licensed immigration consultants are legally authorized to advise you on Canadian immigration matters in exchange for a fee. 

3. Assess your options

In some cases, foreign nationals who engaged in unauthorized work or study must leave Canada and wait six month before they can apply for a new work or study permit. In other cases, it may be possible to immediately apply for a new work or study permit if the unauthorized activity was limited in scope and duration. Another option may be to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit and/or restoration of status. 

4. Make a plan

If you are able to overcome unauthorized work or study in Canada, consider yourself lucky. You must carefully review the conditions set forth on your new work permit or study permit and make sure you follow them in the future. 

Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice. Each case is different and your options may vary depending your situation. If you need assistance overcoming unauthorized work or study in Canada, please contact me for assistance.

Happy Citizenship Week!

It is Citizenship Week in Canada! From October 9 to 15, 2017, many festivities are planned across the country to celebrate Canadian citizenship, which was created just 70 years ago

One major cause to celebrate is the coming into force of changes to the Citizenship Act that will make it easier and faster for Canadian permanent residents to become citizens of Canada. Here are some highlights of the important changes:

  • Requirement for physical presence in Canada has been reduced to three out of five years.
  • Some days spent in Canada as a temporary resident now count towards citizenship.
  • Applicants no longer have to have resided in Canada for 183 days each year.

Because of these changes, it is expected that many Canadian permanent residents will be applying for citizenship in the coming months. 

There are many ways to celebrate...what will you do for Citizenship Week?

Here is what Canada's Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, had to say about Citizenship Week: "I encourage everyone to engage and inspire each other, and celebrate our shared values, our achievements and our pride as Canadians. This is a great time to reflect on what it means to be a Canadian and to be part of the Canadian family.”

If you are interested in becoming a Canadian citizen, please contact me to discuss your options. 

Canadian Immigration News - Fall Preview

While it is still officially summer in Canada, there is a fall breeze in the air. Children are heading back to school and Canadian immigration lawyers are planning for the new season ahead. Here are some Canadian immigration law updates to look forward to as the weather turns colder in Canada:

Change to age of dependants

On October 24, 2017, there will be an important change to the definition of "dependant child" for immigration purposes. Right now, only children less than 19 years old may be included in their parents' immigration applications. But soon the age of dependants will be raised to include children under 22 years old. This is great news for families with university-age children. This policy change reflects a global trend in which many children are not fully independent from their parents until they complete their post-secondary studies. Also, to quote Ahmed Hussen, Canada's Minister of Immigration, “Raising the age of dependants lets more families stay together." 

Changes to Citizenship Act

Some much-anticipated changes to Canada's Citizenship Act are expected to come into effect this fall. Here are some of the important changes: 

  • Requirement for physical presence in Canada will be reduced to three out of five years.
  • Some days spent in Canada as a temporary resident (before becoming a permanent resident) will count towards the residency requirement for citizenship.
  • Language and knowledge requirements will be eliminated for minors and persons over age 55.  

No official date has been set for the coming into force of these amendments. However, Canadian permanent residents who wish to apply for citizenship under these new legal provisions may start preparing their citizenship applications now in order to be ready when the new law comes into force. 

Continued opportunities for economic immigration

For the rest of 2017, applicants may continue to be invited to apply for Canadian immigration under the federal government's Express Entry program. The Canadian government aims to welcome approximately 77,000 new immigrants to Canada in 2017 through Express Entry (and other programs). So far, about 63,000 applicants have been invited to apply for immigration through Express Entry draws. 

In Quebec, the Regular Skilled Worker program is expected to open sometime before March 31, 2018. The Quebec government has announced that it is working through its backlog of paper applications. In fact, this backlog has been cleared for applicants from North America, Latin America and Europe. This means that the Quebec government may soon be ready to accept new applications for processing. 

Do you need assistance with immigration to Canada? Please contact me to discuss your options

Bonjour, Quebec? 

So, what is happening with the province of Quebec's Regular Skilled Worker program? In March 2017, the Quebec government announced that it would accept 5000 new applications under the Regular Skilled Worker program this fiscal year. However, the exact date on which this program will re-open remains unknown. 

Potential immigrants to Quebec are anxiously waiting to hear when the Regular Skilled Worker program will re-open. Provincial nomination programs like this one are extremely popular and quotas often fill within hours of a program's opening. 

Why is there a quota of 5000 applications?

In its Ministerial Instruction published in March 2017, the government of Quebec announced that it already has more than 30,000 immigration applications currently awaiting processing. Having a backlog like this isn't good for anyone. For a government, it is expensive and time-consuming. For applicants, it means processing times are long. Nowadays, most immigration programs in Canada have yearly quotas to avoid situations where the number of applications received exceeds processing capacity. 

When will the Regular Skilled Worker program re-open?

All we know is that the program will open "at a later date" but likely before March 31, 2018. The Quebec government recently announced that it will finally start on July 15, 2017 to process the Regular Skilled Worker applications that it received electronically after December 31, 2015. Applications received in paper format prior to that date will continue to be processed. Generally, it is expected that the program will re-open when the Quebec government has cleared some of the backlog of 30,000 applications.

What can you do while you wait?

Applicants who are waiting for the Regular Skilled Worker program to open should complete their application forms online at Mon project Quebec and gather their supporting documents. Given the popularity of this program, it is essential for would-be applicants to be prepared to submit an application quickly when the program opens. Some applicants may also be eligible to submit an application at any time if they have a validated job offer or currently work or study in Quebec.

Do you want to immigrate to the province of Quebec? Please contact me to discuss your options. 

Happy 150th birthday, Canada

This Saturday, July 1, 2017, marks Canada's 150th birthday. There are so many reasons to celebrate our beautiful country! As an immigration lawyer, I am reflecting on the milestones and trends that have been formative for Canada over the years. 

Canada is a country of immigrants. According to Statistics Canada's report 150 years of immigration in Canada, more than 17 million immigrants have come to Canada since Confederation in 1867. Early immigrants to Canada came primarily from Europe but since the 1960s, the diversity of Canada has increased with more immigrants coming to Canada from Asia.

Over the past 150 years, Canada has changed dramatically. Our population increased tenfold and spread across the Canadian continent. We have also experience vast legal and social changes. Imagine how in 1917, women could not yet vote in Canada and men could also be excluded from voting on the basis of race. Fast-forward to 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted to guarantee equal treatment and protection against discrimination for everyone. 

Now, Canada is not perfect and being an immigrant is not easy. But people consistently come to Canada in search of a better future for themselves and their family. I hope that Canada's next 150 years will bring increased prosperity, diversity and inclusion for both new and established Canadians. 

Happy birthday, Canada...and many more!