2013 May to August – Immigration News & Updates

August 31, 2013

International Experience Canada Moving to Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Effective August 31, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will assume responsibility for International Experience Canada (IEC). The program was previously administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

Canada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway ImmigrateThe IEC program provides opportunities for young Canadians and foreign nationals, aged 18-35, to gain travel and work experience in each other’s countries for up to two years.

The transfer of the IEC will allow the program to better align with government priorities and labour market demands in Canada by linking IEC to other immigration programs. The move will strengthen Canada’s strategy to develop its human capital and attract talent.

Transferring the program to CIC will provide an opportunity to take advantage of the Department’s existing expertise in centralized electronic processing of work permits. CIC will become the one-stop shop for applicants by streamlining the application process for IEC participants at one federal government department.

The program will continue to operate as usual, meaning that the application process will be the same for IEC participants. Applicants will not face an interruption in service as a result of the transfer.

For more information regarding the IEC program, please contact Great Canadian Gateway.

August 30, 2013

Minister Alexander Commends RCMP for Citizenship and Immigration Fraud Charges

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today commended the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Nova Scotia for a thorough investigation into alleged residence fraud.

“I want to applaud the outstanding work done by RCMP investigators in this matter,” said Alexander. “To those who would lie or misrepresent themselves to the Government, consider this a warning that we will continue to apply the full strength of Canadian law and crack down on citizenship fraud.”

A Bedford man is facing immigration fraud charges as part of a scheme that allegedly misrepresented the status of foreign nationals living in Canada. Basem Farid Awaad, 42, is alleged to have counselled and helped “foreign nationals through fraudulent means,” the RCMP said in a news release issued Thursday.

Awaad faces two charges of counselling misrepresentation and two charges of false representation.

This investigation shows that Canadian citizenship cannot be purchased, said RCMP Const. Shawn Dinsdale, with the Mounties’ Federal Operations Unit. Dinsdale said in an interview Thursday that he couldn’t speak directly about the case but, in general, some foreign nationals who become permanent residents of Canada return to their homelands and then hire someone to make it look like they’ve never left. The person they hire maintains a “false” presence for the foreign national while they’re gone, Dinsdale said.

Under law, a permanent resident must stay in Canada for two years during a five-year period in order to keep residency status.

August 21, 2013

Striking Foreign Service Officers Take to Twitter

Canada’s striking foreign service officers are holding a rally in downtown Ottawa today and are taking to Twitter around the world to raise awareness about their jobs and their contract dispute with the government.

The officers’ union, the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, organized the demonstration outside the citizenship and immigration department. The lunchtime demonstration was held a day ahead of a hearing at the public service labour relations board that was triggered by a bad-faith bargaining complaint from the union.

In addition to Tuesday’s rally, foreign service officers posted abroad are participating in a 24-hour Twitter campaign to “illustrate the importance of the foreign service in safeguarding Canada’s national security, building its economy, shaping its future diversity and workforce, and protecting and promoting the values that Canadians hold dear,” according to the union.

They wrote examples of activities they do in their day-to-day jobs. One in Warsaw wrote: “facilitated shipment of humanitarian goods from Canada to neighbouring country” and “preparing to launch the anti-homophobia clip we did with a local NGO.”

Another one in Rome described a conference call to organize a Canadian aerospace sector business delegation and an officer in Beirut wrote that 35 refugee visas were approved.

Not all foreign service officers are on a full strike. The union began rotating strikes at embassies and staggered withdrawals of certain services in the spring. As the dispute dragged on into the summer, it launched a full withdrawal of visa services at 15 key processing centres but those considered “essential staff” are still processing visas for refugees claimants.

Tim Edwards, president of PAFSO, said Tuesday that in the fall more job action will be undertaken by more foreign service members, including trade and political officers.

Contract negotiations between PAFSO and Treasury Board president Tony Clement’s department have been stalled for weeks as both sides refuse to give in to each other’s demands. The union argues that foreign service officers who work as lawyers or policy analysts, for example, get paid less than non-foreign service officers who do the same work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The government argues that PAFSO members are well-paid and receive many added benefits that other government employees don’t get.

“We feel that at this point we have done everything in our power, we’ve made every reasonable effort to find a solution to this labour dispute and that the government has not,” Edwards said in an interview with CBC News.

“The responsibility for the current situation now falls squarely with the government. We’ve provided a face-saving and responsible way out by offering binding arbitration.”

A spokeswoman for Clement said Tuesday that PAFSO is asking for a “hefty wage hike that is neither fair nor reasonable for taxpayers.”

“Our government will consider all options in finding a resolution to this strike. We remain open to a resolution that respects the interests of both taxpayers and foreign service union members,” Andrea Mandel-Campbell said in an emailed response.

“In the past month we have reached tentative agreements with three other unions. In all cases the bargaining agents were willing to reach fair and reasonable settlements.”

PAFSO, however, said it would cost the government about $4 million over a three-year contract to settle the wage dispute — far less than the conflict is costing the Canadian economy, it argues.

The union is going to the labour board to ask that the two sides be forced into arbitration. The hearing is expected to last most of the day and a decision could be issued within days.

August 20, 2013

Changes to Canadian Citizenship Services in the US

Canada Immigration Great Canadian GatewayIn an effort to streamline the process and reduce wait times for applicants, starting September 2, 2013, Canadian citizens living in the U.S. will be required to send the following applications directly to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Case Processing Centre in Sydney (CPC-Sydney), Nova Scotia, Canada:

  • Application for a Citizenship Certificate – (Proof of Citizenship) Under Section 3 (CIT 0001);
  • Application for a Search of Citizenship Records (CIT 0058);
  • Application to Renounce Canadian Citizenship – Under Subsection 9(1) (CIT 0302);
  • Application to Renounce Canadian Citizenship – R7.1 (for certain persons who acquired citizenship on April 17, 2009) (CIT 0496).

Only a small number of applicants are expected to be affected by this change.

Also, please note that starting September 2, 2013, CPC-Sydney will send the following to a Canadian citizen’s U.S. address by regular mail, in keeping with the way CPC-Sydney sends items to Canadian citizens in Canada:

  • citizenship certificates;
  • results of searches of the citizenship records;
  • renunciation certificates.

However, if the application was submitted through a Canadian mission in the U.S. prior to September 2, 2013, CPC-Sydney will send the certificate, result of the search of the citizenship records, or renunciation certificate to the Canadian mission. The mission will then forward the document to the Canadian citizen’s U.S. address.

August 19, 2013

Temporary Foreign Worker Program – New Changes

The rules and regulations governing the entry of temporary workers in Canada have tightened significantly. This increases the employers liability in terms of the process followed in hiring foreign workers and for the manner in which they are treated while in Canada.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (“HRSDC”) has just announced new rules governing the recruitment of foreigners. This includes lengthened recruitment times, a requirement for employers to broaden their search for workers, as well as the imposition of fees associated with a request for a Labour Market Opinion.

Great Canadian Gateway CAnada ImmigrationIn addition to the regulatory changes, employers are also increasingly under scrutiny with respect to the manner in which they treat foreign workers, both in their hiring and employment. This includes various factors such as wages, hours of work, as well as workplace health and safety. Not only are employers expected to promise to adhere to the conditions of employment agreed to at the time of the hiring of a foreigner, they will also be at risk of an audit by HRSDC and/or Immigration Canada.

The new rules and regulations should not be discouraging to employers hoping to hire foreigners. Rather, these changes are part of a natural evolution of a program which has grown by leaps and bounds. Canada will continue to facilitate the entry of thousands of temporary foreign workers, if for no other reason than the fact that there continues to be chronic shortages of skilled labour in various aspects of the country.

August 13, 2013

Canada – One of the Most Affordable Countries for Foreign Students

A new survey says international students studying in Canada pay some of the lowest fees amongst Western developed nations.

Canada Flag Graduate Canada Immigration Great CAnadian GatewayAccording to research from HSBC, Australia is one of the most expensive countries for oversea students, following by the United States, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Out of 13 countries studied, Canada falls fifth on the list with an estimated annual cost of living and student fees totalling around $26,000 for international students.

Table: International student fees

Country

Annual student fees (US$ per year)

Australia

$25,375

United States

$25,226

United Arab Emirates

$21,371

United Kingdom

$19,291

Canada

$18,474

Singapore

$14,885

Hong Kong

$13,182

Japan

$6,522

China

$3,983

Taiwan

$3,270

Russia

$3,131

Spain

$1,002

Germany

$635

“Families with these aspirations need to plan ahead,” said Betty Miao, executive vice president, retail banking and wealth management of HSBC Bank Canada, in a press release. “The good thing about education planning is that it is predictable. Children’s education needs are tightly constrained to a defined number of years. It is the annual cost that is the main variable depending on the country chosen for your child’s higher education.”

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada statistics, Canada welcomed a record 100,000 international students in 2013—an increase of 60 per cent from 2004.

Miao says those who wish to educate their children overseas also need to consider other factors besides tuition fees, such as living costs, exchange rates and inflation in their estimates of total costs.

“On average, living expenses can comprise at least a third of total costs and parents need to budget for travel home during school holidays,” she said. “As such, there is a need for parents to ensure their children’s education forms an important part of their financial planning.”

About the survey

The research was conducted in 13 countries around the world. Fees represent the average tuition cost for international students based on the top 10 largest institutions in each relevant country.

August 02, 2013

BC Provincial Nominee Program Adds Another Permanent Category

Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration British Columbia Provincial NomineeBritish Columbia confirmed today that the International Post-Graduates (IPG) pilot project, conducted over the last three years, will become a permanent category of the Provincial Nominee Program.

The IPG is critical to ensuring B.C. is able to attract and retain highly skilled international post-graduates in the science and technology fields to support the BC Jobs Plan.

As a recommendation of the Premier’s Technology Council, the three-year IPG pilot began in mid-2010 to support the retention of B.C. international graduates. To be eligible, IPG applicants are required to fulfil the requirements for a master’s or doctoral degree in natural, applied or health sciences from a B.C. post-secondary institution. To date, the PNP has nominated 734 highly-qualified post-graduates under the IPG pilot.

An evaluation of the International Post Graduate Pilot Project, conducted by NRG Research Group and completed in May of this year, indicates positive results:

  • 67 per cent of nominees are employed and 24 per cent are pursuing further advanced studies (mainly master’s graduates enrolled in a PhD).
  • 88 per cent of employed nominees work in an occupation directly related to their graduate degree.
  • Average income for employed nominees was $45,645 in 2012.
  • 93 per cent of IPG nominees continue to live in B.C.

NRG surveyed a sample of 462 IPG nominees to measure labour market and other outcomes.

Quotes:

Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour

With the expectation of a million new jobs by 2020 we know that B.C. will require an increased number of highly skilled workers. We want to retain the best and the brightest minds in our workforce to support the BC Jobs Plan, both British Columbian and international post-grads.”

As we grow our economy and increase economic development in our province, international post-graduates will provide expertise to support innovation that will result in a thriving technology sector in our province.

Amrik Virk, Minister of Advanced Education

British Columbia has a world-renowned post-secondary education system that attracts people from around the globe, including post graduate students. Making the pilot program permanent for international post-graduates is good news and supports our commitment to increase the number of international students here in British Columbia.”

Bill Tam, president and CEO, British Columbia Technology Industry Association –

Talent attraction and retention is a critical issue for B.C.’s technology companies and we are pleased to have the International Post Graduate program become a permanent part of B.C.’s Provincial Nominee Program.”

By encouraging highly skilled international graduates to build their careers in British Columbia, we retain the skilled talent needed to fuel our companies and the growth of our industry.

Quick Facts:

  • From August 2010 to May 2013, the PNP nominated 734 IPG applicants, of which 93 per cent were master’s graduates.
  • Software engineers and designers (15 per cent) and computer programmers and interactive media developers (11 per cent) were the most-common occupations for employed nominees.
  • Nominee applicants to the IPG category must satisfy the requirements for an eligible masters or doctorate degree from a recognized post-secondary institution in B.C. within the last two years.
  • Applications for the BC PNP must be received within two years of the date shown on the final official transcript.
  • International students in Canada who do not meet the criteria of this category may apply to the PNP under the International Graduates category if they have an offer of permanent full-time employment in BC.
  • The PNP allows nominees to apply for expedited permanent residence through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

July 26, 2013

Canada’s 15 Biggest Visa Processing Centres Shutdown

Striking foreign service officers aGreat Canadian Gateway Canada immigration Pafso Strikere withdrawing all services at Canada’s 15 biggest visa processing centres abroad starting Monday, following a failed attempt to go to arbitration to settle the bitter contract dispute with the government.

The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, the union representing the officers, said Friday that Treasury Board President Tony Clement had rejected its offer of binding arbitration because the union wouldn’t accept the conditions Clement attached to the offer.

The union began staging rotating job actions in the spring at different embassies and visa processing centres at different times, which has slowed down work abroad but not completely stopped it. Now the union is stepping up its pressure on the government.

“Effective Monday, in order to persuade the government that binding arbitration remains the responsible way forward to resolve our dispute, PAFSO members will withdraw all services until further notice at Canada’s fifteen largest visa processing centres abroad,” PAFSO said in a statement.

The centres are:

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Ankara
  • Beijing
  • Cairo
  • Delhi/Chandigarh
  • Hong Kong
  • London
  • Manila
  • Mexico City
  • Moscow
  • Paris
  • Riyadh
  • Sao Paulo
  • Shanghai

The tourism sectors and education institutions and organizations have been vocal with their concerns about the foreign service strike because of its impact already on the processing of visas. PAFSO encouraged them and others Friday to urge the government to “bargain freely and flexibly.”

After the last round of negotiation broke down with no resolution and weeks went by with no talks scheduled, the union proposed to the government that they go to binding arbitration. The government then responded that it would agree, only if the union accepted certain conditions. It wanted the conditions kept confidential.

But in its stateGreat Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration Pafso Strike embassy embassiesment Friday PAFSO shared some of the conditions and said two of them were “so paralyzing that their acceptance would have predetermined the outcome of arbitration in the government’s favour and negated the purpose and integrity of the process.”

Union accepted some conditions

The government wanted to exclude any mention of other bureaucrats who perform similar work, according to the union, “which has been at the heart of our position since day one.”

“Equal pay for equal work,” has been the union’s slogan throughout the strike and it’s the main sticking point in the dispute.

Ending their work action during the arbitration process was another condition the government wanted to impose and is one the union accepted. It also accepted two other conditions, but without accepting all six, the government said no to arbitration.

The union is accusing Clement of “cherry-picking criteria” that would have favoured the government’s position and of “negotiating in bad faith.”

Clement rejects those accusations. In his own statement released Friday he said the government has put a fair contract offer on the table and it’s “disappointed that PAFSO was so quick to reject our willingness to enter into a binding arbitration process that the union itself requested.”

He said the Canadian public is concerned about PAFSO’s willingness to disrupt international business and tourism during the busy summer season.

“However, we want to reassure Canadians and our international friends that, despite PAFSO’s actions, Canada remains open for business, and that we continue to welcome visitors and international students to experience Canada,” Clement said.

If you have submitted an application and would like to know where it is in the processing stream or want information regarding your application, we can help by obtaining your CAIPS/GCMS notes

July 23, 2013

PAFSO Strike Hurting Canada Tourism and Immigration

Foreign students withdrawing from programs. Tourists cancelling their trips. Foreigners not being able to visit their loved ones here — even in times of family emergencies.

As a strike by foreign service workers drags on, its impact is being felt from coast to coast by the tourism and education sectors, as well as by people worldwide who need visas to come to Canada.

Despite an offer issued last week by the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers for a binding arbitration, Treasury Board President Tony Clement has not budged to the union’s demands.

On Monday, Clement’s press secretary Matthew Conway said the minister was still reviewing the union’s offer as the deadline looms by noon Tuesday. If the government rejects the offer, the disruption can be dragged on indefinitely.

“Our government will always put the interests of taxpayers first. We will continue to bargain in good faith,” Conway said in an email to the Star.

Although official statistics are not available by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the union representing the 1,350 foreign affair officials in trades, diplomatic relations and immigration services said its job action has already made an impact.

According to the union, the outputs of travel visas at targeted visa posts in China, India, Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines are down by 65 per cent since June, when the union shifted its focus to operations with high volumes of visa applications from tourists, students and foreign workers.

Globally, said union president Tim Edwards, the number of all visas issued, including those for permanent residents, has dropped by 25 per cent, with the overall backlog growing by 5 per cent a week.

Both the tourism and education industries urge the government and union to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada estimates the job action will put one-third of all the bookings from key emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico at risk, costing the industry at least $280 million in damages.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada also warns that students have already withdrawn from language programs and other prep courses. The strike could put a dent on the $7.7 billion industry and hurt the education of 105,000 foreign students.

Some post-secondary institutions have extended registration deadlines for foreign students while others have planned to allow deferrals of admissions to January.

The University of Toronto, for example, has developed a visa tracking system to follow up with their foreign students to see if they can get their visas on time for orientation. At York University, the deadline of arrival for foreign students has been extended for a week to Sept. 15.

“Right now, foreign students are at a point they have to decide where they are going this fall. The concern is if they can’t get the visa to Canada, they are going to choose another country,” said Gail Bowkett, AUCC’s director of international relations. “If we lose them now, we will lose them for four years.”

The labour dispute centres on Ottawa’s refusal to close the wage gap — ranging from $3,000 to $14,000 – between foreign affairs staff and their counterparts in similar line of work such as government lawyers, economists and policy analysts. Closing the gap would cost Ottawa $4.2 million.

Toronto immigration lawyer Max Berger said the revenue loss to Canada as a result of the strike will exceed the cost to meet the union’s demands.

“This is not like the garbage worker or TTC strike where the public sees garbage piled up and traffic delayed,” said Berger. “All these (visa) applicants are overseas and the public won’t see anything. But eventually, the financial damages to Canada will be striking.”

July 18, 2013

US News – Airport Valet Parked Cars Searched Under TSA Regulations

Rochester, N.Y. — She says she had no warning that someone was going to search her car after she left to catch her flight. So the woman contacted News10NBC.

We found out it happened to her because she valet parked her car. Those are the only cars that get inspected.

So if security feels it is necessary to search some cars in the name of safety, why not search all of them?

Laurie Iacuzza walked to her waiGreat Canadian Gateway Canada Immigrationting car at the Greater Rochester International Airport after returning from a trip and that’s when she found it — a notice saying her car was inspected after she left for her flight. She said, “I was furious. They never mentioned it to me when I booked the valet or when I picked up the car or when I dropped it off.”

Iacuzza’s car was inspected by valet attendants on orders from the TSA. But why only valet parked cars? That’s what News10NBC wanted to ask the TSA director about.  We reached him by phone.

Berkeley Brean asked, “Are the cars in the short term lots and long term lots getting searched as well?”

John McCaffery, TSA, said, “No, those vehicles that are in the garage, short term long term parking, even if they carry pretty large amounts of explosives, they would not cause damage to the front of the airport. But for those who use the valet, the car could be there for a half hour or an hour so there is a vulnerability.”

News10NBC went to the valet parking and one of the attendants showed us the notice they put in the cars.

We asked, “You’re required, they tell you, you have to search the car?” Valet Parking Attendant Frank Dettorre said, “I have to do it.”

We also noticed a large sign that alerts customers that their vehicle will be inspected. The sign is on the kiosk window. Iacuzza says it was not there when she dropped off her car. “I think the public should be aware of the fact that if their car is going to be searched, they should be informed of it.”

Iacuzza said she doesn’t mind the security measure. She just wants to be told if her car is getting searched.

News10NBC asked the owner of the company that runs the valet parking when they put up the sign but he wouldn’t answer.

TSA says this is part of its overall security plan and that it’s a proactive move. The attendants said they’ve only been doing it for about a month.

July 16, 2013

The “Canadian Experience” Roadblock

For decades, we have heard stories about immigrants with PhDs driving taxis, MDs doing clerical work, and chefs working as dishwashers. One of the most oft-cited justifications for this widespread and increasing difficulty immigrants have in finding employment in their intended occupations is employers’ reluctance to hire newcomers without “Canadian experience.”

By default, immigrants who are new to Canada do not have Canadian experience. It is then unfair to demand Canadian experience before they are able to secure employment while also refusing them employment because they do not have this experience. We can finally put this paradox to bed, once and for all.

Yesterday, Ontario became the first province to denounce the requirement of “Canadian experience” for hiring immigrants and accrediting immigrant professionals. In this bold move, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)launched a new policy naming the requirement of Canadian experience as a violation of human rights. In reaching this conclusion, the OHRC is joining a chorus whose voices include the Human Resources Professionals Association and an increasing number of corporate employers such as RBC and KPMG, who have acknowledged that the demand for Canadian experience is nearly baseless. They have abandoned this criteria as a meaningful standard by which to judge the qualification of potential employees, and now accept relevant experience as relevant experience, regardless of the geography of its occurrence.

What is “Canadian experience”? Despite being taken for granted for decades, this concept, when used in immigrant employment, is elusive and lacks definition.

I have been researching the notion of “Canadian experience” for the past seven years and recently joined with other community-driven initiatives to form the “Beyond Canadian Experience Project.” Our main purpose is to deconstruct the idea of Canadian experience with the goal of reducing barriers to employment experienced by immigrants.

We have tried to uncover why employers have insisted that skilled immigrants demonstrate that they have worked in Canada, as well as their country of origin. Our research concludes that the Canadian experience implied by employers is often not about professional standards, but cultural ones: immigrant workers have no experience at “being Canadian,” and don’t “fit in” in the workplace. They may not know what constitutes an offside in hockey and can’t quote a Canadian Heritage commercial, and so are seen as less desirable employees.

Canadian experience provides an overt label for a covert discomfort: we are uneasy around people who are not like us. As the OHRC policy implies, this amounts to nothing less than discrimination and a violation of human rights. It must stop. Any employer or professional regulatory organization that wishes to use “Canadian experience” as a criteria needs to prove that this is a bona fide requirement; they need to spell out what it is that they are asking immigrants to provide, in skills, knowledge or experience that are required for the job or regulated profession.

OHRC’s policy is a huge step in addressing the employment gap immigrant professionals experience in Canada, but the issue of Canadian experience continues to persist in other realms. Some accreditation bodies continue to highlight it, and more recently, the Canadian government has institutionalized it as a criterion in the immigration selection process, awarding credit to potential immigrants who already have work experience in this country — an opportunity not available to all.

The acceptance of Canadian experience at the federal level has the effect of institutionalizing this form of discrimination, attacking immigrants before they even arrive in Canada. How can something that is a violation of human rights at the provincial level be enshrined through accreditation bodies or at the federal level through immigration policy?

It is in the interests of us all that the requirement of Canadian experience be rebuked. Our multicultural values aside, there are serious practical and pragmatic concerns at work: simply put, Canada relies on immigrants to sustain its economic and demographic growth. If the human rights issue is not enough to end this discriminatory practice, if the condemnation of the OHRC lacks sufficient force, then perhaps the simple fact that we will all benefit financially from the smooth and efficient matching of qualified labourers with skilled jobs will suffice. Either way, “Canadian experience” is a standard whose time has passed.

July 15, 2013

New Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

The appointment of GTA area MP Chris Alexander from Ajax-Pickering to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is being lauded by many who believe that it is time the Conservatives step back and assess the sweeping changes made to the immigration and refugee system.

Alexander, Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigrationa member of the Canadian Foreign Service for 18 years, served as Canada’s first resident Ambassador in Kabul, Afghanistan. He also served as deputy special representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2009. He was appointed parliamentary secretary to then minister of defence, Peter Mackay in May, 2011. He has recently published a book A Long Way Back: Afghanistan’s Quest for Peace.

He replaces Jason Kenney, the Alberta MP who has been central to the Progressive Conservative’s wooing of the ethnic vote across the GTA and Canada.

Kenney, who some say has leadership ambitions, has been moved to the newly named portfolio of employment and social development, which takes the place of human resources and skills development. One of his many tasks will be the handling of the controversial foreign temporary workers program along with the new minister of immigration.

His departure from the portfolio surprised some; others saw it as a sign of perhaps better times to come. “I think it’s always important to bring in a new perspective,” said Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“Kenney has been around since 2008. He’s made many changes to our immigration system. It will be good to take a step back and look at what these changes mean for immigrants, refugees and the immigration system.”

Douglas believes that the appointment of Alexander will reinvigorate the role Ontario plays in the federal immigration strategy. “Immigration is critically important for Ontario,” she said. “As Canada’s largest province, Ontario brings a particular perspective on immigration and immigration integration that Ottawa should be listening to.”

Throughout his tenure as minister, Kenney has been widely criticized. Toronto’s immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman believes Kenney will be viewed as perhaps one of Canada’s most controversial immigration ministers. “I don’t recall any other immigration minister being so controversial and creating such an adverse response as Jason Kenney,” said Waldman. “In areas of refugee health he has created a broad-based coalition opposed to the measures he has taken.”

As for Alexander’s appointment, Waldman is hopeful “a new face might bring forward a new attitude” and that he and other advocates “can work with the new minister to dull some of the sharper edges that have emerged in the immigration portfolio.”

Others like Avvy Go, director of Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, was “surprised” by Kenney’s departure, suggesting that he was “seen as Stephen Harper’s frontman when it comes to ethnic communities.”

But Go added that some immigration advocates believe Kenney had done what he set out to do with the refugee and immigration portfolio and that it was time to move. Putting him in employment and development is a natural fit because he will still be dealing with the temporary foreign workers program and its problems, she said.

Go also suggests that the ongoing controversy over refugee health cuts may have contributed to Kenney’s move from the immigration portfolio. “This isn’t the first time Kenney has been criticized,” said Go. “But maybe for the first time people other than immigration and refugee advocates are speaking out — more people echoing the concerns of the advocates and it’s harder for the government to ignore.”

As for the new minister, Go met with Alexander at her clinic in early 2012 and she was impressed by his openness and willingness to listen. “He did present himself as someone who is sensible when it comes to policies, not necessarily driven by any particular ideology,” she said. “I do hope he’s coming with a fresh pair of eyes and a more humanitarian approach to the whole immigration and refugee file.”

July 11, 2013

Super Visa – Highly Popular

More than 20,000 Parent and Grandparent Super Visas have been issued since the program’s launch in December 2011, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.

“The government is committed to family reunification and the Super Visa provides families with the flexibility to spend longer periods of time with loved ones,” said Minister Kenney. “It’s an innovative way of giving parents and grandparents the freedom to travel back and forth between Canada and their home country, helping them stay connected with families and friends both in Canada and at home, without the hassle of having to reapply every time.”

With over 1,000 Super Visas being issued monthly, this has become one of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s most popular programs. The approval rate remains high at 85 per cent.

The Super Visa is a multiple entry visa that is valid for up to ten years, while offering holders the option of staying in Canada for up to two years at a time. This reduces the need for frequent visitors to renew their status during an extended family visit.

The process for getting a Parent and Grandparent Super Visa is simple and straightforward. Applicants for the Super Visa must provide proof that the host child or grandchild meets a minimum income level, demonstrate that they have purchased comprehensive Canadian medical insurance and undergo the immigration medical examination. To date, almost 99 per cent of Super Visa applicants who met these requirements were approved.

July 02, 2013

All New Canadian E-Passports

As of July 2,Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration 2013, all new Canadian passports are 36-page electronic passports, otherwise known as e-Passports. The Canadian e-Passport looks like a regular passport but has new security features that make the passport even more tamper-proof. These features include the following:

  • An electronic chip embedded in the back cover that stores the same personal information as that on page 2 of the passport (except for the signature), the photo and a digital security feature that proves that the passport was issued by the Government of Canada. The passport becomes invalidated if the information on the chip is tampered with or modified.
  • New, iconic images on the inside pages that celebrate our history as well as our culture and serve as extra security features.

Tried and true

Over 100 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, have been using e-Passports for several years with no reported chip failures. Through a pilot project that began in January 2009, Passport Canada has already issued more than 60,000 diplomatic and special passports that contain an electronic chip. No problems have been reported.

In the unlikely event that the chip fails, the passport will still be valid.

Protecting your information

After your personal information is first stored on the passport e-chip, the chip is locked, preventing the information from being tampered with. No other information about you or your travels will be stored on the e-chip nor is the existing content open to modification.

The information on the e-chip cannot be read unless the passport is held within 10 centimetres of an ePassport reader, open to page 2 and the machine-readable zone has first been read. It is therefore extremely unlikely that personal data stored on the ePassport chip could be read without your knowledge.

At border crossings equipped with e-Passport readers, the e-Passport is put into a scanner that reads the machine-readable zone, which in turn, enables the e-chip to be read. The machine also checks other security features, such as the country-specific signature. Border authorities not equipped with e-Passport readers will continue to examine travellers’ passports as they do now, reviewing other security features, such as holographic images.

A transparent process

The chip will only contain the personal information that is recorded on page 2, your photo and a Government of Canada signature. No additional information about you or your travels will be stored on the chip. Canadians who would like to verify that the information stored on their e-chip is accurate may do so by visiting one of Passport Canada’s 34 offices.

July 01, 2013

Happy Canada Day!!!

Wishing everyone a happy, happy Canada Day!

June 20, 2013

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminal Act Becomes Law

Citizenship, ImmigraGreat Canadian Gateway Canada immigrationtion and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney welcomed the final passage and Royal Assent of The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, which speeds up the removal of dangerous foreign criminals from Canada.

This new law will keep Canadians safer by ending endless appeals and loopholes that were being used by dangerous foreign criminals to delay their deportation, during which time many committed more crimes,” said Minister Kenney. “Canadians can now feel more confident in the integrity of our immigration system because violent criminals and fraudsters will be kept out while genuine visitors are welcome.

The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, strengthens the integrity of Canada’s immigration system by amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to:

  1. Make it easier for the Government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from Canada;
  2. Make it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter our country in the first place; and
  3. Remove unnecessary barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.

The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act has received widespread acclaim, including support from the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, the Canadian Police Association, Victims of Violence and Immigrants for Canada, among many others.

The Government is delivering on its commitment to deport dangerous foreign criminals faster by limiting their access to the Immigration and Refugee Board’s Immigration Appeal Division (IAD). This will reduce the amount of time certain criminals may remain in Canada by up to 18 months, preventing them from committing more crimes against innocent, law-abiding Canadians.

Another change in the legislation ensures that foreign nationals who are inadmissible on the most serious grounds – security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality – are no longer able to delay their removal by applying for a program that is meant for cases deserving of humanitarian and compassionate consideration. This change is consistent with the government’s no safe haven policy.

Other changes to protect the safety and security of Canadians include a new Ministerial authority to refuse temporary entry in exceptional cases, and increased penalties for those who try to cheat the system.

The legislation also facilitates the temporary entry of low-risk individuals who would have previously been refused entry because one of their family members was deemed inadmissible for non-security reasons, such as health.

June 14, 2013

Western Provinces Seek to End Immigration Caps

Canada’s western pGreat Canadian Gateway Canada Immigrationrovinces, from British Columbia to Nunavut, will call on the government to lift a cap on immigration that is compounding shortages of skilled labour, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said.

Manitoba can’t reach its goal of bringing 75,000 immigrants to the province in the next eight years because federal restrictions limit the number of newcomers who can enter under the Provincial Nominee Program, Selinger said. Western and territorial leaders set to meet in Winnipeg on June 17 want Ottawa to lift the caps so that companies can fill job vacancies as baby boomers retire, he said.

“We’ve seen some changes that have potentially put a crimp in our ability to grow our economies and have people living in our communities,” Selinger said today in a telephone interview from Winnipeg.

Leaders of the western provinces and territories plan to draft a policy statement on immigration limits and “make their case known” to the federal government, he said. The Western Premiers’ Conference includes representatives from Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Officials also will discuss disaster management programs and the need for more flexibility to help unemployed Canadians access federal programs to upgrade their skills, Selinger said.

June 14, 2013

Dartmouth Businessman Charged

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced today that a Dartmouth businessman has been charged with 56 counts under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It is alleged that Hector Mantolino, owner and operator of Mantolino Property Services Ltd., developed false businesses and fraudulently submitted documents to Service Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and to the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration. As a result, the CBSA suspects that 28 foreign nationals working in the Halifax Regional Municipality were victims of this crime.

Mantolino has been charged with allegedly advising the foreign workers he hired to provide misleading and untruthful statements on their work permit applications. He was also charged with providing false statements to multiple Government of Canada departments regarding the employment conditions of the foreign workers, such as their rate of pay. Mantolino allegedly counselled the foreign workers to lie about their wages if they wanted to stay in Canada. Some of the hourly wages of the foreign workers were as low as $3.13 per hour. Following his arrest on April 10, 2013, Mantolino was released on conditions to not have contact with any of the foreign workers formally employed by his business.

June 11, 2013

Foreign Worker Case Dropped Against BC Businessman

The Canada Border Services Agency has closed its investigation of a B.C. businessman alleged to have attempted to illegally charge two Chinese nationals to work at his fast-food outlets.

“Following interviews with the (businessman), and noting that the foreign nationals had returned to China, there was insufficient evidence available to support charges” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the CBSA said in a statement. “As such, the CBSA’s criminal file on this client has been closed.”

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney asked for the investigation in December in response to a story published in The Vancouver Sun.

Two young meGreat Canadian Gateway Canada Immigrationn alleged that Jian (David) Gu, at the time owner of Robin’s Donuts and 2-4-1 Pizza franchises in Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson, attempted to charge them roughly $20,000 each for the right to work at his outlets under the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker program.

The two included in their allegations to the B.C. Employment Standards Branch, which has also investigated the claims, digital audio recordings of conversations involving Gu and his wife Susan discussing terms of their employment.

The two cases were among four opened investigated by the B.C. Employment Standards Branch, though one of those cases had been settled in 2011.

It is illegal under both federal and provincial law to charge anyone, whether a Canadian citizen or a foreign national, a fee in exchange for a job.

Kheng-Lee Ooi, Gu’s Surrey-based lawyer in December, did not respond to The Vancouver Sun’s attempts Tuesday by email and telephone to obtain a comment from Gu on the CBSA’s decision.

When Kenny announced the investigation, he echoed criticism from the B.C. New Democratic Party and labour groups that argued penalties for rule-breakers in B.C. may not provide an adequate deterrent.

The B.C. Employment Standards Branch typically tries to bring disputing parties together to reach settlements. When it does impose fines, they can range from a maximum $500 for first offences to a maximum of $10,000 for a third offence – though that fine would only be handed out if the contravention took place at the same location as the second offence, and occurred within three years of the second offence.

“The sanction appears to be quite modest in British Columbia,” Kenny said.

The federal government has taken several steps in recent months to deal with the controversy over the soaring use of the TFW program, which is disproportionately popular with employers in B.C.

In April, Ottawa announced rule changes that included measures to ensure TFWs aren’t exploited, that employers have plans to eventually transition to a Canadian workforce, and that bureaucrats have adequate powers to suspend and revoke work permits when the system is abused.

This month the government published more proposed regulations that would give federal officials the authority to enter a business establishment without a warrant to verify compliance with TFW requirements. The new rules would also extend to six years, up from two years, after the last date a TFW was employed the period when an employer could be asked to provide proof the rules were met.

A spokesman for the B.C. Employment Standards Branch, David Currie, said by email that the three files the branch opened on Gu have also been closed.

“All three have been resolved, through voluntary resolution between the parties with the assistance of the Employment Standards Branch.” the email said.

When that happens, no further information is made public.

June 11, 2013

Canada & US Coast Guards Join Forces

Law enforcement officials on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border are gearing up for full implementation of the Shiprider Program, a bi-national program that erases the border on shared waterways.

The Shiprider Program was announced last year. It will be in full swing this summer on the Detroit River.

The joint program in the Windsor-Detroit area will allow law enforcement officers from Canada and the U.S. to ride together on the Detroit River, patrolling the water and chasing down criminals on both sides of the invisible international boundary. The program is also being used in some parts of British Columbia.

Great Canadian Gateway Canada ImmigrationTeams of specially trained and designated law enforcement officers from Canada and the U.S. will co-crew ships originating from both countries.

A number of RCMP officers have been designated law enforcement officers in the U.S. Some U.S. Coast Guard officers have the same designation in Canada. They can perform their duties in either country.

“We traditionally police our side of the border and Americans police their side of the border. But that doesn’t come without logistical challenges, communications challenges and the ability to move seamlessly and advance investigations of interests to both countries,” RCMP Sgt. Peter Koersvelt said. “We would have to stop at the border, call ahead, reach out to our American partners and attempt to have them intercept.”

“It’s so important we respect the sovereignty of the other country,” Koersvelt said. “[This] allows the shiprider teams to move across the border and transition lead agencies depending on where the bad guys are going.”

For example, if a chase on the water leaves Canada and enters the U.S., the American law would kick in but the Canadian officers would have arresting authority on the U.S. side of the river.

Koersvelt said both Canadian and U.S. officers have the authority to go ashore on each other’s country if they deem it necessary.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security announced it will pay up to $7,000 each for 30 multi-band radios to be used by Canadian first responders in border cities that share U.S. waterways.

The Shiprider Program isn’t necessarily debuting. It’s been used under “special circumstances” in the past, Koersvelt said.

A joint marine effort employed in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. A similar program was used in Windsor-Detroit during the 2006 Super Bowl.

According to Port of Windsor Harbour Master Peter Berry, 8,000 pleasure craft use the Detroit River, which is 44 km long and 4 km wide at its widest point.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the people out there are legitimate. The one per cent we’re looking at is [involved in] cross-border criminality,” Berry said.

Berry said that besides the RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard, the two agencies involved in the Shiprider Program, there are 26 other agencies patrolling the water.

June 11, 2013

Federal Officials Can Search Canadian Workplaces Without Warrant

Federal officials will have the right to walk into Canadian workplaces without a warrant as part of a tightening of the controversial foreign temporary workers program.

Changes to immigration and refugee protection regulations, published just days ago, give Human Resources and Skills Development Canada officials or Citizenship and Immigration Canada officers the right to walk in on businesses as part of a random audit or because they suspect fraud.

Upon entering a property, officials will have wide powers of investigation. They will be able to “examine anything on the premises,” question employers and staff, request documents, use photocopiers to copy records, and take photographs or make video and audio recordings.

They will, however, require a warrant if the property where foreign workers are employed is a private dwelling.

The new regulations come just months after the Conservative government reversed course on the temporary foreign worker program with measures to make it tougher, and less economically attractive, to import short-term labour.

Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers came to Canada in 2011 – more than double the levels of a decade ago.

“Immigration officers will be able to ask employers at any time during a foreign worker’s employment, and for up to six years after the relevant worker’s work permit expires, to demonstrate, that they are meeting or met their conditions for employing temporary foreign workers,” Citizenship and Immigration spokeswoman Nancy Caron said. “After a work permit has been issued, the government would be able to conduct inspections of employers if there is reason to suspect an employer is not complying with the rules of the program.”

On-site inspections will be triggered three ways: a government officer or the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development suspects an employer is not complying with the rules; the employer has previously broken the rules or the business was chosen as part of a random audit.

June 11, 2013

Toronto Want to Allow Permanent Residents the Right to Vote

TORONTO – City council wants to give non-Canadian citizens the right to vote in Toronto municipal elections.

After a heated debate Tuesday, councillors voted 21 to 20 to ask the province to amend legislation to allow permanent residents the right to vote in local races.

While Mayor Rob Ford voted against the idea, Councillor Anthony Perruzza — the newest member of Ford’s executive committee — cast what turned out to be the deciding vote in favour of giving permanent residents a vote at the municipal level.

“I don’t support it,” Ford said following the council vote. “I just think we wasted six hours because I don’t believe the province is going to do anything with this.”

He predicted the Ontario government will put the request into the “circular filing cabinet” — a slang term for the trash bin.

“I think we have a good system,” Ford said. “It doesn’t make sense. How can someone that’s not a Canadian citizen vote?

“It doesn’t make any sense but that’s six hours gone,” he said with a shrug.

Councillors also approved asking the province to let the city consider introducing a ranked ballot voting system in the 2018 election.

Councillor Joe Mihevc said the vote represents an “expansion of how democracy functions in this city.”

“This is saying to Torontonians we are an inclusive city,” Mihevc said.

“I think it is going to shift the politics to make it more immigrant friendly and guess what, 46% of Torontonians were not born in this country never mind in this city and they are going to start to feel a greater sense of ownership of the political agenda here at City Hall.”

He lauded the possible switch to ranked ballot voting rather than the current first past the post system.

“To get elected as a city councillor or mayor you will now need to get more than 50% of the vote either on the first round or the second round of the balloting, providing the province of course agrees to that strategy,” Mihevc said.

He was optimistic the ideas will get approval from Queen’s Park.

“This particular premier has always, always said that she will listen to the voice of the city as it is expressed in council,” he said. “Council has expressed its will.”

Some councillors argued permanent residents should have the right to vote in municipal elections because they pay city taxes and deserve to have a say in the government that collects those taxes.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong unsuccessfully urged council not to extend the right to vote to permanent residents.

“I believe in Canadian citizenship,” he said. “I believe that it is important to be a citizen.

“I think that extending the right to vote to permanent residents discourages them not to apply for citizenship. It acts as a disincentive.

“It devalues, degrades and erodes what Canadian citizenship should mean,” Minnan-Wong said.

June 11, 2013

Alert – Strike Action

Great Canadian Gateway Canada ImmigrationThe Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) union is currently taking strike action. PAFSO union members responsible for processing visa applications have been walking out of offices in Canada and overseas.

Posted processing times for both temporary and permanent resident visa applications do not take into account work stoppages.

Anyone applying for a visa should anticipate delays and submit their application as far in advance as possible.

Contingency plans are already in place to ensure all offices remain open and are providing at least a minimum level of service. Priority will be placed on urgent humanitarian applications.

CIC continues to closely monitor the situation.

June 03, 2013

Improving the Canadian Citizenship Application Process

Citizenship applicants who fail their first citizenship test will now have the opportunity to rewrite the test rather than wait for an appointment with a citizenship judge, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.

“The Government of Canada remains committed to maintaining Canada’s tradition of high numbers of permanent residents taking up full citizenship, and this is one of many recent improvements that have been made to the citizenship process to ensure the timely welcoming of new citizens,” said Minister Kenney. “Since 2006, Canada has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history. Accordingly, the demand for citizenship has increased by 30 percent, with Canada averaging approximately 200,000 new citizens each year.”

In the past, individuals who failed their knowledge test would be required to wait a number of months for an appointment with a citizenship judge, who would make a final decision on their case. However, as of today, applicants will be informed of their results immediately following their test. Individuals who fail but have met all other criteria will be provided with a date to rewrite the test a few weeks later. Those who pass their test will be scheduled for a citizenship ceremony.

Moreover, individuals who are currently waiting to see a citizenship judge because they had previously failed the test will also be invited to rewrite the test.

Minister Kenney also announced that all family members listed on one application no longer need to be approved at the same time. Previously, there were cases where all family members who had applied together were held up in obtaining citizenship when only one family member had failed a knowledge or language test. Successful applicants will now be informed that they may have their applications processed independent of other family members. As such, fewer people will need to wait for their applications to be processed and can proceed directly to being granted citizenship.

These changes means shorter wait times for some citizenship applicants.

In addition, with the increase in citizenship judges, there will be more decisions on citizenship applications and more citizenship ceremonies. Eight additional citizenship judges have been appointed since the beginning of this year.

Under Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $44 million over two years to put toward improving citizenship processing. These funds will enable CIC to better tackle the growing demand for citizenship grants and proofs, and assist in processing the existing inventory.

“We know that newcomers look forward to acquiring their Canadian citizenship and we are committed to helping qualified applicants acquire this privilege in a timely manner,” said Minister Kenney.  “Together, these measures combined will result in faster processing of citizenship applications.”


May 30, 2013

Additional Designated Countries of Origin Announced

The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, announced today that the list of Designated Countries of Origin (DCOs) is expanding to include Chile and South Korea.

With these designations, effective May 31, 2013, 37 countries now appear on the designated countries list.

As part of the improvements to Canada’s new asylum system that came into effect on December 15, 2012, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act included the authority to designate countries of origin. DCOs are democratic countries that offer state protection, have active human rights and civil society organizations, and do not normally produce refugees.

“Canada’s new asylum system is providing protection to genuine refugees more quickly, while removing unfounded claimants from the country faster,” said Minister Kenney. “The ability to designate countries is a key part of the new system, which has proven to be successful as claims from designated countries of origin have decreased by 91 percent when compared to the same time period over the last six years.”

Under the new asylum system, all eligible claimants from designated countries continue to receive a full and fair hearing on the individual merits of their claims at the independent, quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) within 30-45 days. Claimants from non-designated countries receive a hearing within 60 days. Failed claimants from designated countries may still appeal to the Federal Court to review a negative decision; however, they do not have access to the newly-created Refugee Appeal Division at the IRB.

To be considered for designation, a country must meet objective criteria related to the number of finalized asylum claims that Canada receives from that country. For countries with 30 or more claims in any consecutive 12-month period during the three years preceding designation, quantitative criteria are used. At least 60 percent of claimants from the country must have withdrawn and abandoned their own claims, or at least 75 percent of claims from a country must have been withdrawn, abandoned or rejected by the IRB.

In the case of countries with low numbers of asylum claims (namely, no consecutive 12-month period with 30 or more finalized claims during the three years prior to designation), objective qualitative criteria are used, including the existence of an independent judicial system, recognition of basic democratic rights and freedoms, and the existence of civil society organizations. A country must meet these criteria to be considered for designation.

Many developed democracies use a similar authority to accelerate asylum procedures for the nationals of countries not normally known to produce refugees. These states include the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium and Finland, among others. Most EU states also have accelerated procedures for the nationals of other member states.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, has recognized that “there are indeed Safe Countries of Origin and there are indeed countries in which there is a presumption that refugee claims will probably be not as strong as in other countries.”  He has also recognized the legitimacy of providing expedited processing for asylum claimants from those generally safe countries.

The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act is expected to save provinces and territories at least $2 billion over five years in social assistance and education costs.

May 29, 2013

Alleged Au Pair Scheme Nets Charges Against B.C. Woman

The owner of a Chilliwack nanny agency is accused of counselling foreign women entering Canada to work to lie to authorities about the purpose of their visits.

The Canada Border Services Agency has charged Elizabeth “Lisa” Large in connection with a nanny scheme authorities say ran from April 2007 to April 2013. Court documents suggest several young women were deported after being caught at Vancouver International Airport lying about their reasons for coming to Canada.

According to a search warrant filed in Chilliwack in 2010, the investigation into the au pair scheme began at YVR in 2008.

A young French woman claimed she was coming to Vancouver to visit her mother’s friend. She had no address or phone number for the friend, but ultimately supplied an email allegedly signed by Lisa telling her to say she was on holidays and not in Canada to do any babysitting.

Customs and immigrations officials then began what turned into a five-year investigation. Officers allegedly found similar correspondence in the possession of half a dozen other would-be nannies who were trying to work in Canada without a permit. Some were deported.

Agents seized files from Large’s agency — doing business either as Au Pair Canada, International Au Pair or International Homestays — pertaining to dozens of other au pairs from all over the world.

Large now faces three immigration-related charges of counselling people to lie to border agents and one charge related to helping a foreign national work illegally in Canada.

She is scheduled to appear in court in Chilliwack on June 25.

Large could not be reached for comment. The Canada Border Services Agency declined to comment.

May 28, 2013

U.S. & Canada Share Data on Travellers

Canada and the U.S. have swapped biographic information on 756,000 cross-border travellers under a sweeping new effort to catch cheating entrants, according to a new border agency report.

Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration Border CrossingThe flow of personal data between the countries has so far been limited to information about third-country nationals and permanent residents crossing at four major Canada-U.S. land border points.

Next year, however, the bilateral exchange will expand to cover all travellers, including Canadian and American citizens, at all automated border crossings.

The project is part of the 2011 Canada-U.S. Beyond the Border declaration and action plan. Like many post-9/11 efforts, the new “Entry/ Exit Information System” attempts to strike the elusive balance between national security and personal privacy.

The federal government says the objectives are to help Canada and the U.S. identify people who potentially overstay their lawful period of admission; better monitor the departure of people subject to removal orders; and verify that residency requirements are being met by applicants for continued eligibility in immigration programs.

But a chief concern among privacy advocates is minimizing the threat of personal information being used for secondary purposes unrelated to border security.

“We have provided questions to CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) seeking information on how personal information collected may be used and by what other federal organizations and for what possible secondary uses outside of monitoring travel and immigration,” Scott Hutchinson, a spokesman for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, said in an email Monday.

Already, unauthorized “out-of-scope” data about some travellers has been “inadvertently” transmitted from one government to the other, according to the report.

Under the phased-in system, a dozen pieces of information about each traveller will be shared electronically between CBSA and the U.S. Department of Homeland of Security (DHS), which oversees U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Entry into one country will be considered an exit from the other.

The 12 data points include first, middle and last name, birth date, nationality, gender, document type (e.g. passport), number and country of issuance, location, date and time of entry. (Biometrics, such as photographs and fingerprints, are not involved.)

Most of the information is already available to both border agencies when a person enters the country. But now Canada will be able to find out when and where individuals leave for the U.S. and vice versa.

The new ability to match, or reconcile, entry and exit records “significantly exceeded expectations,” says the joint CBSA-DHS report on the project’s first phase. In just over three months, CBSA shared biographic details with DHS on 343,363 foreigners arriving in Canada by land from the U.S. Homeland Security provided CBSA with information on 413,222 third-country nationals arriving from Canada.

With the U.S. data, CBSA was able to match 94.5 per cent of entry and exits, while DHS matched 97.4 per cent.

CBSA on Monday, however, was unable to say how many suspected and offending travellers were identified as a result during Phase 1, from Sept. 30, 2012 to Jan. 15 this year.

When the system is fully operational in June next year, information on Canadians and other travellers exiting the country is to be transmitted over a secure government network and stored in the U.S. Border Crossing Information system. Under the agreement, neither country will retain the information received from the other for longer than six months beyond the last exchange of information, says the report. Both nations have agreed to a joint statement on privacy principles.

May 24, 2013

Canada Decides Reintroduction of Visa Not Necessary for Hungarians

Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration HungaryIssues concerning Roma immigrants in Canada have been resolved thanks to steadfast dialogue, thereby bypassing any reintroduction of visas for Hungarian visitors, a foreign ministry official said on Thursday.

In February, Canada’s immigration ministry reported that the number of Hungarian asylum-seekers had dropped to close on zero after the country introduced a more stringent evaluation system for immigrants.

Zsolt Nemeth, foreign state secretary, on a three-day visit to Canada, told MTI by phone that he had voiced support for plans to sign a free-trade deal between the European Union, the United States and Canada in talks with Jason Kenney, the minister for immigration, Morris Rosenberg, the deputy foreign minister and parliamentary officials. The deal could boost Hungary-Canada trade by up to 20-30 percent, he said.

The talks touched upon Hungary’s plan to re-open its consulate general in Toronto, which is supported by Canada and sought by the country’s Hungarian community, Nemeth said.

May 23, 2013

$600,000 Fraud: A Suspected Bogus Immigration Consultant and His Accomplice Appear in Court

Montréal residents Jean-Michel Labelle and Ekatarina Mdivani have been charged with defrauding nearly 400 people from China by billing them for so-called immigration services. They are scheduled to appear at the Montréal Court House tomorrow to each face nine counts of fraud and making and uttering false documents under the Criminal Code of Canada. The fraud is estimated at $600,000.

The investigation was conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Immigration & Passport Section.

Jean-Michel Labelle, 58, manager of Immigration internationale 9-1-1 Inc. and Ekatarina Mdivani, 48, allegedly defrauded the victims through a representative who travelled to China.

The victims were led to believe that they were engaging into a legitimate employment process through which they could to immigrate to Canada. They paid a sum of money in exchange for training in a particular field of employment. Forged training certificates were issued on behalf of a Canadian federal agency and on behalf of bogus companies.

The investigation shows that Jean-Michel Labelle did not submit any of his files to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and that he kept the money he collected.

The mandate of the RCMP in Quebec is to detect and disrupt criminal activity in relation to immigration, passport and citizenship. The RCMP investigates suspicious activity involving individuals who fraudulently offer immigration advice and services. These profit-motivated criminals abuse the trust of people who put their hopes in immigrating to Canada.

Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration News and UpdatesIf you have information on illicit activity by individuals or groups of individuals who fraudulently offer immigration advice and services, please contact the investigators of the RCMP at 514 939-8306.

May 22, 2013

Temporary Foreign Worker Program – Four-Year Maximum (Cumulative Duration)

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) was established to address temporary labour and skills shortages in Canada. To prevent FNs who are working temporarily in Canada from losing ties with their country of origin due to prolonged periods of stay in Canada, and to encourage workers and employers to explore appropriate pathways to permanent residence, this regulation – R200(3)(g) under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations – establishes a maximum duration that a TFW can work in Canada.

It states that a work permit (WP) should not be issued when “the individual has worked in Canada for one or more periods totalling four years, regardless of whether or not it was authorized by a work permit.”

Generally, once a FN has accumulated four (4) years of work, he or she will be ineligible to work in Canada again until a period of four (4) years has elapsed.

A TFW who spends four consecutive years either a) outside of Canada, or b) in Canada but not working, i.e., with legal status as a visitor or student, may apply for a WP and can start accumulating another four years of work in Canada.

May 21, 2013

US Quietly Monitors Departures at Canadian Border

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of foreigners passing into Canada from the United States have unwittingly been a part of a grand experiment by the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on visitors who violate laws governing the length of their stay.

Long demanded by lawmakers in Congress, it is considered a critical step to developing a coherent program to curb illegal immigration, as historically about 30 percent to 40 percent of illegal immigrants in the United States arrived on tourist visas or other legal means and then never left, according to estimates by Homeland Security officials.

The pilot project with Canada, conducted from September to January, involved about a third of the traffic across the northern American border, tracking the departure of 413,222 foreigners from the United States. Starting this year, according to Congressional officials who have been briefed on the plan, the information collected at the Canadian border will be used to prevent certain foreigners who have stayed too long in the United States from returning again by revoking tourist visas or taking other steps.

The effort relies on an ingenious solution: as foreigners leave the United States to enter Canada — and their passports are checked by the border authorities there — the information is sent back to the United States and recorded as the official “exit” record. By the end of next month, the project is scheduled to be expanded to almost all land border traffic between Canada and the United States.

“The pilot was a success,” said David Heyman, assistant secretary for policy at the Homeland Security Department, in a statement. “We have the ability now to identify, with a high degree of certainty, on a real-time basis, those who overstay the terms of their legal entry into the United States.”

Airlines and cruise ships, relying on passenger manifests, are already mandated under law to turn over data on travelers as they leave the United States. That system has recently been improved so that entries and exits can more definitively be matched, federal officials said, although there remains a large backlog of unconfirmed exits.

The biggest weakness remains the southern border, which has the highest volume of traffic of land crossings, but still has almost no exit controls.

The Mexican authorities, Homeland Security officials said, do not reliably collect and store personal data on every person crossing the border from the United States, preventing an exchange like the one that has been established with Canada. The department has pressed the Mexican authorities to improve their data collection efforts, so such an exchange can take place.

One former Homeland Security official who had been involved in these negotiations said it was largely a matter of money.

“You could do it in a year if you had all the money you needed, or you could do it in 20 years,” said Chappell Lawson, who served as director of policy and planning at Customs and Border Protection early in the Obama administration. “Tell me the amount of money and the willpower, and I can give you a number.”

Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, said the Mexican government was open to considering such a request by the United States. “Mexico strongly believes that its joint efforts with the United States are critical to the safe and efficient management of the border,” he said in a statement.

With the pilot program at the Canadian border, the American authorities found that in almost all cases — 97.4 percent — the passport data of departing foreigners matched up with records documenting their entry into the United States, allowing American officials to determine if they stayed longer here than allowed under the law. Officials would not say what percentage of the travelers had overstayed their visas.

Because it was an experimental project, the data in this initial phase was destroyed and was not used for any enforcement action. Individual travelers were not notified of the data exchange, although a description of it was posted on the Canadian Border Services Agency Web site.

Using the information collected from its improved system tracking foreigners as they exit, the Homeland Security Department is separately also developing a tally, country by country, of what percentage of foreign travelers violate the terms of their entry to the United States, officials said.

If the immigration bill pending in the Senate passes, that overstay information would be used to help determine which nations are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, which allows foreigners to visit without a visa — a privilege reserved for nations whose residents do not routinely abuse the limits of American tourist visas.

The Homeland Security Department last week declined to offer any hint of what the visa overstay rates might look like, saying only that they would be made public this year.

“We want to make sure those numbers are right,” said one department official, who asked not to be named, citing its policy of not speaking with reporters for attribution. “They could impact a lot of things, including international relations. It is an important milestone.”

One potential weakness with the exit control system being tested with Canada is that it relies on “biographic” information, like a passport photo, name and date of birth. It does not use a fingerprint or other biometric data, which is much harder to forge, to definitively confirm that a person has left the United States.

Congress has repeatedly mandated such a biometric exit system — at land borders as well as airports — in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. But a bipartisan group of eight senators dropped that requirement in the pending immigration bill, provoking protests from Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, and other conservatives.

“This is a big, big hole in the system, and it’s been going on for years and years,” Mr. Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. “This is one reason American people have so little confidence in any promises we make.”

Homeland Security officials, along with Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, have argued that it could cost an estimated $25 billion for the United States to build its own biometric-based exit system at airports and land borders. It would be so expensive because new border crossing stations would have to be built, instead of relying on Mexico or Canada. Arguing that the biographic network is adequate, they say that the expense is not justified.

Instead, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, with the support of some Republicans, agreed this week to mandate biometric exit systems at 10 of the nation’s largest airports within two years, and the 30 largest airports for international travel within six years. But it would most likely leave the system that relies on biographic data in place at land borders.

“No system is 100 percent failproof,” Mr. Schumer said last week. “This system comes as close to any to making it work.”

Even with the growing and more reliable data on travelers who have overstayed their visas, the Homeland Security Department still does not have sufficient personnel to find and deport these violators. Instead, it focuses on any that have a criminal record or a history of repeated immigration violations.

But officials said they were pleased that they were at least making progress in being able to track exits in a comprehensive way.

“The exit system today far surpasses anything we had even three years ago,” Mr. Heyman said.

May 21, 2013

Saskatchewan Granted 450 Additional Nominations for 2013

Saskatchewan’s Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) will receive an additional 450 nominations this year, bringing the annual number to 4,450 for 2013, the government announced Tuesday.

As a result of the increase, up to more than 1,200 newcomers to Saskatchewan are expected in addition to the approximately-12,000 new residents already arriving annually.

“Developing a skilled workforce is a key priority for the Government of Saskatchewan,” said Economy Minister Bill Boyd in a media release. “Immigration is an important part of a balanced approach to labour force development that requires the most effective use of the programs and services available to facilitate attraction of skilled workers in hard-to-fill in-demand jobs across the province.”

The increase of 450 nominees represents 27 per cent of the total additional nomination allocation across Canada in 2013, according to the Saskatchewan Party. The additional nominations are contingent upon the provincial government making changes to the SINP category assessment.

The federal government pushes for provincial nominee programs to be economically-driven “with a focus on labour market demands. With this in mind, the Ministry of the Economy will start formal consultations on possible changes to the Family category of the SINP that will see it rolled into the skilled workers category with the implementation of a points system,” the government said in its statement.

May 21, 2013

Major Changes to Parent & Grandparent Sponsorship Program / Age of Dependency

After almost 3 years of moratorium, the Parent & Grandparent Sponsorship Program  will reopen on January 02, 2014. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will accept the first 5,000 applications submitted for 2014.

There are going to be some major changes to be aware of for those who are considering sponsoring their parents or grandparents to immigrate to Canada:

1. The 10 year sponsorship undertaking is being increased to 20 years. What does this mean? This means that sponsors (and co-signers) will be responsible for repaying any provincial social assistance benefits paid to their parents or grandparents for the first 20 years after they immigrate to Canada.

Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration News and Updates2. An increase Minimum Necessary Income (MNI) for sponsoring parents and grandparents is being increased by 30%;  this means the MNI + 30%. The MNI is calculated based on the number of people the sponsor is supporting. For example, a sponsor with a spouse and two children who intends on sponsoring two parents will be required to earn  $71,992.

3. Demonstration of MNI will be increased from 1 year to 3 years. This means that that Sponsor must prove that they meet the MNI for 3 years prior to submitting the sponsorship application.

4. Evidence of income will be limited to documents issued by the Canada Revenue Agency.

5. The Sponsor will be required to submit updated evidence of MNI upon request of CIC or immigration officer.

Reducing the Age of Accompanying Dependants

The definition of a dependent child will change because of a proposed change to reduce the age limit to under 19 (instead of the current under 22) and removing the exception for full-time students.

The limitation in terms of civil status (i.e. that the child must not be a spouse or common-law partner) and the exception for older dependants unable to be financially self-supporting due to a physical or mental condition would be retained.

May 15, 2013

New Brunswick Launched Loan Program for New Immigrant Professionals

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council is offering up to $15,000 by way of micro loan programs to help upgrade foreign credentials of immigrant professionals.

Great Canadian Gateway New Brunswick Canada ImmigrationMany people who were trained in other countries arrive in Canada only to find out their credentials aren’t recognized here, said project co-ordinator Tanya Billings. Through the pilot project, about 150 people will be able to borrow up to $15,000 to upgrade their skills to meet Canadian standards. “We’re looking at primary sectors that will help New Brunswick — so nurses, doctors, lawyers, accounting, engineering,” said Billings. She also says that, “A lot of newcomers don’t have the necessary credit history to get a loan”.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada will guarantee the loan funding, which can be used for expenses such as tuition fees, examination and certification fees and books.

OMISTA Credit Union has secured an interest rate of prime plus one per cent on the loans. Immigrants will be able to apply for a loan through their local multicultural association. Approval should only take between two weeks and a month, she said.

Recent statistics show Canada’s immigration boom is passing New Brunswick. About 6.8 million foreign-born residents live in Canada, accounting for about 20.6 per cent of the population, according to the 2011 National Household Survey from Statistics Canada.

New Brunswick falls well below the national average, with foreign-born people accounting for only 3.9 per cent of the province’s population.

May 14, 2013

Tourist Waiver Program Extended

Today (May 6, 2013), Greg Rickford, Member of Parliament for Kenora, was pleased to announce on behalf of the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the extension of the Tourism Facilitation Action Plan (TFAP) for the 2013/2014 season.

Introduced in March 2012, the TFAP is geared to facilitate travel for eligible visitors with a one-time temporary resident permit and fee waiver. Visitors who are currently inadmissible due to minor offences such as mischief or driving under the influence (DUI) would be eligible if they had served no jail time and shown no evidence of repeat behaviour.

The extension of the TFAP is a major step forward in addressing border crossing concerns raised by municipalities, chambers of commerce and tourist operations. The extension of this program means that visitors who have not already taken advantage of this program may do so this year at the discretion of CBSA officers.

“While our Government remains tough on crime and the safety of Canadians is priority, we also recognize the importance of the economic and tourism benefits to the local economy with programs like TFAP. Whether people are visiting for business or tourism-related reasons, the extension of TFAP for another season is great news,” stated MP Rickford.

May 11, 2013

A “Non-Family” Member Will Be Granted Permanent Resident Status

Elderly Vancouver Island aunt allowed to stay in Canada after five-year fight

Surjit Bhandal with family and supporters.

It’s going to be an especially happy Mother’s Day for Saanich resident Surjit Bhandal and the two nephews she raised since birth. Bhandal, 83, received word Friday that Citizenship and Immigration Canada will allow her to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds — ending five years of rejection.

Surjit Bhandal, 83, received word Friday that Citizenship and Immigration Canada will allow her to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

“She feels, very, very good, finally,” said nephew Jasminder Bhandal, 45, a Saanich builder. “She was very upset before, so much tension was a burden on her health.” The aunt he calls “mom” is frail, has no family in India and has been fighting to stay since she first visited Langford in 2008.

Esquimalt Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison, whose office has championed her cause and put close to 100 hours into the case, said only a few routine procedures remain before Surjit Bhandal receives permanent resident status. Garrison said the decision sets a precedent in keeping with Canadian values: When federal adjudicators deal with other cases involving family members who don’t meet the “strict legal definition” of a family, those individuals can still qualify to stay.

Canadian law does not consider aunts close enough family members for reunification, but in this case, Surjit raised the two boys from birth because their mother was disabled. Although she’s their mother’s sister-in-law, they call Surjit mother. But because she was not their birth mother, the nephews could not sponsor her for permanent residence status.

“We don’t actually need a change to the law or the regulations,” said Garrison. “We just need an understanding of diverse families and this is a precedent. … My only regret is that it took the Conservatives so long to come to the right conclusion.”

Jasminder said he is thankful not only for Garrison’s help, but for the churches and the rest of the community that supported the family, ultimately sending 5,000 letters and emails to Ottawa. He recently completed a new house in Saanich where Surjit lives, while his birth mother travels back and forth from the Lower Mainland. He estimated his legal bills in the case at $40,000.

Garrison said he only wavered once in his conviction that the Bhandals would prevail, just prior to the December 2012 launch of public and legal appeals. But when he saw the turnout of Greater Victoria community and religious leaders, and the flow of letters and emails to Ottawa, he was convinced Canadian values would “shine through in the end.”

Meanwhile, other people in similar situations have already been forced to leave, he added.

“Unfortunately, Conservative immigration policy has leaned away from family reunification … and it’s put a heavier reliance on temporary foreign workers and other categories. To me, family reunification ought to be first.”

May 10, 2013

Border Fee for Canadians Rejected and Banned by U.S. Senators

The U.S. won’t be introducing border crossing fees at land ports of entry.

The Department of Homeland Security had wanted the U.S. Congress to authorize the study of a fee that could be collected from everyone entering the U.S. at land crossings bordering Canada and Mexico. But the Senate’s judiciary committee on Thursday voted to amend the Immigration Reform Bill to ban the fee altogether.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the committee, said a fee would stop Canadians from visiting the U.S. and could threaten trade and the economy. On his website, Leahy has pointed out “the harm that a border fee on the northern border would cause to Vermont’s economy and to the historic cultural ties that Vermonters have with Quebec.” Leahy said a border crossing fee would make U.S. border patrol agents “toll collectors instead of law enforcement.”

In Ottawa on Friday, Government House leader Peter Van Loan said he is “very pleased that the Senate committee in the U.S. has rejected the proposed border fee.”

“A border fee like this would have been very damaging to both the American and the Canadian economy as we work to ensure our economic recovery, continued job creation and economic growth,” Van Loan said. “The importance of movement of goods and people across our border to facilitate trade and growth is critically important.”

Great Canadian Gateway USA Canada Relations Border FeesInternational Trade Minister Ed Fast also applauded the move. “With this decision… the committee has recognized that free and open trade, rather than protectionism, is the way forward to create jobs and prosperity for workers in both our countries,” said Fast in a statement.

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said last month that a fee to simply enter the U.S. would be bad for business between the two countries.

Department spokeswoman Emma Welford told CBC News in an email that Canadians spend more than $21 billion annually in the U.S. For example, in Windsor, Ont., Chrysler alone makes more than 1,600 customs entries in Windsor-Detroit every day.

Windsor West NDP MP and border issues critic Brian Masse praised Leahy’s efforts Friday. “It’s not quite done yet. For me, it’s a great opportunity to get this issue put down,” Masse said. “I wasn’t surprised to see some of the American politicians raise objections to it right away.”

The U.S. Senate’s judiciary committee also voted Thursday against a fence proposed to be constructed on the Canada-U.S. border. Masse said a fence would be the beginning of the “militarization of the border.” “There are several of these nonsensical proposals that keep emerging all along the northern border,” Masse said. He called the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “one of the biggest bureaucracies on the planet.” “There needs to be a balance here,” Masse said. “Senator Leahy points out the cultural, economic and historic need to have an open and friendly border.”

May 10, 2013

Parents and Grandparents Immigration Program Opening on January 2, 2014

Citizenship and Immigration Canada will re-open the Parent and Grandparent (PGP) program for new applications on January 2, 2014, by which time the backlog and wait times in the program are expected to have been cut in half.

Canada Grandparents Canadian Immigration“The Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification is on track to meet the goals of cutting in half the backlog and wait times in the Parent and Grandparent program,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.

Phase II of the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification will provide even faster processing times, reduce the backlog further, prevent future backlogs, ensure that families have the financial means to support those they sponsor, and protect the interests of taxpayers.

First – In 2012 and 2013, Canada will admit 50,000 parents and grandparents as permanent residents. This represents the highest level of parents and grandparents admitted in 20 years. In 2014, Canada will maintain high levels of admissions for parents and grandparents.

Second – The Super Visa will become permanent and will continue to provide flexibility for families who access the 10-year multiple-entry visa, allowing visa holders to remain in Canada up to two years at a time. Over 15,000 Super Visas have been issued since the program’s launch in December 2011 with approval rates averaging 86 percent.

Third – New qualifying criteria for permanent residency sponsorship of parents and grandparents will increase the financial responsibility of sponsors to ensure they have the means to support those they sponsor, while limiting the program’s cost to taxpayers and Canada’s strained health and social programs.

Fourth – 5,000 new sponsorship applications will be accepted in the program in 2014. By accepting 5,000 applications in 2014 while maintaining high levels, the government will be able to further reduce the remaining backlog so that families can be reunited more quickly.

“These new criteria ensure sponsored family members are well supported by their sponsors throughout their time in Canada,” said Minister Kenney. “The redesigned Parent and Grandparent program reunites families faster while respecting Canadian taxpayers and the limited resources for health and social programs.”

Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand do not allow grandparents to be sponsored at all or only in very limited circumstances, and they have very restrictive criteria for the sponsorship of parents.

May 09, 2013

Warning to Canadians with Offshore Accounts

Gail Shea, Minister of National Revenue and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency delivered the following statement with regards to information on Canadians with offshore assets that has allegedly been in the possession of several media outlets:

“Canada has been working tirelessly with its International partners ever since reports surfaced that certain media outlets were in possession of large amounts of data related to potential cases of tax evasion or aggressive tax avoidance. We continue to work to obtain the information from other sources.”

“Today, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom announced they are in possession of tax-related information involving numerous trusts and companies holding assets on behalf of residents in jurisdictions around the world.”

“I have reached out to the Government of the United Kingdom and secured a commitment that information relevant to Canada stemming from this data will be shared. My officials have also made formal requests to the American and Australian tax administrations for the information in their possession. I would like to thank HM Revenue and Customs, the US Internal Revenue Service and the Australian Taxation Office for their close collaboration.”

Great Canadian Gateway News Tax EvasionThis is good news for hard-working, law-abiding Canadians who pay their fair share and very bad news for tax evaders in this country – and indeed around the world.”

“This underscores the close working relationship that Canada has developed with its international partners. Since 2006, our Government has worked to grow our network of information sharing agreements. Canada now has over 90 tax treaties and 16 tax information exchange agreements that allow for tax information to be shared. This makes it increasingly possible for Canada to access information from jurisdictions around the world.”

“International cooperation, along with implementation of key enforcement measures, such as those proposed in Economic Action Plan 2013, are essential to combatting international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. Canada is determined to maintain these fruitful partnerships and to continue to be a world leader in the fight against international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.”

May 08, 2013

Improving Passport Services in Canada

Plans to expand passport services and make them more convenient and efficient were announced today by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley.

Effective July 2, primary responsibility for Passport Canada will move from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). This sensible move is in line with the duties CIC already performs, such as determining Canadian citizenship.

Canadian Passport Great Canadian Gateway

Canadians will not experience an interruption of services. They will be able to continue accessing passport services through all of the same service locations currently available in Canada through the existing network of 144 Service Canada Centres, 56 Canada Post intake locations, and 34 passport offices across the country. Service Canada will assume responsibility for passport operations, and, over time, services will expand to more Service Canada Centres and Canadians will ultimately even be able to apply for a passport online.

“The government is committed to making passport services more convenient and accessible for Canadians,” said Minister Kenney. “As Citizenship and Immigration Canada is already responsible for determining Canadian citizenship, integrating the passport program into the department makes good sense.”

“Through Service Canada, we offer single-window access to a wide range of Government of Canada programs and services for citizens,”said Minister Finley.  “Leveraging Service Canada’s resources and service delivery network across the country will make passport services more accessible and convenient.”

Passport Canada’s IT system is nearing the end of its lifespan and significant investment will be required to bring it up to date whereas CIC’s current operating IT system has the capacity and security features for a move to online applications, and also offers Canadian taxpayers a sensible, cost-effective alternative.

It is important to note that Canadians who need consular services while traveling overseas, to replace a lost passport for example, will continue to be supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

May 08, 2013

Changes to Establish Biometrics in Canada’s Temporary Resident Immigration Program

Biometric RealityUsing biometrics will strengthen Canada’s immigration program as it will provide visa officers with greater certainty in screening applicants and will allow a person’s identity to be more readily confirmed upon arrival. Accordingly, biometrics will help facilitate the travel of legitimate visitors to Canada. At the same time, it will protect the safety and security of Canadians by helping prevent inadmissible individuals from entering the country.

The regulations outline who is required to provide biometric information, the dates the new biometric requirement come into effect, the type of information that will be collected (fingerprints and a photograph), how the information will be collected, the biometric fee, and how the information can be used and disclosed for law enforcement purposes.

May 07, 2013

In 2012, there was a 15 percent increase in immigration under the family class, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.

“The actions taken by the government are helping more families reunite,” said Minister Kenney. “We have created additional avenues and flexibility, so that an increasing number of families can spend more time with each other.”

In 2012, Canada admitted 65,000 permanent residents in the family class, an increase of 15 percent since 2011. This includes a 60 percent increase in the number of parents and grandparents admitted to Canada, the highest level in 20 years.

Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration Family Sponsorship

These numbers do not include family members that immigrate to Canada under other immigration streams, including the Federal Skilled Worker and Provincial Nominee programs.

“The Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification has been a success,” said Minister Kenney. “By reducing the backlog through increased admissions, we have dramatically reduced wait times so that parents and grandparents no longer have to wait close to a decade to be reunited with their loved ones.”

By the end of 2013, the parents and grandparents backlog will have been reduced by about 50 percent with wait times cut in half. Without the Action Plan, the backlog was projected to surpass 250,000 with a 15-year wait time by 2015.

The very popular Super Visa has provided flexibility for parents and grandparents who do not want to immigrate permanently but want to be reunited with their families quickly and spend an extended amount of time with them. An average of over 1,000 Super Visas have been issued each month and the approval rate is very high at nearly 90 percent.

Since 2006, Canada has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history.

May 04, 2013

Canada’s Immigration Program – Federal Skilled Worker Program Now Open

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will be accepting applications to the new and improved Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) as of today, May 4, 2013.

“The government’s number one priority remains jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “Our changes ensure not only that Canada can select the immigrants most needed by our economy, but that they are best positioned for success.”

Improvements to the FSWP points grid are based on a large body of research, which has consistently shown that language proficiency and youth are two of the most important factors in the economic success of immigrants. The FSWP has been modernized as a result of thorough research, an extensive program evaluation, stakeholder and public consultations, and a study of best practices in other countries.

The goal of the updated selection criteria is to improve economic outcomes by selecting immigrants who will be able to integrate more rapidly and successfully into Canada’s economy.

The changes will also support Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013 by building a fast and flexible immigration system whose primary focus is meeting Canada’s economic and labour market needs. Among these changes is the introduction of the Educational Credential Assessment, so that foreign credentials are evaluated based on their true value in Canada, thereby ensuring that newcomers can make an informed decision before immigrating.

In order to prevent ballooniGreat Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration Federal Skilled Workerng backlogs and lengthy wait times, there is a list of occupations with a set number of applications that will be accepted this year.

Previously, the application backlog for the FSWP was on track for an unacceptable 15-year wait time by 2015 with over 1.5 million applicants in the backlog.

As a result of the Action Plan for Faster Immigration and Economic Action Plan 2012, the backlog for the FSWP has been nearly eliminated, and new applications are being processed in approximately one year.

Please contact us for further details or to see if you qualify.

May 02, 2013

Former Citizenship Judge Charged & Arrested

In the past siJudge Philip Gaynor charged and arrested for fraudx years, to scores of immigrants and refugees who chose to become Canadians, Philip Gaynor was the face of their new land, the man who reviewed their applications, administered the ceremonial oath and reminded them that they had to love their new country and respect its law.

A former citizenship judge and Toronto police auxiliary volunteer, Mr. Gaynor has been arrested on allegations that he supplied copies of the citizenship exam to two immigration consultants in the greater Toronto area.

Mr. Gaynor, a 70-year-old from Whitby, was a citizenship judge from 2006 to last year. The RCMP arrested him after a year-long investigation. Mr. Gaynor has been charged with breach of trust, fraud and theft over $5,000.

The police also arrested two immigration consultants, 49-year-old Li Ling and 58-year-old Mo Sui Zhun, who were charged with possession of stolen property. Ms. Li and Mr. Mo are both from Scarborough.

The three had a bail hearing before the Ontario Court in Scarborough on Thursday.

“Judge Gaynor is a distinguished member of his community, where he has provided many years of dedicated volunteer service,” according to a biography that used to be posted on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website. Mr. Gaynor was appointed as judge in September, 2006, by then-citizenship minister Monte Solberg. In August, 2009, Mr. Gaynor was reappointed to another three-year term by Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney. Mr. Gaynor immigrated to Canada from Ireland in 1963, according to a 2011 article in Whitby This Week. He worked as a manager for the T. Eaton Company and for 18 years as a Toronto police auxiliary, “conducting foot and car patrols, and other initiatives that promoted safety within the community,” according to Mr. Gaynor’s online biography.

The RCMP said it executed a search warrant at a business address as part of its probe.

Since 1994, written tests have been used to assess a citizenship applicant’s knowledge of Canada.

Officials would not specify when the allegations against Mr. Gaynor took place but he was a citizenship judge at a time when the federal government overhauled the test, nearly tripling the failure rate, to 15 per cent in 2011 from 4 per cent in 2009. Since March, 2010, the 20-question test requires a 75-per-cent pass mark and is based on a new study guide that focuses on Canadian history, identity and values.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, questions similar to those in the test include queries about the meaning of the Remembrance Day poppy, the way members of Parliament are chosen and the basic responsibilities of being a Canadian citizen.

Further charges may be pending, the RCMP said. The RCMP first heard of the allegations from Citizenship and Immigration Canada last year, department spokeswoman Nancy Caron said. There is now a review to determine if anyone obtained Canadian citizenship fraudulently, she said.

Mr. Kenney applauded the police for their “diligent work on this case,” the Minister said in a statement. “Canadian citizenship is not for sale,” the statement said. “Canadians are generous and welcoming, but have no tolerance for those who lie or cheat to obtain Canadian citizenship.”