2013 Sept to Dec – Immigration News & Updates

December 31, 2013

Temporary Foreign Worker Program Update

Effective , amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) come into force, and new Ministerial Instructions issued by the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) come into effect that will strengthen the integrity of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

1. ESDC will not have the authority to provide an LMO to an employer or a group of employers who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages

2. The amendments to the IRPR will create new conditions employers will be required to comply with, particularly, they will be required to:

  • retain any document that relates to compliance with the conditions set out in IRPR (and confirmed in the LMO letter and annexes) for a period of 6 years, beginning on the first day of the period of employment for which the work permit is issued to the foreign worker. For this same period, the employer must be able to demonstrate that any information they provided in the context of an LMO application was accurate;
  • make reasonable efforts to provide a work place that is free of abuse; and
  • hire or train, or make reasonable efforts to hire or train, Canadians or permanent residents, if that was one of the factors that led to the issuance of the work permit.

Starting , employers will be required to complete an updated LMO application form that includes modified questions and additional attestations.

3. ESDC/Service Canada will have the authority to conduct inspections to verify an employer’s compliance with the conditions in IRPR(and confirmed in the LMO letter and annexes) for a period of 6 years, beginning on the first day of the period of employment for which the work permit is issued to the foreign worker (unlike an employer compliance review (ECR) that occurs in the context of the assessment of an LMO application).

December 30, 2013

Canadian Experience Class — 6 Ineligible Occupations

The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) was introduced in 2008 to permit persons working or studying in Canada to apply for permanent residence from within Canada. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander Minister has instructed that a total of 12,000 new applications will be accepted in 2014 with six occupations being deemed ineligible to apply. They are:Canada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway

  • Cooks NOC 6322
  • Food service supervisors NOC 6311
  • Administrative officers NOC 1221
  • Administrative assistants NOC 1241
  • Accounting technicians and bookkeepers NOC 1311
  • Retail sales supervisors NOC 6211

December 27, 2013

2014 to Bring Changes to Citizenship Rules

The federal government is poised to deliver on what’s been dubbed the “first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation.”

• How long is long enough before you can apply for citizenship?

Permanent residents must reside in Canada for at least three of the previous four years to qualify.

Canada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway ImmigrateAlexander said it’s time to consider increasing the threshold. I think the balance of considerations is in favour of a longer requirement,” he said. “There’s only one way of truly understanding what it means to be Canadian, what it means to participate in Canadian life, and that is by living here.”

• Just because you’re born here doesn’t make you Canadian

Former immigration minister Jason Kenney was adamant: Granting citizenship based on place of birth is “outdated” and the rules need to change to prevent the proliferation of passport babies.

• application Backlog

The citizenship application backlog stood at 349,249 by the end of 2012 when the average processing time for an application was 25-35 months. The last budget recognized backlogs are a problem and committed $44 million over two years to speed up processing times. In fact, the recent budget seeks to boost the citizenship application fee to as much as double the current $200 cost.

• Will the government fix the ‘Lost Canadian’ quagmire?

Thousands of people who thought they were Canadian learned they weren’t, often when they tried to obtain a passport.

The government fixed the problem for 95% of so-called Lost Canadians in 2009, but failed to accommodate children of “war brides” and Canadian servicemen born out-of-wedlock before 1947 when Canada had no citizenship laws of its own.

Kenney promised to “correct this aberration” but so far has not. The high-profile case of Jackie Scott currently before the courts could force the government’s hand or, there’s a chance the government will acquiesce as part of its citizenship bill.

December 19, 2013

Nexus Update

NEXUS members flying within Canada, within the U.S., or transborder and abroad are spending less time in airport screening lines, as well as less time waiting for customs and immigration clearance into either country.

NEXUS members now enCanada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway Immigratejoy dedicated passenger screening lines at 14 Canadian airports, with shorter wait times whatever their destination. Similarly in the U.S., Canadian NEXUS members may now use dedicated passenger screening lines at more than 100 airports in the U.S.

Canadian NEXUS members are now also eligible to use Global Entry kiosks when flying to the U.S., even if they are coming from a third country.

There are now over 917,000 NEXUS members, an increase of approximately 50 per cent since the Action Plan was announced in 2011.

Smoother baggage connections through the U.S.: Passengers can make tighter flight connections through U.S. cities with greater assurance that their baggage will be waiting for them at their final destination. For the air industry, there will be significant cost savings (estimated to be $50 million annually).

Canada is installing certified baggage screening equipment at the eight Canadian airports where the U.S. offers pre-clearance services. Previously, whenever a passenger flew from Canada to the U.S. with an onward connection, the checked baggage had to be screened once on departure from Canada, and again at the connecting U.S. airport, resulting in delays, missed connections and increased costs for airlines and travellers.

The U.S. is lifting the rescreening requirement as the equipment is installed airport-by-airport.

December 18, 2013

Parent and Grandparent Immigration Programs to Re-Open

The Parent and Greanparent program re-opens to new applications on January 2, 2014. It will re-open with tighter admission criteria and a cap on applications, which will continue to reduce the backlog and improve wait times for families. More information to come.

December 16, 2013

Chinese National Sentenced to Two Years for Immigration Fraud

Great Canadian Gateway Immigration Canada ImmigrateThe Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced today that Angela Wang, from the People’s Republic of China, was sentenced to two years in prison on December 4, 2013 in the Brampton Courthouse, after pleading guilty to multiple violations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act(IRPA).

Angela Wang attempted to enter Canada at the Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 4, 2013, arriving on a flight from China. CBSA officers referred her for a secondary examination and during the course of the inspection, 11 counterfeit People’s Republic of China passports were discovered in her luggage. CBSA Criminal Investigations arrested and charged Wang under IRPA. A subsequent investigation revealed Wang to be one of the main organizers of a criminal enterprise that imported counterfeit passports for the purpose of English proficiency testing fraud. The ring sent “surrogate” testers to take the language tests under false identities. Students would then assume those identities for the purpose of obtaining a student visa to Canada, said Venessa Barrasa, a CBSA spokeswoman.

“This successful investigation demonstrates the CBSA‘s commitment to upholding the integrity of Canada’s immigration system,” said Goran Vragovic, Regional Director General of CBSA Greater Toronto Area Region. “The CBSA works closely with its partners to identify, investigate and prosecute those engaging in immigration fraud to the full extent of the law.”

CBSA Criminal Investigations is responsible for conducting investigations with respect to violations of the Customs Act and the IRPA, and violations related to the importing of food, plants and animals that are restricted or prohibited in Canada. CBSA officers investigate border security offences, such as the use of fraudulent documents to gain access to Canada, and immigration misrepresentation.

December 09, 2013

Visitors to Canada May Soon Need Clearance Prior to Flying In

Canada is one step closer to requiring visitors from almost every country in the world to obtain authorization before flying into the country.

The proposed changes to the law woGreat canadian gateway other services welcome arriving air canada airplaneuld require citizens from countries that currently don’t require visas—such as the United Kingdom and most of the European Union—to obtain an “electronic travel authorization” before travelling to Canada by air, according to recently-released details.

The move to collect and share travellers’ information, including background and “biographical” notes, is part of Canada’s Beyond the Border agreement with the United States, signed in 2011.

Privacy concerns

The government has now taken the step to hear comments and concerns from the public, provinces, territories and the travel and tourism industry on the proposal.

Jennifer Stoddart, who left her post as privacy commissioner last week, told a House of Commons committee last year that electronic travel authorizations would involve collecting “potentially sensitive personal information” about millions of individuals. She described the proposed program as a “significant new collection of information” that would include, in part, a potential traveller’s family name, date of birth, email address and “highly sensitive questions” regarding physical or mental disorders, substance abuse and criminal history.

Among the current concerns from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is a lack of transparency and fuzzy details about which data elements will be provided to Immigration Canada, how the information can be used and how long it will be stored. None of those elements is laid out in the proposed law, although it remains the opinion of the commissioner each should.

Under the proposed program, Canada won’t be collecting information from all travellers, since Canada is exempt from the U.S.’s program, so will American citizens be exempt from Canada’s.

As it stands, the new program is expected to apply to most citizens who currently enjoy visa-exempt travel to Canada, including people from Japan, Monaco, Switzerland, and dozens of others.

The change could also mean Canada will collect electronic information from anyone holding a Foreign Affairs-issued passport containing diplomatic, consular or official acceptances who is “a properly accredited diplomat, consular officer, representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies, or of any international organization of which Canada is a member.”

The new rules may also apply to foreigners passing through Canada en route to the U.S., even if the flight only stops on Canadian soil to refuel. “It is expected that the vast majority of applications would be approved by the electronic system within minutes of applying,” according to the government.

Grounds for refusal include involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity and international human rights violations.

Once someone is approved for travel to Canada, it is expected they will be able to use that same authorization for up to five years.

There is no firm timeline yet for when the government will fully implement the program.

December 09, 2013

Streamlining Passport Process for Canadians Abroad

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today announced improvements to passport services for Canadians living and working outside Canada.

When the improvements take effect on December 9, 2013, Canadians living and working outside Canada will have the option of choosing as a guarantor:

  • an adult with a valid or recently expired Canadian passport (less than a year); or
  • a member of an expanded list of a variety of occupations (listed below).

In addition, the list of guarantor occupations will be consistent for all Canadian passport applicants, wherever they may be outside Canada. If you prefer to choose a guarantor from the list of occupations below, they do not need to be Canadian citizens.

The new universal guarantor list will consist of the following occupations, found around the world:

  • medical doctor;
  • dean/head of university or college;
  • dentist;
  • judge;
  • lawyer/notary;
  • notary public;
  • pharmacist;
  • police officer;
  • signing officer of a bank or trust company or of a financial institution that offers a full range of banking services (cash withdrawals, deposits, savings); and
  • veterinarian.

Great Canadian Gateway Canada ImmigrationCanada now issues ePassports, which are considered the gold standard for travel documents worldwide. A Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians who want to travel abroad. As always, the Passport Canada Program strives to strike the best possible balance between security, service and cost.

December 08, 2013

17,500 Caregivers to Become Permanent Resident

A record number of Caregivers will obtain Permanent Residence Status by way of the Live-in Caregiver program.

Foreign Caregivers are eligible for permanent residence in Canada after working for two years during their first four years after entry into Canada.

The Live-in Caregiver Program facilitates the entry of qualified caregivers into Canada when employers have not been able to find Canadians to fill these positions. Caregivers can apply for permanent residence in Canada after working for two years during their first four years after entry into Canada. As a result, a record number of live-in caregivers will be admitted as permanent residents of Canada in 2014.

The LCP is unique. Through the LCP, caregivers have a direct path to permanent residence that no other Temporary Foreign Workers enjoy. For more information about the program, please contact us by sending us a message via our website or by email info@greatcanadiangateway.ca .

November 30, 2013

CBSA Accused of Sharing Private Health Details of Canadians with US Border Services

Ontario’s privacy watchdog is probing reports that private health information is being shared with U.S. border services, saying it’s a matter “of grave concern” to her.

Her office “will investigate Great Canadian Gateway Immigration Canada Immigratethe matter and ensure that the personal health information of Ontarians is not being compromised by any organizations under my jurisdiction,” Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian said in an email to Ontario’s New Democrats, who requested her help.

Cavoukian added that she’s already contacted the Health Ministry to confirm that no personal health details are being provided to U.S. border services.

NDP provincial health critic France Gelinas said she’s been contacted by three people who have been denied entry to the U.S. based on their personal health history.

One woman she spoke to, Ellen Richardson, has gone public with her story, saying she was turned away Monday at Toronto’s Pearson airport by a U.S. customs agent because she was hospitalized in June 2012 for clinical depression.

Richardson attempted suicide in 2001 by jumping off a bridge, which left her a paraplegic. But her mental health has improved with medication and professional help from a psychiatrist, she said.

She said she travelled through the United States several times in recent years and never had a problem. This time, the agent cited the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which denies entry to people who have had a physical or mental disorder that may pose a “threat to the property, safety or welfare” of themselves or others, she said.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s utterly ridiculous,” she said. “I was never a threat to others. I would never harm anyone.”

Richardson, who takes medication to combat depression, said she provided the U.S. agent with the name and phone number of her psychiatrist, but it wasn’t enough. She was told she would have to get “medical clearance” and be examined by one of only three doctors in Toronto whose assessments are accepted by Homeland Security, she said.

Richardson, who has a website and wrote a book about her struggle with depression, said she has no recollection of police being involved in her 2012 hospitalization. She said she had become suicidal, wrote a suicide note and called her mother, who came over and called 911. “I wasn’t a threat to anyone, other than myself,” Richardson said.

Gelinas said another person she spoke to told her that they had been turned away at the border over a physical ailment that had nothing to do with mental health. She wouldn’t provide any details to protect the person’s privacy, but Gelinas said she was told that the U.S. agent in that case also mentioned a fairly recent, specific medical episode that happened in an Ontario hospital.

Gelinas said at first she tried to find some explanation for why U.S. authorities might have the information, such as police records. She asked many questions, but nothing seemed to explain how the Department of Homeland Security got the information.

“The amount of their personal information that is spit back at them is astonishing,” she said. “I have no idea how this could happen, but it did. I believe those people. They have given me physical, tangible proof that this happened.”

A person’s medical history must remain confidential, she said. To hear that specific details of a person’s medical history is being shared with a foreign government is “extremely alarming.”

Health Minister Deb Matthews owes Ontarians an explanation, Gelinas added.

U.S. authorities don’t have access to medical or other health records for Ontarians travelling to the United States, said Samantha Grant, a spokeswoman for Matthews.

Government officials referred all other questions to police services, saying it was an operational matter.

Federal law allows personal information to be transferred outside Canada, even without the consent of the individual to whom the information relates. Once the information is in foreign hands, the laws of that country will apply.

Canada’s privacy commissioner has called for the federal government to re-examine the circumstances under which it allows personal information about Canadians to be processed outside Canada.

Mike Sullivan, the New Democrat MP who represents the Toronto riding where Richardson lives, says he has sent a letter to the federal privacy commissioner’s office asking for an investigation into the matter.

November 29, 2013

New NEXUS Lanes to Open

The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, today announced the opening of two additional NEXUS lanes, one at the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing in Quebec and another at the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel in Ontario.

The new lanes wilGreat Canadian Gateway Canada Immigrationl be used to process NEXUS members during high-volume periods and as regular lanes at other times.  With the additions announced today, there are now two NEXUS lanes at this Quebec crossing, and three at the Windsor-Detroit tunnel.

“These new NEXUS lanes further illustrate our Government’s commitment to facilitating the quick passage of low-risk travellers,” said Minister Blaney. “We will continue to take strong action to keep our borders open to legitimate trade and travel but closed to criminals and terrorists.”

These new NEXUS lanes are part of enhancements that Canada and the United States are making to the NEXUS program as part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan. These initiatives include:

  • Conducting enrolment blitzes to assist with increasing application volumes;
  • Streamlining the membership renewal process;
  • Extending membership eligibility to Canadian and United States citizens who currently do not reside in Canada or the United States;
  • Expanding NEXUS lanes at six other locations;
  • Expanding Trusted Traveller Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) security screening lines in pre-clearance areas at major Canadian airports; and
  • Expediting clearance through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)Pre-Check lanes at 40 participating U.S. airports for domestic, trans-border and select international flights.

Currently there are more than 917,000 NEXUS members, up from just over 601,000 in November 2011. NEXUS members also enjoy expedited travel across the Canada-U.S. border at designated air and marine locations.

November 28, 2013

Retailer Found Guilty of Immigration Fraud

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced today that Spa-Manna Damsel Beaté Inc., a toiletry product retailer, was found guilty at the Montréal Courthouse of hiring foreign nationals who were not authorized to be employed under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The business was fined $40,000.

The CBSA’s investigation was subsequent to a CBSA operation in a residential building in Gatineau, with the assistance of the joint regional team on street gangs (Outaouais), on November 17, 2011.

This operation resulted in the arrest of 15 young foreign nationals suspected of working illegally in Gatineau and Ottawa shopping centres. They admitted to the Immigration and Refugee Board that they had worked without previously requesting and obtaining authorization. They also stated that they had worked for Spa-Manna Damsel Beaté Inc. and had earned income.

“Immigration fraud is a criminal offence in Canada and damages the integrity of our immigration system,” said Benoît Chiquette, Regional Director General of CBSA, Quebec Region. “The CBSA takes this issue very seriously and works to identify, investigate and prosecute those engaging in immigration fraud to the full extent of the law.”

To report immigration fraud in Canada, or if you have any information regarding individuals involved in such activities, call the Border Watch Toll-Free Line, at 1-888-502-9060. All calls are completely confidential.

November 26, 2013

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Needs to Tighten Border Controls

Border controls need to be tighter Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration Border Crossingbecause some dangerous people still manage to slip into the country despite stricter post-9-11 scrutiny, the auditor general said Tuesday. Michael Ferguson’s latest report said the Canada Border Services Agency doesn’t always get the information it needs to pinpoint threats.

The agency is supposed to get advance information about arriving air travellers, but an audit sample shows that the data can be incomplete or missing entirely. And the RCMP, which watches for people sneaking across the border between regular ports of entry, can’t say for sure what percentage of those people get nabbed.

Ferguson said improvements have been made in a border agency program to target air passengers who pose a danger to national security, but some still slip past the controls.

The agency also needs to improve its monitoring of high-risk individuals trying to immigrate.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said he has asked the agency and the RCMP to address Ferguson’s findings and recommendations. “Indeed, officials are already in the process of implementing systems to further improve the safety of our border,” Blaney said Tuesday.

“We will also be bringing forward entry and exit systems to improve information-sharing between law enforcement agencies at the border to better protect Canadians and to safeguard our fair and generous immigration system.”

The audit acknowledged the government has a big job. In 2011-2012, the agency processed 99 million travellers at points of entry, about a third of them foreigners. It denied entry to 54,000 people at the border and intercepted another 4,000 overseas.

In an effort to understand how people sneak in, the auditors looked at a random sample of 49 people who entered the country illegally in the last five years.

In 15 cases, the people came in at a regular point of entry. In 11 of the 15, they were found inadmissible, but were allowed in temporarily with a requirement to report back the next day for departure or further examination, in accordance with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. They never showed up.

The other four cases involved what are called port runners — people who go through a port of entry, but don’t stop or don’t complete an examination.

The audit said the agency doesn’t monitor people who fail to report after entry. Arrest warrants are issued.

Ferguson says the border guards need a better measure of how many people board flights to Canada without proper documents and should find a better way to measure how their controls are working.

He says the RCMP also lacks the information it needs to judge the success of its border enforcement efforts. For example, in 2011-2012 the Mounties tallied the number of illegals caught and the number who evaded capture. The next year, they counted only those they arrested.

“Both types of information are necessary to assess how effective the teams are and whether they are reducing illegal entries,” the report said.

The Mounties have set performance measures, but have not systematically gathered and analyzed the relevant information, the report added.

Ferguson said that while the border agency has made significant progress in some of its efforts to detect threats, there’s more to be done. “It often does not get the information it needs to identify those travellers before they arrive in Canada,” he said. “Furthermore, even when the agency has the information, we found that controls do not always work. We also found that the RCMP does not know the extent to which it is successful in intercepting people who enter the country illegally between ports of entry.” He said many of the problems can be solved with better analysis of existing information and improved monitoring.

The agency agrees that it needs better quality information about incoming air passengers and has a program to be in place by next June to improve the system. It also said it is improving its lookout systems to catch inadmissible immigrants.

Ferguson said that illegals can be involved in terrorism or organized crime and pose costs for taxpayers. Immigration Canada estimates each rejected refugee claimant, some of whom enter illegally, costs the country $26,000.

November 18, 2013

Canada to Fast Track Family Members of Canadians/Permanent Residents From Devastated Region of Philippines

The Canadian government is adding another $15 million dollars to help the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, bringing the total contribution to $20 million dollars.  It has promised to match individual contributions until December 9th.

For many FiliGreat Canadian Gateway Immigration Canadapino-Canadians, the hope is to get their loved ones out of the affected areas and onto Canadian soil.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Immigration, Costas Menegakis told Question Period “We’re carrying out immigration measures, including expediting passport processing for affected Canadians, providing priority processing for family members of Canadians and permanent residents who self-identify as being from the affected areas and are significantly affected by the typhoon.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) added this information:

CIC is contacting applicants with addresses in affected areas as well as others who have self-identified as being affected.

CIC will prioritize the processing of applications from people who are significantly affected by the typhoon. Our focus is on processing these applications as quickly as possible.

Overseas: Applicants who can demonstrate that they are significantly and personally affected by the typhoon and wish to declare their cases a priority can contact the visa office in Manila directly at manila-im-enquiry@international.gc.ca.  Those in the affected areas will be treated as a priority.

Requests from Filipino citizens temporarily in Canada who wish to extend their stay will be assessed in a compassionate and flexible manner

In Canada: Applicants and their family members who wish to declare their cases as a priority can contact situation-philippines@cic.gc.ca or contact CIC’s Call Centre at 1-888-242-2100, which has a dedicated crisis line.

Great Canadian Gateway Immigration Canada ImmigrateThe typhoon has killed nearly four thousand people.  Another 16-hundred are missing.  So far, more than $270-million dollars in foreign aid has been donated to the help the victim and more money is still coming in through fundraisers around the world.

November 15, 2013

Russian Adoptions – Important Notice

On July 3, 2013, the Russian Federation adopted legislation that would prohibit the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples and by single applicants who are citizens of countries that legally recognize same-sex marriage.

On August 29, 2013, the Russian Supreme Court issued a directive that seems to restrict the legislation on the adoption of Russian children by all couples from countries such as Canada that:

  • recognize same-sex marriage;
  • do not have a bilateral agreement on intercountry adoption with Russia; and
  • permit the re-adoption of Russian children without the oversight of Russia’s Adoption Authority, in those cases where the original adoption fails.

A number of Canadian adoption cases in progress (along with those of other countries) appear to be caught by these legislative changes, resulting in delays in setting Russian court hearing dates or the rescheduling of dates that were already established.

The Government of Canada has been in contact with Russian authorities on this issue in order to seek further clarification. Canada has not yet received an official interpretation from the Government of Russia on their law. We are seeking clarification and answers about the impacts of the legislative change and the new directive on Canadians looking to adopt children from Russia and to better understand how the regional courts are applying them.

Canadian officials are also consulting with other foreign governments where same-sex marriage is legal to determine how the Russian legislation and the Supreme Court directive are being applied to their citizens.

November 15, 2013

Prague Visa Office Now Closed

Effective immediately, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) visa office in the Czech Republic (Prague) is closed. This closure is due to the lifting of the temporary resident visa requirement for Czech nationals.

If you are a national from a visa-required country living in the Czech Republic, you can submit your visitor visa application to the Visa Application Centre (VAC) in Prague.

Applications for permanent residence continue to be processed by the Embassy of Canada in Vienna.

November 14, 2013

Canada Lifts Visa Requirement for the Czech Republic

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced that, effective immediately, Czech nationals no longer require a temporary resident visa to visit Canada. Czech nationals can now stay in Canada for up to six months visa-free, which is consistent with all other visa exempt nationals.

A recent visa policy review of the Czech Republic has revealed that it now meets the criteria for a visa exemption. Canada’s visa policy is based on a country-by-country assessment, which looks at several criteria. These include a country’s immigration issues, such as violation rates and asylum claims, the integrity of a country’s travel documents, safety and security issues, border management, human rights, and bilateral relations.

Our confidence in lifting the visa requirement is further enhanced by Canada’s improvements to its asylum system, which will serve as an effective deterrence against unfounded asylum claims. In particular, claimants from the Czech Republic will be processed more quickly as it is a designated country of origin, and those whose claims are rejected will be removed from Canada within a few months.

This is great news for both the Czech Republic and Canada, said Canadian Ambassador Otto Jelinek. By making it easier for Czechs to visit Canada, we are strengthening the already close cultural and economic ties that exist between our two countries.

Under Canada’s immigration law, all visitors to Canada require a visa, except citizens of countries for which an exemption has been granted under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. Visa requirements for travellers to Canada are the country’s first line of defence in maintaining the health, safety and security of Canadians.

November 01, 2013

Canada’s 2014 Immigration Levels Plan

In 2014, Canada will welcome between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents who will contribute to the Canadian economy. The 2014 Immigration Levels Plan reinforces the Government of Canada’s commitment to jobs and economic growth. By increasing our immigration targets for 2014, we are working to address labour market needs and providing Canadian employers with the skilled workforce they need.

Following the tabling of the 2013 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration on October 28, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is pleased to release details on its 2014 Immigration Levels Plan.

Image showing 2014 immigration levels plan by major category, described below

261K Target (240K-265K)
Plan Type Low High Target
Economic Federal Skilled Workers (including Federal Skilled Trades) 41,500 47,800 47,300
Canadian Experience Class 14,000 15,000 15,000
Live-in Caregivers 14,400 17,500 17,500
Federal Business 6,000 7,400 6,000
Quebec Business 5,000 5,500 5,300
Quebec Skilled Workers 26,000 27,000 26,600
Provincial Nominees 44,500 47,000 46,800
Economic Total 151,400 167,200 164,500
Percentage Mix 63.1% 63.1% 63.0%
Family Spouses, Partners and Children (includes Public Policy) 45,000 48,000 48,000
Parents and Grandparents 18,000 20,000 20,000
Family Total 63,000 68,000 68,000
Percentage Mix 26.3% 25.7% 26.1%
Humanitarian Protected Persons in Canada 7,500 8,000 7,500
Dependants Abroad 3,500 4,000 3,500
Government-Assisted Refugees 6,900 7,200 7,100
Visa Office Referred 400 500 500
Privately Sponsored Refugees 4,500 6,500 6,300
Public Policy – Federal Resettlement Assistance 200 300 300
Public Policy – Other 100 200 200
Humanitarian and Compassionate 2,500 3,000 3,000
Humanitarian Total 25,600 29,700 28,400
Percentage Mix 10.7% 11.2% 10.9%
Permit Holders 0 100 100
OVERALL 240,000 265,000 261,000

A planning range is an estimate of the number of people CIC expects to admit each year, taking into account the differences in applicants’ behaviour both before applying and once they have received their visa (some applicants take longer than others to arrive in Canada from abroad after receiving their visa).

For each range, CIC also sets an admissions target. The work of CIC’s visa processing network is based on the admissions target so that admissions fall within the planning range. It is important to note that these are “planned” ranges and targets. Factors beyond CIC’s control can affect actual admission numbers, e.g. security issues that impact overseas processing.

October 31, 2013

Quebec to Lower Immigration Target Levels

The Quebec government says it will lower its immigration targets so it can better integrate newcomers and ensure they are able to function in French.

Immigration Minister Diane De Courcy announced the reductions as she made public the government’s immigration plan for the coming year.

About 55,000 immigrants came to Quebec in 2012. The target for 2014 has been set between 49,000 and 52,500 and will be reduced the following year to between 48,500 and 51,500 people.

The province struck a deal with the federal government decades ago to gain some control over its immigration programs.

In recent years Quebec has actually been taking in a slightly higher share of immigrants to Canada — at 21.3 per cent last year, from a low of less than 13 per cent in the two years leading up to the 1995 referendum.

De Courcy said the government wants to modernize the provincial Immigration Act, particularly to address the selection of applicants with the best chance of finding jobs.

A public consultation is planned to help revise guidelines and set desirable immigration levels for the future.

October 29, 2013

Family Sponsorship Program Update

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today pledged aggressive action to reunite more families in 2014.  Alexander also announced that the backlog of Parent and Grandparent (PGP) program applications will be almost 50 percent lower by the end of 2013 than it was just two years ago.

Our Government is keeping our promise to overcome the massive backlogs we inherited and reunite families faster, said Alexander. These numbers represent the highest level of parent and grandparent admissions in nearly two decades and are a clear expression of our commitment to family reunification as a key part of our immigration plan.

The Government is on track to surpass its commitment to admit 50,000 parents and grandparents to Canada over two years (2012 and 2013), and Canada intends to welcome an additional 20,000 in 2014. The admission of an additional 20,000 parents and grandparents in 2014 is part of the annual levels plan tabled yesterday by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Under the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification, the Government cut backlogs and wait times for sponsored parents and grandparents. Prior to that, families regularly had to wait eight years or more to bring their loved ones from overseas.

Had no action been taken, it was predicted that the backlog could increase to 250,000 persons with wait times of 15 years by 2015. Because of the Government’s aggressive actions, wait times are now expected to be just one fifth of that time.

The PGP program will start accepting applications again in January with new eligibility criteria for sponsors and a cap of 5,000 applications per year. The cap is being put in place to allow for the elimination of the existing backlog and prevent future backlogs. More information, new application forms and instruction guides for the redesigned PGP program will be made available in the coming weeks.

The modernized PGP program will mean faster processing times and shorter waits, said Alexander. It will also ensure that families have the financial means to support those they sponsor, while also protecting the interests of taxpayers.

The Super Visa remains a popular option for parents or grandparents wishing to visit their families in Canada for an extended period of time. The Super Visa is valid for up to 10 years and allows parents and grandparents to come to Canada for up to two years at a time. To date, nearly 26,000 Super Visas have been issued with an approval rate of 84 percent.

October 29, 2013

Live-In Caregiver Program Update

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today announced aggressive new action to address the growing backlog and increasing processing times in the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).

Wait times in the Live-in Caregiver Program have grown to levels that are unacceptable to caregivers,” said Alexander. Our government has already slashed application backlogs for skilled workers and parents and grandparents. Now, we turn our attention to the LCP.

Canada will admit 17,500 permanent residents through the Live-in Caregiver Program in 2014 – almost double the number this year. This represents the highest number of LCP admissions in a single year since the program began in 1993.

Application backlogs and processing times have grown steadily in recent years. The number of caregivers completing their work obligations and becoming eligible for permanent residency has routinely outpaced the planned levels of admissions from the program.

Alexander added: Live-in caregivers participating in the program came here with the promise of permanent residency after meeting work obligations in looking after the children, elderly or disabled people in their care. We need to honour our commitment to them.

The Live-in Caregiver Program facilitates the entry of qualified caregivers into Canada when employers have not been able to find Canadians to fill these positions. Caregivers can apply for permanent residence in Canada after working for two years during their first four years after entry into Canada. As a result, a record number of live-in caregivers will be admitted as permanent residents of Canada in 2014.

The LCP is unique. Through the LCP, caregivers have a direct path to permanent residence that no other Temporary Foreign Workers enjoy.

October 15, 2013

Canada & US to Share Immigration Applicants Personal Information

Ottawa and Washington are further aligning their border security by sharing personal information of immigration and refugee applicants to both countries.

Canada Immigration Great Canadian GatewayThe plan, to be fully implemented next fall, is raising privacy concerns over the disclosure and retention of information, such as an applicant’s date of birth, travel document number and fingerprints. The information-sharing wouldn’t apply to Canadian and American citizens or permanent residents.

“Information-sharing between Canada and the U.S…. supports mutual efforts to facilitate legitimate travel and protect our common borders through improved screening of visitors before they enter our countries,” said Alexis Pavlich, press secretary of Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

“Privacy protection is a primary consideration for us, and the limited information exchange will comply with all relevant Canadian laws, including the Privacy Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to ensure that Canadians’ privacy rights are protected.”

While it is too early to speculate on the impact of the changes, Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees said, “We will be watching very closely over the privacy concerns and risks it poses to people who face persecution and torture back home.”

The proposed regulations are expected to result in an increase in the number of refugee claimants identified as ineligible, a decrease in the volume of crime and a decrease in detention and removal costs of nationals of a third country by denying them entry to Canada, said Citizenship and Immigration Canada director Chris Gregory, who drafted the proposal.

Gregory, who is responsible for the department’s identity management and information sharing, says an estimated 2.2 million foreigners applying to come to Canada will be checked against American records.

The info-sharing scheme could reap a net benefit of $42 million over 10 years from savings in detaining and removing individuals inadmissible to Canada, he added.

Bilateral border information sharing between Canada and the United States is not new, but in the past, has been limited to select cases — about 3,000 a year.

“Case-by-case immigration information-sharing has been effective in that it has uncovered instances of foreign nationals using false identities, inadmissible criminals attempting to enter Canada, fraudulent refugee claims and individuals providing information on the immigration application that was not credible,” Gregory said.

Authorities in both countries will create a computer database and infrastructure capable of exchanging electronic queries on applications made by nationals of a third country and refugee status claimants to Canada.

The system, officials say, will allow for the sharing of “limited” information for the processing of applications for a permanent or temporary resident visa, a work or study permit, or to obtain asylum.

Whether a match is found or not, the country performing the search of its records must delete the biographic or biometric information sent in by the other country.

Canadian officials would not have direct access to the American database, and vice versa. A “specific domestic authority” will be created to oversee the immigration information sharing between both countries.

October 11, 2013

Government of Saskatchewan Introduce New Legislation

Canada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway ImmigrateThe Government of Saskatchewan introduces new legislation to ensure Saskatchewan continues to be a preferred destination for foreign nationals seeking a good place to live and work.

The new legislation helps protect foreign workers from exploitation and mistreatment during the recruitment and immigration process. It creates more transparency and accountability in services provided by recruiters and immigration consultants.  It prevents employers, recruiters and immigration consultants from charging foreign workers fees associated with recruitment.

October 09, 2013

Biometric Systems Tighten IELTS Test Security

The IELTS test partners announce that biometric systems to verify the identity of test takers have been implemented globally.

Canada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway ImmigrateLong recognized as a secure, high-stakes test, the IELTS security protocols now incorporate finger scans in jurisdictions where this is permitted, along with high resolution photography. The high resolution photograph captured for each test taker appears on their Test Report Form (TRF).

Developed by the IELTS partners in consultation with security experts, these biometric measures are specifically designed to fit the purpose of high-stakes language testing. Governments accepting IELTS test results have welcomed the measures and positive feedback has also been received from test takers themselves, who appreciate the time that is saved by the use of finger scanning technology to enter test rooms on test day.

“The IELTS approach to test security is proactive. Our tailor-made biometric systems are in use from the test taker’s arrival on test day right through to completion of their test. Admissions staff can access the IELTS verification service website to see for themselves the high resolution photograph we capture of each person who presented for the test,” says John Belleville, IELTS Director at IDP IELTS.

John Gildea, Head of IELTS at the British Council, says, “All necessary steps have been taken to comply with privacy laws and the framework of each local jurisdiction. IELTS is available in more than 900 locations across 130 countries, so the British Council and IDP IELTS have taken a deliberate and respectful approach to implementing these new biometric measures in a manner that is in keeping with the integrity of the IELTS test.”

IELTS test results are trusted by more than 8,000 education institutions, governments, professional registration bodies and employers around the globe to provide accurate and reliable measurement of English language proficiency.

October 09, 2013

Fast Track Program for Foreign Workers May Be Restored

Canada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway ImmigrateEmployment Minister Jason Kenney says the government could soon resurrect a fast-track scheme that allows companies to bring temporary foreign workers to Canada more quickly.

In an interview with Postmedia News, Kenney suggested the scheme, known as the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion process, would focus on high-paying, high-skill jobs, not fast-food franchises in booming Alberta that need foreigners to peddle burgers and doughnuts to oil workers.

“We’re looking at the question as to whether we should restart accelerated processing for certain labour market opinions,” Kenney said.

“I think it should be narrower, more limited and focused on really critical jobs with specialized skills that are paying a good salary in clearly in-demand occupations, probably in regions with very low unemployment.”

While he wouldn’t get into specifics, Kenney said he’s looking at similar programs in other countries that target foreign workers with the sort of jobs that pay six figure salaries.

Kenney said he’s also reviewing the occupations that are currently exempt from the labour market opinion process as some “shouldn’t exist.” In other cases, he said, there should be exemptions.

For example, the federal government has an agreement with Alberta to exempt welders, heavy-duty mechanics and iron workers from the process due to a shortage of skilled workers in those fields. Those involved in work exchange programs, students, entrepreneurs, intra-company transfers and those covered under international trade agreement like NAFTA are also exempt — for now.

September 30, 2013

Labour Shortage Looms – Warns Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander

Canada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway ImmigrateCanada’s birthrate, like those in all industrialized nations, is on the decline. Statistics Canada said fertility rates in the country fell for the third straight year in 2011 to 1.61 children per woman. Statisticians usually say that 2.1 as the rate at which a country needs to maintain its population levels, and Canada hasn’t hit that figure since the early 1970s. (Here in B.C., the fertility rate is especially low – the lowest in Canada, in fact, at 1.42.)

Combined with an economy that is focused on international trade, as well as infrastructure construction, energy production and other labour-heavy industries (such as B.C.’s natural gas sector), Canada needs an immigration system that can help sustain the labour demand – and the economic well being – of local markets, Alexander said.

“The reality is, Canada will not have enough people to satisfy the economic demand here,” he said. “… The need is to find immigrants who are ready and willing to integrate into local communities, and contribute immediately in those fields with existing current needs.”

Alexander said that while Canada “remains committed” to those in the family reunification and refugee classes (plans are in place to reduce reunification applicant waiting times from seven or eight years to two to three years by 2015, he said), the country has gained international prominence through its economics-focused immigration policy, and that the pursuit must continue.

“Skill shortages are literally on our doorsteps,” Alexander said, although he added that labour needs should be addressed through Canadian citizens first, and firms should turn to immigration only when local sources are exhausted.

“Let’s not forget how competitive this (immigration) market is, the fierce competition for the most competent people. They are not available in large numbers … in extreme cases, waiting times (in the 1990s) were up to 10 years. Who in their right mind would, in the prime of their careers, wait 10 years to get somewhere?”

Alexander also touted the expression of interest initiative announced last year, which uses an online form to quickly sort through candidates and give priority to those with the necessary skills to thrive in Canada. He said the program, along with others, has helped reduce the waiting list for the Federal Skilled Workers program by 90 per cent in five years (from 625,000 applicants to the current 62,000).

September 29, 2013

Netherlands and Canada To Expand Canada’s Trusted Traveller Programs

Canada Immigration Great CAnadian GatewayCanadian and Dutch citizens would be able to visit each other’s countries more easily under a plan to expand Canada’s trusted traveller programs beyond North America.

Canada and the Netherlands have been negotiating a bilateral agreement that would allow their citizens to apply to each other’s programs for travellers considered to be a low security risk, records obtained under the Access to Information Act show.

The initiative would be modelled on the current Nexus travellers program between Canada and the United States, the Canada Border Services Agency records say. Officials have been developing the regulatory, technological and fee-collection systems needed to implement an accord.

“Canada has had discussions with the Netherlands since 2010,” Maja Graham, a border services agency spokeswoman, said in an emailed response to questions.

Graham declined to make anyone available for an interview. However, the internal agency records make it clear an agreement with the Netherlands would be the first strand of an effort to create a large web of mutual traveller programs with other countries.

Trusted traveller programs are intended to speed the flow of low-risk, known citizens across borders by ushering them into express queues, giving security officers more time to focus limited resources on those who may pose a higher risk.

Enrolment in Nexus is expected to “reach saturation” at about a million members within a few years, meaning that reaching out to other countries “is necessary to increase the level of travellers entering Canada through expedited clearance,” say the notes.

A conservative estimate of potential intake into Canada’s trusted traveller programs, if arrangements were to be signed with “a handful of like-minded countries,” is in the range of 100,000 additional members, says a briefing note prepared for border agency president Luc Portelance.

In fact, the Canada-Netherlands agreement was expected to be in place last year, with a three-page draft agreement drawn up for consideration.

The border agency had no immediate comment on reasons for the delay.

Pursuing the agreement allows the agency to commence expansion of trusted travellers programs to third countries “on a small scale” while meeting previous commitments, the notes say.

In February 2011, European Commission officials expressed an interest in a trusted travellers initiative with Canada and offered their support for the Canada-Netherlands proposal.

Under the draft plan, citizens of Canada and the Netherlands who are members of their own country’s trusted traveller program would be eligible to apply to the other’s domestic program. Applicants would undergo criminal, immigration and customs checks.

In the first phase, Canadian members would be allowed to join the Dutch program.

In a second phase, Dutch citizens would first be permitted to apply to the border service agency’s Canpass Air program, which currently allows permanent residents and citizens of Canada and the United States to enter Canada through nine major airports by looking into a camera that recognizes their irises as proof of identity.

At a later stage, Dutch members would be eligible to join Nexus, jointly administered by the Canadian and U.S. border agencies for speedier travel to those countries.

The border agency notes say Nexus could be used to forge trilateral agreements between Canada, the U.S. and other interested countries.

In addition, Canada is looking to existing international alliances as avenues for trusted traveller initiatives.

The notes indicate Canada might deepen its participation in an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation program for business travellers. Canada is also part of the Five Country Conference — along with the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand — whose leaders have committed to exploring a “multilateral trusted traveller framework.”

September 26, 2013

***Striking Diplomats/PAFSO Reach Tentative Agreement***

Canada’s striking foreign service workers have reached a settlement with the federal government.

Canada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway PAFSO Strike Over

Tony Clement (L) & Tim Edwards (R) after coming to a tentative agreement

In separate statements, Treasury Board president Tony Clement and Tim Edwards, president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) announced they had signed a tentative agreement Thursday.

“The settlement represents the efforts of both parties to reach an agreement that is aligned with what was accepted by other public and private sector employees,” Clement said. The details of the agreement were not released.

The 1,350 foreign service officers have been without a contract since mid-2011, and have been in legal strike position since April 2013.

In a statement posted on PAFSO’s website, Edwards said the settlement was reached “through compromise on both sides.” “We salute the spirit of constructive engagement which our employer brought to our latest discussions,” he said. “This deal is a victory for free and fair bargaining in the federal public service.”

With the signing of the agreement, PAFSO has ordered an “immediate suspension” of strike and work-to-rule measures by its members.

Diplomats on various foreign missions have been picketing and staging rotating walkouts since June.

In late July, about 150 foreign officers were on strike in the 15 largest immigration processing centres – including Beijing, New Delhi, Mexico City and London.

Workers took job action by targeting the processing of international visas, which drew concern about a backlog in student visas.

According to PAFSO, the strike was the longest in the federal public service since collective bargaining was introduced in the 1960s.

The tentative agreement must be ratified by PAFSO’s membership and approved by the full Treasury Board.

September 24, 2013

UK And Canada To Share Embassies, Establish Joint Diplomatic Missions

Canada Immigration Great Canadian GatewayBritain and Canada will establish joint diplomatic missions and share embassy offices abroad, Foreign Secretary William Hague is set to announce on Monday.

Mr Hague will reveal more details of the plans when he meets his Canadian counterpart, John Baird, in Ottawa later, a Foreign Office spokesman said.

The proposals involve “co-locating” embassies and sharing consular services in countries where one of the nations does not have an embassy, the spokesman said.

Mr Hague and Mr Baird will sign an agreement and hold a press conference this afternoon to explain more about the plans.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Hague said: “As the Prime Minister said when addressing the Canadian parliament last year: ‘We are two nations, but under one Queen and united by one set of values’.”

September 17, 2013

Europe Threatens Visa Reciprocity Proposal

Mexico isn’t the only country growing increasingly irate over Canada’s decision to impose travel visas on its citizens.

Canada Immigration Great Canadian GatewayLast week, the European Parliament voted in favour of a reciprocity clause that would slap visas on countries that saddle citizens of member nations with the same.

Canada requires visas for European Union citizens from Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. The clause, which has yet to become law, means Canadians travelling to those countries could eventually face visa hurdles.

“We just want to have equal treatment, similar to the other member states,” Silvana Bolocan of the Romanian Embassy in Ottawa said in an interview. “We believe that the vote in the European Parliament is a strong message of solidarity.”

According to Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, about 38,000 Canadians visited Romania in 2011 — a country that has allowed unfettered access to Canadian tourists since 2002. About 15,000 Canadians are said to have visited Bulgaria over the same time period.

It’s not clear how many Canadians travel to the Czech Republic on an annual basis but the country has been among the most vocal since Canada imposed a visa on its citizens in 2009 due to sky rocketing asylum claims, many of them ethnic Roma. The country has even vowed not to ratify the yet-to-be-concluded Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union if Canada doesn’t lift the visa requirement.

Officials at the Mexican embassy would not comment on Europe’s reciprocity clause and whether Mexico would consider something similar.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Ian Trites maintained Canada makes its visa decisions based on “objective criteria, not reciprocity” and suggested the EU ought to do the same.

“Canada respects the EU’s right to impose visas where objective criteria justify this action,” he said, adding Canada is “committed to working towards visa-free travel for citizens of all EU member states and has made significant progress toward this goal.” In recent years, he said, Canada lifted visas on Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Croatia.

That move, however, also led to a spike in asylum claims, particularly among Hungarian Roma. Citizenship and Immigration sought to rectify that by revamping the refugee system and making it more difficult for people from so-called “safe” countries to seek asylum. About six months after the safe country list was adopted last December, asylum claims were down by more than half. The list is thought to be a first step towards visa removal.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials, however, said the government is “closely monitoring” the impact of the list on asylum claims and will continue to examine all the criteria before deciding whether to make changes to its visa policies. Some 37 countries are currently listed, including Mexico and all EU countries except for Romania and Bulgaria. Listed countries are considered atypical producers of bona fide refugees because they respect human rights and offer state protection. Critics say the list is unfair and that many claimants from listed countries indeed face persecution.

According to a report on the English language Romanian news site Romania-Insider.com, the reciprocity clause will only come into force 24 months after it’s published in the EU Official Journal. It’s also governed by a lengthy process that would first require the affected member state to make a request for reciprocity. After that, Canada would have six months to lift its visa before its citizens are saddled with one of their own, according to the report.

Achim Hurrelmann, associate professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, specializes in European politics. He said the proposal requires both European Parliament and Council approval. The council, which represents member state governments, has yet to approve it, but he said it appears negotiations have already taken place which suggests it’s likely to do so imminently with few, if any, amendments.

“There is indeed substantial irritation among some of the EU member states that their citizens can still not have visa-free access to important partners like Canada or the United States,” he said, suggesting the proposed reciprocity measure is really just a last resort aimed at expediting bilateral discussions on the matter.

“They are … trying to build up a threat to pressure Canada and other countries to the negotiating table to come up with some kind of solution.”

September 17, 2013

Illegally Entering Canada Gets 2 Year Sentence

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced today that Pablo Daniel Gonzalez Gonzalez and Miguel Aguilar Gonzalez were sentenced to more than two years in prison for illegally entering Canada, and possession of proceeds of crime. On September 9, 2013, the men pleaded guilty in Abottsford Provincial Court to failing to appear for examination, failing to answer questions truthfully, and possession of proceeds of crime.

This sentence stems from an incident that occurred on the evening of December 14, 2012, near the international border in southeast Abbotsford. An alert Abbotsford Police officer stopped a suspicious car containing three men, two of which were dressed in camouflage clothing and were completely wet. When the individuals were asked to provide identification, two of the men were only able to produce Mexican identification. During a search of the vehicle, police found two small duffle bags containing more than $250,000 in US currency and a loaded handgun. The officers contacted the CBSA, suspecting that the two foreign nationals had not entered Canada legally. The men, Pablo Daniel Gonzalez Gonzalez and Miguel Aguilar Gonzalez, were arrested and transferred to CBSA custody.

On December 21, 2012, CBSA Criminal Investigations recommended charges against the pair and each were held in custody pending trial. Following trial, both men were sentenced to a 25-month jail sentence.

In addition, on January 15, 2013, Canadian resident Luis Rodolfo Guerra Alvarez, the driver of the vehicle, was charged by the CBSA with one count of aiding and abetting, for his role in assisting the pair to elude examination. A trial for this offence has been set for March 2014 in Abbotsford Provincial Court.

“This case demonstrates the close working relationship that exists between law enforcement agencies, and is an excellent example of interagency cooperation. Thanks to an observant Abbotsford Police officer, and the diligence of the CBSA’s Enforcement and Intelligence Division, this case was brought to a successful conclusion,” said Harald Wuigk, the CBSA’s Assistant Director of Criminal Investigations.

Anyone with information about suspicious cross-border activity is encouraged to call the CBSA Border Watch toll-free line at 1-888-502-9060. All calls are completely confidential.

September 16, 2013

Submission of Visitor’s Fingerprints and Photos Starts October 23, 2014

Starting Oct. 23, 2014, travellers from 11 countries must submit their fingerprints and photos when applying for a Canadian visitor, student or work visa.

They include those from Albania, Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Tunisia.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has released a country list, following the imposition of the biometrics requirement earlier this month on Colombia, Haiti and Jamaica.

Canada Immigration Great Canadian GatewayVisitors from these countries must pay an extra $85 for Ottawa to collect their fingerprints and photos in their visa applications — as part of Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act passed last year to tighten border entry to the country.

Officials said the countries were selected for their volumes or rates of visa refusals, removal orders, refugee claims, and nationals arriving without proper documentation or attempting to travel under false identities, as well as their relevance to Canada’s foreign and trade policy objectives.

About 20 per cent of the 300,000 visa-required applicants — visitors, students or temporary foreign workers — would have to submit their biometric information in the first year. Children, the elderly and diplomats are exempted.

The applicants must present themselves at a biometric collection service point, a third-party visa application centre contracted by Ottawa, to provide “all available fingerprints and have a photograph taken.”

Starting Dec. 11, visitors from 16 other countries also face the biometrics requirements, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Sri Lanka, Syria, Vietnam and Yemen.

Meanwhile, Ottawa has filed an appeal with the federal court challenging a ruling by the Public Service Labour Relations Board Friday that found the government had negotiated in bad faith with its striking foreign affairs officers, including many tasked with visa processing.

The government’s appeal will certainly prolong the six-month labour dispute with the officers and further delay the processing of all types of visas in and outside of Canada.

September 16, 2013

PAFSO Strike – Update

Permanent residency applicants appear to be taking the biggest hit from ongoing job action by foreign affairs officers, prompting concerns about whether Ottawa’s 2013 immigration target can be met.

According to government data obtained by the Star, the number of immigrant visas granted from May to July of this year has dropped 7.5 per cent, to 60,416 individuals. That compares to 65,255 in the same period last year and a whopping 22 per cent drop from the same three-month period in 2010.

The numbers appear to bolster claims by the foreign service workers’ union that staff are being diverted to process temporary resident visa applications — for applicants like tourists and international students — at the expense of permanent resident files, which the government denies.

“The processing of permanent resident visas has been ground to a standstill at a number of (visa) sections we targeted,” said Timothy Edwards, president of the Professional Association of Foreign Services Officers (PAFSO), whose members have implemented rotating strikes and work-to-rule at busy visa posts such as Beijing and Shanghai in China, Delhi and Chandigarh in India, Mexico City and Manila.

“All the resources have been thrown at processing the temporary resident visas. They are going to fall far short on their annual immigration target (of 260,000).”

Edwards said his 1,350 members have been instructed to focus on processing student and tourist visas, while resources at immigration offices in Canada have also been redirected to mitigate the workload and backlog abroad.

Since PAFSO began its job action in April, the number of temporary visas issued to foreign visitors, students and workers from its top 10 countries has actually risen by 11 per cent to 296,531, from the same time in 2012.

Ottawa has been under tremendous pressure from the tourism industry, universities and colleges, and employers to ensure that Canada’s $17 billion tourism industry and $7.7 billion international education sector would not be affected by the labour dispute.

But the government denies moving resources around as a way to deal with the strike.

“It is typical that Citizenship and Immigration Canada shifts resources during the summer months from permanent resident application processing to temporary resident application processing to meet an increased demand for visitor visas and study permits during these months,” department spokesperson Glenn Johnson said in an email to the Star.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada said additional Canadian staff have been loaned on a temporary basis to help process visas. The union said that could compromise the integrity and security of Canada’s immigration system because the substitute staff do not have the same experience and expertise.

“CIC is providing training on an urgent basis so that more staff can process applications and is requesting staff work overtime where possible,” department spokesperson Glenn Johnson wrote in an email.

“CIC is also shifting more work to Canada and to overseas offices that have additional capacity. Processing of urgent humanitarian visa applications is essential work in all visa offices.”

There is still no resolution in sight as the job action enters its sixth month.

In November, Sarah Hedley applied to sponsor her British husband, Christopher Hedley, as a permanent resident from within Canada.

Sponsorship is a two-step process: the sponsor must be first approved by officials before the sponsored spouse is assessed. The first stage usually takes six months; the second stage, eight months.

Hedley, 24, said she has been checking the immigration department’s processing time counter on a regular basis and noticed only recently that the expected processing time for stage one has been extended to 10 months.

“They used to update it every week, but the counter stopped moving at the end of April. Now they are saying it will take up to 10 months just for step one,” said a frustrated Hedley, who works three jobs to support herself and her husband because he is not allowed to work while awaiting the initial approval for the first stage.

So as not to jeopardize the application, Christopher Hedley, a Leeds native, could not leave Canada to visit his ailing grandmother, who died of cancer on Sept. 3. If he leaves Canada, the current application would be forfeited and he would have to reapply from overseas.

“Chris is willing to work. He wants to work and is able to work. It’s devastating that he has to sit at home and wait and wait,” said Hedley, adding that her husband has been volunteering for a community group helping local seniors.

The 296,531 temporary resident visas issued this summer to the top 10 nationalities include 242,316 tourist visas, 21,514 work permits and 32,701 student visas.

The number of temporary visas approved fell dramatically in May and June during the early stage of the foreign workers’ strike, and caught up in July only after the tourism industry and education sector raised their concerns to the media.

In China, for instance, the number of tourist visas issued in 2012 fell from 29,788 and 26,190 in May and June, respectively, to 20,648 and 24,854 this past May and June. But in July, the number of visas approved to Chinese visitors almost doubled, to 35,586 from 17,855 last year.

The labour dispute centres on Ottawa’s refusal to close the wage gap between foreign affairs workers and their counterparts in similar types of work. Closing the gap will incur a $4 million one-time cost.

September 16, 2013

Manitoba Initiative to Help Immigrants

Canada Immigration Great Canadian Gateway ImmigrateThe Government of Manitoba has earmarked $1.4 million over two years to improve the recognition of foreign credentials by funding pilot programs designed to recognize professional qualifications in order to get immigrants into the workforce sooner.

“The Manitoba government has been working to improve the recognition of foreign credentials, allowing new Manitobans the ability to put their education and experience to use sooner and establish successful careers in our province,” stated Advanced Education and Literacy Minister Erin Selby.

Selby added the province would provide support for universities and colleges as they work with new Canadians in implementing their skills. “It’s good for our economy and it means newcomers can more quickly put down roots in Manitoba,” stated Selby.

“By providing programs to help (new Canadians) integrate more quickly into the labour market, Manitoba can benefit from their skills and reduce labour shortages,” stated Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Christine Melnick.

Although he hasn’t yet analyzed this new initiative by the government, Portage la Prairie Learning and Literacy Centre’s settlement services coordinator Luis Luna says it’s very important for new Canadians to have their education and skills recognized. “It definitely allows them to work in their line of business and to break with the stigma that immigrants have to work the low-end and low wage jobs,” he said. “It truly is about bringing those individuals, who are already internationally educated, into working within their professions and making a decent wage.”

In regards to Portage, Luna notes the city is unique as the immigrants here already have their credentials. “Even though some of our newcomers could potentially tap into (the province’s program), the majority of immigrants we get in Portage are already certified,” he said.

Luna, who immigrated to Canada from Guatemala in 2004, has been a coordinator with the centre for seven years and during that time he has seen a lot of work by the provincial government go into credential recognition. He noted the problem of credential recognition has more to do with the regulatory bodies, such as the College of Physicians or the College of Registered Nurses, than the province. Luna also said sometimes it’s not just credentials that might hold an immigrant back from achieving a position, but something simple as an accent.

Luna cited a report by the Royal Bank of Canada, which stated the difference between immigrants and Canadians is that newcomers have “a certain assertiveness” when it comes to making business decisions and “exploring new opportunities.”

“Those newcomers sometimes take risks that are necessary for an economy to grow, risks that Canadians will not necessarily take,” said Luna. “They have that motivation to improve themselves. They want to make it worth their while immigrating to Canada, so immigrants are often more likely to make decisions that might be risky.”

There are currently more than 380 immigrants in Portage from countries such as Israel, India, Philippines, China, Germany, Mexico and Latin America. The majority of them are working in the health care industry.

September 06, 2013

Canadian Citizenship Process – Update

Great Canadian Gateway Canada Immigration ImmigrateThe federal government says the citizenship application backlog stood at 349,249 at the close of 2012. The average processing time is 25 months for a routine application and 35 months for more complicated files.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will start closing the files of those who repeatedly fail to attend scheduled citizenship tests or interviews. Applications submitted on or after April 17, 2009, will also be classified as dormant and closed if applicants fail to provide proof of residency after receiving two notices from the government, Postmedia News reports.

A department spokeswoman estimates that about 12,000 files will be closed in coming weeks and said that 54,000 citizenship applicants have failed to show up for their test in the past three years alone.

Frankly, if applicants take such a casual attitude to becoming citizens after living in the country for as little as three out of the past four years, their files should be closed and the would-be Canadians required to take their place at the back of the queue if they choose to pursue the process at some point in the future. Imagine if a job seeker showed such little regard for their application — submitting an incomplete resume and not bothering to appear for a scheduled interview? No employer would bother to pursue or hire that person. In both cases, people who can’t be bothered to follow procedures shouldn’t be permitted to tie up the process.

To ensure a good degree of fairness, those who miss a citizenship test or interview because of illness or caring for a dying parent — among other acceptable reasons — won’t lose their place in line. That’s as it should be and guarantees that those with a legitimate reason for not making an appearance aren’t unduly dismissed.

“Those who take their citizenship seriously will not have to wait in line behind those that don’t bother showing up to their citizenship test, interview, or who don’t respond to a residence questionnaire,” said Andrea Khanjin, a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

“The citizenship application process has been bogged down for too long by those that do not take Canadian citizenship seriously.”

That’s an understatement. The federal government says the citizenship application backlog stood at 349,249 at the close of 2012. The average processing time is 25 months for a routine application and 35 months for more complicated files.

The recent budget included $44 million over two years to accelerate the processing times, which is money well spent.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada, particularly under the stewardship of former minister Jason Kenney, has made a number of reforms designed to improve the efficiency of the system. Earlier this summer, for example, the government announced that those who failed the citizenship test will get a speedy one-time-only do-over, removing the necessity to wait to appear before a judge to seek to rewrite the test again.

Clearing the computers of dormant applications is just one more measure that should assist sincere, qualified applicants to negotiate their way through the process as seamlessly as possible, which is in everybody’s best interest.

September 05, 2013

Speeding Up Canadian Citizenship Decisions

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is taking action to reduce citizenship grant wait times by decreasing its inventory of dormant applications.

Measures are being taken for applicants who do not show up for their scheduled citizenship test or interview.

After a missed test or interview, applicants will be reminded in a final notice to contact CIC to provide a reasonable cause for not showing up. If the applicant provides a reasonable cause for missing their appointment, CIC will reschedule their test or interview. They will be given two opportunities over three months to provide a reasonable cause. Otherwise, their application will be closed.

CIC sends notices to the applicant’s most-recent known address. Applicants are responsible for keeping their contact information with CIC up-to-date. Applicants can change their address online.

Applicants whose files have been closed will have to re-submit a new application if they are still interested in obtaining Canadian citizenship.