Setting the Record Straight on Canadian Immigration Matters
In the age of social media, the amount of information circulating online can be overwhelming. What is surprising – or perhaps not – is the amount of misinformation and false advertisement circulating on the internet about the immigration process to Canada. And quite frankly, it can be quite challenging to discern true from false claims.
To help set the record straight and prevent people from falling victim to scams, here is the truth about a few common claims circulating on social media and online forums.
Any individual or group, particularly those claiming to work for or in association with the Canadian government, can be hired represent you or expedite your application to travel or immigrate to Canada
Only authorized representatives under Canadian law can be hired (or paid) to represent or assist you with your application. If you give a representative money or compensate them in any other way in exchange for their services, they are considered paid and must be authorized.
Authorized representatives include lawyers or notaries, paralegals, or immigration consultants. If you choose a paid representative who is not authorized, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) can return or refuse your application.
Lawyers must be members in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society. In the Province of Ontario, paralegals are also required to be members of the Law Society of Ontario.
Similarly, notaries and immigration consultants must be members in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, respectively.
Most Canadian law societies let you check online to see if a person is a member in good standing, and you are advised to do so before hiring a representative.
Express Entry is a Canadian job site though which you can apply for jobs in Canada
Express Entry is an online system that IRCC uses to manage applications for permanent residence submitted under the skilled worker stream.
Foreigners with skilled work experience, but without Canadian work experience, can apply under the Federal Skilled Worker program by creating an online profile, free of charge, through the Express Entry system.
All Express Entry candidates get a score out of 1,200 points based several factors: age, education, work experience, English and/or French language skills, whether you have a valid job offer from a Canadian employer, and adaptability (how well you are likely to settle in Canada).
In some cases, prospective Canadian employers can have access to candidates who choose to create a profile on the Canadian government’s Job Bank website.
Canadian citizenship or permanent residence can be acquired by paying a sum of money to Canadian lawyer or immigration consultant
Any immigration program that leads to permanent residence has its own set of criteria. A duly completed application, along with the applicable government fees, must be submitted to IRCC for processing.
To be eligible to apply for citizenship in Canada, you must: (1) be a permanent resident of Canada; (2) have lived in Canada for 3 out of the last 5 years before the date you sign your application; (3) have filed your taxes with the Canadian government, if required to do so; (4) pass a test on your rights, responsibilities and knowledge of Canada; and (5) prove your language skills.
Canadian citizenship cannot be acquired through marriage.
Canadian visa offices are not currently accepting or processing applications for temporary residence visas (for visiting, studying or working in Canada) due to COVID-19
Visa offices outside Canada are now processing applications submitted online. However, most people cannot travel to Canada at the moment, even if they have a valid visa, as travel restrictions are still in effect. Further, Canadian visa offices are processing applications on a priority basis due to the impact of COVID-19, which could affect processing times.
There are travel exemptions for specific groups of foreign nationals, including immediate family members of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. An “immediate family member” is defined as a spouse or common-law partner, dependent child, dependent child of a dependent child, a parent, or guardian.
In addition, family members must be staying in Canada for at least 15 days.
International students who applied for and were granted study permits after 18 March 2020, but are unable to travel to Canada at this time due to travel restrictions, can begin their classes while outside Canada. They are permitted to complete up to 50% of their program while outside Canada, if they cannot travel sooner. Students can travel to Canada once restrictions are lifted.
Special programs or treatments exist for facilitating and processing visa applications submitted by certain religious or ethnic groups
All those seeking to travel or immigrate to Canada must apply through normal legal channels, whether they want to visit, study, work or live permanently in Canada.
All applications are submitted to and processed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), usually at a Canadian visa office outside Canada.
While you can hire an authorized representative to assist you with your application, a Canadian visa or immigration officer will process and decide on your application. You must still meet all the applicable legal requirements under Canadian law.
Any humanitarian program put in place to assist a specific group of people will be made publicly available by the Government of Canada, usually on the IRCC website.
Visa holders can travel to Canada and make a refugee claim based on the current humanitarian conditions in their country of origin
Refugee claims are fact-driven and always require an individualized assessment by a legal professional such as a lawyer. That said, the general humanitarian situation in a country, in and of itself, is usually not enough to support a claim for refugee protection.
All refugee claimants in Canada, regardless of their country of origin, must establish a well-founded fear of persecution based on specific grounds: race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group (i.e., persecution based on sexual orientation, mental illness, gender, etc).
Further, claimants must show that state authorities are unable or unwilling to protect them, and that they cannot seek safe refuge anywhere else in their country.
Those with dual or multiple citizenships must also show that they would be at risk in every country of citizenship.
Of course, the above is only meant as general information to help shed some light on certain Canadian immigration matters and dispel any misinformation. Individuals are encouraged to seek out legal advice from our trusted professionals on matters affecting them.
Bassam is an Ottawa-based lawyer practicing in the areas of immigration and refugee law, administrative law, and public law. He holds an LL.M. in public international law from the University of Ottawa and has a specific interest in international criminal law and its interaction with refugee law.