BRAMPTON, Ont. — Important changes to Canadian citizenship rules, including how long a newcomer has to be in the country to be eligible, will take effect next week, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced Wednesday.
Speaking in the highly diverse community of Brampton, Ont., just northwest of Toronto, Hussen said the changes undo barriers the former Conservative government put in place.
“Something happened in the last number of years whereby the previous government had deliberately put obstacles, real barriers, to citizenship for permanent residents,” Hussen said. “Those barriers were unnecessary. They prolonged people’s steps to join the Canadian family, they made it really hard.”
Under the changes that take effect Oct. 11, which Hussen called long-awaited, would-be citizens will have to have been in Canada for three of the last five years before they apply.
“That is really important because it will mean that many permanent residents will be able to apply for citizenship earlier and it will mean their path to citizenship will be eased,” Hussen said.
The government under former prime minister Stephen Harper had tightened the eligibility rules to require permanent residents to have been physically present in Canada for four years out of the last six immediately before applying for citizenship
Another rule, requiring applicants to be in Canada for 183 days each year, has been causing “real hardship” and is being scrapped under implementation of Bill C-6. Permanent residents will now be allowed to go abroad to study, work or for family reasons without losing access to citizenship eligibility.
Another key change also taking effect will be how time spent in Canada before foreigners become permanent residents is counted. Currently, the time people are in the country — studying, working, visiting, or as refugees — does not count as being present for citizenship-eligibility purposes, even if they have been here for years.
Hussen called that “unfortunate.” The new rules, he said, will allow such individuals to count half the time they have spent in Canada to a maximum of one year, meaning that once they become permanent residents, they would only need to be in the country for an additional two years to apply for citizenship.
Also as of Oct. 11, only newcomers aged of 18 to 54 will have to take and pass a citizenship knowledge and language test. Previously, the age range was 14 to 64, a problem Hussen said was particularly acute for those under 18 given their need to study for school exams.
The various changes are part of the same bill that previously scrapped the federal government’s ability to strip citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism — another controversial change implemented under Harper.
The Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said it wants to simplify the process with the ongoing overhaul of the Citizenship Act. The government is also rewriting the citizenship oath to incorporate a reference to treaties with Indigenous Peoples.
Hussen, himself a Somali immigrant who came to Canada in 1993 as a 16-year-old, spoke of the importance of gaining citizenship to newcomers, the final step toward their integration into the “Canadian family.” He recalled “how moving” it was when he took his own oath 15 years ago.
“A lot of permanent residents have been eagerly awaiting these changes,” Hussen said.
At the same time, he said, immigrants are a crucial part of the country’s economy and social fabric, and the changes go a distance toward recognizing those facts.
Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act and make consequential amendments to another Act, received Royal Assent on June 19, 2017. This chart explains the changes that have been made to the Citizenship Act and indicates when these changes are expected to come into force.
Changes that take effect immediately upon Royal Assent on June 19, 2017
Previous Citizenship Act
Citizenship Act with Bill C-6 Amendments
Citizenship could be revoked from dual citizens convicted of treason, spying and terrorism offences, depending on the sentence received, or who were a part of an armed force of a country or organized group engaged in conflict with Canada.
This provision is repealed. Dual citizens living in Canada who are convicted of these crimes will face the Canadian justice system, like other Canadian citizens who break the law.
Applicants were required to intend to continue to live in Canada if granted citizenship.
This provision is repealed. Applicants are no longer required to intend to continue to live in Canada once granted citizenship. This provides more flexibility to Canadians who may need to live outside of Canada for work or personal reasons.
The Minister had the discretion to waive certain requirements under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act so a minor could obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent.
Minors can now apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent, as the age requirement for citizenship has been removed under subsection 5(1). A person having custody of the minor or empowered to act on their behalf by court order, written agreement or operation of law, can now apply for citizenship on behalf of the minor, unless that requirement is waived by the Minister.
No provision existed to prevent individuals serving a sentence in the community (a conditional sentence order) from being granted citizenship, taking the Oath of Citizenship or counting this time towards meeting the physical presence requirements for citizenship.
Individuals serving a conditional sentence will not be granted citizenship, take the Oath of Citizenship, or be able to count this time towards meeting the physical presence requirements for citizenship.
The Minister has the discretion to grant citizenship to a person to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship, or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.
Statelessness has been added as a stand-alone ground that can be considered for a discretionary grant of citizenship.
The Department has reasonable measures to accommodate the needs of citizenship applicants. However, there was no explicit reference to accommodate persons with disabilities in the Citizenship Act.
The requirement to take into consideration reasonable measures to accommodate the needs of a citizenship applicant who is a disabled person is now included in the Citizenship Act.
The requirement for applicants to maintain the requirements for citizenship from the time they apply for citizenship until taking the Oath of Citizenship only applied to applications received on or after June 11, 2015.
This requirement now also applies to all applications, including those received before June 11, 2015.
Changes expected to take effect in fall 2017
Previous Citizenship Act
Citizenship Act with Bill C-6 Amendments
Applicants had to be physically present in Canada for four out of six years before applying for citizenship.
Applicants must be physically present in Canada for three out of five years before applying for citizenship.
Applicants had to file Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for four out of six years, matching the physical presence requirement.
Applicants must file Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for three out of five years, matching the new physical presence requirement.
Applicants had to be physically present in Canada for 183 days in four out of the six years preceding their application.
This provision is repealed. Applicants no longer have to meet this requirement.
Time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident did not count towards the physical presence requirement for citizenship.
Applicants may count each day they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum credit of 365 days.
Applicants between 14 and 64 years had to meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship.
Applicants between 18 and 54 years must meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship.
Changes expected to take effect in early 2018
Previous Citizenship Act
Citizenship Act with Bill C-6 Amendments
The Minister was the decision-maker for most cases of citizenship revocation on the grounds of false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances. The Federal Court was the decision-maker for citizenship revocation cases involving false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances related to security, human or international right violations, and organized criminality.
The Federal Court is the decision-maker in all revocation cases, unless the individual requests that the Minister make the decision.
There was no clear authority for Citizenship Officers to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents provided under the Citizenship Act.
Clear authority for Citizenship Officers to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents is provided under the Citizenship Act.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
The federal government has made some changes to the express entry immigration program, awarding more points to applicants who have siblings in Canada and those who have strong French language skills.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced the changes Monday morning at a centre for immigrants in Markham, Ont., just north of Toronto.
Under the express entry program, applicants can score a total of 1,200 points depending on their education, training, work experience and language skills. The program was launched by the previous Conservative government as a way of fast-tracking permanent residency for highly
Starting on Tuesday, the express entry system will begin awarding 15 points to candidates who have siblings in Canada. The sibling must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident aged 18 or older.
“Studies have shown that as newcomers build a new life in Canada, those with siblings benefit by having improved integration into Canadian society,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in an update on its website.
Previously, no points were awarded to applicants with siblings in Canada.
The program will also start awarding up to 30 additional points to candidates with strong French-language skills, depending on their language test results. The additional points can be awarded regardless of whether the candidate also has English language skills.
“French-speaking newcomers contribute to the growth, vitality and prosperity of Francophone minority communities across Canada,” the government said.
Up until now, express entry candidates also had to create a Job Bank account if they didn’t have a valid job offer. The Job Bank registration will be voluntary as of Tuesday.
In a statement Monday, Hussen said the changes will help Canada “welcome more skilled immigrants” whose siblings can help them integrate faster and who can contribute to the country’s Francophone communities.
In 2016, nearly 34,000 invitations to apply for permanent residence were issued to express entry candidates.
May 3, 2017—Ottawa, ON – The Government of Canada has published regulatory changes to increase the maximum age of a dependent child which will allow more families to stay together. This change showcases the Government’s commitment to family reunification.
The new age limit of “under 22” will come into effect this fall, on October 24, 2017, raising it from the current “under 19” requirement. The increased age will apply to new applications for all immigration programs under Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, including for refugees. Children who are 22 years of age or older and who rely on their parents due to a physical or mental health condition will continue to be considered dependent children.
A higher age limit will have more positive social and cultural impacts by keeping families together. It will also better address humanitarian and safety concerns by enabling more family members of refugees to qualify as dependants. Increasing the age limit will also help to enhance Canada’s economy by making it a destination of choice for skilled immigrants who want to keep their families together.
Family reunification is a key immigration commitment of the Government of Canada. The Government has made a number of important changes to uphold this commitment. Regulations were recently published to eliminate the conditional permanent residence measure in recognition that most marriages are genuine and to reduce the vulnerability of spouses in the immigration program. Access to the parent and grandparent program was improved with changes to the 2017 application process to make it fairer and more transparent. In 2016, the number of parent and grandparent sponsorship applications accepted each year for intake was doubled to 10 000 applications, and the Government announced processing times for most sponsored spouses and partners would be reduced to 12 months.
“Raising the age of dependants lets more families stay together. This will bring economic and social gains to our country as it enhances our attractiveness as a destination of choice for immigrants and refugees.”
– The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
The change is consistent with the global socioeconomic trend for children to stay home longer, including to pursue their post-secondary education. The change would allow older immigrant children, aged 19 to 21, to study in Canada thereby boosting the pool of applicants from which Canadian post-secondary schools can draw talented students. Upon graduation, these individuals would be equipped with a Canadian education and be able to contribute to Canada’s economy.
A higher age for dependants better aligns with two of the main objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which are to see that families are reunited in Canada, and support the self-sufficiency and social and economic well-being of refugees through family reunification.
The wait is over. The apex court just delivered the ‘historic verdict’ in the most anticipated Panama case today.
It was neither a clean chit nor a disqualification. As expected, the citizens find themselves confused and unclear as to what this legally convoluted and complex decision – that apparently does nothing substantial in the eyes of common people – could mean for the people involved in it or politics in general.
It seems the verdict remains what the political parties take out of it to suit their interests. The PML-N declared ‘victory’ while the opposition welcomes it with mixed feelings.
The people demanding PM’s disqualification contended with the fact that the verdict was split 3-2 among the five-judge bench, with two dissenting notes in the judgement by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed. The two judges ruled against PM Nawaz Sharif, saying he should be disqualified, whereas the other three were in favour of forming a JIT.
Following are the problems and weak points that the verdict identifies in the PML-N’s narrative:
PM’s address to the nation: A plethora of contradictions and unclear stance
Pointing out problems in the PM’s address to the nation on April 5, 2016, the verdict spells out problems for the PM’s own stance. It goes on to cite following problems:
* Did not mention setting up and sale of the factory in Dubai at all.
* Did not explicitly mention any particular resource for acquisition of the properties in London.
* Did not mention that the sale proceeds of the factory in Jeddah were used to acquire the properties in London but maintained that the proceeds were used by his two sons for their new business.
* Did not even hint at any investment made in Qatar and the subsequent settlement upon which the whole edifice was built by his children.
* Proceeds of sale of the factory in Jeddah mentioned as the source of funds for his two son’s business but the said sons maintained that investment with Al-Thani family of Qatar was the source of funds for Hassan Nawaz Sharif business.
PM’s address to the National Assembly: New things with unmentioned details
In his address, the PM claimed his father reached Dubai for the purpose of business and established a factory with the name of Gulf Steel comprising of 10 lac square feet of area. This factory, he said, was sold for $9 million and established another factory in Jeddah which was again sold to buy flats in London.
However, the verdict notes legal complexities and casts doubt:
* Setting up and sale of a factory in Dubai mentioned for the first time.
* No reference made to any investment in Qatar.
* Clearly stated that no money for the factory in Jeddah or the flats in London went from Pakistan. However, it was not clearly stated that no money went from Pakistan for the factory in Dubai.
* The stance about “purchase” of the flats in London was not supported by his children and he produced nothing before the nation, the National Assembly or this Court to explain or justify the claimed purchase.
* In his address to the nation he stated that sale of the factory in Jeddah was the source of funds for his sons’ business but in this address he stated that proceeds of sale of the factory in Jeddah were used to purchase the flats in London.
Sharif’s evidence in the Supreme Court: A suspicious sudden and unprecedented denial
Nawaz Sharif submitted his statements before the apex court. In his statements, he outrightly denied the ownership of property in London, a previously unmentioned ‘fact’ while his clarifications for London flats.
The court notes:
* Never denied possession of the four properties in London.
* Never said that the said four properties belong to his children.
* Did not mention sale of the factory in Jeddah being the sources of funds for acquisition of the flats in London as mentioned in his speech in the National Assembly.
* No mention of the factory in Dubai, the factory in Jeddah or any investment in Qatar.
Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif contradicts children
Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif, first lady of Pakistan, while putting weight behind husband’s claims that the flats were indeed “purchased”, also contradicts the stance of her children.
The honourable court observes that:
* Children were studying in London in the 1990’s.
* Supported her husband’s stance that the flats in London had been “purchased”.
* Contradicted the stance of her children that the flats were acquired in 2006.
Mariam Nawaz Sharif retracts her claims to protect father? The court finds so!
In an interview aired on Geo News on November 8, 2011, Mariam said: “I do not have any property in Central London, in fact far from it, I do not own any property even in Pakistan. I live with my father. I fail to understand from where they have dug out properties belonging to me, my mother, my sister or my brothers.”
However, the court, while citing this interview, finds it inconsistent with her current stance. The court notes: ” In 2011 she denied that she or her siblings owned any property in London whereas her stance before this Court is that her brother Hussain Nawaz Sharif owns the relevant four properties in Central London since 2006 and she is a trustee of those properties for the said brother since 2006.”
Mariam makes new questionable claims
Salman Aslam Butt, the counsel for Sharif family, submitted a joint concise statement of the children of Nawaz Sharif including Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz.
It was contended that Maryam Nawaz was not and had never been the beneficial owner of any of the properties or the entities and she had never made any contribution/payment in relation to the consideration or expenses pertaining to the properties or the entities nor had derived any benefit therefrom.
The court was further informed that the entities were being managed under a trust arrangement for the sole benefit of respondent No. 7, Hussain Nawaz with Maryam Nawaz, respondent No. 6 being the trustee thereof.
However, the court found that the claims were new and unfounded. It said: “Did not mention that she was a trustee for respondent No. 7 in relation to Nielsen Enterprise Limited also.”
Mariam contradicts her own statements, gets grilled more by the court
Mariam had further informed the court that she came to know of the settlement in Qatar regarding the flats in London in 2005 when she was asked to become a trustee for her brother. By saying so, she, unwittingly, puts herself in trouble as she is on record to say that she never knew about the flats, even in 2011 she expressed obscurity.
The court points out two loopholes in the new ‘unfounded’ claims:
* That meant that she knew about acquisition of the flats in London by one of her brothers since 2005 but in her interview in 2011 she categorically denied knowledge of any property of his brothers or sister in London.
* She maintained that she had been asked to become a trustee for her brothers in respect of the flats in London in 2005 whereas the flats had statedly been transferred in favour of her brother in 2006. This established that the flats were already owned by the brother since before the so-called settlement of business in Qatar.
Hussain Nawaz Sharif: New contradictions and ‘stories’
In an Interview with journalist Hamid Mir on Capital Talk, Hussain Nawaz said: “The sale of the factory in Saudi Arabia fetched “us” a very good amount and that money was then “officially transferred” to Britain.”
He further said: “From that officially transferred money to Britain I had obtained three properties in London through “mortgage”. Those properties are still mortgaged and the mortgage amount is still being paid for them gradually. “We”, again said “I”, had “purchased” those properties in 2006.”
“All the assets were distributed in 2005 whereafter my father ceased to have any “legal” connection with his sons’ businesses but according to Shariah “everything belonging to me is his” and even I am owned by him.”
The court found new claims and ‘stories’ as unsubstantiated. The claims, the court maintained, lacked all neccessary proofs.
The honourable court points:
* No document produced to show that any amount was officially transferred from Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom after sale of the factory in Jeddah.
* No proof of any mortgage created for acquisition of the properties in London has been produced.
* The story about mortgage was a totally new story and completely contradictory to the other stories based upon purchase or settlement in Qatar.
* A document produced by respondent No. 1 before the Court showed that after the death of Mian Muhammad Sharif in 2004 his inheritance had been settled in 2009 with distribution of assets.
* Under Shariah respondent No. 7 was not an heir of his grandfather Mian Muhammad Sharif and, thus, he did not inherit anything from him in 2004. After the death of the grandfather in 2004 all his assets, including any investment in Qatar, automatically devolved upon his heirs including respondent No. 1. So, respondent No. 1 was one of the owners of the assets which were statedly transferred in favour of respondent No. 7 in 2006 and that is why respondent No. 7 might have said that “everything belonging to me is his”.
Claims of Sharif family completely destroyed, belied: Honourable court
In one of the interviews, Hussain contended that in 2005 he sold a factory in Saudi Arabia and proceeds of that factory were used to purchase these properties. “This is the source and there is nothing except this.”
“The factory that was installed in Saudi Arabia was sold in 2005 by us and a part of those proceeds was used to purchase the properties in London. The companies that were holding those properties were purchased.”
The court responds vehemently to this completely baseless claims. It says:
* The subsequent stand that the properties in London had been acquired through a settlement of an investment in Qatar stood completely destroyed.
* The subsequent statement of the gentleman from Qatar to the effect that bearer shares of the relevant companies were delivered to respondent No. 7 in exchange of settling approximately 8 million US Dollars from an investment in Qatar was completely belied.
A case of obvious and deliberate suppression of facts: Court
A Joint concise statement filed by children of premier Sharif which dates back to November 07, 2016, said: “Source of funds, resulting in vesting of beneficial ownership of the entities and, consequently the properties in Respondent No. 7, in January 2006, was the investment made by late Mian Muhammad Sharif, in the year 1980, from the sale proceeds of his steel business in Dubai.”
The court calls it a ‘deliberate suppression of facts’:
* The first statement of the gentleman from Qatar was dated November 05, 2016 but that was not mentioned in this concise statement filed two days later.
* A case of obvious and deliberate suppression of facts. Qatar was not even mentioned.
* The statement of the gentleman from Qatar dated November 05, 2016 mentioned the amount of investment but this concise statement did not.
* Did not mention setting up or sale of the factory in Jeddah which, according to respondent No. 7’s interviews, was the source of funds for purchase of the properties in London.
New story of PM’s children about Qatari involvement underwent a sea change, lacks proof: Court
Joint supplementary concise statement filed by respondents Sharif children of November 15, 2016 had said that the four flats in London had been purchased by Al-Thani family of Qatar through two offshore companies, the said family had allowed late Mian Muhammad Sharif and his family to use the said properties whilst bearing all the expenses relating to them including ground rent and service charges and ultimately in 2006 the account between Al-Thani family and Respondent No.7 was settled through which the properties were transferred to him by delivery of the bearer shares of the companies to a nominee of respondent No. 7.
The court refutes the claims and expresses shock over new change, the verdict says:
* The story jointly put forward by the children of respondent No. 1 underwent a sea change. Al-Thani family and investment in Qatar was introduced and permissive user of the properties in London was disclosed.
* Contradicted by respondent No. 8’s interview with BBC in 1999 according to which he was then a student living in these flats which had been taken on rent and the rent for the same was sent from Pakistan on a quarterly basis.
* Contradicted by both the parents of respondents No. 6, 7 and 8 who have consistently maintained that the said properties had been “purchased” or “bought”.
* No material produced to show who paid the utility bills and taxes, etc. relevant to the said properties before 2006.
Hassan Nawaz contradicts mother, gets contradicted by father and Qatari man
In an interview on Hard Talk, BBC London in November 1999, Hassan Nawaz categorically stated that he was a student with no earnings of his own, he did not own the relevant flats in London but he was living in the same on rent and the money for his living in those properties came from Pakistan on a quarterly basis.
However, the court notes extreme contradictions and inconsistencies with other family members, it says:
* Contradicted by his mother who had told Guardian newspaper of London that the said flats had been “bought” because the children were studying in London.
* Contradicted by his father who never talked about taking the relevant flats on rent.
* Contradicted by two statements of the gentleman from Qatar who maintained that permissive possession of the flats had been given to the family of Mian Muhammad Sharif with no charge.
The world’s best country? According to an annual ranking by the media company US News, it’s Switzerland. Given its high GDP per capita (11th best in the world, according to the IMF, at $60,787) and life expectancy (2nd overall, at 83.4 years), history of pacifism, and fantastic Alpine scenery, that’s hardly surprising.
Less expected is the country taking third spot: the UK. US News reckons Britain (which has the 28th best GDP per capita; 20th best life expectancy; a history of warfare; no Alpine scenery) is better than Germany, Japan, Sweden, Australia and Norway. What’s working in its favour? The rankings take into account nine categories: Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power and Quality of Life, but certain factors are more important. Citizenship (“cares about human rights, cares about the environment, gender equality, progressive, religious freedom, respects property rights, trustworthy, well-distributed political power”) contributes to 16.95 per cent of the overall ranking, for example, while for Heritage (“culturally accessible, has a rich history, has great food, many cultural attractions”) it’s just 3.17 per cent.
A total of 80 countries were considered; the top 50 is as follows:
Our ranking, of course, was based on the experience for the traveller, rather than quality of life for citizens.
Each year a handful of organisations – including PwC, Mercer and The Economist – also rate the world’s cities, according to “liveability”. They placed London, Melbourne and Vienna, respectively, at number one. Your favourite city? That would be Cape Town.
Canada and the U.S. are closely aligned when it comes to screening migrants.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans for “extreme vetting” of migrants may seem a stark contrast to Ottawa’s “openness” approach, but the two countries’ systems are more closely aligned than many people would like to believe.
Trump’s stance on immigrants and refugees cannot be more different from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s. That contradiction was on full display at their joint news conference at the White House after the two leaders’ recent first meeting in Washington.
“We cannot let the wrong people in and I won’t,” Trump told to reporters, vowing a program of “extreme vetting” for migrants. “It’s much more than toughness. It’s a stance of common sense.”
Trudeau added, “We continue to pursue our policies of openness towards immigration and refugees without compromising security.”
Despite the general impression that Canada has more tolerant and lax border security than its neighbour to the south, experts on both sides of the border say the countries have similar security screening processes to keep suspected terrorists and criminals out.
“We’ve had a very close partnership with Canada. Canadians are our trusted counterparts. Obviously there’s a tremendous amount of information-sharing between our intelligence and law enforcement services,” said John Sandweg, former acting general counsel to the Department of Homeland Security and former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I have never had a sense that there are any concerns about the quality of the Canadian screening. Certainly, there’s a sense in the U.S. that Canada is more open and welcoming than the U.S., but not in a way that compromised security or adopted lesser standards from the security perspective.”
In January, Trump created an international uproar when he signed the executive order to suspend America’s refugee program and immigration to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — out of terrorism concerns. The moves have been blocked by U.S. courts.
Sandweg said the U.S. already has a thorough screening system, especially for refugees, with multi-layered interviews, biographical information and biometrics matching, as well as multiple checks against databases and watchlists run by different intelligence and enforcement agencies.
The U.S. State Department, Homeland Security, National Security Directorate, National Counterterrorism Centre, FBI, Department of Defense, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are all involved in the process, which includes at least three interviews, three fingerprint screenings and three background checks.
“I have no idea how you can enhance the vetting system (more) than it already is. It is run against the entire U.S. holdings. It is not just looking for just name matches. It is also looking for links and association of friends and family members to addresses and telephone numbers, any sort of matches that might raise suspicion,” said Sandweg.
“The officers are exceptionally versed in the conflict areas, in the history and culture. They are very skilled in terms of ferreting out people’s stories. Things like barring someone from the country could sound appealing to the public but I don’t think it is a real improvement in any way.”
Peter Showler, former chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, pointed out that none of the 19 terrorists in the attacks on the U.S. on September 11 were refugees and none were from the seven countries included in Trump’s travel ban. In European terror attacks, including those in Paris and Brussels, most were either born or raised in Europe, and many were of Moroccan descent.
Showler said Republican politicians and media in the U.S. like to paint Canada as “the weak link” in the North America’s security parameters and blame Ottawa for lax border enforcement.
“It is all fear-mongering nonsense,” said Showler, who recently worked as a consultant in Beirut for the United Nations Refugee Agency. “In Europe, those involved in the attacks were second-, third-generation immigrants who were petty criminals, disengaged in the host country and converted to be terrorists. It is so much easier to find a scapegoat than to look at the real security issues. It is easy to dump on the refugees.”
Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman said the U.S. and Canada are much more aligned in their border enforcement since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on America.
Both countries have adopted similar measures, including the use of biometrics technology, to screen overseas travellers before they come to North America. In Canada, the global case management system has been in place for years to allow authorities to access migrants or visitors records for such things as criminality and personal details.
The U.S. and Canada systematically check the others’ visa and immigration databases for immigration and border related purposes, including visa and refugee resettlement applications, for third country nationals, said Immigration Canada spokesperson Nancy Caron.
In 2013, the bilateral information sharing based on a biographic match (name, date of birth and passport number) was implemented. The biometric-based information sharing began in 2015, which helps facilitate legitimate travellers and protect against identity fraud.
“The impression of us being lax in security is incorrect. Officials here know ahead of time if the person trying to come in ever had a deportation order or was a criminal,” Seligman said.
“Trump’s extreme vetting rhetoric is just for public consumption. It is not backed up by any substance. The hysteria is unjustified. Canada is doing a good job at vetting.”
How refugees get to Canada
Those destined for resettlement from camps overseas are first screened by the United Nations Refugee Agency, whose “refugee status determination” process includes detailed interviews, and biometric and anti-fraud measures such iris scanning. The registration data is then entered into a global system. War criminals are flagged.
The refugees are then triaged and about 1 per cent of them are selected for resettlement by countries like Canada and the U.S. The most vulnerable individuals such as women, children, the elderly and sick are given priority. The others will remain in their initial host country, with the expectation that they would be repatriated to their homeland when the circumstances change.
Canadian visa officers then interview the candidates, identify any inconsistencies in their stories, collect their biographical information and biometric data such as fingerprints and digital photos, and run their names through databases of the Canada Border Services Agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, RCMP and Interpol.
Upon arrival at the port of entry, the border agency again checks the identity of the new arrivals as the last gatekeeper. Enforcement officials retain the right to turn away travellers based on suspicions about their identity or documents.
Those refugees who make it to Canada on their own and then make inland asylum claims don’t have to go through the United Nations screening, but they must still undergo all the checks and clearances to be considered admissible to Canada before they are scheduled for an asylum hearing by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
How refugees get to the U.S.
The same screening by the United Nations Refugee Agency applies to refugees destined for resettlement from camps. Candidates referred to the U.S. are interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security, which looks for fraud and considers credibility. Officers also verify the refugee’s biographical information, take fingerprints, and gather details on the individual’s history, refugee experience and other information. The officers then decide if the person qualifies for refugee status under U.S. law.
Multiple, detailed security checks are carried out by the State Department and Homeland Security based on the refugee’s information, comparing biometrics, personal data, and the refugee’s application against U.S. government databases and terrorism watchlists from security, counterterrorism, military and intelligence agencies. The process includes three background checks and three fingerprint screenings.
Cases are then reviewed at U.S. immigration headquarters, while some are referred for additional assessment before final approvals by Homeland Security.
Refugees must go through a final security check before leaving for the U.S. and upon arrival at an American airport.
Asylum seekers inside the U.S. must file their asylum claims within one year of their arrival. They must go through extensive fingerprinting, background and security checks to determine eligibility before their cases are reviewed by asylum officers.
Source: Department of Homeland Security, State Department, Human Rights First
Through this program, the federal government — together with the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island — aim to welcome 2,000 newcomers and their families to the Atlantic region of Eastern Canada in 2017. Much of this region is sometimes referred to as ‘the Maritimes’.
In July, 2016, Canada’s Minister of Immigration met with the provincial premiers (heads of government) of the four Atlantic provinces. Together, they worked to establish a new immigration pilot program for the region. The federal and provincial government alike recognize that these provinces need more newcomers who can establish themselves in the labour market and local communities.The three-year pilot program has been established to help address resource gaps that sectors are facing, and to help businesses attract and retain global talent. The program will also support population growth, help to develop a skilled workforce, and increase employment rates in the region.The pilot program forms part of an overall Atlantic Growth Strategy that will focus on the following five priority areas:
skilled workforce and immigration;
clean growth and climate change;
trade and investment; and
According to the targets announced inCanada’s 2017 Immigration Plan, the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program will facilitate the entry of 2,000 principal immigrants into Atlantic Canada in 2017.
Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program: the next steps
All principal applicants arriving in Canada under the pilot program will have a job offer from a designated employer and an individualized settlement plan for themselves and their family.Starting in early March, 2017, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will begin accepting applications for permanent residence through this program.
How the pilot program works
This is an employer-driven program, with significant involvement from employers in the provinces.
Once a designated employer finds a candidate who meets their employment needs and the program criteria, that employer will need to first offer them a job.Employers do not need to go through the process of obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) under this program.
Once the candidate has accepted the job, the employer will connect the candidate with a designated settlement service provider organization for a needs assessment and to develop a settlement plan. Employers will also support the long-term integration of the new immigrant and his or her family, if applicable, so they can reach the goals of their settlement plan once they arrive in Canada.
Employers that need to fill a job vacancy quickly will have access to a temporary work permit, so that the candidate and his or her family can come to Canada as soon as possible. In order to obtain this work permit, candidates will need:
a valid job offer;
a letter from the province; and
a commitment to apply for permanent residence within 90 days of the temporary work permit application.
Employers that would like to hire skilled immigrants under the pilot program must apply to the province(s) in order to receive designation. Employers with locations in multiple provinces will require separate a designation for each province. Employers must meet certain requirements, including a commitment to support the newcomer and his or her family as they integrate into their new life in Atlantic Canada.
The work experience, education, and job offer required will depend on whether the individual is applying as a worker or as an international student graduate. The other requirements are the same for both.See the table below for a review of the requirements.
Atlantic Intermediate-Skilled Program (AISP)
Atlantic High-Skilled Program (AHSP)
Atlantic International Graduate Program (AIGP)
Job offer from a designated employer
NOC 0, A, B or C
NOC 0, A or B
NOC 0, A, B or C
Skilled work experience
One year in occupation related to job offer
Completion of at least high school
Educational Credential Assessment or Canadian credential is required
Two-year post-secondary diploma from a publicly funded learning institution in the Atlantic region
Level 4 of the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) in English or theNiveau de compétence linguistique Canadienin French
The government of Ontario has made a number of important announcements regarding its Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP), one of Canada’s Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). Through these programs, provinces may welcome newcomers who will be able to settle into life in the region and effectively contribute to the community. As Canada’s most populated province, Ontario continues to be a popular immigration destination.
On January 12, the provincial government stated the following on its website:
‘The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) has fulfilled its 2016 federal nomination allocation. The OINP will continue to process applications. Any additional nominations will go towards Ontario’s 2017 allocation. The OINP will continue to introduce online application systems in 2017 to make it easier for clients to apply and improve processing times.’
The move towards more online application systems is in line with the latest trends in Canadian immigration processing at the federal and provincial levels. The most well-known example of this move toward online processing is the federal Express Entry selection system. Indeed, the OINP includes two streams aligned with Express Entry: the Human Capital Priorities Stream (currently closed to new applications) and the French-Speaking Skilled Worker Stream (currently open to new applications).
In May, 2016, the OINP announced that is was placing a temporary pause on the intake of new applications under certain streams. The province stressed the temporary nature of this pause, and it is expected that streams will reopen or be launched in the near future.
The current status of OINP may be reviewed in the table below.
Canada’s spousal and common-law partner sponsorship immigration program has been responsible for reuniting many thousands of couples and families, and is one of the many progressive features of Canada’s immigration system that set it apart from other nations’ policies. However, the spousal sponsorship immigration program is monitored to detect what are known as “marriages of convenience.”
A marriage of convenience is defined as a relationship that is entered into primarily for the purposes of immigration, and therefore is not genuine. Visa officers have a number of tools at their disposal to detect marriage fraud, including document checklists, interviews, and home visits. Coupled with these measures, IRCC has recently released detailed application packages for individuals sponsoring a spouse or common-law partner. These application packages, introduced in December 2016, clarify the document requirements for applicants.
By the numbers
According to the latest data from IRCC, 2,288 applications for spousal sponsorship were refused in 2015 because the applicants were deemed to be in a marriage of convenience. This represents 6.1 percent of all permanent residence applications that were refused that year. Between 2013 and 2015, 119,838 permanent residence applications were refused, of which 5.1 percent were in the spousal sponsorship class. As of January 8, 2016, 778 applications were being investigated under suspicion of a marriage of convenience.
The data clearly demonstrates that the vast majority of applications to sponsor a spouse or partner are recognised as genuine. IRCC’s overview as of June 2016 showed an approval rate of 86 percent for applications submitted under spousal/common-law partner and dependent child sponsorship classes.
There are two grounds for refusal of an application for spousal or common-law partnership, centred around the definition of a genuine relationship. A visa officer may refuse an application on the grounds that the relationship was entered into for the purposes of immigration, or is not genuine — i.e., a marriage of convenience. A second grounds for refusal occurs if a person breaks off a genuine relationship in order to enter into another relationship for the purposes of immigration, and then resumes the former relationship in order to sponsor that spouse/common-law partner for permanent residence.
Proving a genuine relationship
Genuine couples may provide a wide range of documents and proofs of their relationship during the application process. Documents proving shared finances and shared property ownership or rental carry weight in an application, but a couple does not have to be living together at the time of submitting an application in order to prove a genuine relationship. Photographs, travel itineraries, insurance policies, wills, and further documents may all be considered in the processing of an application.
As the above brief overview of document requirements demonstrates, visa officers take a wide range of documents into account when assessing the genuineness of a relationship. If an officer is in doubt, he or she may request further documents. The applicants may also be called to interview — in which case, the spouses or partners are generally interviewed separately. Under the principle of procedural fairness, further documents or an interview are requested before a refusal may be issued, and the results of further documents or an interview may also result in a positive outcome for the applicants.