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Raj Sharma
Vancouver and Calgary
Raj Sharma, of Stewart Sharma Harsanyi, Barristers & Solicitors (one of Western Canada's largest immigration law firms) reviews developments in Canadian immigration law.
Recent Activity
There seems to be some controversy as to what to call those crossing the border into Canada. Tristin Hopper is an award winning reporter who has been writing on this saga for some months. He canvassed a number of viewpoints on this issue, including my own in his recent piece for the National Post. The spat speaks to an intractable political fight in Canada: Whether the approximately 50 people per day streaming into Canada over the U.S. border are “illegal” or “irregular” migrants. The Immigration and Refugee Board uses the term “irregular” when referring to the more than 23,000 refugee claimants who have walked into Canada since January 2017 without first passing through an official port of entry. The RCMP, meanwhile, prefers the neutral term “interceptions.” The official CBC language guide favours “illegal border crossers,” calling it “bureaucratic jargon” to use the term “irregular” favoured by Ottawa. Is this partisan politics or meaningless semantics? Is this a case that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"? My thoughts? Asylum seekers are not prosecuted if they cross the border in this fashion; however, should they fail the Crown certainly can take that action. If they succeed, they will... Continue reading
It was an interesting June. One of the more notable but unfortunate cases involved a family that has lived in Alberta for close to a decade. After coming to Canada, they made a refugee claim. They were assisted at that time by, I’m sure, a well meaning relative. They had a lawyer represent them for the hearing –through Legal Aid. Now there is nothing wrong with legal representation on this basis, however, the stark reality is that there have been serious cutbacks to the Legal Aid budget. Lawyers providing assistance on refugee hearings may get a budget of 8 or 10 hours at a reduced hourly rate. Bear in mind that this budgeted time includes attendance at the hearing. 8-10 hours may be enough time for a very straightforward claim and done by an experienced immigration lawyer and heard by an –ahem –reasonable Board Member – but may not be sufficient for many claims. Remember, a lawyer needs to to review the client documents, review and revise the narrative, prepare disclosure, do country condition research, obtain additional corroborative evidence or expert testimony, prepare the client(s) and then prepare for the hearing and attend at same. Something has to give (and... Continue reading
Bindu Suri: The debate over immigration policies in the US has some north of the border questioning if Canada is doing enough to address our own immigration concerns. Raj Sharma, an immigration lawyer here in Calgary, has been following this issue very closely, he joins us this morning. Thanks for coming in. Raj Sharma: My pleasure. Bindu Suri: This is an issue we've been talking about for weeks of course and although it's happening in the United States Canadian's are very familiar with it because of just listening to the stories, it really impacts you and there's a lot of debate on both sides. What you say is that what Canadians may not realize is that it may impact us more than we think because of a ripple effect. Can you explain that to us? Raj Sharma: For sure. What we're seeing right now and this is a phenomenon that started about 2014 so we're seeing the complete breakdown of states in Central America. We have Honduras and El Salvador with unbelievably dire situations, we have a homicide rate in these countries that's higher than countries that are experiencing civil war for example. The complete breakdown of the state or... Continue reading
Ryan Jespersen: on immigration, perhaps not in many years has talk and policy conversations and then the real life issues on immigration been so contentious, so emotional. We're gonna talk about kids in detention centers in the United States, we're gonna talk about kids in detention centers in Canada with our next guest, an immigration lawyer. But first, we want to key up this remarkable story involving the border separating Canada and the US. It's a border that we've been proud of, isn't it? Relatively speaking uncontrolled ... Relatively speaking, open border. The longest of its kind in the world. It's been shared by neighbors, but don't let that lead you to believe that you can cross wherever and whenever you like. That's what Cedella Roman figured out, the 19-year-old French citizen when she went jogging right around May long weekend. Victoria Day long weekend, visiting her mom who lives in North Delta, British Columbia. She was jogging by White Rock, beautiful coastline, obviously outside Vancouver. She was jogging in the evening, because, well it had been hot out, and she didn't want to run in the beating sun. She was running along the beach, and then she saw... Continue reading
Danielle Smith: This was maybe good timing on the part of the lawyer that was representing these five couples that adopted Japanese children, and then found that for no apparent reason, they weren't allowed to bring the kids back to Canada. You've got, it sounds like, in some of these cases one parent in Japan with their new adopted child while mom or dad is at home, and it's been going on for months now. What in the world is going on here? Well, it turns out finally, with the pressure on this, five British ... BC families are now going to be able to bring their Japanese-born kids home that they adopted in Japan, bring them back to Canada. The way this is described is the families found themselves ensnared in an immigration nightmare after the Canadian government refused to issue visas to their newly-adopted children, and the confusion over a directive from Japan to the United States on international adoptions. This sounds all so very confusing. When I'm confused by an immigration issue, I know who to call. I call Raj Sharma. He's a Calgary immigration lawyer. He's with Stewart Sharma Harsanyi immigration and criminal lawyers, [inaudible 00:01:08]... Continue reading
I was asked to share my thoughts on the detention of minors and family separation along the southern border of the US on Alberta@noon on June 20, 2018. … … Judy Aldous: Families crossing into the US illegally, sobbing children separated from the parents, put in detention centers, your reaction. This is Alberta at Noon. I'm Judy Aldous. It is perhaps this sound that has shocked the world. [inaudible 00:01:14] Children put in detention centers in Texas, crying for their parents. President Trump facing intense pressure from in and out of the country appears to be relenting. He has said he will sign an order today ending the practice. We're going to bring you up to date on what is happening and give you a chance to weigh in. Seven minutes after 12 o'clock on this Wednesday edition of the program. President Donald Trump has just this past, this morning said he does want to keep families together, but that the situation puts him in what he calls "a difficult position". Donald Trump: If you're weak, if you're weak, if some people would like you to be, if you're really, really pathetically weak, the country is going to be overrun... Continue reading
Last week, after signifying that changes were in the works at it for several months, significant changes were announced to the AINP. These changes essentially swept aside the "Employer Driven" and "Strategic Recruitment" streams replacing it with the Alberta Opportunity Stream (AOS). These changes to the AINP indicate a clear "Alberta first" attitude. If you fit the new cookie-cutter mold, you're in luck. If you don't, well... What are these ideal profiles? One profile comprises graduates of Alberta DLI (and that too certain programs and remember these programs/credentials are subject to change, so someone that takes a program now assuming that it gives him/her access to the AINP/AOS in the future will need to pray that by the time they are eligible the program has not found disfavour from the powers that be) and not graduates from other provinces; these PGWP holders moreover need to be working for their Alberta employers for 6 months and need to show that their work is related to their studies - something that causes me some concern as this allows significant discretion into the equation. It is the end, I imagine, of business administration grads applying for permanent residency as food service supervisors or... Continue reading
The new Alberta Opportunity Stream The AINP has been revamped. As with most policy changes, there are winners and losers. My preliminary thoughts: Minimum Requirements IELTS/CELPIP - proof of language proficiency is now required for all applicants (only a CLB of 4 for now). Education - all applicants will need minimum high school (for now, not necessary that it be equivalent to Alberta standards). Income requirements (modest). Losers Post-secondary graduates from other provinces (many have moved here in part because of the AINP). Their PGWP (open work permit) and work in Alberta won't give them access to the AINP; they should create an Express Entry profile and indicate province of settlement as Alberta (Alberta will now be able to select limited number from the Pool). Alberta graduates from programs that are not listed or those that can't show their work is related to their (qualifying) educational credential. Those with open work permits based on a spouse's work permit or studies seem to be in the same situation as international graduates from other provinces/non-qualifying credentials from Alberta. Winners Those here on IEC or "working holiday" open work permits (also intra-company transferees). 12 months of work in Alberta will allow most to... Continue reading
**The following was written by Faraz Bawa, one of the lawyers at Stewart Sharma Harsanyi; Faraz's practice includes family law and he has utilized annulments to assist his clients** Annulments are often misunderstood in addressing marital and immigration law problems. Instead of ending an existing marriage, annulments erase the existence of the underlying marriage. Many people confuse annulments and divorces as interchangeable methods of addressing marital breakdown. In countries following traditional Catholicism divorces remain very taboo. In the Philippines, for example, divorce is simply unavailable and one can only proceed with annulment. This is often expensive and time-consuming. People often do not consider that they can often obtain a divorce from Canada instead, even if their spouse is overseas. In contrast, in most other countries, divorce is far more common as a method of dissolving marriages. With the rise of globalization, immigrants from countries such as the Philippines often find themselves unsure how to address marital breakdowns. This uncertainty can often lead to often very serious legal complications in their immigration processes. Put simply, once you are married, you cannot marry someone else, at least in Canadian law. The first marriage must be dissolved first. One cannot simply annul their... Continue reading
Adrienne Pan: Yesterday on Edmonton AM, we heard about a group of international students who are suing their college. The group says they were told that going to Solomon College, a private career college in Edmonton, would help them get work permits after graduation, but that's not how the visa program works. To explain how it does work, we've reached Raj Sharma. He's an immigration lawyer and partner at Stewart Sharma Harsanyi. Good morning. Raj Sharma: Good morning. Adrienne Pan: So, what did these students think they were getting by going to Solomon College? Raj Sharma: Well, most international students that come to Canada hope to, of course, graduate, and at the end of graduation or completion of a program, studies in Canada, there's the holy grail, which is the post-graduate open work permit, and once they have that, most of them ... Or once they have qualifying work experience pursuant to that work permit, a lot of these international students have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence in Canada. Unfortunately, there's a lot of ... Let's say, ... Not enough signal and too much noise. A lot of heat and not enough light, and a lot of individuals... Continue reading
Danielle Smith: Yesterday, as I was on the air, I noticed with one eye, that you had a whole battery of Liberal Cabinet Ministers coming forward to show how tough they were getting on immigration. They showed Ahmed Hussen, who is the Immigration Minister, Marc Garneau came out as well, Transportation Minister. I'm not even sure quite what his angle is. But Ralph Goodale as well, Security Minister, tough talk, and we were playing the clip in the news. But I just thought, "Let me see what this is all about." … Now, I wanna hear from you whether or not you think this is enough. I want you to hear what Goodale has to say and then I want you to hear what Michelle Rempel, my gosh Michelle Rempel is doing some great work on this, isn't she? She's also going to be on Rob's show this afternoon. You'll be able to hear a bit more from her directly, but she is just pushing and pushing and pushing on this issue. So I want to play both of those and then we're going to talk to somebody that's really in the know, someone who actually has to deal with... Continue reading
R Breakenridge: … about the Safe Third Country Agreement, but it's not clear what it is we're trying to achieve here. Now, earlier in the week Conservative PM Michelle Rempel, had proposed the idea of making the agreement apply to the entire border, not just border crossings, something the federal government rejected. So today, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, saying that aim of changing the agreement would be stem the flow of asylum seekers that have been coming into Canada from the US. Goodale: It's a discussion that we are having with the Americans about the various techniques that could be pursued on both sides of the border to ensure security and integrity. R Breakenridge: So, we're talking to the Americans, but they're not formal talks necessarily? But at the same time it sounds like we are trying to enlist the help of the Americans to address this problem, but do the Americans have a vested interest in helping us resolve this problem? Because if these would-be asylum seekers are leaving the US and coming to Canada, well then they're no longer the American's problem are they? So what are the options that we have in attempting to deal... Continue reading
That was fast. I received a response to my request for the following records: "Whether visa officers in Delhi are provided with training/materials/reports/documents as to local (Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, etc.) cultural/religious traditions/customs in assessing the genuineness of spousal or common law sponsorships and if they are, details and copies of those training/materials/reports/documents." "Punjabi Culture and Wedding Ceremonies"--> Download Punjabi wedding traditions" Interesting: The concept of Honeymoon did not exist in rural Punjab. However, now many couples from rural Punjab go for outings just for our benefit and to click photos for our sake..." Continue reading
The difference between an academic and a practitioner. One gets predictions right more than the other; my thoughts in late summer of last year: That U of C analysis is badly underestimating the likely number of asylum-seekers Canada will handle this year because it doesn’t take into account this summer’s influx of Haitian nationals fearful of being sent back to their homeland by the Trump administration, said immigration lawyer Raj Sharma. “We’ll blow past that 36,000,” said Sharma, whose firm handles numerous asylum cases. Sharma was a refugee protection officer with the federal government in 2001 when the recent peak numbers were reached, partly due to Muslims fleeing a feared immigration crackdown following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, he said." Continue reading
Danielle Smith: You can't say that we don't actually have a handle on our borders at the same time as we respect the rule of law, and are ignoring the safe third country agreement. You can't. They're usually opposed. You've got to make a choice about what you're going to do. Are you going to stand for legal migration and following the rules? Or are you going to continue to allow this free for all? And I'm telling you, it's a free for all. Danielle Smith: Now, by Raj Sharma, who is an immigration lawyer in town who I talked to about a whole range of issues. There's a couple issues I want to talk to him about today. I just wanted to see whether or not anything has improved on the handling of those who are coming across the boarder illegally and he joins us now to talk about it. Danielle Smith: Raj, thanks so much for being with me. Raj Sharma: Thanks for having me on. Danielle Smith: I'm just going to put these numbers out there. Last March we had, coming across illegally, we had it looks like almost 900 people. This March, coming across illegally, it... Continue reading
Laws! We know what they are, and what they are worth! Spiderwebs for the rich and powerful, steel chains for the weak and poor, fishing nets in the hands of the government. -Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, 1851 The Federal Government euthanised their Investor Program a couple of years ago. To the responsible bean counter's surprise, they found that multi-millionaires that came under the program (avoiding the more rigorous requirements of the FSW like language proficiency and high educational achievement) remitted less taxes than those close to the new minimum wage and created little, if any economic benefit for Canadians. Quebec's Investor program however, is still going strong. For over 25 years, close to 60,000 individuals (mostly from China) have used the program and even la belle province knows that only 6,000 or so have stayed in Quebec. No downside, and all up-side for these wealthy individuals; no downside and only up-side for Quebec as it utilizes the 800,000 per investor deposited interest free; and only downside and no up-side for the RoC and particularly B.C. and Ontario, the provinces of (actual choice). Their wealth remains outside Canada, and not subject to Canadian taxation. There is no doubt and no gainsaying the fact... Continue reading
GCMS, Global Case Management Software Training Materials. Obtained via ATI request (2018). Download A201737971_2018-02-06_10-52-21 Continue reading
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away and know when to run. - Don Schlitz, The Gambler A certain (but incalculable) percentage of immigrants have committed misrepresentation to come to Canada. Misrepresentation, as with many aspects of life, is a spectrum, but broadly defined by immigration law. Whether its "white" lies, omission, or bald-faced deception, I've seen the various manifestations of misrepresentation on a daily basis. When a Permanent Resident is found out (or if the Officer is simply over-reaching), there is recourse; if in Canada, an Officer must decide whether or not to write a section 44 report (thus initiating the enforcement/removal process) and another Officer decides whether to refer the matter forward. If referred, the Immigration Division determines if the Minister has made out his case (that the report is "well-founded"). Certain allegations of misrepresentation are harder to establish than others (marriage fraud, for example, as it requires evidence as to state of mind or subjective intent at the time of landing in Canada). If the ID finds the PR has committed a misrepresentation, an exclusion order results. A Permanent Resident can appeal that exclusion order to... Continue reading
Sponsors and Applicants (the person being sponsored) under the FC1 or spouse or common law partner in Canada Class are sometimes called in for an interview. The call-in letter usually has a list of documents that the couple are to bring to the interview. I attended one such interview this morning; we had prepared a package of documents as to the couple's cohabitation, letters of support from individuals familiar with their relationship, and other corroborative documents. Officer "JPS" conducted the interview and as always, was professional and courteous. He started by explaining the process. These interviews can sometimes take several hours. Husband and wife (in this case) will be interviewed separately. Remember: there are two types of officers. The first type are facilitative in their approach; they will give applicants the benefit of the doubt and either understand or be cognizant of cultural considerations. The other type are enforcement minded officers. They are suspicious and cynical. They look for any opportunity (real or imagined) to impugn the applicant(s) and see their role (at best) to separate the good liars from the bad. My clients were lucky today. Interview questions will vary depending on the nature of the relationship. In this... Continue reading
Canadians have a right to marry (or enter into marriage-like relationships) whom they wish (subject to some basic, and common-sense, consanguinity, age, and species prohibitions). It's more straightforward when their partner is a Permanent Resident or Canadian Citizen. A Canadian, however, does not have an unfettered right to sponsor a partner that happens to be a foreign national to Canada. That decision requires the scrutiny of (sometimes overbearing immigration officers). If the sponsorship is refused, the Canadian sponsor has the right to appeal against the decision of the immigration officer to the Immigration Appeal Division. Trying to determine whether a relationship is genuine is actually more difficult than it may, at first blush, appear (one confounding variable is that there are in fact non-genuine marriages in the mix). It is true that there are many ways to skin a cat. The basic premise is the same: to separate the wheat from the chaff. However, far too often, a sponsorship appeal becomes a forensic exercise. Emotional relationships, the decision to marry do not lend themselves well to such artificial and ex post facto autopsies. The Federal Court has cautioned that too much reliance should not be "placed on minutiae and marginalities..."... Continue reading
Canada (and all countries) have certain objectives with respect to immigration policy. Canada is lucky; many seek to immigrate here (as opposed to countries like North Korea, where many would seek to emigrate). Immigration works best when the objectives of the host country and the immigrant align, converge. Canada needs skilled individuals, proficient in English and/or French, that can contribute economically (and culturally). Most applicants under the economic class meet that criteria; despite some continuing challenges in underemployment they come to live in an advanced, open market, inclusive, and democratic country, truly one of the best countries in the world. Other objectives include providing refuge to asylum seekers and facilitating family reunification. Other immigrants have a different goal and interests anathema to the public good. They see Canada as providing them with safe harbour (should they ever need it). They see Canada as a country where they can access subsidized and excellent education for their children, health care, and a place to stash their significant funds in "land banks". They see the residency obligation and needing to remain in Canada to fulfill that criteria as "immigration jail". Canada to them is more of a hotel, a place to stay and... Continue reading
The Trump Administration has ended TPS for the 200,000 plus individuals from El Salvador. Will they come to Canada and follow in the footsteps of the thousands of Haitians that crossed the border last year? My interview with Danielle Smith this morning: Danielle Smith: Let's talk about another influence that the U.S. might have on us with this decision for them to essentially ... Let me read some of the background on this because we've seen it once before with the decisions regarding Haitians. In the U.S. they have this temporary status, temporary protected status that when something occurs that causes the displacement of people to the United States, then they have a grace period for a period of time until they're expected to return home. Traditionally what has been happening is that these grace periods have just continued to get extended, and extended, and extended. Well on Monday the Trump administration ended a major immigration program for El Salvadorians leaving nearly 200,000 people in legal limbo. Now what I find really interesting when I read these is the stories that say oh well it was related to a ... Most of the people who came from El Salvador came... Continue reading
Another year is behind us; a New Year is on the horizon. This last year has been a significant one in terms of immigration developments, policy, and legislative enactments/changes. These immigration developments took place under the shadow cast by the Trump presidency. Perhaps Pierre Elliott Trudeau said it best in his Washington Press Club speech made on March 25, 1969, almost a half century ago: "Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt ... " Almost 50 years ago, but little has changed. The year started off with the Trump "Muslim ban" and I found myself in a flurry of media interviews given that the hastily rolled out and poorly implemented ban (with no notice to Canada, one of the United States’ largest trading partner). Initially it seemed to apply to Canadian dual nationals. Mere hours later it didn't and our own officials including our Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ahmed Hussen himself, a "hyphenated Canadian" (having been born in Somalia) had to scramble to make sense of it all. My thoughts... Continue reading
Dear international students. I have a great deal of sympathy and concern for you. You are trying to navigate a new country, studying in your second or third language, away from friends, family and familiar surroundings. You are paying exorbitant fees and your families have likely sacrificed to send you here. So, it breaks my heart whenever a student comes to me after a refusal and potential loss of the opportunity to obtain Permanent Residence status here. By the time you come to me, options may be limited. Some advice from someone older and wiser (me). Do your research; don't rely on the questionable advice or the stated experience of others. Be careful when doing things on your own and get assistance when needed. Have a backup plan. Plan all the way to the end. Good luck! Continue reading
It's been an absolute deluge of immigration developments from our huge, rich neighbour to the south. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt. Être votre voisin, c'est comme dormir avec un éléphant; quelque douce et placide que soit la bête, on subit chacun de ses mouvements et de ses grognements. P.E. Trudeau Addressing the Press Club in Washington, D.C. (25 March 1969) My throat is hoarse from the number of interviews I've done on the repercussions of the Trump Presidency on Canada's immigration policies. In this case, a prominent Albertan (of Iranian descent) biomedical engineer was denied entry in the US earlier this month. The rollout of this "Muslim ban" has been beset by incompetence and an underlying hostility to the adherents of one religion (and thus is subject to challenge). Transcript: Parsin Hajireza: We planned to go through San Francisco with five others, my colleagues, my research team. At the airport, unfortunately, they didn't let me to pass through. Shallima Maharaj: Plans that had been the works for months so... Continue reading