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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
More changes are coming to the Family Class, but it's hard to say whether they will be an improvement over the much derided lottery. I shared my thoughts with Licia Corbella of the Calgary Herald: ...on Monday, beleaguered Calgary Centre MP Kent Hehr announced locally the scrapping of the Liberals’ unpopular lottery system for the family class category of immigrants — made up mostly of parents, grandparents and siblings under the age of 22, hoping to reunite with their Canadian citizen family members. In essence, the feds have replaced one unpopular and unfair immigration system with another unfair immigration system. As Calgary immigration lawyer Raj Sharma describes it, “pick your poison.” The Harper government suspended the family class program for two years, restarting it in 2014 to deal with a backlog of more than 120,000 applications and then introduced a limit of 5,000 parents or grandparents starting in 2014. Hehr announced that now the government will accept 20,000 sponsorship applications next year, up from a cap of 17,000 introduced in July. Sharma is wary of the government throwing out bigger numbers to virtue signal prior to next year’s election. “If you can take 20,000 and process them in a reasonable... Continue reading
Happy to share my thoughts with CBC last week on the very troubling comments by US border authorities on the inadmissibility of Canadians involved in the cannabis industry. Expected to hit 7B in the first year, there may well be thousands or more Canadians that may be caught up in the projection of the US (failed) war on drugs. Pick your poison: decline to state and withdraw the application/entry (not suspicious at all); admit and face a potential (lifetime) ban; lie (this post does not constitute legal advice) -and pray they don't have (or your social media/phone/luggage doesn't contain) incriminating evidence/information to the contrary. Apparently such questions aren't going to be asked as a matter of course so the jury is still out... Will mere investors be caught in this apparent dragnet? Is this a tempest in a teacup or...? Continue reading
R Breakenridge: The asylum seekers debate isn't going away anytime soon. But more to it, I mean the problem itself isn't going away anytime soon. Reasonable people can disagree on how big a problem it is or whether it warrants the term crisis, but it's clearly a situation that we're not prepared to deal that, this is stretching our resources when it comes to processing people who are arriving in Canada and claiming asylum. We get people every year that step foot in Canada, claim asylum. We review their claim, and once the decisions made about whether that claim's legitimate, that person either gets to stay or they're ordered to leave. R Breakenridge: But because of the increase in the numbers of people who have been walking across from the US into Canada, primarily in Quebec, or at least that's where the bulk of it's been as of late, it seems as though maybe it's more than the system can handle. I guess we'll get around to all of these claims eventually, but what's the risk of letting the system build up a significant backlog? R Breakenridge: Story in The Globe and Mail today on some numbers around this. The... Continue reading
Adrienne Arsenault: War and persecution and poverty have put this planet on the move. As physically removed as Canada may be from some of that, this country cannot escape the reality of people trying to find refuge here. But who's coming, how they're being treated, is the sort of subject that sometimes draws far more heat than light here. It gets angry very fast. We'll be tackling the matter of migration, throughout the next few months. But who's fleeing, what are they running from? These are questions we need to answer. Tonight though, in The National Conversation, it is time to talk about one border in particular, Canada's. Pam Damoff: Is there a crisis in Canada, right now? Ralph Goodale: There is a challenge, but it is not a crisis. Adrienne Arsenault: With Canada's border, there is rhetoric and reality. Two years ago the RCMP arrested 2,400 people crossing the border irregularly. So far this year, it's more than 12,000. Border Guard: Are you sure that you want the beginning of your life in Canada to start with a [crosstalk 00:01:08]? Immigrants: Yeah. Definitely. Yes. Adrienne Arsenault: Some may think this is a matter of people sneaking in, but these... Continue reading
Adrienne A.: No, we won't be here that long, I promise you. You get a little bit of a break. Speaker 2: [inaudible 00:00:06] Adrienne A.: Yes it's on right now. Speaker 2: We're live. Adrienne A.: Excellent. Thanks, everybody, for stepping up and joining us. Maybe it's Periscope, maybe it's Facebook, maybe it's YouTube. I'm Adrienne Arsenault, one of the 37 hosts of The National. No, sorry, there are only four of us. We are having what we call a national conversation, and we're going to have a lot of them in the next little while, but this one's really important. Joining me is Avvy Go. Avvy works at the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. You deal every single day with people in need. Raj Sharma, thank you for joining us. Raj used to work at the Immigration Refugee Board of Canada, now an immigration lawyer in Calgary. You guys are on the front line of this. What is this? This is the big question. We are in an era now where people are on the move on this planet in extraordinary ways. There are all sorts of pressures that are pushing people to leave. Obviously you have... Continue reading
Danielle Smith: The bad and the ugly today. We are going to start off with [inaudible 00:00:02]. I think one of the things that we forget, especially with all the turmoil that the liberals have created around the issue of illegal migrants, irregular migrants, family reunification, refugees, fast-track program, that we actually have a pretty good immigration system. Remember, during the campaign, Donald, in the US, Donald Trump said, "Hey, we need a system that's more like Canada," because we do have ... We try to match our immigration system to be able to bring in the kind of individuals that our economy needs, that are going to be able to integrate well. There's a point system ... that we give more points for education and for factors that will allow for integration. So the immigration system is actually pretty darn good and worth emulating and worth celebrating except for when the liberals screw it up, which it appears that they did. I don't know how this one got off my radar. I should've known about it because I talk to Raj Sharma about it all the time. And maybe he mentioned it, and I didn't understand the full ramifications... Continue reading
Let's turn our attention to matters of international news. You heard over the weekend the kingdom of Saudi Arabia expelling Canada's ambassador and diplomats to that country and pulling back what turns out to be more than 15,000 students, Saudi students that are attending universities and colleges here in Canada, many of them benefiting from the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which covers tuition, flights and accommodations, a stipend for living expenses. A small portion of the students are actually Saudi doctors who are here in Canada training for specialization, this administered through the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Not a lot of people are talking about the fact that these doctors, who typically would return back to Saudi Arabia to practice, are actually working in Canadian hospitals, 15 of them serving about 20,000 Canadian patients. So some of these story lines will be significant. Some of them maybe not so much. Many people are arguing that Saudi Arabia's move actually really doesn't matter to Canada at all. We thought we'd hit this from a number of different angles and so in about 10 minutes' time, we're gonna talk to [Amir Adoran 00:01:19] from the University of Ottawa.... Continue reading
Canada welcomes millions of tourists per year. 2017 was a banner year with over 20 million trips of one or more nights. Many of these individuals and families are more than just tourists taking in Canada’s cultural and natural attractions. A significant number of those living here are born outside Canada, and many others are the children of immigrants. Many of those visiting Canada are coming to see family. Family members separated by thousands of miles and perhaps many years are all too often disappointed by a refusal to grant a visitor visa to a loved one. Even though one of the objectives of our immigration legislation (s.3(1)(g) – facilitating “the entry of visitors, students and temporary workers…”) is to facilitate family visits it’s not so straightforward. Family visits are a lot easier when the family member is from a country that is visa exempt. It gets a little trickier if their family member(s) is not so lucky to be born in those relatively richer countries. The problem is that the decision to grant visitor visa lies with immigration officers. All humans are walking flaws and all of us sometimes rely on stereotypes and all of us have inherent biases.... Continue reading
It was a pleasure to contribute to this interesting new vehicle seeking to increase knowledge and awareness of topical legal matters: Launched in January by students in Pro Bono Students Canada – Calgary (PBSC), the Hearsay Podcast bridges what students learn in the classroom to real-world situations that the general public can relate to. The first season of the podcast is hosted by third-year student Kaye Booth and second-year student Marcus Threndyle, and is produced by third-year student Lyndon Radchenka. You can listen to my discussion on immigration law and policy and the practice of immigration law. Kaye Booth: From Pro Bono Students Canada, the University of Calgary Faculty of Law, and CJSW 90.9, this is Hearsay. Marcus Threndyle: Welcome to the podcast. I'm Marcus Threndyle. Kaye Booth: And I'm Kaye Booth. So, before we get started today, this podcast is for educational purposes only. This is not to be taken as legal advice. Marcus Threndyle: That's right. We are here to offer education, not advice. Kaye Booth: So, should you need legal advice, please seek out a lawyer. We hear a lot about immigration in our media and from our Canadian politicians, as well as politicians to the south... Continue reading
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: ...talk 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." http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/new-data-casts-doubt-on-asylum-seeker-crisis-but-immigration-lawyer-disagrees 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