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Raj Sharma
Calgary Based Assisting Clients Throughout Canada and the World
King's Counsel, Managing Partner of SSH Law, author, "Inadmissibility and Remedies"
Recent Activity
I was asked to discuss the unprecedent suspension of visa services to Canadians on RedFM on September 22, 2023. Note: the suspension of visa services only applies to new or pending applications; it does not impact the rights of anyone that holds an OCI or valid visa to India. Stewart Sharma Harsanyi Immigration Lawyers · September 2023 RedFM Interview on suspension of visas for Canadians 2023 09 22 RedFM interview on visa suspension Continue reading
The following is a transcript of an interview on September 21, 2023. Michelle Elliot: [inaudible 00:00:00] visa services in Canada, is Raj Sharma. He's an immigration lawyer and former immigration officer, and Raj joins me now from Calgary. Hello, good afternoon. Raj Sharma: Good afternoon. Michelle Elliot: Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon. What do you make of this latest move from India? Raj Sharma: Well, whenever we deal with international disputes it's the ordinary people that find themselves caught in the crossfire. My thoughts right now are for my clients. My thoughts right now are for individuals like my parents that immigrated to Canada from India many, many years ago so that diaspora is stranded in Canada without that overseas citizenship of India. There is no more E visa, there is no more visa consular services for Canadians, ostensibly because of security concerns but they won't even issue a visa to a Canadian even if that application's made outside of Canada to a different consulate. So we've got people stranded in Canada, they can't rush back if there's any sort of family emergency. We've got a massive disruption that's going to happen In terms of tourism... Continue reading
Transcript of an interview on September 24, 2023: Deanna Sumanac-Johnson: As we mentioned, India announced it was stopping all visa services for Canadians. The move has led to concern and frustration among many Indians in Canada. For more on this angle, we're joined by immigration lawyer Raj Sharma. Thank you so much for making the time for us, Raj. Tell me, first of all, what do you make of India's decision to suspend visa services for Canadians? Raj Sharma: First of all, the announcement was out of the blue. No one expected it. Obviously, the Indians didn't telegraph this. They sort of ratcheted it up fairly quickly. So, firstly, they responded very strongly to the allegations of a potential link for the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar to Indian agents or Indian diplomats. This [announcement] came out of the blue, and so as you can imagine, it's resulted in a great deal of unease and uncertainty for Indo-Canadians. Now we have hundreds of thousands of Indo-Canadians. Of course, we have the 700,000 plus Sikhs from the Punjab, mainly from Punjab. We also have Indians from all over India. Indo-Canadians have maintained massive ties to [India], and [as one example] this... Continue reading
I went on Borderlines, the excellent immigration law podcast, to discuss the recent decision of Justice O'Reilly that will result in a third IAD hearing for Bhaona Mohamed, a frontline LTC healthcare worker that sought humanitarian relief to overcome a breach of the residency obligation. The transcript is below. Borderlines · #87 - Visa Officers and the IAD Ignoring or Disagreeing with Federal Court, with Raj Sharma Borderlines number 87 discussing Bhaona Mohamed Steven Meurrens: Hello and welcome to Borderlines. A podcast for the discussion of Canadian immigration law. I'm Steven Meurrens. In Episode 69 of this podcast, recorded about a year ago, Raj Sharma was our guest to discuss his case, Mohammed v. Canada Citizenship and Immigration 2022 FC1. There in setting aside the refusal of an immigration appeal division decision Justice Ahmed stated, "As a healthcare aide, the applicant risked her own health and safety to support health comprised and aging individuals. She is applying the very skills she acquired in Canada over a decade ago at a time when they're desperately needed while not knowing if she herself will be able to stay in Canada. To frame this commitment and these contributions as only a "moderately positive"... Continue reading
A couple of years ago we were retained by Gurinder Singh, an earnest and hard working father; he had with some difficulty navigated an economic pathway to PR and unfortunately by the time he did so, his daughters back in India “aged out”. The family sought to reunite by filing an (overseas) humanitarian and compassionate application. This was rejected and we then sought judicial review. The Court was alive to the arguments advanced but ultimately dismissed it in June 2022, finding the Visa Officer’s decision to be reasonable. **The Backstory** The story began in 2008 when Gurinder Singh moved to Canada as a temporary worker. He tried twice, in 2010 and 2012, to gain permanent residency through the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program [AINP]. Despite his efforts, both attempts were unsuccessful due to his educational credentials (or, his lack thereof). While he had retained immigration counsel, he was not advised prior to applying that he did not meet the eligibility requirements of the class. Singh had been working for decades outside India in an effort to better his family’s circumstances. Commendably, by 2015, he secured the additional education required. As a result, Singh tried once more. His persistence paid off and... Continue reading
I discussed the proposed cap on the numbers of international students with Rishi Nagar, News Director of RedFM on August 23, 2023. Stewart Sharma Harsanyi Immigration Lawyers · August 2023 RedFM Interview on Proposed Cap on Students The interview covered the recent volte face by the Federal Government; international students were so vital to the post-pandemic economy that the 20 hour limit to working was lifted but now they are deemed to contribute to the housing "crisis" in Canada. It also discusses my comments in the Toronto Star addressing ways to optimize the program rather than capping (but which may necessarily lead to less intake over time. 2023 08 23 RedFM international students cap Continue reading
Veteran Toronto Star reporter Nicholas Keung contacted me last week regarding a proposed "cap" on international students; the Federal Government has indicated that it may assess their intake given their (apparent) impact on the housing "crisis". My thoughts: Fraser’s remarks also marked a change from when he was overseeing Immigration and staunchly defended the Liberals’ record immigration levels and strategy to stimulate economic recovery through immigration. “I find this a little bit disingenuous,” said Calgary immigration lawyer Raj Sharma. “The minister who’s talking about capping international students is the same minister that eliminated the 20-hour limit of working in a week for the international students.” “It’s very odd for Mr. Fraser to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth.” While concentration of international students in particular urban hot spots has contributed to the rising rental costs and strained housing supplies in the GTA, the Lower Mainland in B.C. and parts of Alberta and the Maritimes, Sharma said the housing challenges predated the influx. International students have become such an integral part of the immigration system and the Canadian economy that it’s hard to just turn the tap on and off, he said. … “There’s a lot of stakeholders,... Continue reading
The following article was written by Sahj Dhillon, a summer student at Stewart Sharma Harsanyi Introduction When considering where to study as an international student there are numerous factors to consider including but not limited to livability, climate, safety, employment opportunities and a clear cut and reasonable path to citizenship upon completion of your studies. Canada offers a competitive package to international students that goes toe to toe with many other popular destinations for international students including Australia, The U.K and the United States. We will explore the various pros and cons of studying in Canada as an international student. Pros: High-Quality Education: Canada has always boasted an impressive array of universities and technical colleges. Canadian universities are globally recognized and offer a range of academic programs. Three universities in Canada placed in the top 100 of U.S News and World Report University Rankings[i] with the University of Toronto ranking 1st in Canada and 18th in the world, The University of British Columbia ranking 2nd in Canada and 35th in the world and McGill University ranking 3rd in Canada and 54th in the world. Canadian institutions provide students with a wide array of academic programs and are very open and... Continue reading
The following article is by Rayyan Asif, a summer student at Stewart Sharma Harsanyi. INTRODUCTION How should Canada treat foreign nationals who worked as front-line healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to immigration? Although statistics on foreign nurses in Canada during the pandemic are scarce, knowing that immigrants account for one in four of every healthcare sector worker and cautiously using data collected from the US which placed the number of foreign-educated healthcare professionals practicing during the early months of the pandemic at nearly 74,000, the impact of these foreign workers during the pandemic cannot be understated. Appreciating the sacrifices they made, Canada has not shied away from thanking these individuals, such as through permanent residency (PR) pathways for asylum claimants who were on the front lines of the pandemic. The treatment of these workers in terms of their immigration matters has continued to be a concern for the government and policy-makers. Now, in his recent decision on July 31, 2023, allowing the application for judicial review for Bhaona Mohammed v The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration,[1] the Honourable Justice O’Reilly, after a questionable back-and-forth with the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD), re-affirmed that individuals who served Canadian... Continue reading
Vic Satzewich wrote a book some time ago, Points of Entry, that lifted the curtain on overseas visa processing. While now somewhat dated, it provided great insight to those of us on the other side of that curtain. As lawyers we saw the outcome and to understand the process had to reverse engineer CAIPS/GCMS notes, decisions, and what our client’s told us what happened during their interviews with visa offices. That type of insight is invaluable; both Bjorn and I were Officers but with the IRB and IRCC in-land. Satzewich has continued to write in this area. In a more recent article, published in the Canadian Review of Sociology, he “examines the 33 year-long jurisdictional dispute between immigration lawyers and immigration consultants…” concluding, in part, that the legal profession were not able to kick the consultants out (my wording, not his) because lawyers did not speak with one voice at the 2017 Standing Committee hearings on this matter. Satzewich examined the testimony of the nine lawyers that appeared; on one side was Ravi Jain and Kathleen Terroux of the CBA on the other were “consultant friendly” lawyers including myself, Lorne Waldman and Richard Kurland. Jain advanced a “hard-line eradication” position... Continue reading
My brother, Ashwin Sharma (a well known and respected US immigration attorney), and I were interviewed by Rishi Nagar on RedFM to discuss Canada's new immigration initiatives, including the 'digital nomad' announcement and an interesting stream targeting those with H1B visas in the US. Ashwin is the H1B expert and provided valuable insight and context regarding the H1B program in the US. Further details are expected later in July and it will be very interesting to see whether Canada can cherry-pick highly skilled H1B holders in the US with the allure of a 3 year open work permit (along with status for spouses and children) and, one expects, a ready pathway to Permanent Residence in this country. 2023 09 28 redfm interview with ashwin on tech streams Stewart Sharma Harsanyi Immigration Lawyers · 2023 09 28 Redfm Interview On Tech Streams Raj Sharma and Ashwin Sharma Continue reading
The first time I appeared before the Federal Court was almost 20 years ago. Things have changed -in terms of filing procedures, remote hearings and jurisprudence from the Supreme Court with respect to deference and the reasonableness standard. Other things have not changed. One perennial issue is apparent divergence in the Court. That divergence is perhaps inevitable: one judge’s decisions do not bind another. One judge's threshold of “reasonableness” (invariably subjective despite the efforts of the Supreme Court) can vary from another's, and thus lead to different outcomes. Thus, two cases with similar facts might have different outcomes, understandably leading to confusion or frustration for clients. For example, prior to the amendment to the Citizenship Act, there was divergence in case law relating to the requirements for citizenship, such as the metaphysical test of where an individual's soul lies versus the strict physical presence test (“two feet on the ground” test). That divergence has now been put to rest with the strict physical presence now the black letter of the law. While this divergence was apparent on some select matters in the past, one can speculate that the Federal Court has become further divided due to the influx of new... Continue reading
I was interviewed by Calgary RedFM News Director Rishi Nagar on the Supreme Court decision on the Safe Third Country Agreement and the plight of Indian international students caught up in the fake admission letter scam. 2023 06 19 redfm interview stc and students Stewart Sharma Harsanyi Immigration Lawyers · 2023 06 19 Redfm Interview Stc And Students I've discussed this matter in the past (including with Kubeir Kamal); while the present outcome has turned out in favour of the students affected there will be a number of downstream consequences. There is also a very recent decision on this matter by the Federal Court: Singh v. MCI 2023 FC 747. Continue reading
There was welcome news and developments concerning Canada's troubling use of provincial jails to house foreign nationals including refugee claimants in Canada. Ontario has announced that it will stop allowing the Federal Government to use its jails for immigration detainees. It will take effect in a year, but it's a development long awaited by stakeholders. From the Toronto Star: Canada’s use of maximum-security provincial jails to hold immigration detainees — who are not charged with a crime or serving a sentence, but can be detained indefinitely — has for years drawn condemnation from human rights organizations, including the United Nations. ... It was the subject of a recent Toronto Star investigation, which found more than 80 per cent of immigration detainees held in Ontario’s jails last year were detained solely on the grounds they were “unlikely to appear” for their deportation, not because they were considered dangerous. In more than half of the five dozen cases reviewed by the Star, detainees had reported mental health issues, and they were often subject to punishing conditions, including frequent lockdowns and solitary confinement. The basis most utilized to justify detention was that the foreign national/person concerned was unlikely to appear or is a... Continue reading
About a decade ago, stakeholders noticed a marked increase in applications to cessate the status of those granted protection in Canada. The Canadian Council for Refugees discussed this at length in an article published in 2014.[1] CBSA had a quota to reach and thus began a modern era of enforcement against those that had succeeded in their refugee claims and had even obtained Permanent Residence status. It is true that refugee [protected person] status is a “transitory phenomenon” under the Convention and that there are “various situations in which refugee protection may come to an end”.[2] The Convention and our own IRPA allow for the cessation of such status triggered where there is evidence of re-availment to the state of origin/country of reference, by re-acquisition of its nationality or re-establishment.[3] This is one of the more complex areas of refugee practice. As Professor Hathaway notes: …difficult conceptual issues can … arise. For example, what types of action amount to formal “re-availment” … or re-acquisition of its citizenship? Is every return … tantamount to “re-establishment” there …[4] For years, such applications were triggered by return trips (as disclosed or determined at the POE, PR card renewal applications and other immigration applications,... Continue reading
Immigration lawyer Raj Sharma is interviewed by RedFM host Rishi Nagar during his Punjabi language morning show discussing the federal government strike impact on immigration processing and issues for international students and temporary residents. Stewart Sharma Harsanyi Immigration Lawyers · 2023 05 01 Redfm Interview Continue reading
I was interviewed on the CBC at Noon program with Judy Aldous -discussing the immigration issue of the day -the impact of the PSAC strike on immigration, citizenship and refugee processing. Stewart Sharma Harsanyi Immigration Lawyers · April 20 2023 CBC Interview Transcript Judy Aldous: …Raj Sharma is an immigration lawyer in Calgary and he is with us now on the phone -hello Raj yeah you shouldn't have been free right you had a client who was supposed to have a hearing this morning what happened? Raj Sharma: I had a case today, the hearing was to start at 11 the case itself was very compelling; my client was from Zimbabwe and was tortured in the past to the point that he lost the vision of his right eye and so we were expecting some finality and a positive decision. And yesterday we received an email that went out —that hearings and refugee hearings in particular were going to be affected by this strike Judy Aldous: What was your client's response to that and yours as well Raj Sharma: Well to some degree it is what it is there's not much that can be done. I mean refugees are already... Continue reading
Haghshenas v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2023 FC 464 Many Counsel were understandably intrigued and concerned with the government’s use of “Chinook”, by some early accounts, some kind of artificial intelligence tool used by IRCC in an effort to tackle ever growing overseas (TRV) file loads. In Haghshenas, the Court (Brown, J.) dismissed a challenge against a refusal to issue a visitor visa. As he did in Shahrukh Ali Khan 2023 FC 52, Justice Brown set out the [work permit] visa context (see paragraphs 13-16 of the decision). This case is notable because, in addition to the emphasis on the visa context and the minimal duties at play, the Court assessed the Applicant’s arguments impugning the legality of using Chinook which is in fact a Microsoft Excel-based tool developed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) designed to improve processing efficiency. Brown J. found no unreasonableness or procedural unfairness in using Chinook when making a negative decision on a TRV application. The Court felt comfortable that applicant was given an opportunity to present their case and the resulting decision was reasonable and procedurally fair. Justice Brown found that the use of the tool did not change the change the decision-making... Continue reading
Canada has seen a significant increase in the number of people issued permits to temporarily work and study. While intake is high, many will not be able to navigate the various immigration pathways to permanent residence status. A significant number of these individuals may not want to leave at the end of their authorized period of stay. There are already, perhaps (nobody really knows), about half a million individuals in Canada already "underground" or without status/undocumented. The number of those without status in Canada therefore will only grow. Some are calling to address the growing population of undocumented workers. I suppose this means that Canada provide permanent resident status to those who have already overstayed their authorized entries or whose official authorization is about to expire. There are some new programs that seek to accept those who are already in Canada and contribute to their communities, but the take-up and volume is low due to eligibility restrictions. There is the H&C or humanitarian and compassionate application but as (now CJ) Justice Wagner indicated in his minority opinion in Kanthasamy, this was not envisaged as a standalone immigration class (I respectfully disagree). An amnesty or waiver is not without precedent. In... Continue reading
I joined Kubeir to discuss the plight of Indian International Students facing removal because of the use of false documents in their applications. This follows my interview with Rishi Nagar of RedFM Calgary -this time, the discussion was in English. We also chatted about the huge number of individuals in Canada as temporary residents and recent developments with EE and Bill C19. It was a great chat and I'm looking forward to joining Kubeir in the future. Kubeir Kamal: Good morning, Bonjour. Welcome to the channel. My name is Kubeir for everybody who is Fasting Mubarak. I have with me today a very prominent immigration lawyer who is made a name for himself in, in several, several immigration related litigations in terms of admissibility hearings, mis misrepresentations, refugees. And today we are gonna pick his brain with regards to what's happening with these international students that we are hearing about who have presumably, presumably been given deportation orders because apparently the horse doesn't, hasn't heard about them. So let me first bring Raj Sharma on. Hi Raj, welcome to the channel. Raj Sharma: Thank you. Thank you for having me Kubeir. Kubeir Kamal: No, thank you for sparing the time.... Continue reading
As an immigration lawyer, I frequently come across cases that highlight the importance of due diligence in the immigration process. This morning, I was interviewed by Rishi Nagar of RedFM Calgary about the recent media articles regarding the deportation of hundreds of Indian international students. Raj Sharma Deportations_mixdown Stewart Sharma Harsanyi Immigration Lawyers · Deportation of 700 Indian Origin International Students It should be noted that the number used (700) is not independently verified. The students are facing deportation from Canada due to fake admission letters. These students used the services of overseas educational consultants or most likely “ghost consultants” to prepare the study permit package and supporting documents (proof of language proficiency, proof of admission to a recognized DLI, proof of finances/financial support). From what I’ve seen, the applicants pay an inordinate amount of money to the agent, around the 20 lakh figure. This figure is apparently inclusive of the tuition fees but it’s strange that the fees are not paid directly to the DLI. Those caught up all pay a massive amount of money to an unregistered individual and all proclaim their trust and (over) reliance on his services. Once here, they may flip to another DLI and... Continue reading
Maureen Silcoff, a former member of the IRB and past president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers has written a timely article that provides insight regarding Roxham Road. She writes that the increase in refugees arriving at Roxham Road, a crossing point between the US and Canada, has caused a stir in Canada. However, the rhetoric surrounding the issue is misplaced. Entering Canada through Roxham Road is not a guaranteed route to asylum, but rather the beginning of a rigorous process. Furthermore, Canada has a long history of protecting refugees who fear persecution based on religious or political beliefs or gender-based violence. The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) is at the heart of the issue, as it bars refugees from entering Canada through official ports of entry. Instead of calling for the STCA to be modernized, the government could use Article 6 of the agreement, which permits public policy exemptions to expand the categories of people who can enter through official ports of entry. Such exemptions could reduce pressure on Roxham Road, disperse people from coast to coast, and reduce entry through Quebec, allowing for settlement services across the country. Contrast Ms. Silcoff's article with recent news that Premier... Continue reading
Summary: Raj Sharma, a lawyer, explains that mandamus (an application to the federal court to compel IRCC to do something) is more of an art than a science. He says that the trigger for mandamus should be pulled when there is less discretion involved in the underlying application. He does not worry too much about stated processing times and looks at the type of the application, the needs of the client, and the circumstances. He suggests that mandamus can be a very helpful tool, but it may have to be done multiple times and it depends on the particular case. He also says that sometimes, it is better to wait a few months before filing mandamus. Steven Meurrens: When should someone file mandamus? In speaking with lawyers, I've heard everything from, not when people should, but what people's practice seems to be. If the processing time has exceeded stated processing by two x, if it's even a day over or even any time, what's the downside? Oh, and for those, a mandamus is an application to the federal court to compel IRCC to do something. In the visa context, it's usually to conclude processing. Raj Sharma: My philosophy is that... Continue reading
This Aljazeera article discusses the situation of Yemeni asylum seekers on South Korea's Jeju Island. More than 550 Yemeni nationals have arrived on the island since April 2018, seeking asylum and refugee status. Jeju Island offers visa-free arrival for various nationalities, including Yemen, to boost tourism. However, the arrival of the Yemenis sparked online outcry and protests, and the asylum seekers were termed "fake refugees" because they were mostly male, well-dressed, and had smartphones. While South Korea has signed on to international conventions regarding refugees, theory is far different than practice. South Korea took Yemen off the list of countries that were offered visa-free entry onto Jeju and announced plans to tighten the country's Refugee Act. Critics saw this move as supportive of the protesters' demands. The article also includes an interview with a Yemeni asylum seeker named Mohammad Salem, who talks about his journey from Yemen, his three years in Malaysia, and his feelings towards South Korea, Islamophobia, and discrimination. He had a good life in Yemen, working at Sanaa airport and having a small business. But the war left him in a bad shape, and he had to flee to Malaysia. He found a dishwashing job at a... Continue reading
Summary: Raj Sharma is discussing the difficulties in explaining the contradictions in Federal Court decisions. The decisions made by the Federal Court Judges can be inconsistent, and clients come to lawyers looking for certainty and strategies to win their case. However, the approach of various judges can be different, making it challenging to advise clients on their chances of winning. This is also a problem in explaining the discrepancies in approach between various Judges at the Federal Court. Federal Court practice is complex and even winning at the Court does not mean that the application will be ultimately granted. How do you explain Federal Court decisions that seem to contradict one another? It's not easy. Clients retain our services given our litigation experience and record. A decision is made to challenge an overseas TRV refusal. We know from the case law that Officers in this regard have greater margin or deference than other decisions. That being said, an Officer must act reasonably and fairly. Getting leave is not easy and while we do win more than our fair share at the Federal Court, it's not always easy explaining the discrepancy in approach between various Judges at the Federal Court. Here's... Continue reading