Canadian immigration: fewer offices, longer processing times.

By Author: admin | September 22, 2012

The Processing time for in-Canada marriage cases that are deemed to be slightly unusual is at least three years.  Part of this is due to the curious transnational nature of in-Canada immigration processing.  An in Canada marriage case for somebody from Toronto would be sent initially to Vegerville. Alberta, and 10 months later, the case would be sent to Vancouver, to languish for an additional 20 months or so. This delay is effectively a shutting down of the in-Canada spousal category for those applicants whose applications may be marred by something slightly unusual, such as a previous marriage for either the applicant or sponsor, or a previous refugee claim by the applicant.  These applicants technically cannot leave Canada while there application is pending, or else that application shall be refused.  This means that those applicants have no access to healthcare, and may not be able to legally work in Canada.

Similarly, permanent resident card applications are divided into two processing streams: one which is straightforward (primarily those applicants whose applications clearly showed they were in Canada for at least 730 days before applying), and others who have opted to assert their compliance with the two-year residency requirement  with proof of employment abroad by a Canadian business.  This letter category of applicant typically submits proof of the Canadian business and its activities. Such proof has to be examined in more detail by an immigration officer to prove that the business is legitimate.  The current processing time for this latter, more complex type of permanent resident card renewal application, is in the area of 20 months.  This inevitably means that persons in this category will likely be in possession of an expired permanent resident card, and can only enter Canada if they apply at a Canadian Embassy for travel document to re-enter Canada.

The issuance of a travel document the Canadian Embassy provides an opportunity for a Canadian visa officer to take away the status of the permanent resident whose permanent resident card has expired. On the bright side, the visa office will offer a right of appeal to that permanent resident whose card was not renewed in a timely way.  Thus, the slowness of processing permanent resident card renewals in Canada, leads to more work for visa offices outside of Canada, (i.e the work of generally refusing a travel document to permanent residents whose cards have expired).

That visa office refusal will lead to an increase of work at The Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration Refugee Board, the court that deals with permanent residents who failed to demonstrate that they accumulated the minimum 730 days of residency in Canada.

This is no doubt a consequence of the June 1, 2012 closure of 19 Canada Immigration offices across the country (i.e. in  Nanaimo, Victoria, Prince George, Kelowna, Lethbridge, Regina, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Barrie, Oshawa, Kingston, Sault St. Marie, Gatineau, Trois Rivieres, Sherbrooke, Québec, Saint John, Moncton, and Charlottetown).  Similarly, five visa offices were closed (i.e. Berlin, Dhaka, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Belgrade).

The pattern that persons seeking a Canadian visa have to identify is the fact that there are effectively two streams for almost every category: the simple stream where cases can be processed quickly, and the complex stream which is characterized by significant delays.  Make sure you consult a lawyer to help ensure your case is a simpler one to process.

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Canada: A mecca for the Sex Trade?

By Author: admin | September 13, 2012

A client of mine is a pastor on a work permit in Canada. He arranged for his 40-something year old wife to enter Canada on a work permit as well. She obtained the work permit. It was an open work permit. Open work permits state, “any employer” under the section which names an employer (in contrast to other work permits which allow a worker to work only for one specifically-named employer). However there was an additional condition on that work permit that perplexed her. It stated:

“Not valid for employment in businesses related to the sex trade such as strip clubs, massage parlours or escort services;”

This apparently is a new standard condition on many open work permits, as enunciated by Canada’s Immigration Minister.

I’m not sure why the Minister needs to explicitly state that work permits do not permit one to work in the sex trade. I don’t recall Canada being a cesspool of sexual exploitation. I’ve never had a client who received an open work permit without such a condition and ask me “Can I work in the sex trade with this work permit?” Is the inclusion of this term some kind of government paternalism that often riles libertarians who believe that individuals have the good judgement to know better? I don’t think members of the public who receive services from sex trade workers are wont to verify that the purveyors have authorization to work in Canada. Queue a prurient joke about strippers accepting credit cards for “consulting work.”

What is also odd is that by explicitly singling out one sector of the economy (i.e. the sex trade), the inclusion of this clause on work visas may cause some people to think along the lines of “unless it is explicitly prohibited on my work permit, I guess I can do it”. By this reasoning, one may erroneously think, “I guess my open work permit allows me to work for a drug dealer since it doesn’t exclude this type of employer.”

This added layer of complexity can only increase processing times for work permits, due to the fact that officers must determine if “there are reasonable grounds to suspect a risk of sexual exploitation for some workers”. As a consequence, officers will have to use their discretion. This requirement to exercise discretion shall delay the processing of some work permits, and thus make Canada’s immigration system less responsive to Canada’s economic needs.

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Proposed regulations respecting Canada’s federal skilled worker program

By Author: admin | August 29, 2012

On August 17 2012, Canada’s immigration Department announced proposed changes to the federal skilled worker program.  The department intends to give effect to these changes in January 2013. The intention is to tweak some aspects such as mandatory higher language ability (including the allowance of higher English scores for applicants who have a spouse with high levels of English), and give demonstrated evidence of transferability of education to the Canadian workforce (through a mandatory assessment of foreign credentials).

The ongoing dearth of local, native Canadians taking up skilled trades’ jobs is intended to be remedied by the introduction of a new class for skilled trades persons (the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC)). Presumably, the required level of proficiency in English or French would be lower, in keeping with the day-to-day language requirements for these types of jobs.

The faster transition of Canada Experience Class applicants to landed immigrants (specifically, those who are under the Foreign Worker Stream, as opposed to the Postgraduate Stream) is apparent in the proposal to reduce the amount of months required of Canadian employment (from 24 to 12 in a three-year period) prior to applying for permanent resident status under the CEC.  This was an admission that the Canada experience class is being underutilized, which is likely the motivation for the reduction in the amount of work experience required before applying under the Canada Experience Class.

There is an intention to streamline the process for “Arranged Employment” (one of the factors under the current skilled system which is on hiatus) and reduce the widespread fraud that characterized the issuance of such job offers.  Further scrutiny to address the previous fraud would be in the form of Service Canada requiring proof of advertising prior to approving a job offer for foreign national.  It is difficult to see how this additional step could be characterized as a streamlining of the immigration system, given the notoriously horrible reputation Service Canada enjoys amongst Canada’s employers and the immigration lawyers who serve them.

Similarly, the intention to add a “designated organization” to which federal skilled worker applicants must submit their foreign credentials for assessment, cannot be said to constitute a streamlining of the system.

A thorough reading of the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement reveals that the real intention for faster processing of immigration cases is only apparent if it would be of benefit to Canadian employers.  Laypersons who read the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement will likely be fooled by the promise of faster processing of immigration applications.  There are no specific measures for expediting cases of skilled worker applicants without a job offer. The proposed changes in fact are only faster if there is a putative Canadian employer advocating on behalf of the foreign worker, and not for the regular skilled worker system which will come into play in January 2013.   The premise behind having faster processing is presumably to make Canada’s businesses more competitive in the global economy.

It is likely that the processing times for the new federal skilled worker system (i.e., for those applicants who do not have a job offer) shall be slow, which is synonymous to giving such candidates a lower priority within Canada’s immigration system.  Similarly, as time passes and applicants languish in the system, it is inevitable that the Canadian economy will change, and that their skills which were formerly in demand when they filed their case with Canada immigration would no longer be to Canada’s economic benefit. In such a situation, it is easy to predict that the Minister would retroactively change the law, and simply close the files of such applicants, and providing a refund for such applications, which had been filed.

Applicants can’t simply wake up and decide to live in Canada. Numerous steps have been imposed by Canada’s immigration bureaucracy, such as the taking of an English or French-language test, and obtaining of police clearances, medical checks, education documents, previous job letter references and increasingly, possessing a Canadian job offer – in other words, the obtaining of documents/evidence from third parties.    This blizzard of documentation, ostensibly designed to make life for visa officers easier, ends up adding even more processing time to a case, since an application cannot be lodged without first taking steps to get the aforementioned documentation.  The failure to do can result in further delays and sometimes disqualification from the system (when the system changes).   Serious applicants for immigration would be wise to hire a professional in such a rapidly changing legal environment.


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Are All Gang Members in Toronto Immigrants?

By Author: admin | July 20, 2012

Toronto’s mayor seems to think so.  Following the shooting last Sunday July 15 2012 in Scarborough, Mayor Rob Ford on Thursday expressed a wish that gang members be prohibited from returning to Toronto upon their release. It is not yet known what, if any, policy measures Mayor Ford was referring to. At the same conference he expressed in own troubling ignorance as to the “immigration laws” and revealed that he was going to sit down with Prime Minister to find out what could be done.

Implicitly, the Mayor conflated gang members with ethnic minorities and ethnic minorities with immigrants. While there is no doubt a measure of correlation in gang membership, even base cursory analysis reveals the groups referred to are themselves, heterogeneous. Specifically, the Mayor evidently fails to understand that not all gang members have dark skin, and not all ethnic minorities are immigrants.

If the Mayor’s statements were the isolated rhetorical inventions, they would be easy to dismiss. Unfortunately, Rob Ford’s statements are only the latest in a series of comments by those who have made  ignorance a profession.

The Mayor subsequently attempted to take a step back from his candid statements in light of the fact that in the case of gang members who are Canadian citizens, no level of government has the power to do what Mr. Ford proposed.

Specifically, Mayor Ford backtracked on his proposal by stating, “I don’t think the other half of my statement came out quite clearly. It has nothing to do particularly with immigration or where you come from, which I think John was trying to say, all I want to do is get information, which I’m not an expert on…”

The tendency for politicians to be lauded by right wing media as a ‘straight-shooter(s)’ when they profess not to be an expert is troubling.  Such plaudits relieve a politician of accountability for their statements, and competency in their office.  In the case of Mayor Ford, the resultant racial discourse has the effect of polarizing Canada’s communities along race lines, to the detriment of Toronto’s liveability.

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Bill C-31: Reaching too Far, or Fair for Canada and Refugees

By Author: admin | July 14, 2012

Bill C-31: Reaching too Far, or Fair for Canada and Refugees?

Billc-31, having been granted royal assent on June 28th  2012, is now enacted. The controversial bill was sponsored by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney. This has polarized people in the immigration field and citizens alike. The dissension has transcended political party disputes. It has also been disapproved of by international organizations such as: Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The following changes are in effect by passage of the bill:

  • the immigration minister would have the power to choose which countries are safe without a committee including human rights experts
  • rejected refugee claimants from countries on the safe country list would no longer be able to appeal the decision to the Immigration and Refugee Board
  • claimants from countries on the safe country list would have to wait a year before applying for compassionate and humanitarian considerations to become permanent residents, and could be deported in the meanwhile
  • claimants from countries on the safe country list would be able ask for a judicial review by the Federal Court, but could be deported before the court makes a decision
  • biometric identification would be implemented for people that apply for visas to visit Canada
  • If one has a refugee claim pending before the Refugee Protection Division or less than 12 months have passed since an application for refugee protection was rejected, abandoned or withdrawn after the hearing started, one is no longer eligible to make a Humanitarian and Compassionate Application to remain in Canada. Exceptions may be considered for situations where providing adequate medical care or the best interests of a child are factors.
  • Awards powers to Immigration Officers to arrest and detain suspected foreign nationals and permanent residents even if the alleged crimes transpired abroad many years ago.

The Minister, Jason Kenney, defended his bill by stating it would address serious concerns facing our nation’s refugee system. Kenney: “To be blunt, Canada’s refugee system is broken. Too many tax dollars are spent on bogus refugees.” In particular, the government wants to limit the number of claims originating from the European Union.

The CIC states that 95 per cent of E.U. applications were withdrawn, rejected or abandoned and cost Canadian taxpayers $170 million.  The 95 per cent figure is in dispute by refugee advocates.  The Minister plans to begin implementing a biometric system in 2013. It would begin with citizens of countries that are deemed to be “dangerous.” Other planned changes will likely occur in the autumn of 2012. There are many who say these changes go too far and that recent changes were never given an opportunity to work.

Those opposed to these change state it grants the Minister too much authority and is too harsh on applicants.  ‘It’s a serious step backward,” said NDP critic Don Davies. “This minister didn’t even implement Bill C-11.” (which was enacted less than two years prior to C-31 being granted royal assent). “How he can say the system doesn’t work when he didn’t give it a chance is beyond me.”

For those that disagree with the new laws, and there are many, it is now officially on the books. Follow the results and see what the results are for yourself. For more information on this subject and any other questions you may have, you can call Max Chaudhary on 416 447 6118 or email him at

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CIC Issues Summer Freezes to Applications

By Author: admin | July 9, 2012

For anyone interested in immigrating to Canada or for those who are curious to know what is happening with our immigration policies, there is some very important news to report. The Canadian government has released information detailing some important policy changes. These changes began as of July 1, 2012 and are in force now.

The Ministerial Instructions from the DEPARTMENT OF CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION (CIC) are to temporarily refuse to process new applications from certain application areas. This will have a profound influence on immigration for the foreseeable future. The areas most heavily impacted by these new instructions are applications from the: Economic Class.

Within the Economic Class there is a temporary pause on the 1)Federal Skilled Worker class- excluding those applications for the PhD eligibility stream and those with a qualifying offer of arranged employment- 2) Federal Immigrant Investor Class, 3) Federal Entrepreneur Class. Regarding the Federal Skilled Worker class, complete applications for the PhD eligibility stream, will continue to be put into processing until the annual cap of 1 000 is reached. Applicants in the Federal Skilled Worker and Federal Immigrant Investor Classes whose applications are received on or after July 1, 2012, and which do not meet the criteria described above, shall be informed that their application does not qualify for processing and their processing fee.

What about the people who had already applied before July 1? The Instructions do not apply to applications already received before the first of July, 2012, those shall be considered for processing and are not impacted by these changes. The Instructions do not apply to refugees or protected persons or persons making a request on Humanitarian or Compassionate grounds from within Canada. However, any requests made on the basis of Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds from outside Canada that accompany any permanent resident application affected by Ministerial Instructions- but not identified for processing under the Instructions- will not be processed.

What about Family Class applications? These new instructions do not relate to the Family Class applications. There will be no new freeze on applications for this category. However, the Instructions, from November 5, 2011, that froze new sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents remain in place.

Who does this not affect? One important group is the international students. In 2011, there were over 98,000 international students. They fall into the category of Temporary Resident applications which were not impacted. All complete applications for temporary residence, including Temporary Foreign Workers, Foreign Students and Visitors shall continue to be placed into processing immediately upon receipt. Unless specifically mentioned in these new Instructions, all other categories shall continue to be processed in the usual manner. The CIC expects that application intake will resume in January of 2013.

Does this seem complicated? For much more information on this subject and any other questions you may have, you can call Max Chaudhary on 416 447 6118 or email him at

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Immigration is Destroying Canada?

By Author: admin | May 8, 2012

The Globe and Mail recently published an article that advocated an increase in the amount of immigrants to Canada. As a Toronto immigration lawyer, I find the online comments section of such articles strangely compelling. The vast majority of the comments were anti-immigrant, some parochially and even racially so. One compelling example included a post which contained a link to an RCMP most wanted list – a list with pictures, the majority of whom were visible minorities. Such an assertion cannot be reconciled with the steady reduction of crime in Canada since the 70s despite the opening up of immigration to Canada during that period.

The article is no doubt portraying a positive view of immigration to Canada, focusing on the success of Steinbach, Manitoba, a small town, in integrating immigrants. This has resulted in the growth of the town. Astute commenters pointed out that the majority of immigrants don’t settle in small towns but rather, in Canada’s three or four largest cities (which drives up real estate values and strains infrastructure in those aforementioned cities).

There were also highly praised comments which were from self-confessed old codgers, who bemoaned the older, central neighbourhoods in Vancouver which have been apparently overrun by hoards of Asian people with large amounts of money.

The appeal to environmental degradation was cited (i.e. that more resources shall be polluted and farmland shall be paved over with subdivisions); this is a logical argument given that the current immigration and Refugee Protection Act (at section 3) is utterly silent on safeguarding the environment. However, given the dearth of investment and research into green jobs economic growth shall inevitably be tied to environmental degradation for the near future. Canadians state that they care about the environment, but behaviour suggests that care only insofar as it does not negatively impact their living standards. Perhaps pro-environmental advocates can push for a change to Canada’s immigration laws. I wish them the best of luck.

Another logical argument for reducing immigration was the assertion that there should be more encouragement for Canada’s youth to take up the skilled blue collar jobs that pay a decent wage, and a corresponding discouragement for certain children to enter university (which would theoretically reduce the need to import foreign plumbers and electricians). This is something that cannot be legislated, and moreover, this won’t address the fact Canadians do not want to work in low skilled jobs such as a Tim Horton’s in Alberta. I have seen firsthand the efforts by Tim Horton’s franchisees in Alberta who offer a higher wage resulting in little or no response from the Canadian-born labour market; the reason? – Local Canadians don’t want to work the night shift.

The fact that 2nd generation immigrants are as a group successfully integrated into Canadian society was ignored, due in part because such good news does not make for selling newspapers. Such good news is only apparent if one looks at specialized literature from academics such as Arthur Sweetman. News media compete for your attention by highlighting the dramatic problems of life like murder and sex and terrorism: if it bleeds, it leads. Thus, those without the life experience of meeting and interacting with different peoples, those only acquainted with minorities through a mug-shot on a police website come to caricatures and generalizations about minorities.

The more reasonable position taken on the online comments section was to reduce economic immigration during an economic downturn. This may make sense.

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Canada Experience Class – Proposed Change To Ease Visa Issuance

By Author: admin | April 19, 2012

The CEC is a program premised on the fact that people with Canadian work experience are more likely to integrate into Canada’s work force than those under the federal skilled worker program (which consists of foreign nationals whose experience is acquired from places outside of Canada). The current rule under the CEC is that foreigners who hold a work permit for two years and work in Canada can apply for permanent residency. The Immigration Minister proposes to reduce the number of required years of work from two to one. This may be a concession to highly skilled foreign nationals with a job offer in Canada to remain in Canada rather than move to, say, Australia. This would make working temporarily for a Canadian business more appealing than working in the USA on an H1B visa, where foreign workers may have to wait three years or more to get a US greencard.

The proposed easing is also no doubt a reflection of the fact that since the CEC program came into effect in 2008, very few people were issued permanent resident status, (only a few thousand per year). The immigration department was expecting many more thousands to avail themselves of the CEC program as a path to permanent residency in Canada; the two year bar was likely too lengthy a requirement given the fickleness of Canadian employers who may be spooked by economic changes. The pattern that is emerging from the current Immigration Minister is to make the economic-based immigration programs of Canada easier and faster, and reducing or eliminating family class immigration for parents, and other family class immigration spouses to Canada, not to mention the extra scrutiny brought to bear on spousal/common law cases.

The long term goal of the current government is no doubt to make the balance of immigrants to Canada skewed towards the economic/skilled worker programs and away from the family-reunification goals of Canada’s Immigration laws.

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National consultations on parent and grandparent immigration – the end of Parent Sponsorships?

By Author: admin | April 8, 2012

The Minister’s March 23, 2012 news release regarding the above should be approached with some caution. Democratic governments often like to have a veneer of accountability, and then cherry pick to voices that fit its preferred policy end and then declare the resultant policy to have been made after consultation with interested parties.

The news release says, “Faced with backlogs and growing wait times” but fails to admit that the backlogs were created by the department’s own resource allocation – deploying less immigration officers to deal with sponsorships, thereby manufacturing an excessive wait time for the sponsorship of parents and grandparents in addition to allocating less spots for family class immigration (in favour of skilled/business immigration). This is also known as creating “facts on the ground.” This ignores the fact the end-all of Canada’s immigration program is not exclusively for Canada’s economic benefit. If you read the relevant Act, you’ll find it’s also about family reunification.

In keeping with the desire to have a veneer of democratic accountability, the press release states the department, ”will host a series of multicity in-person consultations with stakeholders”. The voices that will be heard at these consultations speak at different volumes to the ear of the Minister. Some, voices like that of the Canadians Against Immigration Fraud which fit more within the intention of the current government to restrict family class immigration on the basis of a few fraudulent cases. Similarly, one-sided institutions like the Fraser Institute effectively are agents for the current government’s view that immigrants with a Canadian job offer are preferable for Canada’s economic objectives (over immigrants who bring human capital – possessing inherent skills/adaptability associated with high education and a demonstrated degree of proficiency in a skilled endeavour). The former view is essentially similar to the United States H1b system which has been criticized for being a form of enforced loyalty to a US employer, pending the long process of obtaining a US green card.

In other words, organizations that assert the health care burden of elderly immigrant parents shall bring Canada’s health care system to its knees (or some other melodramatic assertion) will have a huge share of the Minister’s ear.

I have found no statistics that show there is a net burden to Canada’s economy when parents/grandparents are allowed to immigrate; if buying expensive jets are predicted to have economic spinoffs for Canada, then why wouldn’t sponsored parents, who become consumers of Canadian goods and services (and are prohibited from taking welfare for 10 years and, further, must pass numerous medical exams before getting a visa), have similar implications?

The argument that elderly immigrants are a burden on Canada’s health system, and never contributed into Canada’s health system is not relevant, given that the current payers into the health care system are the current health care users; in other words the current funding of Canada’s health care system can’t be attributed to the taxes paid by Canadians who worked in Canada for the past 40 years.

The government took a good first step in pausing the intake of parental immigration and committing to eliminate the backlog of parental sponsorships. It would be unfortunate if it used the consultations as a way to disingenuously conclude that Canadians do not want parents to immigrate.

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Culling Immigration Cases, Reducing the Backlog of Immigration Applicants to Canada

By Author: admin | March 30, 2012

Immigration Canada’s news release of March 30 2012 is couched in economic efficiency. The title (“Government of Canada transforms economic immigration program”) mentions other economic benefits such as “…a fast and flexible immigration system that creates jobs and promotes Canada’s long term prosperity.”

It adopts a corporate globalized flair when it promises Canadians a, “just-in-time system that recruits people with the right skills to meet Canada’s labour market needs”.

In fact, this announcement is at the cost of the approximately 280,000 applicants who applied under the pre February 2008 system. They are promised a refund (“CIC will begin the process of returning the full amount of fees paid to the Department by these affected FSW applicants). However, the press release does not state that the interest accrued by the government will also be paid back to these applicants who have had their applications sitting in a government filing cabinet for eight years or longer.

The sentence, “To create a fast and flexible immigration system that creates jobs and promotes Canada’s long term prosperity” is a lie; the system shall likely be transformed to cater to corporate-dictated short term economic needs. No effort is being made to use government levers to import workers who have skills to facilitate true long term economic development in growing such as in “green jobs“.

The Minister of Immigration knows that there no domestic constituency who in local Canadian parlance “gives a crap” about foreigners being lied to by Canada’s immigration department and misled about the process. There is no political downside to the Canadian government meting out harsh unfair measures to foreign nationals.

As such, the only course of action for those 280000 applicants whose cases shall be culled would be proceeding en masse to the Federal court of Canada for a mandamus application. In the best case scenario, this would lead to a temporary court order delaying the enactment of proposed legislation until the court decides whether the 280000 cases should be processed in accordance with fairness (i.e. in accordance with the law that was in effect when those 280000 people submitted their applications to Canada’s Immigration department). The court would presumably agree that the actions of the government were unfair and would order that the cases be processed under the law that was in effect at the time such cases were first received.

The Minister of Immigration upon receiving notice of the federal court action by some of Canada’s immigration lawyers will predictably call us part of “the immigration industry lobby” –obscuring the fact that lawyers’ duties include the safeguarding of their client’s legal interests. Similarly, he has in the past attacked the Federal court of Canada for doing its job – adjudicating on the process of government processes such as immigration decisions.

Although it is conceded that something should be done about the backlog, other options could have been considered such as accepting no new immigration applications until the old ones were disposed of (i.e. “first in first out”), adding more visa officers to deal with the backlog, or more bolder options such as offering work permits to select high skill workers (if the local labour market is not affected) who are already sitting in the backlog (which would acclimatize those motivated applicants to work in Canada).

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