Setting the record straight on Canadian immigration matters

Be wary of misinformation and false advertisement circulating on social media and on the ground in Lebanon about the immigration process to Canada.

Canada application

“Many have lost jobs, seen their life-savings evaporate before their eyes and lost their homes,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. It comes as no surprise, then, that many Lebanese are looking to immigrate or leave the country.

What is surprising –or perhaps not– is the amount of misinformation and false advertisement circulating on social media and on the ground in Lebanon about the immigration process to Canada. As in all situations of crisis, there are those who seek to benefit from the misfortune of others and prey on the vulnerable.

To help set the record straight and prevent people from falling victim to scams, here is the truth about a few common claims circulating amongst people in Lebanon or on the internet.

True or false: Special programs exist for facilitating and processing Lebanese applications to immigrate to Canada.

False. As of today, there are no special programs or rules applicable to Lebanese citizens. All those seeking to travel or immigrate to Canada must apply through normal legal channels, whether they want to visit, study, work or live permanently in Canada.

All applications are submitted to and processed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), usually at a Canadian visa office outside Canada.

While you can hire an authorized representative to assist you with your application, a Canadian visa or immigration officer will process and decide on your application. You must still meet all the applicable legal requirements under Canadian law.

True or false: Any individual or group claiming to work for, or in association with, the Canadian government can represent you or expedite your application to travel or immigrate to Canada.

False. Only authorized representatives under Canadian law can be hired (or paid) to represent or assist you with your application. If you give a representative money or compensate them in any other way in exchange for their services, they are considered paid and must be authorized.

Authorized representatives include lawyers or notaries, paralegals, or immigration consultants. If you choose a paid representative who is not authorized, IRCC can return or refuse your application.

Lawyers must be members in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society. In the Province of Ontario, paralegals are also required to be members of the Law Society of Ontario.

Similarly, notaries and immigration consultants must be members in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, respectively.

Most Canadian law societies let you check online to see if a person is a member in good standing, and you are advised to do so before hiring a representative.

True or False: Express Entry is a Canadian job site though which you can apply for jobs in Canada

False. Express Entry is an online system that IRCC uses to manage applications for permanent residence submitted under the skilled worker stream.

Foreigners with skilled work experience, but without Canadian work experience, can apply under the Federal Skilled Worker program by creating an online profile, free of charge, through the Express Entry system.

All Express Entry candidates get a score out of 1,200 points based on several factors: age, education, work experience, English and/or French language skills, whether you have a valid job offer from a Canadian employer, and adaptability (how well you are likely to settle in Canada).

In some cases, prospective Canadian employers can have access to candidates who choose to create a profile on the Canadian government’s Job Bank website.

True or False: Canadian citizenship or permanent residence can be acquired by paying a sum of money to Canadian lawyer or immigration consultant

False. Canadian citizenship and permanent residence are subject to strict legal requirements, as outlined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Citizenship Act.

Any immigration program that leads to permanent residence has its own set of criteria. A duly completed application, along with the applicable government fees, must be submitted to IRCC for processing.

To be eligible to apply for citizenship in Canada, you must:

  1. Be a permanent resident of Canada
  2. Have lived in Canada for 3 out of the last 5 years before the date you sign your application
  3. Have filed your taxes with the Canadian government, if required to do so
  4. Pass a test on your rights, responsibilities and knowledge of Canada
  5. Prove your language skills

 

Canadian citizenship cannot be acquired through marriage.  

True or False: Applications for temporary residence visas (for visiting, studying or working in Canada) are not currently accepted or processed due to COVID-19.

False. Visa offices outside Canada are now processing applications submitted online. However, most people cannot travel to Canada at the moment, even if they have a valid visa, as travel restrictions are still in effect. Further, Canadian visa offices are processing applications on a priority basis due to the impact of COVID-19, which could affect processing times. 

The Visa Application Center in Beirut is currently offering limited services until further notice. It is recommended to visit their website regularly for the latest updates.

There are travel exemptions for specific groups of foreign nationals, including immediate family members of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. An “immediate family member” is defined as a spouse or common-law partner, dependent child, dependent child of a dependent child, a parent, or guardian.

In addition, family members must be staying in Canada for at least 15 days.

International students who applied for and were granted study permits after 18 March 2020, but are unable to travel to Canada at this time due to travel restrictions, can begin their classes while outside Canada. They are permitted to complete up to 50% of their program while outside Canada, if they cannot travel sooner. Students can travel to Canada once restrictions are lifted. 

True or False: Visa holders can travel to Canada and make a refugee claim based on the current humanitarian conditions in Lebanon

It depends. Refugee claims are fact-driven and always require an individualized assessment by a legal professional such as a lawyer. That said, the general humanitarian situation in a country is usually not enough to support a claim for refugee protection.

All refugee claimants in Canada, regardless of their country of origin, must establish a well-founded fear of persecution based on specific grounds: race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group (i.e., persecution based on sexual orientation, mental illness, gender, etc). In other words, a claimant must demonstrate that their life could be at risk if they were returned to their country.

In addition, claimants must show that state authorities are unable or unwilling to protect them, and that they cannot seek safe refuge anywhere else in their country.

Those with dual or multiple citizenships must also show that they would be at risk in every country of citizenship.

Of course, the above is only meant as general information to help shed some light on certain Canadian immigration matters and dispel any misinformation. Individuals are encouraged to seek out legal advice from trusted professionals on matters affecting them.

Bassam Azzi holds both a civil law degree (LL.L.) and a Juris Doctor from the University of Ottawa, as well as a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in international criminal law. He is a member of the Law Society of Ontario and practices law in Ottawa, Canada.

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