Last week's decision of the Canada Border Services Agency to cancel a controversial program that provided money to failed refugee claimants as an incentive to leave Canada is good news for real refugees and for the Canadian public. According to the government's own assessment, the program did not achieve its goal of removing failed refugees in a cost-effective and efficient manner. From the perspective of real refugees, the program often pressured people to give up on appeals and remedies that could have been successful in providing them with protection in Canada. The decision to appeal should be based on the merits of the case and should not be influenced by offers of money to people who are often vulnerable and destitute.
Many people travelling to Canada intending to make refugee claims enter Canada and approach lawyers to file the claim "inland." While this option has the advantage of allowing the lawyer to prepare the initial paperwork of the claim properly, it is not ideal. At the refugee hearing, the Board may question why the claim was not made at the earliest opportunity. If the claimant's explanation is not considered satisfactory, this issue may damage a claimant's credibility or be taken as an indication of a lack of fear. It is therefore always advisable to make the claim at the earliest opportunity--at the airport. At the airport a claimant must be careful to answer all questions clearly and truthfully, as this information will be used later, in the hearing process. If the claim has not been made at the airport, but is being made inland, it is important to consult an experienced lawyer so that evidence and submissions can be prepared to explain the delay in claiming. The goal is to minimize any negative impact on the claim.
When a foreign spouse is in Canada, there is a choice between filing the sponsorship application inland or to a Canadian visa post overseas.
CIC has recently changed its policy by allowing for earlier work permit eligibility for most applicants under the inland spousal category (Spouse or Common Law Partner in Canada class). Applicants can now obtain work permits four months after initial filing. This, combined with very long processing times at many overseas posts, makes the inland category a more attractive option than it was previously. Previously, applicants were eligible for work permits only when their applications received first-stage approval, well over a year after initial filing.
There are still several factors that must be examined before choosing between inland and overseas processing. Although inland applicants may now obtain work permits earlier, the overall time to process an inland application is still very long, and growing longer. Overseas processing at some visa posts may be significantly quicker. If the objective is obtaining permanent residence as quickly as possible, the overseas option may still be a better choice. The inland category has no appeal for rejected cases--only a narrow judicial review in the Federal Court. Retaining this appeal option may be important in difficult cases. Also, where the foreign spouse is in Canada and wants to travel in and out of Canada during the processing, the overseas category may be better, especially where the foreign spouse is from a country that requires a visitor's visa to enter Canada.
It continues to be important for clients to consult with counsel before choosing which spousal category to file under.