Home / Careers and Business / Q&A with Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Q&A with Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Q&A with Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

a)Please update us how are things at the US-Canada border with respect to illegal migrants?

AH) It is important to note that there is a common misconception when referring to irregular border crossers. When someone crosses the border, it’s an illegal act but once they are on Canadian soil and they claim asylum, the charge of the crossing the border irregularly is stayed pending the determination of the asylum claim. As Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UN Refugee Agency Representative in Canada, said, “Canada is following international law in this respect and not punishing people who enter through irregular means into Canada…” Asylum claims are governed in part by international treaties to which Canada is a signatory. As such, we have a legal responsibility to assess asylum claims made under these international conventions. This makes the asylum system fundamentally different than other areas of immigration.

Asylum claimants are not taking the place of refugees who are coming to Canada from abroad for resettlement or people waiting in other immigration streams. Asylum claims are governed in part by international treaties that Canada has promised to uphold. One of the key principles of these treaties is that Canada will not send a claimant back to a situation where they may face danger or persecution.

Asylum claims are decided by dedicated staff at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and does not impact IRCC’s ability to make decisions on other types of immigration applications. Please contact the IRB for more information on the scheduling of asylum claim hearings.

Crossing the border irregularly is not a free ticket to Canada. Each individual is detained, passes a rigorous security screening and is not released if they will pose a risk to Canadians. Each claim is thoroughly reviewed by the IRB and those found to not have a legitimate asylum claim is removed.

There were 1,263 irregular border crossers who entered Canada to claim asylum in June 2018, which is the lowest number recorded in the past year. The number of asylum seekers in Canada fluctuates over time and can depend on many different factors. We won’t speculate on any possible future trends, but we continuously monitor conditions and developments in other countries to inform our planning.

Are there any changes this year with respect to the government’s approach on dealing with border crisis?

AH) The number of asylum seekers in Canada fluctuates over time and can depend on many different factors. We won’t speculate on any possible future trends, but we continuously monitor conditions and developments in other countries to inform our planning.

The Government of Canada continues to expand its overall outreach efforts to inform people and provide the facts about Canada’s asylum system by working closely with our missions in the U.S., by engaging with communities in the U.S. and issuing messages on social media channels in both Canada and the U.S. to provide accurate information. Our outreach campaign aims to reach potential migrant communities in the U.S. to ensure they understand Canadian immigration laws and the consequences of crossing our border irregularly. Members of Parliament from the Canadian government have been meeting with community representatives, community leaders, stakeholders, service providers, church groups, community media and elected U.S. officials.

The Government is prepared for any future fluctuations. A national operations contingency plan has been developed in cooperation with provinces, territories, municipalities and non-governmental organizations, for use by all federal departments for any possible increases in irregular border crossings and asylum claims.

 Q)More and more countries are closing their doors on immigration whereas Canada is opening its doors wide, why?

Immigration continues to play a crucial role in keeping our country at the forefront of the global economy. Thanks to immigration, Canada is in a better position than other countries, like our G7 counterparts, to face future labour force challenges arising from our aging population.

In the current global environment, Canada has an opportunity to leverage its strong, well-managed immigration system. It can do so by continuing to attract high-skilled workers to support an innovative economy, while continuing to reunite families and cement Canada’s reputation as a global leader in refugee protection.

With this in mind, the government established new multi-year immigration levels plan that responsibly grows the number of permanent residents Canada welcomes each year. Beginning with 310,000 new permanent residents in 2018, and growing to 330,000 in 2019, and 340,000 in 2020. This measured, gradual increase will trend towards one percent of the population by 2020, spurring innovation and representing a major investment into Canada’s prosperity, now and into the future.

The multi-year levels plan benefits all Canadians because immigrants contribute to Canada’s economic growth, and keep Canada competitive in a global economy. Supporting both Canadian businesses and labour market needs, the multi-year immigration plan will foster economic growth in the face of slowing labour force growth and an ageing population.

Canada is committed to an immigration system that strengthens the Canadian middle class through economic growth, supports diversity and helps build dynamic and inclusive communities, while maintaining border security, and to preserving the health, safety and security of Canadians. Our immigration system has made Canada the nation it is today – one that is diverse, prosperous and welcoming to those in need. Demographics and diverse labour market needs drive Canada’s demand for immigration, but it is our commitment to integration and to helping those in need that sets us apart.

Q) The changes to fast track application process has pushed a heavy influx of international students in the country. In our last issue, we talked to a lot of international students from India. One major issue that was highlighted — the education institutes are not able to deal with the heavy influx  in terms of accommodating international students in various courses. What do you have to say on that?

The Government of Canada knows that international students bring tremendous economic, cultural and social benefits and contribute an estimated $11.4 billion a year to Canada’s economy.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada works closely with Provincial and Territorial Governments and Global Affairs Canada to market Canada as a destination of choice for education.  The Provinces and Territories are responsible for education in their jurisdiction as well as designating educational institutions eligible to host study permit holders.  For their part, educational institutions are responsible for developing and delivering curriculum and issuing letters of acceptance to potential students who meet academic criteria they set.  Responsibility for ensuring that international students can be accommodated by the educational institution rests with the specific institution.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is responsible for issuing study permits to international students to legally enter Canada to pursue their studies as designated learning institutions.  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada does monitor volumes of study permit applications received in order to respect established service standards.

Q 6: In one of the interviews to electronic media, you mentioned that the application processing times have become speedier and more responsive. Can you elaborate more on the steps that have been taken especially with respect to applications from India more specifically Punjab?

The Government of Canada announced on June 8, 2018 the launch of the Student Direct Stream (SDS) for students applying for a study permit from China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

 Under SDS international students will have their study permit processed faster as they will demonstrate upfront that they have the financial resources and language skills to succeed academically in Canada. To qualify for SDS, applicants are required to meet additional requirements, in particular language levels that are stricter than regular study permit requirements.

  • Students applying for SDS must first be accepted at a Canadian learning institution that is designated to host international students. In addition, they must satisfy key criteria, such as submitting proof of:

o   tuition payment for the first year of study at a designated learning institution in Canada,

o   purchase of a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of $10,000,

o   completion of an upfront medical examination,

o   a qualifying score of at least 6 for English (IELTS), or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens score of 7 for French (TEF), or graduation from a Canadian-curriculum high school.

  • Students who do not have all of the additional information required for SDS can apply through the regular study permit application process, either online or at a Visa Application Centre.
  • IRCC is committed to finding ways to improve its International Student Program by making its services faster, easier and more accessible. The success of the SDS program will be evaluated, with the potential to expand the program in 2019.

Q 7: A lot of discussions were around during the previous government to crack down on fraud immigration consultants. How far are these discussions and initiatives under Liberal government?

The Government of Canada takes the issue of fraud in immigration and citizenship very seriously. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) employees receive training on how to detect and combat fraud, and they work hard to protect the integrity of Canada’s citizenship and immigration system. IRCC is continuously improving its systems to detect evidence of fraud.

Where tips are involved, IRCC will look into each fraud tip. Our intent is to apply the full strength of Canadian law against those who have committed fraud. Outcomes could include the refusal of application, loss of permanent resident status or revocation of citizenship, deportation, and/or the laying of criminal charges.

We urge anyone who is considering using an immigration consultant to use the official Departmental website to obtain information about its programs to avoid becoming victims of fraud.  We also advise all applicants on how to find out if your representative is authorized.

There is a wide variety of resources available on IRCC’s website to help clients watch out for fraud. For example, you can find out about common types of scams and fraudulent activities, or what to do to report fraud.

Q) Any recent new announcements to the visa and immigration process, that will further help those who are waiting to invite their family members under family class and spouse visa?

 Family reunification is a key immigration priority for the Government of Canada. Keeping families together improves their integration into Canadian society, their economic outcomes and their ability to contribute to their communities and to our country. That is why we created a  Family Class Tiger Team (or focused working group) in the spring of 2016.  This team worked horizontally within the Department to review spouse and partner related forms, guides, websites, tools and processes in order to improve the client experience and achieve faster processing times for most applicants.

In December 2016, we committed to reducing the backlog of spousal sponsorship cases by 80% and shortening the processing times to 12 months. To support this, changes to the application kit were launched on December 15, 2016. The changes included a new “Basic Guide”, an improved “Complete Guide”, along with four new document checklists which replaced the previous 14 checklists.

Then, in June 2017, IRCC updated the guides and checklists for the spousal sponsorship program, to make the application kit for spouses and partners as simple to understand as possible.

Acting in response to feedback from clients and stakeholders, on February 14, 2018 we announced additional changes to spousal sponsorship process, publishing updates to the application kit that aimed to make sure we can process applications as quickly as possible.

These changes we’ve made so far demonstrate our ongoing commitment to family reunification and to enhancing client service, and have yielded significant results. We are pleased to say we’ve met the commitments we made in December 2016:

  • More than 80 percent of applicants who were in the global spousal sponsorship backlog as of December 7, 2016 have now received final decisions for their applications.
  • As of December 31, 2017, 80% of spousal sponsorship applicants who applied on or after December 7, 2016, have received decisions within 12 months.

The changes we have made to the spousal sponsorship program are helping to bring spouses together faster to Canada.

Q) Finally what is your message to the vast South Asian immigrants community of British Columbia?

Thank you for everything that you do. We are fortunate to live in Canada, a country that is welcoming of us all and celebrates our differences. This is particularly important in the rising global climate of fear and division. Everywhere I go in my role, I see immigrants from around the world working hard to support their families and neighborhoods and wanting to give back to a community that has welcomed them. The South Asian community in British Columbia and across Canada in particular has contributed so much to our society.  Not everything is perfect and there is more work to do. But I am certain that with the understanding that diversity is our strength, we can prove to the world that this model of multiculturalism works and that immigration is foundational to our nation’s success. The Canadian South Asian community shows the world that our country has got it right.

IRCC advises all applicants who are considering using a representative:

  • Be careful of anything that sounds too good to be true.
  • Using a representative will not draw special attention to your application or guarantee that we will approve it.
  • Beware of representatives who encourage you to give false information in your application. It is against the law. You could be denied entry into Canada or deported after you arrive.
  • Don’t leave original documents or photos with your representative.
  • Don’t sign blank application forms.
  • Don’t sign forms or documents unless you can read them.
  • If you don’t understand them, ask someone to translate.
  • Make sure to get copies of any documents that your representative makes for you.
  • Any time you pay your representative, get a signed receipt.
  • Make sure your representative updates you on your application often.
  • Protect your money and remember that:
  • We’ll never call you and ask you to deposit money into a personal bank account.
  • We’ll never ask you to transfer money through a private money transfer company.
  • Our processing fees are in Canadian dollars and they’re the same around the world.

 

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