New ePassport Now Available to All Canadians

The new Canadian ePassport contains a digital signature that can be verified by the ICAO Public Key Directory (PKD). In addition to Canada, 29 other countries participate in the PKD, including Australia, China, the Czech Republic, the United States, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, and France (Government of Canada)

Canada’s new 10-year ePassport is now available to all Canadians, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced the new electronic passport on Tuesday in Calgary:

“The new, 10-year ePassport provides more convenience for Canadians, and facilitates safe, secure travel which, in turn, helps create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians. The Canadian passport is not only a privilege of citizenship, but a reflection of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”

The ePassport format is becoming the norm in international travel documents, as its embedded electronic chip makes fraud more difficult and stores the passport holder’s personal information as well as a digital signature authenticating the document as being issued by the Government of Canada.

The digital signature is unique to the personal information contained in the electronic chip, making it impossible to modify the digitally stored personal information without invalidating the signature.

Artistically, the new Canadian ePassport features images iconic to Canadian history and culture, including Robert Harris’s 1885 painting, The Fathers of Confederation, a depiction of the 1885 Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a picture of Pier 21 in Halifax, an important port for the entry of Canadian immigrants between 1928 and 1971, similar to the role Ellis Island played in late 19th century in the United States.

The new passport will cost $160, which year for year, is cheaper than the current 5 year, $120 passports.

Kenney also announced that the transition of responsibility over Canadian passports from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to CIC had become effective on Tuesday, which the federal government says will improve operational efficiency by grouping departmental duties according to their relation between each other.

In addition to announcing new information regarding the Canadian passport, Kenney took the opportunity to announce a new special measure by CIC for temporary and permanent residents affected by the flooding in Southern Alberta.

Fees for temporary and permanent resident applications filed by individuals living in regions affected by the flooding are being waived and the status of the applications will automatically be extended until September 19, 2013.

Vancouver Sun: Hong Kong Immigrants Returning to Asian Homeland

Many Canadians of Hong Kong origin find they can earn and save more in the South East Asian metropolis, which has one of the lowest tax rates in the world, than in Canada (Samuel Louie)

A story in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun reports that an increasing number of Canadian citizenship of Hong Kong origin are moving back to the South East Asian city, according to demographic data:

Statistics Canada’s numbers tell the tale. Despite Canada’s rapid population growth in the past 15 years, there are now 32,000 fewer Hong Kong-born residents in Canada than there were in 1996.

The 2011 National Household Survey, released last week, shows 209,000 Hong Kong-born residents in Canada (about one third of them living in Metro Vancouver). That compares to 241,000 who lived here in 1996.

Their total numbers in Canada have been dropping despite 1,000 to 2,000 new Hong Kong immigrants a year continuing to trickle in. Even accounting for deaths, it is clear that thousands of Hong Kong citizens each year have been leaving Canada.

The draw, according to Vancouver Sun columnist Douglas Todd, is money, which they can earn more of in Hong Kong, and family, who they seek to reunite with.

Hong Kong’s steady economic growth over the last three decades and vibrant free market have given it a better income-earning potential for some professions than Canada, making it a preferred place to live for some Canadian citizens, like Edward Shen:

“(In Hong Kong) I am perhaps working about 60 to 70 per cent of what I was in Vancouver, but saving up more than I used to, given the much lower tax rate (17 per cent flat tax),” Shen wrote in an email.

“Most Hong Kong people know that there is no big money to be made in Canada, even less so in Vancouver. Vancouver in many people’s eyes is a place for retirement of rich people, as they find the living standard in Vancouver very high. Which is true. People who want to make money choose Toronto over Vancouver.”

Hong Kong has a top marginal income tax rate of 17 percent and no capital gains tax.

Todd also suggests that many of the Hong Kong nationals only immigrated to Canada to acquire Canadian citizenship, with no intention of staying long-term, and points to a recent study conducted by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada funded Metropolis research body which found that some Chinese immigrants describe the three year residency requirement for becoming a Canadian citizen as “immigration prison”, which they must endure before they can repatriate back to their home country.

These repatriates are a new type of “international class of citizens”, according to Richard Kurkland, an immigration lawyer interviewed for the story. They are well-off, and like to have the mobility and insurance of having citizenship in more than one country.

The risk, according to Kurkland, is that if the country where these Canadian citizens live faces some type of catastrophe, it will be the responsibility of Canadian taxpayers to pay to get them out, as happened when some of the fifty thousand Canadian citizens living in Lebanon were airlifted out of the country during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war.

Similar to the Lebanon experience, Hong Kong residents holding Canadian passports could return in large numbers and burden the country’s social programs if China imposes more restrictions on the semi-autonomous jurisdiction, Kurkland warns.

Family Class Immigration Increases by 15% in 2012

Family class permanent residence applications increased by 15 percent in 2012 over the year before according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced on Tuesday a 15 percent increase in the number of individuals admitted under the family class immigration program in 2012 over the year before.

In the announcement, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney promoted CIC’s faster processing of family class applications:

“By reducing the backlog through increased admissions, we have dramatically reduced wait times so that parents and grandparents no longer have to wait close to a decade to be reunited with their loved ones.”

The increase in admissions occurred despite CIC having stopped accepting new applications under the Parent and Grandparent stream of the family class program in November 2011. The moratorium on new Parent and Grandparent sponsorship applications likely contributed to the reduction in the program backlog.

CIC is targeting a 50 percent reduction in the family class application backlog and in the processing time of applications in 2013.

The department has been moving away from sponsorship of Parent and Grandparents for permanent residence, and moving toward extended temporary stays, with the creation of a new ‘Parent and Grandparent Super Visa’ in December 2011 that allows unlimited re-entries for parents and grandparents of Canadians for up to ten years, and allows them to stay in Canada for two years on each visit.

Furor Over Use of Temporary Foreign Workers at Canadian Bank

The Royal Bank of Canada promised to find new positions for all of the Canadian workers who lost their jobs as a result of being replaced by temporary foreign workers

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) got in trouble with the public last week when several ex-workers came forward alleging they had been replaced by temporary foreign workers.

This week, RBC apologized for the decisions that led to the use of foreign workers in place of Canadians and vowed to rectify the situation.

The incident has sparked an outpouring of long-harboured criticism for the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, which has grown by about 300% since a decade ago, to over 300,000 temporary foreign workers currently residing in Canada.

The federal government took measures to reduce the reliance of Canadian businesses on temporary foreign workers in 2011, by creating a four year limit on the number of years that a foreign national can live in Canada cumulatively as a temporary foreign worker.

That rule change will see its first major repercussion on April 1st, 2015, as hundreds of thousands of long-time temporary foreign workers will for the first time reach their life-time limit on time they can spend in Canada, and be unable to renew their work permits.

It’s expected that Canada will see a major problem with illegal immigration, as those foreign workers over-stay their work permits and continue living and working in Canada illegally.

The objective behind the rule change was to prevent a situation where Canadian businesses use the TFW program to meet their long-term labour needs, and limit its use to what it was designed for: allowing employers to fill pressing labour shortages temporarily until a permanent Canadian solution could be found.

Immigration Canada Announces April 1 Launch of Start-Up Visa Program

Foreign entrepreneurs who receive venture capital funding from a designated venture capital fund or angel investor group will qualify for the new Start-Up Visa Program (CICS News)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced on Thursday that foreign entrepreneurs would be able to start applying for the newly created Start-Up Visa Program on April 1st of this year.

“Canada is open for business to the world’s start-up entrepreneurs,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in announcing the launch date.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are essential drivers of the Canadian economy. That is why we are actively recruiting foreign entrepreneurs – those who can build companies here in Canada that will create new jobs, spur economic growth and compete on a global scale – with our new start-up visa.”

To qualify for a Start-Up Visa, a potential immigrant must receive venture capital funding from a fund and angel investor group designated as a recognized venture capital investor by CIC, in partnership with Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO).

A full list of designated venture capital funds and angel investor groups can be seen on the CIC website.

International competition

The Canadian Start-Up Visa Program is the first permanent residency program of its kind in the world but will still have to contend with competition for global start-ups from other countries which offer temporary residency and other perks to attract foreign entrepreneurs.

Singapore for example offers the EntrePass (Entrepreneur Pass), which provides business visas to qualifying individuals seeking to start a business in the country, and a competitive business environment, with no capital gains tax, a low income tax, and no fiscal deficit.

While inviting foreign business people and entrepreneurs to Canada undoubtedly contributes to the Canadian economy, an analysis on the income trends of Canada’s economic class immigrants, conducted by CICS News in January, suggests that the full potential of the capital and talent invited to Canada might remain unrealized unless the country’s business environment becomes globally competitive in terms of expected after-tax returns on investment made in the country.

Canada’s Immigration Backlog Reduced by 40 Percent

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced on Tuesday that his department had reduced the backlog of permanent resident applications by forty percent since 2008 (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) backlog of permanent resident applications has declined by forty percent since 2008, according to a CIC announcement on Tuesday.

A freeze in the acceptance of new Federal Skilled Worker and Federal Immigrant Investor applications, in place since July 2012, and an indefinite suspension of the parent and grandparent sponsorship stream of the Family Class immigration program, have reduced the rate at which CIC is receiving new permanent resident applications and allowed it to work through the backlog.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney applauded the development in a press conference, saying a reduced backlog would allow for a faster and better immigration system:

“Backlogs and delays prevent Canada from attracting the best and brightest from around the world and ensuring that our immigration system is contributing to economic growth and long-term prosperity. For too long, we accepted far more applications than we could process each year. That led to backlogs increasing every year and processing times of eight to ten years in some cases, which discouraged talented, dynamic people from coming to Canada.”

CIC’s goal is to reduce processing times of applications for permanent residence to less than one year, from the sometimes over five years that it has taken in recent years.

The eventual goal is to put in place an Expression of Interest (EOI) model by the end of 2014, which will solicit simplified applications from foreign nationals interested in immigrating to Canada and invite the most promising applicants to submit a full application.

Canadian Immigration Department Releases TV Ad Warning of Marriage Fraud

A new television ad warns Canadians that their foreign spouse could just be using them to get a ticket to Canada (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) began airing a television ad today warning Canadians of the dangers of marriage sponsorship fraud.

The ad tells Canadians that some foreign individuals seek out Canadians and feign genuine affection for them, in order to convince the Canadian to marry them and sponsor them for permanent residence.

The ruse is part of a ploy to get into Canada, something that would otherwise require meeting the federal government’s stringent and often unattainable requirements.

Victims of marriage fraud are legally responsible to pay for any social assistance that their foreign spouse uses while in Canada for a period of three years, which can cost them tens of thousands of dollars per year.

CIC also posted a seven minute video on its website today recounting the story of three Canadians who were victims of marriage fraud: an Anglophone woman, a Francophone man, and an Indo-Canadian Anglophone man, showing that this crime can affect any one.

The video (below) and the 30 second television ad (bottom) can be seen here:

New rules

CIC instituted a new rule last October requiring that a foreign spouse who has not had a child with their Canadian spouse be required to be in a relationship with their spouse in Canada for two years before they are granted full permanent residency status.

For the two year period, the foreign spouse can live in Canada under a provisional permanent resident status, that can be revoked if the relationship does not last the whole period, unless there is evidence of abandonment or abuse by the Canadian spouse.

In March 2012, CIC also began barring individuals who had been sponsored as a spouse or common-law partner, from sponsoring a new spouse or common-law partner for five years.

The new rules were motivated by the fallout from stories from Canadians like Lainie Towell, who brought national attention to the issue of marriage fraud in 2009, when she went public with allegations that her Guinean husband left her 29 days after arriving in Canada, in 2007.

China, Philippines and India Top Sources for Immigration to Canada in 2012

Vancouver International Airport, pictured above, was the port of entry of many the over 250,000 permanent residents admitted in 2012

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has released immigration figures for 2012, and for the first time since 2009, it shows China regaining its status as the largest source country for immigration to Canada.

From 2010 to 2011, the Philippines was the leading country of origin of immigrants to Canada, but the 32,704 Filipino permanent residents admitted in 2012 were edged out by the 32,990 Chinese immigrants arriving last year.

India remained the third largest source country for immigration to Canada, with 28,889 permanent residents admitted in 2012 – a significant increase from the 24,965 admitted in 2011.

In total, 257,515 permanent residents were admitted in 2012, a level that in the post war era has only been surpassed in 2005 and 2010. The long term trend over the last 18 years shows increasing immigration levels, with Canada admitting an average of 30,250 more permanent residents per year in the 2006 to 2012 period than from 1996 to 2005.

Government Report Recommends Increasing Immigration Levels in 2014

The internal government review finds that Australia’s experience suggests that basing immigration admittance on employment offers does not produce better results

The seven year freeze on increases in immigration levels beyond 253,000 should be lifted in 2014, according to an internal government review obtained by Postmedia News:

The study, dubbed a “Literature review and expert advice to inform Canada’s immigration levels planning,” suggests immigration levels should begin increasing six per cent a year to approximately 337,000 in 2018, after which levels should plateau until 2021, the end of the review period.

The report says that labour needs, based on economic projections, necessitate the increase.

Immigration levels as a percentage of Canada’s population have steadily fallen over the last seven years as the country has experienced population growth without a corresponding increase in the number of immigrants admitted.

Recent public opinion polls have indicated that the majority of Canadians oppose an increase in immigration levels, and this, along with recent studies showing a growing income gap between recent immigrants and native born Canadians, have encouraged the federal government to resist calls to increase immigration levels.

According to the Postmedia News report, the internal review calls for greater research into factors hampering the economic integration of immigrants and into comparisons between the economic performance of immigrants who enter through the federal skilled worker program and that of immigrants who enter through provincial nominee programs (PNPs).

The review also recommends against increasing the proportion of immigrants admitted through the PNPs, which clashes with calls from provincial governments to give them greater control over selecting the immigrants that enter Canada.

Russian Bride Ditches Canadian Pensioner, Collects $25K in Welfare On His Dime

BC resident Heinz Munz is being ordered to pay nearly 25 thousand dollars after his Russian bride left him and began collecting social assistance (Jeff Belmonte)

An elderly Russian woman left her Canadian husband and subsequently collected nearly $25,000 in social assistance payments that have been charged to the 82 year pensioner who sponsored her immigration to Canada, said the Canadian man affected.

In an interview with the CBC, BC resident Heinz Munz said he had no idea that his Russian ex-wife, Polina Telyuk, was receiving social assistance until he received the $24,899.34 bill from the BC provincial government:

“When she applied for assistance, they should have told me. They never did.”

Under Canadian immigration law, a Canadian permanent resident or citizen can sponsor their foreign spouse for Canadian permanent residence, but is financially responsible for any financial assistance their spouse receives from the government for three years from the date they become a permanent resident.

Munz said in the interview that he began paying the bill for Telyuk’s social assistance payments because he feared his home could be seized by the government if he didn’t.

He said he did not suspect there was any thing amiss until his Russian wife, who he had met on the internet, left him, as she was “so nice” to him up to that point. Munz said that the day after Telyuk received her permanent resident papers, she left in a taxi with her daughter, laughing and chatting in Russian.

Possible reforms

Munz complained to the RCMP and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), but nothing came of it. Allegations of marriage fraud typically do not end in charges being laid, as it is usually difficult to prove the sponsored party broke any law by planning to marry their partner to immigrate to Canada and then leave them.

Experts for years have cited examples like Munz’ to make the case for toughening immigration sponsorship rules. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said that new rules would soon be put in place requiring sponsored spouses to live with their Canadian spouses for two years to be eligible for permanent residency.

This is similar to a rule in place in the US, which gives a two year ‘conditional resident status’ to sponsored spouses, after which they can apply for permanent residency if they have met all of the eligibility conditions.