BlogKnow the rules, play by the rules! Following Canadian immigration laws is your responsibility.

7 June 2022

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As an immigration lawyer I regularly speak with clients who are interested in applying for visas and permits to come to Canada. For many clients the first step of arriving in Canada represents an exciting new chapter; however, after arriving in Canada many clients are not fully aware about the conditions that are imposed on their stay, which can jeopardize their long-term future in Canada if they run afoul of Canadian immigration laws. In this article I will explore some of the ways that both immigration applicants and the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) can reduce the likelihood that a person in Canada will unintentionally break immigration laws.

Like other legislation, immigration laws are put in place to set clear boundaries as to what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. In the immigration realm, there are many prohibited activities such as working or studying without authorization or making false statements in an application. Generally speaking, these laws are designed to punish intentional rule breakers who know or ought to know that what they are doing is wrong. However, there are many situations where clients unintentionally break immigration laws because they did not have a clear understanding about what the boundaries are.

Take the case of international students for example. I regularly speak with international students who have worked without authorization, but are they intentional rule breakers or just unclear about what they were allowed to do after arriving in Canada?

Let’s take a look at the language found in a standard study permit and see what it says about the ability of an international student to work in Canada:

MAY ACCEPT EMPLOYMENT ON OR OFF CAMPUS IF MEETING ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA AS PER R186(F), (V) OR (W). MUST CEASE WORKING IF NO LONGER MEETING THESE CRITERIA.

This language is very important because it is meant to explain the situations when a student can legally work but it is confusing at best. For example, how many hours am I allowed to work? Does this apply even if I am on a leave of absence or semester break? What if I decide to change schools? Is there a difference between working on campus compared to off campus? None of the issues are clearly explained because IRCC does a poor job of communicating this crucial information on the study permit itself.

This language used by IRCC in a study permit fails to utilize language that is appropriate for the target audience and fails to use simple language to communicate important information.

Specifically, IRCC fails to recognize that many immigration applicants do not speak English as their first language and will have difficulty understanding these eligibility criteria. They also use complicated legal jargon rather than plain language that assumes that the reader will know that “R186” refers to section 186 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations and that the reader will know how to find that law and will understand what it means.

IRCC should provide clearer information to visa and permit holders and to give that information as often and in as many places as possible, especially in official documents like a study or work permit, to ensure that they do not unintentionally break immigration laws

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Sas and Ing Immigration Law Centre LLP

A partnership between Catherine Sas Law Corporation and Victor Ing Law Corporation

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About the Author