Lawyer Andy Semotiuk

Andy Semotiuk – Pace Law Firm

In this interview with immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk, we take a look at some current news making headlines in Canada.

A recent article said that roughly 1,400 immigrants per year are being removed from Canada for non-compliance of their residency requirements. What are your thoughts on the matter?

This is the immigration process working as it should. Permanent residents are responsible for knowing that they must spend a minimum of two years out of every five in Canada.

This is a very reasonable requirement. Let’s face it, if you aren’t here for at least 2 years out of every half-decade, how are you really a “permanent” resident? Those who are unable to meet this requirement deserve to be removed from Canada.

That said, woe to anyone who fails to apply to renew their permanent residence early enough. Processing of renewal applications is slower than a snail’s pace, and traveling while your application is pending is inviting disaster. Pity a legitimate permanent resident of Canada who needs to renew his or her permanent resident card while traveling abroad. Not getting a card renewed can result in the need to apply for a returning resident permit. That’s hard to do.

The moral here is to renew your card at least six months before it expires, or get ready for some heartburn.

There have been reports that Ottawa is working on a plan to automate the processing of immigration applications. In effect, computers will vet potential immigrants according to certain criteria, using “predictive analytics.” Good idea?

HAL 9000

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.” HAL 9000.

It sounds like a good idea, if only because there’s such a big problem with backlogs and delays in the system. Computerization would probably speed things up. But – and it’s a big but – removing the human element from immigration presents its own set of dangers.

The problem with such a plan can best be illustrated by analogy. Would you hire someone to work for you strictly from a CV? No. You would want to meet the person and talk to them about their bona fides and make sure everything is on the level.

Strict computer analysis can work against the potential immigrant, too. If the immigrant checks the wrong box, is their application automatically rejected? How about if their case has some extenuating circumstances, like humanitarian and compassionate grounds? Will the computer be able to take that information into account? Often, such stories involve qualitative, not quantitative, analysis. I would tread cautiously before letting a HAL 9000 make all of the decisions.

More would-be immigrants are sneaking across the US-Canadian border to claim asylum in Canada. Is this part of a “Trump effect?” What’s the end game here?

It could be part of a Trump effect, though it’s not like everyone who entered the US during the Obama administration was allowed carte blanche, either.

Most of the people who have crossed the border lately are not Americans, but rather foreigners who have no legal status in the US. Trump has said that he’s interested in deporting illegal immigrants, especially ones with criminal records. Some of those people could be coming to Canada in an attempt to escape that fate. Some of them could also be immigrants like the DREAMers, who thought they might eventually achieve permanent immigration status in the US, but now think those chances have decreased. The fact is, each case is a little different.

What we do know is that to claim asylum, you have to make it across the border onto Canadian soil. You can’t claim it at the border. And even if you do make it onto Canadian soil, there is no guarantee you will be granted asylum. Such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

We’ll know more as things move forward, but if would-be immigrants think Canada is a simple place in which to gain residency, they may find themselves sorrily mistaken. It’s best to talk to an immigration lawyer before taking drastic steps like crossing a border illegally. Being deported could bar you from the country forever.