Lawyer Andy Semotiuk
Lawyer Andy Semotiuk

Andy Semotiuk – Pace Law Firm

In this interview, Pace immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk looks ahead at issues that will make immigration headlines in 2017.

Andy, it looks like Canada is on the path to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Will this have an impact on Canadian/US immigration policy?

If Canada does legalize marijuana, then presumably its use will rise and more people will take that use for granted. This could lead to trouble for some Canadians at the US border.

While it’s true that several US states are ahead of Canada and have already legalized using marijuana, it’s key to remember that using marijuana is still an offense at the federal level of the United States. A US customs official will not care one bit about Canada’s views on marijuana. As far as US Customs is concerned, marijuana is a controlled substance.

Any Canadian who goes to the border and says that they’re going to smoke pot in, say, Colorado would be guilty of admitting that they’re going to commit a crime. It doesn’t matter that pot is legal in Colorado. The person would be turned away at the border and might lose the ability to enter the US for a period of years.

Canadian pot users who wish to immigrate permanently to the United States should be warned that immigration requires a medical test. If the test turns up traces of marijuana, you could be barred from the US for a year and you would have to retake the test. Naturally, turning up at the border with marijuana – or any controlled substance – in your possession is a serious mistake that could lead to being barred from the US, or being put in jail.

Central American migrants coming to the US illegally still pose a problem for US immigration officials. Where do you see this subject going?

It’s tough to say, as we have to see what Trump will do. He has talked about a wall at the border, his dislike of NAFTA, his desire to deport illegal immigrants, and his mission to keep companies in the United States to save US jobs. Economic migrants are a part of any of those subjects.

As for economic migrants coming over the border illegally, no doubt the problem will continue in the immediate future. There are desperate people in Central America who are willing to take great risks to find a better life. Likewise, there are human traffickers and coyotes who are only too willing to exploit such people and drop them at the border with nothing but the shirts on their backs. Questions about how to address the problem, and the due process involved in how the migrants are handled, will continue to arise.

One X factor in all of this is the new Canadian policy of not requiring a visa from Mexican visitors. Several years ago, Canada had such a surge in Mexicans seeking asylum that they had to put a visa requirement in place. The Trudeau government has now rescinded it. I am curious to see if this results in an immigration problem for the US, as Mexicans seeking asylum come to Canada and then enter the US from the north. If so, Canada and the US will likely be having some interesting discussions.

After Donald Trump was elected, a lot of people stated that they would “move to Canada.” They made it sound quite easy. Is it?

The short answer is no, it isn’t that easy. You can’t simply walk across the border and start working and living in Canada. You need to have a plan.

There are several ways to legally live and work in Canada. They include working in Canada under NAFTA, investing in Canada, becoming a skilled worker, marrying a Canadian, or studying in Canada. I can help with all of these things, but note that marrying a Canadian doesn’t mean a marriage of convenience. Immigration officials will check to make sure that your marriage is genuine.

It should also be noted that it’s virtually impossible for an American to claim refugee status or asylum in Canada. Not liking the result of an election is not grounds for an American to stay in the country.