April 9, 2019 – Quebec’s immigration system continues to be mired in controversy after a Superior Court ruling forcing the government to process pending applications.
In the latest immigration.ca livestream, immigration lawyer Colin Singer sums up the current position from a legal standpoint. He discusses likely outcomes for applicants who are part of the backlog, and gives his view on the options for prospective candidates for Quebec and the situation for employers.
Watch the livestream below or read on to find out what Singer has to say.
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Singer on The Current Quebec Immigration Position
As we all know, there is this controversy in Quebec with a backlog of applications. We are looking at over 45,000 people affected when main applicants and dependents are included. Some of these candidates applied up to 10 years ago.
The problem with applications that are so old, is obviously they will have outdated supporting documentation and language tests. Even in the ideal scenario where you have up to date applications, the figures show only 50 per cent of those who apply are successful.
The new Coalition Avenir Quebec law will allow the government to cancel the pending applications that have not reached a decision by February 7, 2019. The government is looking to save anywhere between $5 million and $10 million in having to process these cases.
The government introduced a proposed law and then started to act as if the law was already in force. Beginning February 7, they started writing to candidates to say ‘we are not going to process your pending applications’. This led to a court challenge, which was decided by the Quebec Superior Court on Monday February 25.
Singer on How the Legal Arguments Unfolded
The plaintiffs in the case were the Quebec Association of Immigration Lawyers along with two individual applicants. They argued that the Quebec government does not have the authority to begin acting as if the law passed. They cannot ignore the current law that requires the government to process cases until the new law passes. It violates the rights of candidates who are entitled to be processed. Unsurprisingly, the court agreed, and ordered the government to respect the law.
The government claimed it had the inherent power to manage the immigration system, in the most efficient manner. It interpreted this as being able to start applying the new law by not processing pending applications in the interim period.
The Quebec Superior Court did not agree with this view. It forced the Quebec government to begin processing these applications. The government’s attempt to act this way was not legally permissible. Ignoring old applications is entirely unlawful.
Singer on The Quebec Government’s Power to Cancel Immigration Applications
Many in the industry are upset with this policy. It is unfair and inhumane to so many people in this manner, who have been waiting for excessively long to have their applications processed.
But being unfair is different from being legal. The government has the power to pass new legislation that will affect all applications in those that were previously submitted. This is a hallmark of Quebec and federal immigration law. Governments can try to correct inefficiencies that have gone on for years by cancelling applications and giving back processing fees. This is a reality in Canada.
The Quebec government will likely pass this very harsh legislation sometime before the summer break, which begins July 1, 2019.
Court heard how quickly Quebec can work to process applications in the backlog. At its peak, Quebec could process 2,000 cases per month. This resulted in about 1,000 receiving approvals. That was back in 2015.
But the court decided it would not define the speed at which the Quebec government must process the pending 18,000 applications.
We are now waiting for the next four months when those close to the front of the line can expect to be processed. We know that Quebec will unlikely approve much more than 1,000 cases from the backlog even if they had the rest of 2019.
The government will prioritize those who are working here and people who are studying here. If you are working here or studying here and have a pending application, you need to be sure you meet the requirements for the professional experience program (PEQ).
You need to be aware that speaking French is an essential requirement of the professional experience program.
Singer on The Wait for Canadian Permanent Resident Visas
This is another controversial issue. Quebec has its own authority to issue Quebec Selection Certificates. Once that occurs the federal government will conduct medical and security checks. There is always a certain number of people who are approved by Quebec and then face a wait for their federal visas.
Currently there are more than 41,000 approved Quebec applicants waiting for their permanent resident visas.
This is on top of the 18,000 individuals in the Quebec backlog. The Quebec government has come in on a platform to reduce immigration levels. They filed their levels plan in December with a 20 per cent reduction. It means that if you receive an approval today from Quebec, you are not going to be coming to Canada with a Canadian permanent resident visa in hand for more than two years. People who have already been approved by Quebec can do the math to anticipate what they can expect for future wait times.
Singer on What Action Candidates and Employers Can Take
The message to people who are looking at Quebec with a view of coming here permanently is to consider other programs besides Quebec.
If you speak French, Quebec could be an option for you, but given what is taking place, you want to avoid the system if you are able.
If you are an employer, you have limited options. Expect frustrations, expect to have to keep getting work permits renewed. Being a Quebec employer and getting your workers sorted with Canadian permanent residence is going to take longer than it has ever done before.
An important underlying reality is that Quebec is a wonderful place to find work and enjoy a high quality of life. It is ideal for candidates that are not pressed to receive permanent residence and are content to work in Quebec on renewable temporary status, while their permanent status is being processed. It is a question of managing expectations.
Interested employers: Kindly contact us here to receive further information.
Interested candidates: Find out whether you qualify to Canada by completing our free on-line evaluation. We will provide you with our evaluation within 1-2 business days.
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