Toronto immigration lawyer Karen Kwan Anderson: Here’s an interesting case that involves the current hot topic of refugee resettlement. However, it’s not what you think, and in this case I don’t think refugee status was the way to go:
A former British soldier married to a disabled Canadian woman may be forced to leave his Victoria home for the United Kingdom after a series of missteps and a snarl of red tape.
John Collins, 62, first made an application for refugee status when he entered Canada, based on alleged harassment in the U.K. by a member of the Irish Republican Army. The application was denied and he’s been ordered to leave by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
But Collins is the main caregiver for his wife, Anne, who is disabled and can’t work. He also doesn’t make enough money as a security guard to pay their bills while saving for airfare so both can return voluntarily to the U.K., said John….
The board ruled John was not a refugee nor in need of protection. He’s been told to leave by Nov. 6.
Refugee board spokeswoman Melissa Anderson said it’s rare for claims to be accepted from the U.K. because it’s not considered a refugee-producing nation by the Canadian government.
If the couple had seen me in a consultation or called me on the phone, I would have asked a lot of questions about their intentions, lifestyle, needs, Canadian family members, and objectives. In short, I would have needed relevant facts in order to give them good legal advice.
In this case, because John is a British citizen, I would never have recommended he make a claim for refugee status. The spokeswoman in the article is correct: the UK is not considered a refugee-producing nation. The chances of a successful refugee claim from the UK are virtually nil.
Instead, I would have recommended that John and Anne submit a sponsorship application while John was overseas. This would have been processed by the Canadian High Commission in London, England, and John could have continued working and sending money to Anne to assist with her daily needs.
MONEY AND SUPPORT
The reason it would have been better for John to stay in the UK is money and support. Anne doesn’t have a regular income which would enable her to sponsor John. Meanwhile, John would not be able to work in Canada during processing, nor would he be able to work in Canada while staying with Anne on a visitor’s visa.
An overseas application processed in the UK currently takes about 28 months after the sponsor is approved by the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga. Such an approval itself takes about 60 days, making the total processing time 30 months. This is a long time to wait, but it’s much more bearable than a failed refugee claim, which sees you removed from the country.
IMMIGRATION RULES ARE COMPLEX
Another reason I would recommend an overseas application in a case like this is because the sponsor would have the right to appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division, unless a refusal is based on charges of serious criminality or misrepresentation.
It is not my job to decide which path a client should take. They ultimately have to decide after hearing the risks. The lesson to draw from John and Anne’s situation is that Canadian immigration processes are increasingly complex and the stakes are high. Even if you are not able to afford legal services, holding a consultation is a small investment compared to the costly risk you can encounter in the future.