Credibility of Documents and Canadian Immigration: Can a Toronto Immigration Lawyer Help?

By Author: Admin | March 28, 2010

There is a plethora of Federal court cases dealing with the assessment of credibility by various officers and tribunals that constitute Canada’s immigration department.  Two common settings (among many) where credibility is a huge issue, include visa officer assessments of skilled worker applications, and in refugee claims at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

What is common in both settings is the placement of documentation before the decision maker, be it a visa officer, or a refugee Board member of the Immigration and Refugee Board.  The documents are reviewed by someone before the assessment of an application.  This is apparent in the process of ‘paper screening’ at visa offices, or the ‘screening form’ common to refugee claims at the IRB.  Concerns about the documentation are noted and are a factor in whether or not a would-be federal skilled worker immigrant should be interviewed or not.  Similarly, the documentation submitted to the refugee board often frames or creates issues that make a refugee claimant’s case harder.

Thus, if documents asserting a certain type of work experience look ‘funny’ (e.g. they are hand written, or vague, or resemble someone else’s work reference letter), this will lead to an interview, or even a refusal of the skilled worker application outright.  Similarly, a refugee PIF, if too vague, or if not supported by proof of what is alleged (e.g. police reports, medical documentation, identity documents), then the refugee hearing becomes all the more lengthy and more of an interrogation.

Visa officers have an idea about what a work experience letter should look like.  This is based on Canadian immigration law, their experience, and the use of locally engaged staff.  Similarly, the Members of the Immigration Refugee Board have regard to information such as response to information requests, and their past experience in dealing with things such as identity documents, and police reports.

Clients seeking immigration status in Canada have to convey the relevant information to the immigration authorities.  If clients don’t know what the visa officer or refugee board member is used to seeing, they will submit strange documents.  This will cause concerns or flags to be raised, making the immigration application more complicated, or delayed, or refused.

In my practice, I often come across cases where the damage has already been done.  For example, someone who represented himself at the Immigration and Refugee Board came to me for a federal court case against his removal order (he was deported for not having the minimum amount of days of residence in Canada).  Cases where credibility has already been assessed by the IRB or a visa officer make my job more difficult.  In the case I just mentioned, I tried to argue that an unrepresented party should be treated more fairly than a person who was represented by a lawyer.  The court disagreed, stating that a fair hearing at the IAD does not extend to giving directions or advice at the hearing.  Had the client retained a representative like a lawyer for the IAD hearing, his result may have been much more satisfactory than what occurred when he was self-represented.

Similarly, in a private meeting on November 20 2009 between immigration lawyers and Canada’s immigration department, the immigration department told us lawyers that it tries to ensure that checklists are as comprehensive as possible, but the onus lies with applicants to produce evidence that supports their statements in their application.  In other words, the document checklists in Canada immigration’s website do not constitute the last word about what documents should be presented to a visa office.  In other words, if you follow the document checklist as is indicated on CIC’s website an immigration officer can still refuse your application.

This message goes counter to the immigration department’s message on the CIC website that you do not need to hire an immigration representative.  In fact, another part of Canada’s immigration website states QUOTE  All the forms and information that you need to apply for a visa are available for free on this website. If you follow the instructions in the application guide, you can complete the application form and submit it on your own. UNQUOTE [Emphasis in original].  In other words, CIC provides the real message to the lawyers, and the fictional message is left for the public interested in Canadian immigration.


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I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario Canada. I am an accomplished author and lecturer and am consulted by the media and other immigration lawyers and consultants on immigration matters and challenging immigration cases, appeals, and federal court matters.

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