Canada squanders economic, social benefits by keeping out new Canadians’ relatives

More an opinion piece than factual reporting. Would be useful if Canada would have overstay data comparable to other countries like the USA:

Canada is losing manifold economic and social benefits and going against its own values when it denies visitor visas and study permits to family members of new Canadians. Denials are rooted in belief that visitors with family ties in Canada are more likely to overstay their visas, but while no data exists to back up this claim, why should that even be a concern?

In the last century, Canada has earned a great reputation for accepting a large number of immigrants and valuing multiculturalism. Immigrants are a great boost for the economy. In fact, Canada’s current plans to accept 411,000 immigrants in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023 were touted by former Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Marco Mendicino as a way to help the Canadian economy recover from COVID-19.

Such framing emphasizes how immigrants benefit our economy not just by filling labour force shortages and paying taxes, but also by significantly increasing employment creation.

Despite this warm welcome, new Canadians often face hurdles when their family members wish to come to visit. When applying for a visa, relatives of new Canadians frequently receive the following response: “I am not satisfied that you will leave Canada at the end of your stay as a temporary resident, as stipulated in paragraph 179(b) of the IRPR [Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations], based on your family ties in Canada and in your country of residence.”

The first three thoughts that come to mind when I encounter a sentence like this are: Do people with family ties stay and those without them return? Is this a favourable decision for the Canadian economy or even the IRCC’s plan? Do officers denying visas consider the repercussions of such a decision?

For this article, I spoke with 11 new Canadians whose family members had gotten multiple denials because of their ties to Canada. These dismissals have affected each of them in various ways.

Many said they felt guilty, believing that rather than being of assistance, they were obstructing their families’ dreams. This is especially true for those whose siblings had education or job opportunities but were turned down because of their familial ties.

Some of the people I spoke to said their family members, particularly their parents, felt Canada could reject their submission multiple times. This resulted in either familial issues or a sour relationship.

Source: Canada squanders economic, social benefits by keeping out new Canadians’ relatives

Ottawa says it only learned Chinese police ran visa centre this year

Appears to be lack of due diligence as should have been caught earlier:

Ottawa says it only learned in February that Canada’s visa-application centre in Beijing is managed by Chinese police, the same month The Globe and Mail reported the arrangement.

The federal government has trusted its visa centre in Beijing to a police-owned company since 2008, and has been required to conduct due-diligence screenings during renewals of the contract in subsequent years including 2018.

The government acknowledged its lack of awareness in documents tabled in the House of Commons this week in response to written questions from NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan.

“In February, 2021, Public Services and Procurement became aware that Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company is ultimately owned by the Beijing Public Security Bureau,” the government said in an answer to Ms. Kwan that was signed by Steven MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.

The Globe reported the ownership structure of the company managing the visa-application centre on Feb. 8.

Ottawa said in the documents that government officials have conducted three site visits to visa-application centres in China “since becoming aware of the subcontractor ownership,” according to another response to Ms. Kwan signed by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

Ms. Kwan said she’s surprised by the government’s admission. “That to me is absolutely shocking. … How on Earth did they not know about the ownership structure?”

She blamed both the Liberal government and previous Conservative government for failing to stop this arrangement and said she remains concerned about how Canada can safeguard visa applicants’ private and confidential information. “I fear for the applicants who use the Canadian government’s services there.”

Canada’s visa-application centre in Beijing is operated by Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company, which is owned by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, The Globe discovered. And at least some of the people working inside the centre are members of the Chinese Communist Party, recruited from a school that trains the next generation of party elite.

Beijing Shuangxiong is a subcontractor for VFS Global, a company headquartered in Zurich and Dubai that holds a wide-reaching contract to provide visa-processing services around the world for the Canadian government. VFS offices collect personal and biometric information that is then forwarded to Canadian immigration officials for decisions on who will be granted visas.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has given no indication that it intends to end the Beijing arrangement.

Alexander Cohen, press secretary for Mr. Mendicino, said Wednesday that Immigration officials regularly audit and inspect visa-application centres for compliance, including through unannounced audits, and that video cameras are used for ongoing monitoring.

He said no privacy breaches have been reported at these centres by those operating them and that VFS Global has complied with all security requirements in its contract. “Since 2018, [the Immigration department] has conducted over 20 site visits to visa-application centres in China,” Mr. Cohen said.

The government had acknowledged earlier this year that it was unaware from the start of the contract that Chinese police ultimately owned the company that is the facilities manager of the Beijing visa-application centre. At the time, though, it did not reveal when precisely it learned of the matter.

Richard Fadden, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who served as national security adviser to two prime ministers, has said that Ottawa should end the visa situation in Beijing.

“An instrument of the Chinese government has access to a facility in China with connections to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada,” he said. “I cannot think of a more promising entry point for China’s cyberspies.”

The 2018 contract was not the first time VFS and affiliated companies had won federal contracts to operate visa-application centres, including the ones in China. Earlier contracts were awarded under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. And during parliamentary hearings in February, MPs learned that Beijing Shuangxiong has actually provided facilities and staff for Canada’s visa-application centre in China’s capital since 2008.

VFS told the hearings it informed Ottawa in 2008 that it intended to use Beijing Shuangxiong as the local subcontractor, or as it calls the company, its local facility-management company.

However, two former Conservative immigration ministers Jason Kenney, now the Premier of Alberta, as well as Chris Alexander, have told The Globe that they were unaware the subcontractor for the visa-application centre in Beijing was a company owned by the Chinese police.

“There was a public tendering process, and as you know there can be no political interference in tendering. If this happened during my tenure and I had been made aware of it, obviously I would have stopped it,” Mr. Kenney told The Globe earlier this year.

Mr. Alexander, for his part, said: “I was never informed of this arrangement in Beijing: it should never have happened. No state body in any region should be controlling access to our immigration or any other programs.”

Jeremy McIntee, a spokesman for former Conservative immigration minister Diane Finley, who was in charge of the department in 2008, said she does not recall whether she was informed of the subcontractor’s ownership.

VFS has said it is obligated to use local partners under Chinese law. It has also said it conducts “deep identity, credit, criminal, residency, education and employment checks” on employees, uses encrypted systems to send application information to Canadian servers, and employs a raft of measures to secure information, including an obligation for employees to hand over mobile phones to managers inside the visa centre.

Beijing Shuangxiong also acts as a subcontracted facility manager for VFS in Beijing for other Western countries, including New Zealand, Britain and Ireland. Immigration New Zealand has said it knew “from the outset” that the Beijing police have ownership of Beijing Shuangxiong.

VFS spokesman Peter Brun has previously said the Chinese companies it works with “are managed by VFS Global and we ensure they operate entirely according to all VFS Global security processes and protocols, and according to the Canadian government’s visa-application process and data-protection requirements, which are audited regularly by the Canadian government.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-ottawa-says-it-only-learned-chinese-police-ran-visa-centre-this-year/

Australia: Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge addresses concerns of Indian nationals on temporary visas in Australia

Presumably, some Indians on Canadian visitor visas have also been caught by Indian airports being shut down but haven’t seen any media coverage:

The coronavirus pandemic has spawned uncertainty in the best of cases, but more so for the 2.2 million temporary visa holders in the country, who have been thrown into chaos by global travel bans and border closures.

A large number of these visa holders are from India, many of whom are now finding themselves in a precarious situation, where Australia is asking them to go home, but their own country isn’t yet ready to evacuate them.

Addressing their concerns, in an exclusive interview with SBS Punjabi, Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said he understands its a matter of “greater uncertainty” for those Indian nationals who are anxious to return home.

 

“We understand that the international airports in India are closed until next week and then and a further decision will be made by Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi whether to extend them again or reopen them,” said Mr Tudge.

He added that the situation in India is, however, different from that in Australia.

In Australia, we are not allowing foreign nationals to come into the country, we are only allowing Australians and permanent residents, unless there are exceptional circumstances, whereas India is not even allowing Indian nationals to return to their country

‘Temporary visa holders facing hardships must return home’

For most temporary visa holders, the problem is not just limited to being unable to return to their countries of origin, it is also a financial one. Many of them have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and are now having to survive the crisis without any income assistance from the federal government.

Addressing the concerns of visa holders, Minister Tudge said while the country recognises their importance to its economy and society, however, with Australian citizens and residents being the priority, many will have to reevaluate their options.

“Firstly, all the efforts with the welfare payments and the JobKeeper payments are very much focused on Australians and permanent residents here. If you’re here on a temporary visa and you do run out of money then we do encourage people to return home where you may be able to get support,” he said.

It is difficult for Indian nationals at the moment because the international airports are closed, but our expectations and maybe the expectations of Prime Minister Modi is that they will be opened again in the not so distant future

‘Immigration will resume when it will be safe to do so’

Mr Tudge said the government is yet to take a decision on when it would open its borders to anyone other than the Australian citizens and permanent residents.

“Two things have to occur for that to happen. First is the international airports in India have to open up which is a decision of the Indian government and then second, we would have to open our borders to foreign nationals and we haven’t made that decision yet,” he said.

The minister thanked the Indian immigrants for their “terrific” contribution to Australia’s immigration success.

“I think it will be some time yet before we reopen the borders but it’s is something that we’d like to do in the future because immigration has been such a critical part of Australia’s success.

“And particularly immigrants from India in the last decades who have come in very large numbers and made a terrific contribution in Australia and we will be looking for immigration to resume when it is safe to do so,” he said.

Minister Tudge said a lot of Australia’s success in stemming the coronavirus has come through government’s move to close the international borders. He said a decision to reopen would largely depend on the development of a vaccine.

“How quickly we will rebound, it’s just too early to say and if there’s a vaccine which is found and that’s globally available then we may be able to open-up those borders sooner rather than later and get back to what the normal situation is. But if the vaccine is not found for some time, then it will probably be a slower process,” said the minister.

‘Immigration rate will be low’

Mr Tudge said it is too early to ascertain the long term impact of the health crisis on the country’s immigration policies, but added that the numbers would certainly be low as compared to the previous years.

“It’s just too early to say at this stage obviously our immigration rate will be lower this year compared to previous years because we have closed down the borders and almost nobody is coming in at the moment,” he said.

COVID-19 impact on visa applications:

The minister said while the processing of onshore applications has not been largely affected, those lodging visa applications from outside the country are more likely to feel the pinch.

“If you’re overseas and you’re applying for a visa, then I can say that it is being interrupted because of coronavirus, often because things like the English language testing providers or the health testing providers in most destination countries are shut down.”

He, however, added that the situation would be “irrelevant” for applicants from India as they would not be able to enter the country, even if they had a valid visa until the restrictions are lifted.

“At the moment that situation is almost irrelevant, because even if you had a valid visa and if you were in somewhere like India or Nepal then you would not be able to come into the country in any case.

“Again, we are keeping a close eye on things we are continuing to process those in Australia we are processing some overseas, but it obviously is at a slower rate,” said the minister.

Source: Exclusive: Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge addresses concerns of Indian nationals on temporary visas in Australia

Chinese immigration applications to Canada plunge since Meng Wanzhou arrest

Interesting. While to date we have not seen a decline in student visa applications, will see whether this apparent trend will start to extend to students:

Chinese applications for Canadian immigration and visitor visas both fell to their lowest levels in recent years after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver and Beijing issued a travel warning to its citizens about “arbitrary detention” in Canada.

The explosive growth rate in Chinese tourism that had seen mainlander arrivals in Canada nearly quadruple since the start of the decade has also plummeted, official figures show, with potential losses of hundreds of millions of dollars in visitor spending.

There were 1,574 mainland Chinese immigration applications in June, the lowest monthly total since March 2015, according to the latest data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). And this February’s 1,754 applications had represented a 45-month low at the time.

Jean-Francois Harvey, a Hong Kong-based immigration lawyer, said three mainland Chinese immigration consultants had told him that Meng’s December 1 arrest and the resultant diplomatic chill had had an effect on business, although it was not necessarily a “deal breaker”.

Source: Chinese immigration applications to Canada plunge since Meng Wanzhou arrest