As Immigrants it is important to vote in our chosen country

On June 7th Ontario will hold a General Election to vote for our Premier of Ontario. Advance voting began on Saturday May 26th and will last until May 30th.  The Advance Voting Polls are for people who are not available to vote on June 7th or people who are just anxious and want to get their civic duty done. I do understand that many people enjoy voting on the day of the election and see it is a national day of action and pride.

Today I asked a friend whose opinion on politics I greatly value if he voted yet. I know he will be out of the country on June 7th.  Quite proud of himself he replied that YES he had voted on the previous Monday. Confused, I asked him how he could have voted on Monday if the advance polls had not opened till this Saturday.  It was then that I realized that he meant he had voted at the consulate of his country as they were having presidential elections.  I have seen many posts on social media relating to expats in Canada voting in the elections of their countries of former nationality from within Canada. A few Latin American countries have had elections recently. I also saw a lot of political discussion about the elections in those countries. I did not however see many posts from naturalized Canadian citizens posting about voting in the Ontario elections or discussing the debate that took place on May 27th between the leaders of the NDP, Liberal and Conservative Parties on Ontario.

It is a great honor for people who left their home countries many years ago to be able to take pride and vote in their home countries to bring about positive changes from within Canada. The honor is just as great to take part in politics in Canada. What struck me as odd in my friend’s case was that he was voting for a President in a country he has not resided in for over 20 years yet he still engages in politics of his country and solidarity work. I am not saying he should not do so but, why not do the same for Canada? He has been in Canada for over 20 years and a Canadian Citizen. Why is voting in Canada and Canadian politics not as important to him? Is it our false sense of security in Canada that everything will be fine no matter who is elected? Is it because Canada is a country made of up immigrants and we think everything will always remain fine? It was this same type of thinking that affected the US in the last elections. This same type of thinking that is now hurting so many Latin Americans in the US. Had the Latin American  community in the US realized the importance of political engagement, maybe things would not have turned out as they did. According to the 2016 Census of the USA, the Hispanic population in the United States in 2015 was 56.6 million. Can you imagine if they had exercised their right to vote and participation in politics?

The election in Ontario on June 7th will determine who the Premier of Ontario will be. It is the decisions made by our elected officials that will have a direct effect on our lives in our cities, our provinces and our country and as such we should concern ourselves with who will govern us.

The Premier of Ontario is an important role. As head of the government of Ontario, the Premier has several roles and power. The appointment of Premier is made by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and presides over the Executive Council or Cabinet.

The Office of the Premier of Ontario includes a number of committees: Priorities and Planning Committee; Cabinet Committee on Emergency Management; Treasury Board/Management Board of Cabinet; Legislation and Regulations Committee; Health, Education and Social Policy Committee; Jobs and Economic Policy Committee.  Much is at stake depending on which of the three leading parties assumes the role of Premier of Ontario. All of the issues on the table being discussed are important but of particular concern to Latin American households are jobs; minimum wage; healthcare; childcare.

Even immigration itself will be affected by who our next Premier of Ontario is. What is important for immigrants to know is that Ontario has The Ontario Immigration Act, 2015, which came into effect on January 1, 2018. The Act provides legislature for: Registry of Ontario employers and recruiters eligible to make job offers and provide recruitment service respectively to foreign nationals; Creation of Settlement and Integration programs; Creation and regulation of selection program related to temporary and permanent immigration into the province; Inspections, investigations, offences, and administrative and other penalties.

The Act is an attempt by the government of Ontario to make the province an attractive destination for skilled workers, entrepreneurs, and other talented immigrants from all over the world.

Ontario received more than 100,000 immigrants every year and The Act recognizes that Ontario is a top destination for Immigrants.

The elections of June 7th will have an impact on many things, one of which will be The Ontario Immigration Act. For this reason alone it is important that members of the Latin American community in Ontario get involved in the politics of the province and vote in the Provincial elections. Many of us have family and friends that will want to immigrate to Canada and thus will be affected.

According to the 2016 Ontario Census, there were 195,950 Latin Americans residing in Ontario. The number has risen since 2016. As a community, we have a large voice. Our voice can make a difference in who is elected Premier of Ontario which in turn will make a huge difference in how immigrants are treated in Ontario and will also affect not just the lives of naturalized Latin Americans in Ontario but future applicants for immigration to Ontario.

Being involved in the politics of our beloved former countries of nationality is important and a wonderful thing. So is being involved in the politics of our beloved adopted home country of Canada. Let’s make the voices of the Latin American community in Ontario count. On June 7th, get out there and exercise the right you have earned to vote.

To obtain permanent residence there are many programs available

airport2After the surprise win of Donald Trump in the United States many residents of that country have been contacting us requesting information on how to obtain status in Canada. I will divide the article into two parts. The first one will deal with permanent residency for citizens and green card holders of the United States. The second part will deal with undocumented people.

I am going to borrow a phrase used by my colleague and friend David Leblanc, when referring to the immigration to Canada:  “Canada has its own wall”. Though it is not a physical wall such as the one Donald Trump intends to build to keep certain people away, I agree that Canada has a very strict immigration selection system that leaves many people out. In order to qualify for permanent residence a US citizen or resident will have to meet the requirements as established in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations as any other person from any other part of the world.

Being a citizen or legal resident of the US, contrary to what people believe, does not entitle a person to legally live in Canada.  However there are certain factors that give a US citizen or resident a better chance of qualifying for residence to Canada such as: knowledge of the English language, the ability of citizens  to obtain a work permit for certain occupations without the Canadian employer having to obtain permission from Service Canada to hire them, being able to obtain a study permit at the port of entry, and obviously the ability to enter Canada without having to obtain a temporary resident visa before they try to enter.   I believe that the Canadian Border Services Agency will become more vigilant and stricter with US citizens trying to enter Canada as they will suspect a great numbers will seek to remain without obtaining first their permanent residence status.

To obtain permanent residence there are many programs available. One of the most used categories is the skilled workers program which allows executives or managers, professionals, specialized labour and technologists and technicians to apply for permanent residency if they meet the requirements for the program. This program is based on a point system that grants points for age, educational level, knowledge of the official languages of Canada, work experience, having family in Canada, having worked and or studied in Canada and having a job offer from a Canadian company.

US citizens as well as citizens of other countries that have a free trade agreement with Canada, such as Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Peru who work in Canada under special temporary workers programs will be receiving additional points towards their cases under the Express Entry and will have a greater chance of getting in.

The first step for people wishing to apply for permanent residence under this category is to make sure that they meet the requirements; if they do, they have to do the language exam and educational accreditation and then put their profile in the processing system, the Express Entry. The Minister of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship announces the scores needed for people to be invited to submit their permanent residence applications every two weeks. If the person is invited to apply then they have 90 days to submit their full application and it is expected that their case will be processed within six months.

This is but one program for people to come to Canada and there are many more. It is important to seek the one that is better suited for the individual.

For people who are undocumented in the United States and are looking to come to Canada before they have problems, things are quite different.  Though the programs are the same and they would have to meet the same requirements as anyone else, they find themselves in a difficult situation. Most of the undocumented people that have contacted us to evaluate their case have categorically stated that they are not willing to return to their country of origin or their country of habitual residence in order to process their case. Unfortunately for them, Canadian immigration law requires that a person apply for and obtained their documents before they arrive in Canada and the regulations further state that if a person is applying for permanent residence they have to apply form the country of nationality or the country of habitual residence. Habitual residence means a country where the person has been legally admitted for at least one year.

If the person arrived in the United States, was given permission to stay for three months and they remained in the country without obtaining an extension of their status, they do not comply with the one year requirement and therefore they will not be able to apply for permanent residence to Canada through a consulate in the United States.

We have received many inquiries from undocumented people regarding coming to Canada as students, visitors or temporary workers.  These are also problematic because the regulations state that in order to apply for temporary status, a person must apply for their documents from the country in which the applicant is present and has been lawfully admitted or the applicant’s country of nationality. But even if the person entered the United States legally and remained after their status expired, when they apply for temporary status to Canada chances are they will be refused. The fact that they remained in that country without status is a negative factor in their case.

In situations when  the applicant were willing to return to the country of nationality to make an application for a temporary resident visa, they have to keep in mind that in the application for their visitor, worker or student visa they will be asked what they have been doing for the last 10 years and where they were. Once the visa officer reviewing the application sees that the person resided illegally in the United states there is a very high probability the application will be refused as the officer will form the opinion that the person will come to Canada and once their visa expires they may remain in Canada illegally. The officer has to be satisfied that the intent is to come to Canada for a temporary purpose and the immigration history in the United States will be a negative factor in the assessment.

As I was writing this article I received this email: “A friend of mine resides in the USA, he is Mexican and does not have papers. We heard Canada had opened its borders to people who do not have papers. I was wondering if you could guide us in what is required or if there is a deadline.”  In situations such as what is happening in the United States with the undocumented many rumors are created. Some people are telling the undocumented that they can come to work or study. Before doing anything please be diligent. Seek advice from reputable professionals or from the government website,

Canada has not opened its doors to the undocumented. Everyone wishing to enter Canada has to jump our metaphorical immigration wall.

Vilma Filici