Application Filed

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Just a quick note that the application for judicial review was in fact filed with the Federal Court today.

At this point the government has 30 days to respond (so March 29, 2012).  We will then have one final opportunity to file within 10 days.

The clock is ticking.

Note that I do not yet have a copy of what was actually filed with the Court, but I have already asked my attorney to forward one to me (that should be easy, given that they submit electronically these days.)

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What is the cost of success?


I’ve previously mentioned the seminal Companioni case.  From that case, I was able to locate my current attorney.  I’ve also been doing quite a bit of work lately in New York City (recall that my client is physically located in the same building as the consulate that considered and rejected my application.)  Since Companioni lived in NEw York, I spent some time trying to track them down.

While I think I have, the process was far more challenging than I had initially expected – after all, these days it’s generally quite easy to track someone down.  Even when I found a matching profile on a professional website, I was surprised to find out that the person I identified did not allow direct contact (and this is a business networking website!)  That surprised me.  The same thing for social websites (e.g., Facebook).  As I dug deeper it began to sink in that there might be a high price for success: the rights of privacy disappear once the legal system is involved.  The details of who I am, what I do for a living, where I live, and my medical condition are all spelled out in a legal decision.  If it is unsuccessful, almost no one will take notice – and from my review of judicial review decisions most are unsuccessful.  Then again, most are refugee cases.

Companioni was succesful.  When I pushed my attorney a bit more on Monday about “where they were in the process” he demurred and said that I was pushing into an area of attorney/client privilege.  I’ve since offered up permission for my attorney to pass along contact information, but I’ve not heard anything.  A shame, but I suspect they may prefer their privacy.

I’m not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, but in this case it occurred to me that the reason for these things might very likely be that after the decision was made some people took it upon themselves to make the lives of Companioni and his partner difficult.  I cannot be surprised at such actions, given the extremist views of some people (e.g., Westboro Baptist Church and their actions.)

So now I’m wondering: will the cost of success (however unlikely) be so high that I ultimately decide it was not worth it?  If so, it really challenges me as to the basic nature of justice and the manner in which we execute it these days.  But then again, perhaps that is the goal: to provide us with an outlet that is so expensive regardless of success or failure that we will remain complacent and simply accept the fact that we are excluded.

That leaves me with a rhetorical question to ponder: Does Canada merely present the illusion of equality and tolerance while actively discouraging it?

Spousal Sponsorship: A story of “how it really works”


When dealing with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) one is often presented with what seems like a Kafka-esque set of requirements.

In all fairness, for the vast majority of applicants, there are few problems because their case is straight-forward and can be quickly and easily evaluated.

Of course, those of us who find complications can experience what often seems like an impenetrable maze of highly subjective rules, regulations, etc. That certainly applies in the case of medical inadmissibility.

I had a great time meeting with an old friend yesterday.  Over drinks we caught up with each other’s lives.  He has just recently applied for Canadian citizenship.  An American originally, he went through the sponsored spousal category.  I was surprised when he told me that it required 24 months to complete everything.  I recall how nervous he was towards the end (he had a work permit, but his employer had laid him off.)

It turns out he ran into pretty much the same issue that I’m facing.  He found out about his condition shortly before he submitted his application for permanent residency (so at least not as part of the immigration physical.)  What surprised me is how many “hoops” he had to jump through in order to be successful.  This included a requirement that he be on medication and that he sign affidavits guaranteeing that he and his spouse were monogamous and that they would practice safe sex.  To be blunt, I was aghast at such requirements.  It seems highly invasive for any government to impose such requirements on a rather personal and intimate relationship.

Of course, I find this ironic – in the case of a skilled worker, a personal guarantee to pay for a public service is discounted.  So why would a personal guarantee as to sexual conduct between spouses be considered valid?

I have not delved substantially into describing my own research and opinions on the efficacy of the life saving drugs for HIV, but I am more skeptical than the press, doctors and ASOs are about their efficacy and the current treatment paradigms. I am not saying that I have the answers, I’m merely disturbed by the fact that there are so many doubts and questions to which I have not been able to obtain satisfactory answers.  It is an essential component of informed consent to understand treatment decisions. But I’ll save that conversation for another day.

Doctors, while certainly very learned, have been known in the past to collectively accept scientific conclusions that were later proven false.  For an example (but hardly the only one), do a search on Onanism for an interesting history on a common cause for a number of human conditions. We scoff now, but at the time this was all taken seriously. So I have proceeded with caution.

Bottom line: I find the idea that one can be forced to take medications to fly in the face of “informed consent” and I am amazed that any doctor would find it ethical to allow a patient to proceed in the face of such coercion.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what actually happens.

 

Fear and Loathing at the Border

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So today I crossed the border.  I did it in a rather peculiar location – I took the tunnel bus from Detroit to Windsor.  It’s a very short ride.  And if things had gone sour, I could have turned back around and returned to my hotel room.

In this case, I was the only person on the bus.  As a favour to the bus driver, the CBSA officer inspected me at the entry booth rather than sending me to the secondary inspection station (there was a Greyhound bus parked at the secondary inspection post.)  I presented my Nexus card and he asked more questions than I usually get: “where do you live?” and when I told him, he asked “what is your status in Canada?’  I told him that I worked here, and he wanted to see my work permit, which I showed him.

He never looked at the computer systems though, which I know means he’d be happy.  My documents are all in order.  What I’m afraid is that some notation will show up in my online files/records.  Of course, I haven’t exactly helped that, either.

Speaking of which, the other knife in the guts was when I texted home to see if my T4 had shown up (it would be useful for the forthcoming application we’re filing in Federal Court this week).  I was told that it had not, but that a letter from CIC had.  With a bit of trepedation I asked “which office” and after a bit received an answer “Seattle”.  My stomach was in knots.  Recall that I submitted a TRP application to them?  I was seriously thinking “if they answered that quickly it is a denial.”

About 30 minutes later I was able to obtain what I wanted to know: it was an acknowledgment of receipt.  I haven’t seen the exact letter, but my recollection of the gist was: “this will take 3-6 months to process and is unlikely to succeed.”  But it means they have the file.

I’ll order my first round of CAIPS/GSSM notes on it when I get back.  I don’t expect it will say much, but at least I’ll be able to see where they are and what they are thinking (perhaps).  I’ll keep doing that every little while (since it takes 4-6 weeks to get the notes back.)  I’m also going to send in a copy of my completed spousal sponsorship application (since that is part of the basis of my application.)  And anything else that I think might support my request.

What drives this?  That nagging fear that I’m going to be heading home and stopped at the border with the “sorry, you are inadmissible to Canada”.  I know it is low probability, but I cross the border so often that it even low probability makes me incredibly nervous.  The thought of being told I cannot go home to my family, my home, and my employees is a truly dreadful feeling.

I hope that this never happens.

Finding Others


Flag of British Columbia
I’ve been fortunate to speak with others about this issue at length, including people who have been successful – although against long and difficult odds.

One person with whom I spoke recently had an amazing story that provided me with quite a bit of insight.  For the purposes of this discussion I will call him Alexander. He is an American citizen but his partner is from the EU.  US immigration policy does not recognize same-sex couples, so the partner in such a case must seek to either win the immigration lottery or seek economic immigration (tied to having valuable skills.)  For whatever reason, Alexander’s partner did not qualify for economic immigration. They survived for quite some time by having his partner just leave the US periodically (e.g., by the expiration of the usual 90 day visitor visa granted to people from the EU.)

Of course, that eventually didn’t work ask well, as the US immigration folks eventually do realize that the visits are rather frequent.  So they had to find an acceptable alternative and settled on Canada.

At any rate, Alexander had a highly valuable set of professional skills and had his company transfer him to their BC office (via the NAFTA intra-company transferee category.)  This allowed his partner to come along with him and they started the permanent residency application process.

Much like me, he found out his medical issue after his immigration physical.  Of course, being in BC on a legal long-term work permit, he qualified for BC’s medical service plan, and thus was eligible (prior to PR) to take advantage of the medical services available in BC.  His company also had private insurance and crafted a plan that would ensure the province did not need to pay for his medical costs.

After submitting his proposal, it was rejected by CIC due to the excessive cost rationale. At that point his local attorney seemed a bit out of his zone of comfort, so he worked with another attorney in Toronto (another medical inadmissibility expert) whom I’ve heard others recommend in the past.  They put together an application for judicial review, which was rejected.  Thus, there was no court review of the decision.

At that point he started working on a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) with the Toronto lawyer.  It was around that point that his attorney said that the filing was strong enough on its own that it would be worth filing again with the additional information.  This time they filed under the provincial nominee program, documented that his skills were in high demand (letters from his employer, for example), ensured that the company’s insurance coverage would apply, started taking the drugs and demonstrating that the insurance was paying for it, obtained a letter from the head of the BC clinic stating that the government was not paying for his meds and with all of this in hand was able to convince the immigration doctor (“DMP”) that while he had a medical condition, it would not be a financial burden on the province.

This time, his application was successful.

The total process required five years and cost around $50,000.

I found the conversation very insightful and oddly comforting – others have done this and been successful at it.

FBI Clearance Letter received

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FBI image

Federal Bureau of Investigations

Today I received my FBI clearance letter.  As expected, it indicates that I do not have an arrest record in the United States.

With that I’m just waiting on two documents at this point: two support letters from family members (basically saying they know about us, all in support of our relationship being genuine.)

I’ve also been digging around on my computers and found some very useful material – including chat logs dating back to 2008 – nearly nine months before I even filed for permanent residency the first time around.

Of course, marriage fraud is a serious issue in Canada. I try to look at this objectively, however: most of this fraud is economically driven.  In my case, my work isn’t tied to my location.  So, from an objective perspective, the typical reasons that one enters into an immigration marriage don’t really make much sense here.  Regardless, there are a couple of red flag issues: age difference, income difference and my prior rejection all being the big issues.

I’ve tried to address these issues.  The first two are facts: the question is whether or not they undermine the legitimacy of my relationship with my spouse.  I maintain that they don’t.  First, it’s not as if we jumped into this instantly.  We started talking back in the fall of 2008, and while we bumped into each other on the street in November 2008, it wasn’t anything more than a fleeting encounter.   We didn’t actually meet until early June 2009.

So, finding chat logs and e-mails that substantiate this help demonstrate that there are some “legs” on our relationship.  Then we throw in joint bank statements, our apartment lease, car papers (joint ownership, loan in both our names) and my take is that we have a reasonable argument for a legitimate case.

I’ve read some cases online where people are worried about this as well (one couple had been married for six years and had two children together – to be honest, I cannot fathom how an immigration officer could look at that and think it wasn’t authentic!)  So I recognize that it’s easy to over-analyze these things.

Thus, my approach: step back from it and say “given all the evidence, does this look like a reasonable evolution of a relationship?”

We will find out soon enough.  My hope is to submit this package in early March, when I return from my next trip.

 

New forms!

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immigration forms

Immigration Forms

So I was going over the forms (again) and found that the CIC website now has a new IMM1344E form (the “E” by the way means it is in English.  The “F” version is in French.)

What’s amazing is that this form changed in December 2011 (replacing the previous two form combination.)  I’m glad I caught this – I suspect sending the wrong form to CIC would lead to at least a slower processing time and more likely a return of the entire application back to us.

The big advantage to the new form seems to be that it generates a barcode cover page.  By using 2D barcode technology, it means that when it arrives at CIC they can simply scan it and all the data is entered.  Less chance for errors (the barcodes have error correction data within them) and faster processing.  While not new technology, I assume it’s part of trying to streamline the CIC application processing system.  The downside is it means we’ll be one of the first people to try it out.

I was also excited to see that my credit card was charged by the FBI, which means someone in West Virginia has opened the envelope.  This usually seems to mean that the application will be processed in the next couple of days.  So – assuming there are no issues with the fingerprint card – I should get back my “no record found” response soon as I provided them with my FedEx account number.

With my FBI letter in hand, I’ll have everything I need to submit the new application.  I’ll pay the “Right of Permanent Residence” fee (printing out the oh so critical receipt), go through the application one more time, get it externally reviewed and then pop it in the Federal Express Envelope (or more likely box at this point) and ship it off to Mississauga.  Then we wait; at the moment it is taking around 2 months for them to open the application package.  If they are happy with the sponsorship they will send it along to Buffalo.  If they are not happy with something the process will slip off the tracks and we’ll have to wait and see how long it ultimately takes.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but my prior experience suggests that this could be a long road.

Maybe I should start a betting pool as to which will happen sooner: spousal sponsorship will be accepted or judicial review will be granted (or denied).