Recently, my office was hired for a residency obligation appeal at the Immigration Appeal Division. The appellant was a young lady, a permanent resident who was residing in Canada for around three or so years and who happened to travel for a short vacation to the Dominican Republic. Before her trip she forgot to renew her permanent resident (PR) card and upon return needed a Travel Document to return to Canada.
It has to be noted that if a PR travels outside of Canada, they need a Travel Document for their return if their PR card is expired or is about to expire. Some of my clients are under the impression that a PR card is an ID document and must be valid at all times. This is not true. A PR card, which can be used as an ID, is primarily needed when a permanent resident travels outside Canada.
My client, upon her application for a Travel Document at the Canadian consulate, was refused, and her family turned to my firm for help. The consulate official inferred that my client lost her permanent residency as he calculated that she had resided less than the time necessary for keeping status in Canada.
Upon filing the appeal, my office applied for a Travel Document to the same appeal division in Toronto, the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) to allow our client to enter Canada and participate in her upcoming hearing. We were successful in the application. Appellants who are refused travel documents by consulates usually wait in their country for the appeal hearing and participate over the phone, but my strategy was to do everything possible to enable my client to be physically present at her hearing and to be adequately prepared in advance. In addition, I knew that the wait time for the hearing would be at least 10 to 12 months, so my client would have an opportunity to gather more supporting evidence for her case.
My strategy was the right one,- in less than half a year we prepared a strong case in defense of our client’s claim that she fulfilled her residency obligations by being physically present in Canada for the necessary number of months. We interviewed the client carefully and examined her life in Canada in detail. It was ascertained that she was participating in concerts and took private vocal lessons. We persuaded our client to contact her old musical teacher whom we asked to provide us with an Affidavit attesting the fact that her student took lessons. We knew that if a specialist gives testimony, they must accompany their affidavits with an attestation of their credentials. This is called “giving expert evidence”. Our client, upon our advice, collected a number of personal photographs covering her period of life in Canada. We knew from experience that clients usually hesitate to ask their friends and family to personally testify at hearings. Clients are usually under the impression that taking somebody’s time from their work would be wrong. Although inconvenient, witness testimonies play an important role in these types of hearing. Appellants should understand that the burden of proving their cases lies upon them and not upon the immigration authorities (Minister’s Counsel). So, preparation for the hearing should be a thorough and diligent process. Also, we explained to our clients that saving money by skipping some steps such as personal preparation for testimony or preparation of witnesses is not a good idea. If one wants to win their case, the time spent for the preparation is equal to amount of legal fees paid. In this case, money was not an issue.
On the day of the appeal hearing, six witnesses and two expert witnesses appeared before the judge. All witnesses were well prepared. It is my experience that every detail including personal appearance can be crucial for the outcome of the case. It took the judge a second after he glanced at the witnesses, who were all wearing suits and confident looks on their faces that they will provide convincing evidence.
My client’s testimony was first and she was well prepared to each question asked by the Minister’s counsel and myself. We instructed our client to testify in English rather than her native language. We demonstrated that our client resided in Canada for a long period of time and she learned English well enough to give her testimony with no difficulties.
The judge stopped the hearing in half an hour after our client’s oral testimony. He said that he did not have any doubts that the witnesses will eagerly defend the appellant and that the evidence was well presented. He asked the Minister’s Counsel if he did not object to grant the appeal. Of course, he did not object as he probably saw that his opponents were well prepared.
At the end, everybody was happy, the client, the witnesses and me, their counsel. Because of a thorough preparation and time spent on the case, we confidently won that case, right at its beginning.