The Costly Consequence of One Mistake

While the Canadian immigration process is not designed to be complicated, it can unfortunately feel very complex as you navigate the various forms, eligibility criteria and program requirements.

It can be very easy to make mistakes if you are not careful. What many people don’t realize is if a mistake is made without credible justification, the applicant can face a five-year ban and be prevented from applying to any kind of immigration or visa program in Canada.

A mistake or misrepresentation, no matter how innocently made can be extremely costly to your immigration goals and a recent decision made by Canada’s Federal Court proves just how detrimental it can be.

Muniz v. Canada

Let’s take a look at Ms. Carmen’s Muniz’ example.

Ms. Muniz, a Mexican national, made her first visit to Canada in 2013 as a visitor on a visitor visa. The visit was extended over a period of several years through a combination of work, study permits, and visitor records.

Six years later, in 2019, she decided to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) and a visitor record extension, which was denied.

Upon denial, Ms. Muniz applied for an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). One of the questions in the eTA questionnaire asked the applicant if they had ever been refused entry into the country or asked to leave. Ms. Muniz indicated she had not.

Applicants cannot rely on the immigration system to catch their errors

Federal Court

Her response resulted in Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC) rejecting her claim. They stated she had misrepresented herself through her negative response because she had in fact been denied when her PGWP was refused. Ms. Muniz replied right away and explained she had misunderstood the question and confirmed she had indeed been refused her PGWP.

But her explanations did not sway IRCC and they rejected her claim and deemed her inadmissible to Canada for five years. Ms. Muniz asked for a Judicial Review at the Federal Court, claiming that IRCC had made an unreasonable and unfair decision.

She argued that:

  1. The reviewing IRCC officer had refused to consider that Ms. Muniz had made an innocent mistake;
  2. The officer overlooked factors like Ms. Muniz’s has always complied with Canadian immigration laws and that IRCC was well aware of the refusals on her file.

Ms. Muniz’s first point was dismissed by the Federal Court because she had failed to explain why or how she had misunderstood the question. The Officer did their job by pointing out the concern. It’s not their job to explain it, that falls on Ms. Muniz.

The Federal Court also rejected the second argument because her past compliances had nothing to do with her present application as such the Officer was not required to revisit her past applications. Even though IRCC was technically aware of the refusals on her file, it didn’t change the fact that she had not been truthful in her application.

The original decision was upheld and the request was dismissed.

The rejection of her argument was aptly summarized by the Court who stated, “Applicants cannot rely on the immigration system to catch their errors.” In short, the onus is always on YOU, as the applicant to review and catch mistakes and be truthful.

This one simple mistake of not checking the appropriate box will literally change the course of Ms. Muniz’ life. Over the last seven years, she has built a life for herself in Canada, whether she was a permanent resident or not, Ms. Muniz likely considered herself Canadian in every way that matters, she considered this country her home, the place where she wanted to settle permanently.

A five-year ban at best momentarily derails the plans she had made for her future. In the worse-case scenario she may never be able to come back into Canada and will need to build a very different life than the one she had envisioned.

The importance of providing truthful, accurate information cannot be stressed enough. It’s easy to tell yourself that mistakes happen and surely the government will be understanding.

Mistakes do happen. To err is to be human.

The government however, with some rare exceptions, is not understanding.

In order to avoid trouble down the road or misunderstandings or complications, the best thing you can do is consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. They will guide you step by step and make sure your dreams do come true and prevent you from making a costly mistake like Ms. Muniz.

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