Canadian immigration law applies to people who want to visit Canada, study in Canada, work in Canada, and live in Canada. People living with HIV may have questions or concerns about Canadian immigration law. Immigration law is complex and is a very specialized area of law.
HALCO provides a variety of free immigration law services for people living with HIV in Ontario, as well as public legal education materials and public legal education workshops . For more information about other resources and Getting legal help, please scroll down.
Immigration Law Updates:
HALCO news Autumn 2012 edition
Our HALCO news Autumn 2012 edition of our newsletter includes a lot of information about the changes to Canada’s immigration laws. The articles start on page 9: HALCO news Autumn 2012 www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/HALCO_Newsletter-2012Autumn.pdf .
Canadian Citizenship Language Requirements Changing as of November 1, 2012
If you are not yet a Canadian citizen, and you are between the ages of 18 and 54, you should consider applying for citizenship before November 1, 2012.
If you are living with HIV in Ontario and you think you are eligible for citizenship, please contact us right away for advice and for assistance with a citizenship application.
As of November 1, 2012, if you are between 18 and 54, your citizenship application will have to include proof that you have good knowledge of English or French. More details about the types of proof can be found on the Government of Canada website: www.cic.gc.ca/english/citizenship/language.asp
Even if you are not concerned about the new English and French language requirements, it is a good idea to apply for citizenship at the earliest opportunity to ensure that your status in Canada is as secure as possible.
For more information about citizenship, you can visit the Government of Canada’s Citizenship website: www.cic.gc.ca/english/citizenship/become.asp
Urgent Immigration Law Changes
(May & June 2012)
Our Urgent Immigration Law Changes information sheet explains some serious changes to Canada’s Immigration Law (scroll down for more information): www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Immigration_Law_Changes-2012May_HALCO.pdf
Our HALCO news Spring 2012 includes more information about the Immigration Law Changes on pages 6 through 9.
Bill C-31 is currently before Parliament and will pass by the end of June 2012. Bill C-31 makes major changes to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee law and will have significant consequences for people living with HIV. Please scroll down for more Bill C-31 information from HALCO. Here is a link to Bill C-31 on the government of Canada website: www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&billId=5383493
HALCO’s information about Bill C-31
HALCO is very concerned about the impact that Bill C-31 will have on refugees and immigrants living with HIV. HALCO will be providing the community with additional information about Bill C-31 and other Immigration Law changes in the coming months. We are preparing written materials, and we will also be doing a number of in-person workshops across the province. Please contact us with any questions or if you would like to arrange a workshop.
Bill C-31 Changes to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications
Bill C-31 is currently before Parliament and will pass by the end of June 2012. Bill C-31 will, among other things, greatly restrict applications for Permanent Residence on Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) grounds. This will have major and immediate consequences for people living with HIV.
Currently, an H&C application is the most common way that someone with HIV who is unsuccessful in a refugee claim is able to stay permanently in Canada. Most H&C applications are made very soon after a negative decision in a refugee claim. H&C applications can succeed if a person can show that he or she will face a very serious hardship in their country (like inadequate health care for HIV) or if there is some other very sympathetic reason why they should be permitted to remain in Canada.
Under the current system, refugee claimants are permitted to make H&C applications while their refugee claim is still in process, or soon after they receive their negative decision. Under Bill C-31, this will no longer be the case.
When Bill C-31 is passed, which we expect to occur by June 20, 2012, people will not be permitted to make an H&C application while their refugee claim is pending or during the 12 months after receiving a final negative refugee decision.
There are no exceptions to the rule that disallows the filing of concurrent refugee claims and H&C applications. However, refused refugee claimants do not have to wait 12 months to file an H&C application as long as they are from a country where their life is at risk because of inadequate health care, or they have children who will be negatively impacted if their H&C were not accepted.
If you are currently a refugee claimant, or your refugee claim was recently refused, you should get legal advice as soon as possible. If you are living with HIV in Ontario, call HALCO right away at 416-340-7790 or toll-free 1-888-705-8889. When you call HALCO, you should say that you are calling for advice about an H&C application.
If you have already received legal advice about filing an H&C application, you should send your application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada no later than June 15, 2012 to ensure it is received in time. If you send your application by courier or registered mail, you can prove when you sent it and you can ask for proof of delivery.
Changes to the Interim Federal Health Program
The Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) provides health care coverage to refugee claimants and some refused refugees.
Effective June 30, 2012, the government will implement a number of significant changes to the IFHP. HIV medications, doctor’s visits for HIV follow-up and blood work will continue to be covered under the new IFHP system. However, some important non-HIV related health care benefits currently covered by the IFHP will be eliminated.
There will now be two categories of IFHP coverage, depending on the country the person is from or the stage of the person’s refugee claim:
Category 1: Full coverage (referred to as “health care coverage”):
- Refugee claimants who are waiting for their hearing or decision (unless they are from a “Designated Country of Origin,” see below).
- Successful refugee claimants who are not yet eligible for OHIP.
Category 2: Reduced coverage (referred to as “public health or public safety health care coverage”):
- Refused refugee claimants whose deportation order is not yet enforceable.
- Refugee claimants waiting for their hearing or decision who are from a “Designated Country of Origin” (DCO). A DCO is a country that Minister of Immigration has decided is generally a safe place to live. The DCO list has not yet been issued, but it will probably include most European countries, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. It may also include other countries. We will provide an update when the DCO list is issued.
The IFHP health care services covered under each category are:
Category 1: Full coverage
Urgent and essential hospital, doctor, diagnostic and ambulance services, as well as medicines and vaccines needed to prevent or treat a disease that is a risk to public health or a condition of public safety concern. Here are some examples of what is and is not covered in Category 1: Full Coverage:
- Covered: HIV medications, doctor’s visits for illnesses and injuries, childbirth care, flu shots, tuberculosis medicine and treatment
- NOT covered: medicines and vaccines for diseases that do not pose a risk to public health (e.g.: asthma, diabetes); medical services used for “elective purposes,” rehabilitation care, benefits not paid for by provincial or territorial health care programs, cost of long-term care and home care.
Category 2: Reduced coverage
Hospital, doctor, diagnostic services, medicines, and vaccines only if needed to prevent or treat a disease posing a risk to public health or a condition of public safety concern. Here are some examples of what is and is not covered in Category 2: Reduced Coverage:
- Covered: HIV medications and treatment, flu shots, tuberculosis medicine and treatment
- NOT covered: childbirth care, doctor’s visits, hospital services, and medications for illnesses that do not pose a risk to public health (e.g.: asthma, diabetes)
Benefits being cut from IFHP
The following benefits are going to be cut completely from the IFHP and will not be available in either category:
- Vision Care (eyeglasses, lenses, vision tests)
- Dental Care (emergency exams, x-rays, extractions, fillings, anaesthesia, dentures)
- Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy
- Home care visits and long-term care home facilities
- Speech therapy
- Oxygen therapy and respiratory aids
- Hearing aids
- Mobility aids (such as wheelchairs)
- Orthotics and Prosthetics
- Pressure garments and continence aids
- Ostomy and surgical supplies
Prescription drug coverage is also being eliminated for all IFHP recipients unless the drugs are to treat a disease that is a risk to public health or a condition of public safety concern. The list of diseases that are a “risk to public health” is found on the Public Health Agency of Canada website: http://dsol-smed.phac-aspc.gc.ca/dsol-smed/ndis/list-eng.php. A condition of “public safety concern” is a mental health condition in a person for which a physician is of the opinion that the person will likely cause harm to others.
Refugee claimants or refused refugee claimants who receive a drug card through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW) will still be able to access prescription medications using their ODSP or OW drug card. It is the doctor’s visits and hospital visits for issues other than HIV treatment that may be affected.
In special circumstances, the Minister may grant IFHP “custom coverage” to those who would not otherwise qualify for the full IFHP coverage.
For more information about the changes to the IFHP for people living with HIV in Ontario, please contact us.
Government Proposes Serious Changes to Canada’s Refugee System
On February 16, 2012, the Federal government introduced Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act. If passed by Parliament, Bill C-31 will have a dramatic effect on Canada’s refugee and immigration system. The Bill C-31 changes will have a serious impact on refugee claimants in Canada and on people who have recently had a refugee claim refused. The changes will not affect citizens or most permanent residents.
HALCO believes that almost all of these effects will be negative and will restrict the ability of many refugee claimants to obtain or keep status in Canada. Bill C-31 is not yet law. However, the Minister of Immigration has said that he hopes it will be approved by Canada’s Parliament by the end of June 2012. Please see our Immigration Law Update on page 8 of our HALCO news Fall 2012 edition for more information.
Canada delays implementation of Immigration Law Changes
In our Spring 2011 newsletter, we reported that the Canadian government made important changes to some of Canada’s immigration laws in June 2010. The changes concern the process for refugee claims, pre-removal risk assessments, humanitarian and compassionate grounds applications, and deportations.
The changes were to take effect on December 1, 2011, but the Canadian government recently announced that the new system will come into effect on June 29, 2012. The final details of the changes are still not known. When the final details are announced, we will post more detailed information on our website.
You can visit the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) website for information: http://ccrweb.ca/en/refugee-reform
Sponsorship of Parents and Grandparents suspended
As of November 5, 2011, Immigration Canada will no longer accept applications from people to sponsor their parents and grandparents for permanent residence in Canada. Applications that have already been filed will still be processed. The suspension will last for up to two years while the government reconsiders the immigration process for parents and grandparents.
New “super visa” for visiting Parents and Grandparents
Immigration Canada has also announced that starting in December 2011, there will be a new type of visitor visa for parents and grandparents who wish to visit their family in Canada. These “super visas” will be valid for 10 years and will allow for multiple trips and stays in Canada of up to 24 months at a time. A requirement for the “super visa” will be that the parent or grandparent will need private health insurance to cover any health care necessary during their time in Canada. For more information about these new announcements, please contact HALCO.
Immigration Law Resources
Our HALCO news newsletters often include articles about immigration and refugee law (scroll down on Our Publications page to access all of our newsletters): www.halco.org/our-services/our-publications
Watch for our HIV and Immigration law booklets that are coming soon.
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network produces a variety of publications about HIV and Canada’s immgration laws that are available on the Legal Network’s website: www.aidslaw.ca/EN/issues/immigration_travel.htm
Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) produces public legal education pamphlets and fact sheets about Canada’s immigration and refugee law available on-line on the CLEO website: www.cleo.on.ca/english/pub/onpub/subject/refugee.htm
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is the Government of Canada department that is responsible for citizenship, immigration and refugee law in Canada. The CIC website includes citizenship, immigration and refugee information: www.cic.gc.ca/english/index.asp
Getting legal help
If you are living with HIV in Ontario and have questions about Canadian immigration law, please contact us for free legal advice.
If you are living in Ontario, you can also contact your local community legal clinic. If your local legal clinic does not assist with immigration law matters, the clinic may give you information and provide referrals to other services.
The Law Society of Upper Canada operates the LawSociety Referral Service (LSRS). The LSRS provides callers with a referral for up to 30 minutes of consultation with a lawyer or paralegal either by phone or in person at no charge. An LSRS Legal Information Officer receives the call, assesses the needs of the client, and then provides the name of a lawyer or paralegal who best fits the client’s stated needs. The LSRS is not designed to provide legal advice or second opinions, and any fees should be discussed with the lawyer or paralegal. The LSRS can be reached by calling either 416-947-3330 or toll free 1-800-268-8326 outside the Greater Toronto area (TTY Phone: 416-644-4886). For more information please see the Law Society Referral Service information on the Law Society of Upper Canada website: www.lsuc.on.ca/faq.aspx?id=2147486372.