Working illegally in Canada can lead to legal residency

Brian Lilley, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 6:22 PM ET

OTTAWA - Would-be immigrants to Canada can use illegal work experience to help bolster their application for permanent residency, according to federal documents obtained by QMI Agency.

The documents, a series of emails between senior officials within Citizenship and Immigration Canada, starts with an unnamed official questioning whether illegal work experience can count for someone seeking to enter Canada under the provincial nominee program, a program designed to fill specialized labour shortages in Canada.

“How does CIC count (or not count) illegal work experience?” asked the unidentified person in an email. “We have been asked to consider undocumented work experience in Canada towards accumulation of work experience.”

The email, addressed to Heidi Smith, director of permanent resident policy and programs at the immigration department, goes on to ask if there is a difference between illegal work experience gained in Canada and illegal work experience gained outside of Canada.

The email also asks what the policy rationale would be for counting illegal experience.

After being circulated among various officials, a short answer was provided.

“We can count illegal work for PNP, but at the same time we need to have a confirmation of the illegal work,” wrote Jacqueline Desjardins, senior analyst at CIC's national headquarters in Ottawa.

The answer shocked lawyer and immigration policy analyst Richard Kurland.

“Last time I checked, it's illegal to work without a work permit,” Kurland told QMI. “Why am I advising people to obey the law? Here's a senior official saying you can flout the law.”

While Kurland said it's possible that people working in the country illegally could still be paying taxes, most, he said, would be working under the table, thereby breaking the law.

Many of those working illegally in Canada may also be breaking the law by being in the country illegally, said Kurland, while others might simply be students who have taken a job while studying at a Canadian school.

The activist group No One is Illegal estimates there are 200,000 to 500,000 people living in Canada illegally. Other estimates of the illegal immigrant population are much lower, closer to 100,000.

The federal government has long had difficulty enforcing deportation orders against those in the country illegally. A 2008 report from Auditor General Sheila Fraser showed that the government had lost track of 41,000 people that had been ordered deported.


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