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Dual Intent – Operations Memorandum

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Citizenship and Immigration Canada recently released a draft Operations Memorandum on the complicated and often confused issue of Dual Intent. Dual Intent, in the context of Canadian immigration matters, refers to the intention of seeking entry to Canada for a temporary purpose and a permanent purpose at the same time.

At first glance, this concept might appear to be illogical and even contradictory. Yet there do exist circumstances where a foreign individual can have Dual Intent, and this Draft Operations Memorandum should help shed some light on this somewhat murky subject.

Before discussing the principles associated with the concept of Dual Intent, it is important to understand that all foreign individuals who wish to enter Canada for a temporary purpose must demonstrate that their intention is to leave Canada upon the expiry of their temporary status. This requirement applies equally to all visitors to Canada, whether they are temporary workers, international students, or simply tourists. For example, tourists can often prove their intention to remain in Canada temporarily by presenting return airplane tickets and by providing evidence of their familial and employment ties to their country of origin.

On the other hand, a tourist who arrives at a Canadian Port of Entry with all of his or her possessions –- including furniture and personal effects — will most likely not be able to establish the intent of remaining in Canada temporarily. Such a tourist may very well be denied admission to Canada on the grounds that he or she does not have the intention or the ability to ever leave Canada. Anyone who wishes to settle in Canada permanently must apply for and obtain a Canadian Immigrant Visa, which confers Canadian permanent resident status.

The rules regarding Dual Intent are meant to address the situation where individuals who have applied for Immigrants Visa subsequently apply for Visitor Visas. In such circumstances, a certain presumption may have been created that because these individuals have already demonstrated a desire to settle in Canada permanently, they cannot have an intention to visit Canada temporarily. The Draft Operations Memorandum attempts to clarify this issue by stating that it is the PRESENT intention of the applicant that must be assessed when determining whether a Visitor Visa should be issued. Even if an applicant has the long-term goal of immigrating to Canada, it is possible to demonstrate to a Visa Officer that the applicant has the intention and ability to leave Canada upon the expiry of the visitor status, regardless of the outcome of the application for permanent residence.

The real issue, it appears, is not whether the applicant for a Visitor Visa is a prospective immigrant, but rather whether the applicant is a prospective illegal immigrant. In other words, will the applicant comply with the terms of his or her Canadian visitor status, or will the applicant remain in Canada after temporary status has expired. In making this determination, Visa Officers are directed to examine the full situation of the applicant. For example, if a Visa Officer feels that by spending a limited time in Canada as a visitor an applicant will either be unwilling or unable to return home, then temporary entry can be denied.

The Draft Operations Memorandum goes on to provide examples of situations that may lead a Visa Officer to conclude that a Visitor Visa should be issued – with the proviso that every case must be judged on its own merits. Examples include applicants for permanent residence under the Entrepreneur category who wish to visit Canada for the purpose of assessing the viability of their proposed Canadian business plan. Examples of situations where temporary intent may be in doubt include individuals who reside in distant countries with poor economic prospects and wish to enter Canada to visit their Canadian fiancé(e)s.

It is important to note that the concept of Dual Intent is not particularly relevant to individuals who have already entered Canada as visitors (including foreign workers and international students) and then subsequently decide to apply for Canadian permanent resident status. Their applications for permanent resident status will in general not be prejudiced by the fact that they are currently in Canada on a temporary basis.