Well after a considerable delay, I am now re-launching my new and improved Canadian Immigration Podcast. It is likely that I will continue to maintain my second Canadian Immigration “Answers” podcast for a little while longer; but will eventually merge that one with this Podcast.
In conjunction with this Podcast and to better establish a Platform that I can build on, I have also released a brand new interactive website to host all of the content I will be producing through the Canadian Immigration Podcast, and consistent blogs designed to share my knowledge about Canadian immigration with you.
Now before I get into more details regarding my Canadian Immigration Podcast and what I hope to accomplish with it, I felt it was pretty important that I share a little bit of information about me first.
Listen to Mark Holthe’s Canadian Immigration Podcast
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- Who I really am!
- Why I created the Canadian Immigration Podcast.
- Why I am in the process of releasing a series of Canadian Immigration DIY guides.
- Explain how I intend to use this site to offer a ton of free practical resources related to the Canadian immigration process.
Explore Additional Resources
In this episode we mentioned the following resources:
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
I will be speaking at the follow upcoming events. If you would like to register, please follow the links below for further information. Let me know if you will be attending as I would love to meet you in person.
- Human Resource Institute of Alberta’s Canadian Immigration Law Event (Sept 23, 2015)
- Canadian Institute’s Immigration and International Worker’s Forum (Oct 27-28, 2015)
Question for our Next Podcast
Read the Transcript
You can read a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode, just click here to read the transcipt below
Now before I get into more details regarding my Canadian Immigration Podcast and what I hope to accomplish with it, I felt it was pretty important that I share a little bit of information about me first.
Who I really am!
One promise I made to myself is that I wanted the listeners to my podcast, to know who I really am. There is nothing more irritating to me than these nameless, faceless, websites offering Canadian immigration services without disclosing who will actually be preparing the applications. It is pretty hard to build a relationship of trust with a company. People build relationships of trust and confidence with people. In our world of hyper privacy, it has become almost a sin to share anything personal about yourself on a “professional website.. Well, I do not subscribe to this philosophy. As such, I want to share a little bit about myself. Possibly a little bit more than my wife would want me to share; however, that’s just how I’m wired.
I’m a farm boy. I grew up riding horses, chasing cows, and moving irrigation pipe across our alfalfa fields in beautiful southern Alberta. I had three brothers and no sisters. We were the wild Holthe Boys to all who knew us. We lived a completely carefree life swimming and fishing in the river that flowed by our house, riding horses and basically doing what farm boys do. I loved playing sports as a kid. In fact, I wanted to be a high school Physical Education teacher more than anything because of my love for sports. I played just about every sport I could. The only time I had to choose was when the seasons conflicted. I loved Track and Field and Volleyball the most.
I played collegiate volleyball on the Men’s team at the College in Lethbridge, Alberta in 1991 and then again in 1994-1996, when I served as Captain of the team in my final year.
I had the privilege of competing in the 1992 Canadian Olympic Trials for High Jump in Montreal just prior to the Barcelona, Spain Olympic games. I was completely out of my league at those trials; however, Athletics Canada gave me a B Carding as a result of my performances the previous year (I jumped 2.05m which was the Olympic Standard that year). That carding paid for my flight and gave that farm boy his first taste of flight and travelling outside of our little community. Coming from an entirely English speaking rural farming community, Montreal was like being in a different country. It was one of the most prized experiences from my youth.
That summer following the Olympic Trials, I made one of the best decisions of my life. I decided to serve a full time mission for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). On October 14, 1992 I left my home and had the amazing experience of serving in Portugal for two years. Much of who I am today is as a result of that wonderful experience. I grew to really love the people and in return they gave me a wonderful second language that has helped me to appreciate the challenges people experience as they attempt to learn English as a second language when immigrating to Canada.
Following my mission I returned home where I married my beautiful wife Dianna. We have four children, two girls and two boys. Making a better life for them was one of the main reasons I decided to become a lawyer. However, law was not my first career. I spent my undergraduate degree preparing to be a high school physical education teacher. I worked for one year as a teacher in a small rural high school near the Alberta/Montana border before deciding to completely shift gears and go to law school. It was during that time working as a teacher that I was introduced to the Immigration Manager of the Alberta ports of entry who suggested I apply to work as an officer on the border in the summer while attending law school. Its amazing how things work out.
After having completed the first year of law school and having worked during the summer on the Canada/US border as an immigration officer, I made the decision to restrict my law practice exclusively to Canadian immigration. I did this because it gave me an opportunity to work with people in a way that made a real difference in their lives. There is no greater feeling than that.
Although I started my legal career in a large national firm and have spent time working as an associate and partner in mid-sized regional firms, I have found Holthe Tilleman LLP to be the best configuration for allowing me the freedom to do what I love without the artificial constraints of billable hour targets and the demands of big firm practice.
I now get the opportunity to utilize my teaching background as a lawyer through my speaking engagements, work shops, and recent venture into Podcasting. I count myself blessed every day for the opportunities I have been given.
If you want to see my full professional biography, it can be found on my firm website: ht-llp.com. Just click on “who we are” and follow the links down to my name.
Why I created the Canadian Immigration Podcast
So let’s get back to why I have created the Canadian Immigration Podcast..
My intention is to make the podcast extremely practical as has been my practice to this point. I will be creating a series of “how to” blogs for a number of different tasks we often ask our clients to do; such as how to obtain Access To Information requests when your immigration application gets refused. Instructions on obtaining police clearances from certain countries, as well as completing immigration medicals will also be coming out shortly. However, because of the background myself and other staff members have had working as officers within Citizenship and Immigration Canada, we intend to share a number of blogs geared towards turning the curtain back a little on CIC and what goes through an officers mind when they are processing applications or admitting people into the country through the various Canadian ports of entry. So make sure that you subscribe to our mailing list so that you can be advised of new content when it comes out.
Finally, over the past few years I have become somewhat frustrated with the limited capacity I have to help people. As an immigration lawyer, my ability to offer service to people has been limited by the fact I only have so many hours in the day. At any given time, I can only assist one person at a time through formal legal consultations or even work on only one person’s application materials at a time. Further, I have spent the last 9 years serving within the Canadian Bar Associations immigration section at both the local and national level. I truly had an amazing time working beside some of the most dedicated, intelligent, and caring Immigration lawyers across the country. Those who truly wanted to give back to our profession and to advocate on behalf of those must vulnerable in our society. I had the wonderful opportunity of serving as the Chapter chair for our local section in Calgary for 2 years and then most recently on our National Immigration Law section as an Executive Member for an additional 2 years. I had the opportunity to participate in the drafting of numerous submissions to the government advocating on behalf of both individuals affected by the flury of immigration program changes that have rocked the entire Canadian Immigration Landscape.
I loved this experience working within the National leadership of the CBA and the associations I made with these wonderful lawyers, but felt that although those efforts were making a difference at a federal policy level, my calling has and will always be at the ground level helping people from all walks of live navigate the complexities of the Canadian immigration system. I officially dropped off the national executive on September 1st so that I can devote all my time to this new venture.
So what does my law practice look like now? Well, I have an office in Calgary, Alberta which I visit weekly to meet with clients, but for family reasons I live in Lethbridge, Alberta located about 2 hours south, where I make my home, raise my family, and spend the majority of my time. Because of practicing in a small town, I do not have the ability to reach the same numbers of people compared with my colleagues living in the large metropolitan cities across Canada.
Fortunately, as our world has become more virtual I have continued to see my law firm grow as word of mouth referrals have consistently kept me busy practicing immigration law exclusively. But I am not satisfied with serving so few people. I want to be able to help many more people than I am currently able to assist.
So after much consideration I have decided to create a series of Canadian Immigration Do-It-Yourself Guides that will provide tremendous practical guidance and step by step instructions on how to complete the various Canadian Immigration applications. I intend to start with Express Entry because that one seems to be giving everyone the most grief lately whether lawyer, consultant, or individual seeking to do-it-themselves. The guides will essentially contain every tip, strategy and ounce of knowledge I and my staff have gleaned working within CIC and in the past 11 years of Canadian Immigration practice.
So why choose to create these DIY guides in addition to the free resources we will be sharing through the Canadian Immigration Podcast? The answer is pretty simple.
As an immigration lawyer, my legal fees are not cheap. I act for many large multinational companies and high net worth individuals who value the service I offer and are willing and able to pay these rates. However not everyone seeking entry to Canada can afford to hire an immigration lawyer. It is for these people that I have been most concerned. In the past year, there has been a significant shift in how CIC processes immigration applications. For many years, CIC was more than willing to accept immigration applications that were mostly complete, but with some technical deficiencies. In these circumstances, people who submitted deficient applications received a letter from CIC explaining what was missing. These people were often given 30, 60 or 90 days to providing the missing information before the application was refused.
Unfortunately there has now occurred a significant shift within CIC in how immigration applications are being processed. In an effort to streamline the adjudication process, and to save money, CIC has now shifted substantially to a “one touch” policy. Essentially what this means is that if there’s any deficiency within the application; regardless of how insignificant, they will choose to return the entire application versus holding it in the queue and asking you for the missing information. They are quick to return the processing fee; however, for individuals who are relying desperately for an application to be processed in a set period of time, having this occur can be devastating.
Because the stakes are so high, there have been many people that have had applications refused with the consequence of losing the opportunity to come to Canada temporarily or in the worst case scenario see their dream of living in Canada permanently shattered. This may seem overdramatic; however after having hundreds of people contact my office for assistance this year alone only to be told it was too late and that they would likely have to return back to their home county, I know first hand how volatile this entire process is and the real effect it can have on individuals and families that are simply trying to make a better life for themselves.
So this now sets the stage for the circumstances leading up to my decision to create the Canadian Immigration Podcast and my Do-It-Yourself Guides. As I just explained, in the previous CIC world of “deficiency letters”, a small oversight or omission within an application was not fatal. CIC would simply send out the deficiency letter after having done the completeness check.
In fact, many immigration representatives, whether dabbling lawyer or immigration consultant were able to benefit tremendously from this policy. They would never have to spend too much time becoming an expert in the area because CIC would just tell them what was missing from the application after it was filed anyways. This standard practice made many lawyers and consultants quite a bit of money without adding any value to the clients that paid them. In fact, most of these “light weight” representatives would simply have the client fill in the application form themselves anyways offering no greater value than being the one to mail the application off to CIC. No wonders they are able to charge $250 for an application that I would charge $2,000.
However, in today’s Canadian Immigration world, a great levelling effect has occurred amongst representatives. Dabbling lawyers and incompetent consultants can no longer hide their ineptness behind CIC’s old policy of requesting deficient information. If something is missing, or incomplete with the application package, an applicant receives the whole package back requiring them to have to resubmit everything once again. Often the refused application can take months to come back. In the case of some foreign workers reaching the 4 year cap on their work permits, this leaves them in an absolutely fatal position because there is often no further options available to them to remain in Canada longer because they were relying upon the permanent resident application to grant the authority to extend their work permits through the bridging work permit program. Without the valid work permit, they are no longer eligible to apply for PR. CIC offers very little sympathy to these individuals and after spending years establishing themselves in Canada, their dreams are dashed because of a simple oversight that could have easily been avoided.
Nearing the end of April 2015, when the first group of foreign workers were capping out, I realized that continuing to operate my law firm in the fashion that I was doing, would significantly limit my ability to actually help individuals who desperately needed assistance. I had already written a series of blogs at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 to provide general advice and direction on some of the options that could be available to foreign workers facing the 4 year cap on their work permits. I knew that many of these individuals would have no where to turn for advice, so tried to make the blogs as practical as possible. I also wrote a number of blogs on the new express entry system to try to help these individuals who had nowhere else to go. These blogs continue to receive high traffic today even after 8 months. I also lowered my consultation fee in an effort to make my legal services more affordable. ; However, I could never provide sufficient value to these individuals in a 30 minute consultation to give them a solid starting point for completing their applications on their own. I could point them in the right direction to go; however, there were so many mine fields and pit falls along the way that even when I gave them specific instructions on which applications to make in order to stay in Canada, inevitably a tiny mistake within the application package would get it rejected and there was nothing I could do.
Despite the fact I lowered my consultation fee, individuals were still unable to afford the flat fees I charged for the various immigration applications. Often these individuals would turn to representatives that claimed to offer the same service but for much less than I charged. However, in many cases, the old adage “you get what you pay for” became a reality more often then not. These same clients would come back willing to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to pay my fee for assistance; however, it was often too late.
Because of this, the only solution I could think of was to start the Canadian Immigration Podcast, attempt to answer questions of general importance to people accessing the Canadian immigration system, and create a series of DIY Guides that could be offered at a fraction of the price of what I charge in legal fees. As I stated previously, my hope is to offer answers to immigration questions that could be broadcast to a much greater audience than just those people that could afford my legal fees. I tend to get many of the same questions all the time, so what better way to amplify my knowledge and experience than to host a weekly podcast show where I shared my knowledge freely with anyone who cared to listen.
Obviously there is only so much you can do through a weekly podcast. However, if the information I provide can give people a even a little help in completing their applications on their own, then my purpose would be accomplished.
Clearly these guides are not meant to replace the value of seeking personal legal advice from a qualified representative; however, the tips, strategies and suggestions included in the guide will give people solid information on how to avoid common mistakes and practical tips that they could never get without actually hiring a representative. Let’s face it, many individuals who may benefit from this DIY guide would likely never hire me in any event because my legal fees are too high. However, they may be more willing to purchase a guide from someone they can trust to help them along their way. In this fashion, I feel like I am actually giving back to many people who may have nowhere else to turn for help. I won’t get into the dangers of hiring the cheapest lawyer or consultant as your representative; however it goes without saying that if the professional fee you are paying seems like a “real deal”, there is likely a very good reason why the fee has been set at the rate it is.
With all of this being said, by charging a small fee for this DIY guide, I can then afford to improve on the quality of the DIY guides and put more resources into enhancing the Platform of free services offered through the Canadian Immigration Podcast website. Which can be found at the canadianimmigrationpodcast.com.
I will continue practicing immigration law in the traditional way I always have, but through the money I am able to earn from these initial guides, I will be able to create others and continually improve upon them year upon year. My goal is to create a wonderful library of DIY guides to provide assistance to anyone that just needs a little assistance to help them along their way.
I hope you find the resources on the canadianimmigrationpodcast useful. However, one of the most important reasons I set up the website was to get feedback from you. Not everything I do will be perfect. I am sure I will make mistakes and that is where you come in. On every blog, podcast and guide there will be a comment section for you to share what you think of this resource. I will rely heavily upon the members of my Canadian Immigration Podcast community to offer feedback on what I am doing well and where I need to improve. I will never pretend to have all the answers. Clearly there are many wonderful immigration lawyers out there that are smarter than I am. I know because I worked side by side with them in the trenches of the Canadian Bar Association fighting for principles that the average person would likely never have been aware of.
However, it will be your comments, suggestions, and personal experiences dealing with CIC that will really bring life to the Canadian Immigration Podcast. If you notice a mistake, or have any suggestions for improving the DIY guides or any content on the site or within my Podcast, or have other suggestions that have worked well for you, I would be happy to give you credit if the suggestion lands in the next version of the DIY guide. After all, in the new world of CIC which is lacking of clear and transparent policy and guidelines, sometimes the only way you can really know what to do is to learn from the recent successes and failures of colleagues and friends. With this being said, I want to emphasize that these DIY guides are meant to be used in conjunction with CIC’s existing application guides, policy and instructions. I do not intend to simply recreate or repackage the good resources that CIC has made available to the public. These resources are created as a supplement to what CIC has produced in an attempt to fill in the numerous gaps that exist within the current publicly available materials. You will note that I intend to frequently refer back to the CIC website and provide links to other useful information in a way that makes it easier for you to find.
Finally, if you find this information helpful, the best thanks I could receive is for you to recommend it to a friend. There are numerous places to share this Podcast as well as the blogs and other guides through your various social media channels. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn tend to be the ones I frequent most. However, I would also ask you to leave a review on iTunes which will help the Podcast to rank higher in the rankings and hopefully become more visible to others who could benefit from this information. I always feel a sense of urgency with immigration because it changes so frequently. As such, the content I provide is going to have a fairly short shelf life. So share this resource with anyone you know and stay tuned to the release of my very first DIY guide on Express Entry which will be coming out on November 1, 2015.
You can go to my website: canadianimmigrationpodcast.com for further information and to subscribe now to be notified when it is ready for distribution. You can also stay tuned to future Podcasts where I will be discussing the content of the DIY guide in a little further detail leading up to its launch.
In my next Podcast, I will provide my list of the first 5 essential steps you must take before attempting to submit your Express Entry profile. Because I want this to be an interactive process where we can all learn together, I would like you to submit your thought on what you think are the most important steps to take before filing your Express Entry profile and you can compare your answers with mine during the Podcast.
I also intend to take a few listeners questions at the end of the Podcast, so please go to my website, at canadianimmigrationpodcast.com and leave your question. You can do so by clicking on my contact page and leaving a written question through the fillable form. You can also connect with me on facebook, twitter, or LinkedIn and leave your message there. Finally, my preference is that you click on the “Ask an Immigration Question” widget on the right side panel of the website and leave a voice message. In this manner, I can include your question directly within the Podcast itself.
I will try to focus on questions related to the Express Entry program; however, if I get some really good questions that deal with other areas of immigration, I may just include them as well.
In future Podcasts, I will be addressing some of the common mistakes people make when submitting their Express Entry Profile. Sometimes we are seeing Express Entry applications getting returned by mistake when the applicant did nothing wrong. It is in these infuriating circumstances where I really want to hear from you. If you, or someone you know had their Express Entry application returned or outright refused unfairly, I want to hear about it. Share your worst horror stories with me and I will share some of mine with you at the end of the Podcast.
If any of you HR Managers out there who are responsible for managing the foreign worker program within your company, or anyone interested in learning more about the recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, are going to be in Lethbridge on September 23, 2015, please come here me speak at the Human Resource Institute of Alberta’s Canadian Immigration Law Event. I will be giving a 2 hour presentation at the Lethbridge Lodge. You do not have to be a member of the HRIA to attend. You can go to my law firm website: www.ht-llp.com and click on Seminars & Events to find information on how to register.
I will also be speaking at the Canadian Institute’s Immigration and International Workers Forum West at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Calgary, Alberta on October 27-29th . I will be conducting a pre-conference hands on workshop on Oct 27th entitled “Working through Labour Market Impact Assessments and then presenting a special session on Ensuring Employer Compliance the very next day on the 28th. You can find information on how to register on my firm website ht-llp.com as well.
Well that is all for this inaugural episode of the canadianimmigrationpodcast. As a final sign off, I will leave you with a wonderful little song (at least I really like it) that pretty much sums up why I created the Canadian Immigration Podcast and how I feel about this dear country of Canada, my home and native land. Until next time when I offer more practical tips and information on Canadian Immigration law, policy, and practice, to help you along your way!
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