Settlement funds and the MPNP
There has been a good deal of discussion recently within the local community about the way settlement funds are judged by the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP). We hear about affidavits of financial support, in-trust accounts, liquid assets, “show money” and unpublished changes in Manitoba’s immigration practices. It is not surprising then that many readers are confused about the terms as well as the way immigration officials apply them.
There are a number of things to keep clear in your mind. First, the Governments of Canada and Manitoba do not provide financial support to new skilled worker immigrants who come to the province, including those who Manitoba has nominated. Skilled worker immigrants are expected to have sufficient funds to support themselves and their families.
Settlement funds – the real figures
In 1994 the federal government issued a chart on the funds required by independent immigrants on landing in Canada to support themselves and their dependents for a period of six months. The initial figures evolved into the well-known and discussed $10,000 Canadian for the principle applicant and $2,000 for each dependent. This number is still included in the MPNP kit as the amount Manitoba immigration may accept for settlement funds even though it was changed in 2009 and again in 2010. The current federal requirements for settlement funds are:
- $11,086 for a family of 1;
- $13,801 for a family of 2;
- $16,967 for a family of 3;
- $20,599 for a family of 4;
- $23,364 for a family of 5;
- $26,350 for a family of 6;
- $29,337 for a family of 7 or more.
“Show money” is out
The amount of the settlement funds required is only one question. The second part is what is acceptable as settlement funds. “Show money” is not acceptable if it represents false or fraudulently claimed funds presented to show immigration officials that you have sufficient funds even if you do not. In other words, local supporters giving gifts from their approved lines of credit would be out. The applicant must demonstrate that he or she has enough money to support themselves and their accompanying dependents after they arrive in Canada. Canada immigration is quite clear in their instructions that “you cannot borrow this money from another person.”Federal Immigration guidelines specify that the settlement funds must be “available and transferable” and “unencumbered by debts or other obligations. Ibig sabihin, hindi puwedeng umutang ng "show money."
Federal immigration clearly sets forth settlement fund guidelines for skilled immigrant applicants but the provincial equivalent sometimes appears to be different. Manitoba Immigration and Canada Immigration both have a similar obligation to ensure that new skilled workers coming into Canada do not become a financial burden on the country. It is important for our readers to know that MPNP officials must ensure that the integrity of their assessment system, including a check of the settlement funds on file and nominations, is maintained. Provincial Immigration has an obligation to make judgments based upon the completeness and truthfulness of information that applicants provide. This is their job and this is what they are expected to do. If, however, they err in their judgments, like we all do sometimes, or fail to practice the principle of procedural fairness, then their judgments can be questioned.
A challenge to the MPNP
I sympathize with my former colleagues at MPNP who are all trying to do a good job, but the program is also open to some justifiable criticism. Take the question of “in trust” accounts for example. Are they acceptable or not? This question was in some ways answered by recent statements from the Minister of Immigration but we should not have to read this in the pages of our community newspaper. (See Manitoba's Provincial Nominee Program continues on the right track by the Hon. Jennifer Howard)
It is one thing to change the ways applications are assessed, which is the prerogative and responsibility of MPNP, but applicants must be notified about this change and be given the opportunity to respond. Immigration officials should conduct their assessments in a fully transparent manner. Applicants and/or their local Manitoba supporters who have submitted “in trust” accounts should reasonably expect to be notified about changes by the MPNP and not discover the change in their refusal letter or by way of rumours that have been circulating since April of this year.
Does MPNP now require supporters to send money to the Philippines rather than put real gifts into “in trust” accounts? If the answer is “yes,” then I, like others, might question the wisdom of sending money to the Philippines when it is intended for the use of newcomers in Manitoba – and not meant as remittances or “pasalubong” to be spent back home. If this does, however, become the standard, then the MPNP has an obligation to inform the general public – especially the applicants in the queue – of the change.
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba or by telephone at: (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. Note that the content of this article is intended for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Michael Scott invites all readers to contact him directly.