One quarter of Kabbadi players from India come here primarily for long-term work unrelated to the game



Richard Kurland

THE rate of Kabbadi players – 26 per cent – who obtained work permits after entry to Canada (26%) in 2015, 2016 and 2017 suggests that they intended to enter Canada primarily for long-term work unrelated to the game.

“Selection by a Kabaddi federation for visa facilitation effectively allowed them to circumvent the conventional examination of work permit applications at a migration office outside of Canada,” according to a memorandum to the Immigration Minister  titled “Kabaddi Pilot Program Outcomes 2015 to 2017” by Ashleigh Kelly, Advisor, Office of the Deputy Minister.

The February 21, 2018 memorandum was obtained by well-known immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who runs Canada’s leading immigration publication, Lexbase.

The Chandigarh visa office receives the vast majority of temporary resident applications from Kabaddi players wishing to play in Canada, according to a background provided by Kelly. Historically, case-by-case processing of such applications has resulted in a high refusal rate.

The report notes: “Kabaddi players applying through Chandigarh are typically young, single, unsalaried males with limited economic prospects in their home country. Most belong to rural agricultural families with modest land holdings which may be held in common with several persons. Most applicants play for their village club which is usually supported by local patrons. It is difficult to gauge a player’s skill or standing in the sport as there is no formal structure at this level.”

It also points out: “Misrepresentation and fraudulent documentation are of concern. Fraudulent documentation, including photo-substituted evidence of applicants playing Kabaddi, have been encountered among the supporting documentation submitted with applications.”

Pilot programs for Kabaddi were implemented in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2017. The refusal rate in 2014 when there was no Pilot program was 65%.

“A review of the Pilot program was conducted for 2015 and 2016 seasons and it revealed problematic outcomes and enforcement issues. The pilot, however, did assist the migration office in the efficient processing of applications and allowed the Department to closely monitor and limit the number of Kabaddi applications,” the memorandum states.

The modifications effected for the 2016 pilot included: the removal of one of the Canadian Kabaddi federations as a participant and the reduction of documentation requested of the Canadian federations to encourage them to comply.

However, the memorandum noted: “Even with the changes, past experience indicated that continued close scrutiny of the applications and quality assurance monitoring was warranted. All players issued a visa were instructed to report back to the Chandigarh visa office upon their return to India. While a higher percentage of players reported their return to India, a slightly higher percentage of players used the opportunity of their presence in Canada to seek employment.”

In 2017, a total of 78 Kabaddi player applications were approved for four inviting federations. Of this number, 48 (62%) players reported back, 6 (8%) did not report back, 1 (1%) made an inland asylum claim and 23 (30%) obtained a work permit by presenting themselves with a labour market impact assessment at a land port of entry as ‘visa exempt’ clients under sections 190(3)(f)(ii) and 198(1) of the regulations. This is done by entering the border zone from Canada without entering the United States, applying to a Canada Border Service Agency border agent and then re-entering Canada with a work permit, according to the memorandum.

The memorandum noted: “In 2015, 2016 and 2017, visas were issued to a total of 261 Kabaddi players and 47% of them failed to report back to the migration office in Chandigarh, 26% obtained work permits after entry to Canada and 1% made refugee claims. While the rate of return increased from 42% in 2015 to 62% in 2017, the rate of persons obtaining work permits unrelated to Kabaddi has also increased from 21% to 30%.’

However, it pointed out: “Despite the high rate of work permit acquisition, the managed facilitation of Kabaddi applications provides benefits to the Department. These includes providing a comprehensive reporting and monitoring framework for managing this caseload and reducing the volume of Kabaddi temporary resident applications, creating a measure of accountability with the inviting Kabaddi federations, and demonstrating the broader program policy and program integrity issue of Indian nationals (and others) obtaining work permits as visa-exempt persons at land ports of entry after entry to Canada.”

It added: “Without a Pilot program, Kabaddi applications would be processed on a case-by-case basis. This approach would likely result in significantly higher volumes of applications, generate a high refusal rate as seen in 2014 (65%), and generate significant Member of Parliament representation to the Department, as few applicants would be able to satisfy a migration officer that they meet the requirements of the IRPA for issuance of a Temporary Resident Visa.”