CRAIG NATSUHARA is an associate partner at Egan LLP in Vancouver, where he manages the Canadian and cross-border NAFTA Immigration practice. He has practiced business immigration law since 2000, focusing primarily on assisting foreign businesses transfer employees and recruit new temporary foreign workers while establishing operations in Canada. Craig has been a significant contributor to CLEBC immigration seminars over the years: since 2007 he has co-chaired the CLEBC biennial seminar Working Your Way into Canada, and is currently working on the 2015 program which takes place October 23; he has also presented at/produced course materials for Business Immigration courses over the years.
How and why did you get involved with CLEBC??
CLEBC approached me in 2007 to co-chair with Kyle Hyndman an immigration conference focused on temporary foreign workers. Kyle and I were already interested in helping colleagues in the bar and had both been executives of the CBABC Immigration Section. With my practice specializing in the area of temporary foreign workers, I felt I could help formulate an educational and practical course and facilitate government representatives agreeing to present.
What has been your most memorable CLEBC experience?
One of my objectives co-chairing the biennial temporary foreign worker seminar is to try to provide speaking opportunities to colleagues in the bar who have not spoken in other conferences and, more recently, to mid-level lawyers who we have identified as rising stars. I wanted to make sure that these conferences were not perceived as recycling the same speakers year after year. We want to showcase as many of the numerous excellent BC immigration lawyers as we can.
You are co-chairing an update this year for Working Your Way into Canada. For those who have previously attended this course, what do you anticipate will be new this year?
When drafting the course description for the conference, I knew that we had to mention that there have been more changes in immigration law and policy concerning temporary foreign workers during the past year than the last 13 years when the current legislation was introduced. These changes have made practicing immigration law in this area substantially more difficult to the point that some practitioners are reluctant to try applications such as Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs). To encourage our colleagues in the bar to feel more comfortable advising employers on these challenging types of applications, we are placing great emphasis on making this conference practical, focusing on how to prepare and submit applications online.
Why did you choose to specialize in business immigration? If you could go back and choose again, would you do something different?
I fell into immigration law when a partner at my former firm resigned and asked me to assume his work. Being a first year associate, I was happy to help the firm in whatever way I could, so I jumped in feet first after half an hour of training. I quickly grew to love the area because it is so personal—you are helping skilled foreign workers move to Canada to contribute to our industries and economy. My mindset is that I want to help Canada and BC in particular enhance their profiles within the global economy, such as Vancouver’s world class VFX industry or BC’s growing tech sector.
For your own learning, do you prefer to take classes online or in-person, and why?
For immigration conferences, I enjoy attending in person so I can engage with other attendees. The immigration bar is very collegial.
Who has influenced and inspired you in your career?
Robert Banno of DLA Piper (Canada) LLP (previously Davis LLP) mentored me for 11 years and I will be forever grateful. He is very humble and exudes quiet confidence. This showed me that you don’t have to be a smooth talking extrovert to develop loyal clients. I also learned a great deal about managing a firm and being a supportive partner from Scott Sweatman (Dentons LLP) when we were partners of a boutique law firm called Spectrum HR Law LLP.
What advice would you give newcomers who are interested in working in the legal profession?
In relation to immigration law and in particular temporary foreign workers, there is a tendency to turn high volume engagements into factory type work. I think it is important to ensure that every application is high quality, presenting the best case for the given individual; otherwise, we are selling the legal profession short. Immigration law involves a number of government agencies, and it is paramount to treat all government officials with respect, even if they are not rendering a decision in the client’s favour—chances are you will encounter the same official in the future so you don’t want to be perceived negatively. Conversely, it is rewarding when a client informs you that an officer who approved their application remarked that their lawyer is known to do good work.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
I have been blessed with fantastic colleagues and team members, especially paralegals and administrative support. One senior paralegal, Julie Wesman, and I have been working together for 15 years and I rely on her immensely. I try to keep the practice fun by taking the team to movies that our VFX and animation clients make.
What is the most difficult part of your job? How do you work through it?
I think the most difficult part of practicing immigration law is ensuring that none of the many background facts are forgotten when writing the legal cover letter or providing instructions to team members. I take copious notes when conducting conference calls or meeting with clients, then email the notes to team members for their reference. I also save emails so I can review the various bits of information provided by the client during the course of preparing an application. There is a point (based on volume or perhaps age) where you can’t retain all the information about every case in your head!
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about giving back to the community and enhancing Greater Vancouver as my home. I have been involved with the Nikkei Centre for about 17 years, which is a fantastic place that promotes Japanese-Canadian culture. I also enjoy helping the Spark Computer Graphic Society with its amazing VFX and animation conferences which educate up and coming local digital artists, digital entertainment software engineers and the like.