Last Updated on septembre 28, 2021
The immigration section of a national association representing lawyers, judges, notaries and law teachers and students throughout Canada is urging Ottawa to speed up the processing of applications for immigration.
“The pandemic has caused major disruptions in processing immigration applications,” wrote Mark Holthe, chair of the immigration law section of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, in late July.
“Immigration and visa officers are working from home and in-person meetings with visa applicants are still being cancelled, leading to a significant backlog of cases,” wrote Holthe.
“Paper applications needed to be scanned and copied into Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) computer system. The antiquated Global Case Management System (GCMS) was not built for these circumstances. This has hamstrung IRCC from efficiently processing applications.”
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In the letter dated July 23, Holthe outlines four areas where his 36,000-strong association thinks Ottawa could improve to speed up the processing of immigration applications.
These four areas cover:
- landing applicants with expired or expiring Confirmations Of Permanent Residence (COPR);
- the processing of Spousal Applications;
- pathways to Permanent Residence, and;
- the modernization of application processing.
Make the Instructions in E-mails to Applicants Clearer, Urges CBA
The law association suggests Ottawa go back to asking permanent resident applicants in possession of expired COPRs and permanent resident visas ready to travel to Canada to contact the IRCC via a web form or the visa office email.
“As of Jan. 5, 2021, the program delivery instructions state that applicants should not contact IRCC but rather ‘IRCC will be contacting these applicants once they are approved to come to Canada,’” wrote Holthe.
“It is unclear how IRCC is triaging applications and how long that will take. This will lead to more people contacting IRCC, which will increase wait times.”
Among its recommendations in this section, the CBA also suggests the IRCC make the instructions that applicants receive via e-mail clearer.
“Some applicants are not permitted to board a plane in their country of origin by local immigration officers because of an expired visa stamp in their passport,” wrote Holthe.
“This is a serious issue. One solution would be to state in the e-mail that local authorities could contact a Government of Canada office to verify that the traveller has approval to travel to Canada.”
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been lengthy delays for overseas spousal reunification cases.
“Applications that would normally be followed by acknowledgement of receipt (AOR) letters in one or two months now take nine months or longer to receive the initial AOR,” wrote Holthe. “Processing delays for most Spousal Common-Law Sponsorships are well beyond a twelve-month processing standard.”
Temporary Resident Visas Suggested as Solution to Speed Up Family Reunifications
A workaround to help address the current delays is for the IRCC to issue Temporary Resident Visas to applicants from outside of Canada if the principal applicant passes criminality and security reviews, wrote the chair of the immigration section of that law association.
New pathways to permanent residence also need to be created and Express Entry draws increased, wrote Holthe.
Among the recommendations, the CBA makes to do that would be an increase in the points awarded under the Express Entry system for a Canadian education or close family members in Canada.
“IRCC should make it possible for applicants to earn points for age up to 55 years of age,” wrote Holthe.
“It is common for people of that age to participate in Canada’s labour force. Applicants who are 45 to 55 years of age are productive and able to contribute to the economy. We should not stop giving points for age at 45 years old.”
The CBA also wants to see the Express Entry program criteria modified to allow self-employment to count as work experience, particularly for physicians and NAFTA/CUSMA/CETA investors. The IRCC could also consider expanding the list of qualified applicants to those on open Spousal Work Permits or open
Post-Graduate Work Permits (PGWP), wrote Holthe.
Ditching the One-Year of Experience Requirement for International Grads Touted
“We recommend making it possible for international students who graduate from high-skilled programs such as engineering to use Express Entry without needing to meet the minimum one year of work experience.,” he wrote.
“These students typically have completed a three or four-year university degree program and obtained a high-skilled job offer. They are frequently streamlined through the relevant Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). We recommend that they also benefit from streamlined federal processing through the Express Entry.”
Among the many other recommendations for new pathways is the creation of a Canadian Business Experience Class whose criteria would include:
- owning at least a third of a business;
- managing the business for at least two out of three years before applying, and;
- employing at least three workers for at least two years.
Canada’s immigration minister has already previously stated he supports the vision of an immigration system that is fully digital and online.
Immigration lawyers seem to agree.
“IRCC needs to adopt a new paradigm for delivering immigration services in both permanent resident and temporary resident streams,” wrote Holthe. “It must transition to electronic filing for all applications while fully integrating authorized representatives in these new tools.”
While praising Ottawa’s introduction of artificially intelligent systems and biometrics to speed up and efficiently identify applicants, the CBA urged Canada’s immigration department to do more.
“Other technologies such as blockchain also have the potential to improve IRCC’s processes,” wrote Holthe. “Notwithstanding the real risks, these technologies could reduce the many months to years now required to process applications, enable the government to meet its targets, and improve confidence in the processing system overall.”