What's Up with IRCC?
As many have come to realize, dealing with a behemoth like IRCC, Canada’s immigration department, which has a staff force of just under 10000 employees, to be something of a mood altering experience. This statement is expressed in the mildest of terms, for in reality the issues everyone faces on a daily basis with IRCC is something horror movies are made from, with mystery and suspense, accompanied by vast amounts on the unknown and wondering what may happen next, which ultimately leave you feeling frustrated and frightened as you are not any wiser after the experience.
Having recently attended the National Citizenship and Immigration Conference provided by CAPIC (Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants) in Vancouver at the End of October 2021, with multiple panel discussions on hot topics that everyone is looking for answers from. These panels included industry experts, CAPIC Panelists, and IRCC representatives from multiple departments who all gave presentations and answered some questions asked, albeit extremely vaguely.
The most frustrating part of the conference was that this was a great opportunity for IRCC to actually step up, and engage with the industry, answer questions related to thousands of pain points that we face daily, and give answers to questions about programs, draws, refusals, systems failures, poor service delivery from officers, and outland visa offices etc. etc. etc., the list goes on and on and on. But no, IRCC delivered only what they wanted us to hear, nothing more, nothing less, and skirted answering tough questions directly, sometimes not even giving any conclusive answers. More like, we will take it back to the team, we will consider it, we don’t know etc.
For a massive organization like IRCC, a government department of the Canadian Government, one would hope for a more inclusive stance on dealing with industry professionals that have to use their programs and systems on a daily basis, one would think that being a world leader in a robust immigration system that is the envy of many countries around the world, that the gears and the workings of systems and programs would be well oiled, but alas, as we continue to discover, it is not anything of the sort. Its more like an injured lion limping along, putting patches on problems here and there, snarls at anyone who even tries to call them out, which does not bode well for solving problems, and causes even more confusion and delays with clients, representatives and IRCC staff alike.
The thing we all hate to hear lately is something cannot be done, or has been delayed due to Covid. Its getting tiresome now, and honestly speaking, I think many organizations are hiding their internal inefficiencies behind the excuse of COVID. It makes me think of “The Cheque is in the Mail” excuse when dealing with overdue bills that need to be paid. The new one is “its on hold, or delayed because of COVID”. Simple and blunt, and we are simply expected to just accept that for what it is and be happy.
The most shocking thing we learned at this conference was that IRCC are only operating at a 30% capacity right now, due to Covid, and people working remotely which is having a major impact on how and when they can process applications. Even more shocking is that 90% of the 30% are dealing with the Afghanistan crises and IRCC cannot keep up with all the other kinds of Immigration Applications. Let that sink in a little, and then think about how serious IRCC is about getting things back on track.
With the rest of the economy already back at work at 80-90% capacity, why is IRCC only at 30%??? Seems no one has an answer to that one.
For anyone who has had to try and deal with IRCC directly, you will be able to associate here, as its really like pulling teeth from a hen. Never in my life have I encountered such an organization that is so intent on not speaking with or dealing with their clients. You cannot call them, as your get sent in 10000 auto prompt directions which you need a PHD in communications to understand, only to be greeted by a cold, uninterested IRCC Phone Agent, who simply says, oh you need to send a webform!!
Sending a webform to IRCC, is also something easy to do, but alas, getting any logical response from them is something like winning the lottery, It’s a one in a million chance of getting a speedy response, and when you actually do get a response, its vague, non specific, copy pasted and leaves you wondering if the officer actually even read the webform request or submission. Traditionally webforms only receive responses after about 10-30 days, but now because of COVID, its even longer. So if you have something urgent you need answers on, its best to take a chill pill before expecting anything soon from IRCC regarding your request. And sadly, there is nothing anyone can do about it.
The latest bugbear with the webform submissions is the standard copy paste response due to them dealing with the Afghanistan crisis, below is the standardized scripted response to webforms these days:
Thank you for contacting Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
In order to respond to the high volume of enquiries related to the situation in Afghanistan we have shifted resources in our Client Support Centre and are responding to priority enquiries only.
We will respond to these priority enquiries only:
· Clients in crisis situations (like those affected by the situation in Afghanistan)
· Clients facing vulnerable circumstances (emergency and urgent requests)
· Clients who need to tell us about a change in their circumstances, which has a direct impact on their application (like marriage, birth of a child, or similar)
· Clients who are submitting documents requested by one of our officers
· Changes in contact information
· Requests to withdraw an application or refunds
· Ask questions about the 2021 invitations to apply to sponsor parents and grandparents
If your enquiry is NOT one of the priority enquiries listed above, you will not receive a reply.
If you included attachments with your enquiry, rest assured that they will be added to your file shortly.
Enquiries about applications
Even if you haven’t heard from us recently, your application remains in process. You don’t need to do anything else at this time. We’ll contact you if we need more information
When I see this response in the inbox, after spending time typing up a qualified request, with serious implications, only to be greeted in return by this response, really makes me wonder what's more important to IRCC.
The simple message for IRCC here is GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!!
Another thing that many of us hope never to see, is that of a visa refusal. While this is written with a specific visa office in mind, it is not isolated to this particular one, and is common at many visa offices around the world. The staff at those locations are not adequately trained on processing applications, don’t always read what is included with applications and simply refuse applications based on the political climate at the time or based on their mood that day.
Then this is also talk that many of these visa locations are using preliminary scanning software (AI) to vet applications and to reject them based on certain parameters set, i.e. missing forms, incorrect entries, insufficient evidence, payment disparities etc.
We have seen a large number of Student Visa Refusals and Visitor Visa refusals, and mostly because clients have applied for these on their own, and not been as thorough as they thought they had been, and further after getting one refusal, tried to apply for other types of visas. The thing to remember with a refusal, is although its not a black mark on your name, it does stay on your profile, so whenever you apply for another visa again, the officer who processes this application will see the previous application and refusals, and if you have not satisfied the parameters of the visa, it will simply be declined again, causing another refusal to be recorded on your file.
We have seen an increase of approvals coming through lately, however, its still a hit and miss situation dealing with these Outland Visa offices, as once again, there is no direct way to speak with them, or email them, its all via webform, and we all know just how well that works out.
To ensure your applications are processed correctly its best to use a licenced practice like ICL Immigrations Legal team to ensure you get the best results on the money you spend. Rather be safe than sorry. Send the team an email with your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org
The lurking monster that IRCC have released onto the unsuspecting public, us as industry professionals included, has been the incessant plague of system failures. Sometimes for a few hours, sometimes a day or two, sometimes a whole week. And we all know what happens when we cannot get into systems, the red eyed monster comes out and everyone around us has a bad day!!
IRCC seem to have taken to twitter to keep us posted, sometimes hours after critical system failures, to say, we are aware of the problems and are working on it.
We learned at the NCIC conference in October that IRCC are working on a new ERP system which is modular and will take another 5-7 years to fully implement. This was both disappointing and discouraging to hear, to think we need to endure another 5-7 years of this inefficiency, instantly have me 200 new grey hairs. On a positive note, when I learned that the system they are moving to, is “Microsoft Dynamics”, I was a little more relieved, as this is a great system. I just don’t know if I will survive the 5-7 year wait for it though!!
We can only remain hopeful that the “Journey Labs” IRCC spoke of, will enhance the development of a much better system, they just need to include the right players in those journey labs.
Over the past few months and as part of IRCCs COVID response, their IT department has been and are working on a number of new online application submission portals, to transition from paper based applications to digital applications. This is a great plan, but the way in which is being developed and rolled out is very disconnected, and confusing to say the least, As some can only be used by clients themselves, some can be used by us as Consultants, and some require input from the clients in order to allow us to submit those applications. Then there is the number of new online portals that have been created, and then the uncertainty of whether you are using the right one, or can you use this one, and is it being used correctly, are questions we face every single day. Lots of questions abound, with very few answers. The one thing to remember here is if you are unsure, is to always ask us at ICL Immigration. We deal with these things every single day and our team, will go out of their way to assist you with the correct information at the time.
Names of the new Portals:
· New Canadian Refugee Portal
…..And more to come. Good luck with using them, and stay calm when they don’t work.
Recently Canada went through a snap election which saw the Liberal Government secure another Minority Government for the next term. With new governments, comes cabinet shuffles, and we now have a new Minister of Immigration and Citizenship.
“I am humbled to have been appointed by (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau to serve as the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship,” Fraser tweeted. “Immigration will remain a key pillar of Canada’s recovery and I’m committed to ensuring that we continue to have the workers we need, where we need them.”
Honorable Sean Fraser will replace Honorable Marco Mendocino as the country’s new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Minister Fraser previously served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and to the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance from 2019 to 2021, and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change from 2018 to 2019. In 2021, he also served concurrently as Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister.
IRCC will continue to pursue its top priorities. In a meeting on 21 October 2021 with associations representing Canadian immigration lawyers and consultants, IRCC announced their three priorities, which include: achieving their 401,000 permanent residents target for 2021, family reunification, and resettling Afghan refugees.
Meanwhile, IRCC and provinces and territories will also continue to invite immigration candidates through Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and Quebec’s programs.
Prime Minister Trudeau is expected to release new mandate letters for his ministers by March 2022, which will aim to guide the policy priorities of each federal department, including IRCC.
Canada’s immigration system came to a standstill following the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020. While the IRCC has made efforts to continue processing applications online, many immigrants have been left in the dark, with many feeling frustrated due to a lack of communication, minimal updates, and long waiting times.
On Twitter, many individuals responded to the appointment of Minister Fraser by expressing hope that the cabinet shuffle will expedite longstanding immigration backlogs.
As of July 31, more than 748,000 people had a pending temporary residence application as students, workers, or visitors, close to 562,000 were waiting for permanent residence, and the backlog for citizenship was around 376,000
Now you can see why there are so many angry people around the world banging on every door they can, but IRCC just remains silent on matters, and now with a new broom, hopes are up again that things will speed up. That remains to be seen yet.
While its no consolation to those still waiting, Canada welcomed +- 38000 new permanent resident in August 2021, with more than that expected over the remaining months of the year. It’s the 3rd straight month in a row that the Immigration numbers are higher than usual.
Immigration levels fell significantly beginning in April 2020 following the implementation of COVID-19 public health measures in Canada.
Up until June of this year, Canada’s new permanent resident arrivals were short of the goal needed to achieve Canada’s immigration target for 2021. Under the Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023, Canada aims to welcome at least 401,000 new immigrants annually beginning this year.
Between January and August, Canada has landed about 222,000 immigrants. This means it will need to welcome some 179,000 new immigrants, or an average of 45,000 per month for the rest of 2021 to achieve its levels goal for this year. While this goal seems unrealistic, it could be achieved if we look at how many people are sitting in limbo as at July 31 (748 000).
There have been some massive draws this year to help offset the impact Covid had on border closures, and that resulted in some crazy draws that took place. Who remembers the massive CEC draw on Feb 13, 2021 where 27332 applicants were invited for PR?, then there have also been the repeated high number draws for CEC and PNP during the year which mostly focused on in Canada applicants.
Additionally, IRCC launched six new temporary Immigration Streams to transition from TR to PR if applicants met certain criteria which provided for 90000 applications.
Despite all the challenges that COVID has provided, the Canadian Government is intent in its stance, arguing that high levels of immigration are key in supporting Canada’s post pandemic economic recovery.
Further to all the above efforts, Canada opened its borders earlier this year to fully vaccinated travelers which will enable more new immigrants to make their moves to Canada soon.
Regardless, if Canada falls short of its goals for 2021, it has room to increase its levels in 2022 and 2023 to make up for any shortfalls it may have experienced in 2021, as the levels plan features ranges which provide to IRCC the allowance to adjust targets based on operational demands.
All in All, while not everything is good about IRCC currently, they are doing what they can, with what they have to achieve their goals. We as professionals in the industry of immigration can find a way to better work with IRCC, to improve the levels of communication and transparency of processes so that we can assist our clients navigate the dark waters of complex immigration processes and red tape.
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