He passed his Canadian citizenship test — then came a call saying there was a problem

Hopefully, just teething pains of the online testing system. But why officials wouldn’t be more transparent on the extent of the problem is hard to understand and citing “program integrity reasons” is not an adequate explanation:

Yaseen Alshehadat said he carefully followed each step to proceed with his citizenship exam, scanning a photo ID and taking a selfie with his computer camera, before writing the online test in late February.

The Mississauga man was relieved when he got an email from the immigration department right away congratulating him for passing the test. Maybe now he could finally get some sleep after moving one step closer to fulfilling his dream to become a Canadian citizen.

But the next day, Alshehadat received a call from an immigration official informing him that his exam result was invalidated because the image of his OHIP card, the piece of photo ID he used for the test, did not register in the system.

“I worked 14 hours a day, and for weeks, I came home and stayed up to study the citizenship guide. It was very stressful and I had very little sleep,” said Alshehadat, whose family fled Syria in 2011 and resettled in Canada in 2016 via Jordan under a government refugee sponsorship.

“I had two dreams. My first dream was to open my own business in Canada. I did that last year. My second dream was to become a Canadian. I’m so disappointed at the news,” added the father of six, who opened Yaseen’s Shawarma in October.

Alshehadat and his wife, Ikhlas Alnaseer, applied for Canadian citizenship in November 2019 and were thrilled when they were finally invited in February to take the online test after citizenship processing had stalled due to the pandemic. The immigration department began hosting virtual citizenship ceremonies last spring but only resumed remote citizenship tests in late November.

Alshehadat took his test at 4 a.m. on Feb. 25; his wife had hers the following day. They said that’s the only time they could quietly sit for the exam in front of their daughter’s laptop. Alshehadat answered 18 of the 20 multiple-choice questions correctly and Alnaseer scored 16 — both above the passing mark of 15.

Then came the call from the immigration department that their test scores were invalidated “due to lack of ID,” even though officials had a record of the individuals in front of the screen sitting the exam. They would not accept the couple’s missing ID documents afterward but insisted Alshehadat and Alnaseer retake the test.

“Whether through applicant error, technical glitch or other reason, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) did not receive photo identification from either applicant as required prior to taking the exam,” department spokesperson Derek Abma told the Star in an email.

“Verifying applicants’ identities is essential to ensuring the security and integrity of our immigration system. This is true across all of IRCC’s processes, but especially when it comes to obtaining Canadian citizenship.”

Abma said an applicant’s identity must be confirmed at the time each requirement is being met. An official verifies the identity of the candidate by comparing faces on the identity document provided at the time of the test, the citizenship photo provided with the application and the applicant’s proctored webcam photos. A candidate can provide a permanent resident card, a driver’s licence or health card prior to starting the test. This must be provided before starting the test, said Abma, and cannot be added after.

There are instances when verification of identity through photo identification is unable to take place during the citizenship test, he said, but they are rare.

Source: He passed his Canadian citizenship test — then came a call saying there was a problem

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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