‘Earth-shattering’: Why applicants to Canada’s special, one-time immigration program fear a computer glitch may have dashed their dreams

Not good if correct:

Parthkumar Patel graduated from a two-year program in computer science from the University of Regina in January but was having a tough time finding a job in his field in Canada.

For months, the international graduate from India worked jobs in restaurants before he was hired by a car-rental company as a customer-service representative. With no end to the pandemic in sight, he says, he wondered if he’d ever land a job that would qualify him for permanent residence here.

Then in April, the federal government announced it would roll out a one-time pathway for temporary residents such as international graduates and essential migrant workers already in Canada to become permanent residents, in part to recognize their contributions to Canada during the pandemic.

Like other enthused applicants, Patel scrambled to compile all the documentation he needed for the online application process. He drove eight hours from Regina to Edmonton to sit for an English language test, because it was the closest centre with an available spot.

On May 6, before the application process opened at noon, he sat with two other friends also applying to the program so they could do it together and make sure there were no mistakes and that they had all the i’s dotted and crossed all the t’s for the application. At 12:22 p.m., he completed his application.

Patel says he was shocked last month when he received a refusal of his application, for failing to submit his French language test result. The problem? He said he’d applied to the English international graduate stream — not the French one. He already submitted his English test result and shouldn’t have needed a French test result.

He said he’s certain he selected the right stream from the drop-down menu in the intake portal.

“I’m 100 per cent sure,” said the 21-year-old. “It’s my best chance to become a permanent resident in Canada. This was so important to me that I double-, triple-checked everything before I submitted my file to make sure I got everything right.”

The so-called TR-to-PR pathway has six streams, three each for English-speaking and French-speaking applicants, under international graduates, health and non-health essential worker categories. All three English-speaking streams had caps and were removed from the portal once they were filled.

As the applications are being processing, a growing number of applicants for the English-speaking streams are claiming that a glitch in the immigration application portal has wrongfully bumped them into the French streams. While some have already received refusal letters, others are just starting to spot the problem in their application record.

Toronto immigration lawyer Mario Bellissimo has filed a challenge against the immigration department for refusing another applicant’s case, claiming that his client was misplaced and processed in the wrong stream.

“We have also reached out to the Department of Justice early on, because we want to make sure that it’s not a client error and we want to know what’s happening, because the implications are huge,” said Bellissimo, who said he’s had several similar inquiries.

“Let’s assume there is a glitch. If, in fact, there’s no client error, then is there still a manual review? I really hope that when we drill down on these cases, it was a glitch that somehow can be remedied.”

The immigration department said applicants to the pathway are assessed against the requirements of the stream they selected in the drop-down menu.

“It is possible that the applicant selected the French-speaking stream because the general stream was already filled and the general stream was not present in the drop-down menu,” department spokesperson Jeffrey MacDonald said in an email.

But Patel insists that’s an impossible scenario in his case, as he was among the first to submit the application, a day before the English international graduate stream was filled.

He pointed out there is a precedent of a glitch in the pathway’s application portal. It had continued to accept new applications under the English international graduate stream even after all the 40,000 spots had been taken within 24 hours. That forced officials to issue a special public policy in late June to ensure the 7,300 additional applicants wouldn’t be penalized due to the system error.

“I am heartbroken by this unfair rejection of my application,” said Patel, who hopes officials will investigate and provide remedies to him and others.

Wenjing Xie, a former international student from China, has worked in customer service at a bank in Ottawa on a postgraduate work permit since she graduated with a degree in finance from the University of Ottawa in 2019.

The 25-year-old said she applied under the non-health essential worker stream on May 6 with three other friends with their immigration consultant watching every step on Zoom.

She submitted the complete application at 12:33 p.m. and received a refusal on Sept. 14 under the French non-health essential worker stream for failing the language requirement.

“I just cried. I was so depressed that I had to take a day off from work when I got the rejection letter,” said Xie, whose work permit expires in May 2022.

“I met all the requirements and I did everything on time. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any screen images and I don’t have proof. Who would have?”

Bellissimo said he hopes the actual uploading and the technology of the system can reveal the truth through his litigation, which is now before the court.

“If you haven’t kept your screenshots, you haven’t had the benefit of doing all of that. How are you going to prove your case? What’s actually kept by the department? We don’t know,” he explained.

“It just seems like there would have to be multiple breakdowns for this to occur. I’m having a difficult time understanding how you get to this point. That’s why we felt it was important to move forward with this (legal) challenge and see how it gets resolved.”

Nishith Vagjani, who came here from Nigeria and finished two postgraduate programs last December at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., applied to the English non-health essential worker stream on July 16 hours before the application closed.

He went to his immigration application account in early September after hearing from people on social media about applicants being processed in the wrong stream. To his surprise, his application was placed in the French non-health essential worker stream.

“That was an earth-shattering moment for me. I put in so much hard work into the process,” said the 26-year-old, who scrambled to collect all the documents required — including from India, where he received his undergraduate degree — to complete the application.

The only proof he said he has is the mandatory form, the IMM0130, that all applicants were required to put a check mark on the stream they selected, plus an acknowledgment of receipt of his application.

Vagjani said he contacted the immigration department to fix the problem but was told nothing could be done.

Immigration officials said anyone who has an issue with their applications under the pathway can contact them directly through their web form.

Source: ‘Earth-shattering’: Why applicants to Canada’s special, one-time immigration program fear a computer glitch may have dashed their dreams

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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