Soon-to-be Canadians waiting in vain to hear about their citizenship applications

A backlog of close to 500,000, and a citizenship program has only recently started to get back to more traditional numbers of new citizens (close to 20,000 October 2021, compared to a pre-pandemic monthly average of 21,000). Will need to ramp up quickly to clear the backlog:

A large number of immigrants say they’ve been waiting months to hear back from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) about whether or not they will soon become Canadian citizens.

Parandis Haghnesarfard and her husband, who passed their citizenship tests in January 2021, say they feel like they’ve been left out in the cold by the Canadian government.

It’s been one year and the couple says they still don’t know if they will be called to take their oaths.

“My sister lives in the U.K. She had heart surgery and she needed my help to take care of her and his son,” Haghnesarfard said. “I haven’t seen my father in three years, my aunt passed away this summer and I couldn’t be there.”

It seems Haghnesarfard isn’t the only one sitting idly; dozens of families have written to CTV News asking for help with their citizenship applications.

“The only answer was, ‘sorry, please be patient,'” Haghnesarfard said. “I am tired of this answer.”

For its part, IRCC acknowledges that “some applicants have experienced considerable wait times.”

“Scheduling an oath ceremony usually takes four to six months after all criteria are positively assessed,” explained Isabelle Dubois, a spokesperson for the department.

Immigration lawyer Tamara Mosher-Kuczer argues the actual average wait time sits closer to 12 to 18 months.

“Pre-COVID-19, that would be a long delay,” she points out. “In COVID-19 [times], three to six months is not unusual. I have heard of some people still waiting to take the oath from pre or early pandemic.”

HELP FROM CTV NEWS

Mehrnoosh Djavid, a software quality engineer from Iran, was waiting for more than nine months to hear back about whether or not she would be called to take her citizenship oath when she wrote to CTV News.

She explains she lost her father two years ago, but hasn’t yet been able to go home to comfort her mother because of COVID-19.

“I cannot go and visit my family in Iran because the citizenship ceremony can happen anytime and I need to be present in Canada during this ceremony,” she said. “Also, I can not go to company conferences in the U.S. because I don’t have my Canadian passport. Basically, I can’t travel anywhere.”

She argues the selection process seems random, with some of her friends who applied for citizenship after her already receiving their new, navy blue passports.

After CTV News inquired in mid-December about her file, Djavid says she immediately received an e-mail notifying her that her citizenship ceremony would take place on Dec. 20.

“I still can’t believe it and don’t know how to thank you for your help and support,” she said. “It really means a lot to me and I’ll never forget your kindness.”

Similarly, Aida Rangy and Mostafa Darabi, who came to Canada in 2014 as international students and applied for citizenship in March 2020, did not hear back from IRCC until CTV News intervened.

“Having delays with the pandemic situation was understandable during 2020,” Rangy said. “We have many friends in Ontario, B.C. and even Quebec who applied for citizenship months after us and they have their passports now.”

The couple says they completed their citizenship application in May 2021.

“It’s not right. We are working in this community, paying taxes and doing our responsibility as citizens, but IRCC is not treating us as valuable members of Canada,” said Rangy.

After an inquiry by CTV News, Rangy and Darabi were called to take their oaths on Dec. 21.

“With your help now we are Canadian citizens,” Rangy said. “The best Christmas gift we could have. We booked tickets to visit our families in March. I can’t believe I can see them after almost two-and-a-half years.”

Malek Mohammad Karami Nejad, who works at Gameloft Montreal, and Vajiheh Roshan Nia, a substitute teacher and daycare educator with the Centre de services scolaire de Laval, have been in a similar position since their permanent residency cards expired.

“My wife has a lot of worry about her parents and I’m scared she will get ill with these stress pressures,” said Nejad. “From my company’s side, I need to travel outside Canada to other countries.”

The couple’s citizenship applications were approved in July 2021.

After a query by CTV News, IRCC confirmed the couple would be scheduled to attend their oath of citizenship ceremony on Jan. 17.

“I don’t know how to say thank you. Really appreciated and God bless you,” Nejad said. “You saved my time and my life.”

CTV News is still waiting for responses on at least 10 other dossiers.

BLAMING COVID-19

Mosher-Kuczer points out COVID-19 has exposed many cracks in the foundation at IRCC.

Since Afghanistan became an issue in August, they [IRCC] changed their messaging, and it’s such offensive messaging, in my opinion, because when you submit a web form, the response back is ‘we’re only dealing with priority requests and we won’t respond to other requests,'” she said. “Well, that’s offensive because everybody who’s contacting them, it’s a priority for them.”

The immigration lawyer points out it’s almost like a chicken-or-the-egg situation, where people are not getting any answers and are writing again and again to the department.

“Now you’ve got a system backlog — and you’re adding additional applications into this system backlog,” Mosher-Kuczer said. “With the pandemic, they’re understaffed, but I think they were always understaffed.”

She calls it a “failure of communication” on the part of IRCC.

“If they had some better messaging; if they came out and they said, ‘we understand that this is an issue,’ but they’re not doing that,” she stated. “They’re saying, ‘everything’s OK here, nothing to see. Don’t worry.'”

Mosher-Kuczer is calling on IRCC to, if they cannot speed up processing times, at least be honest with people.

“People are so angry. They’re angry, and they’re depressed,” she noted. “This is their dream and their hope for their future. They’ve made plans about buying houses, jobs, education based on processing times and based on where they thought they would be.”

Due to the pandemic, IRCC says ceremonies are taking place virtually.

“Some of the larger volume offices may be experiencing longer-than-normal delays given limitations of the virtual format,” Dubois noted, adding approximately 3,500 to 5,000 applicants are invited each week to take their oaths as Canadian citizens.

In a move towards better efficiency, IRCC has created an online tool for applicants to check their application status.

“Applicants do not generally receive any communication from IRCC until receiving their notice to appear for their video oath ceremony,” added Jelena Jenko, a department spokesperson.

Source: Soon-to-be Canadians waiting in vain to hear about their citizenship applications

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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