Newcomers struggle under long waits for citizenship

CBC seems to be doing regional series of those waiting for citizenship given processing backlogs.

More interest, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship is taking a more public advocacy role:

According to Daniel Bernhard, CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, a national organization that helps newcomers and people seeking citizenship, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada has a backlog of 1.8 million applications, 400,000 of which are citizenship applications.

“This is incredibly alarming because these are people who are deciding to commit, quite permanently, to Canada, to be invested here, to make their lives here. It’s a multi-generational commitment,” said Bernhard.

Bernhard said many people are waiting two years or more for their citizenship.

“There’s a lot of frustration, which is understandable,” he said. “There’s a lot of real hardship.”

Bernhard said there are people whose permanent residency has run out while they waited on their citizenship, leaving them in the country illegally in some cases.

“It’s a real negative situation. It’s having a real negative impact on families in Canada and abroad, and it’s one that the government seems interested in dealing with. But they’re dealing with it very, very slowly and help just can’t come soon enough for people who want to become citizens.”

There are a couple reasons for the delay, according to Bernhard. The first is that the number of people who are seeking to come to Canada as immigrants is on the rise.

“That is a matter of global dynamics, if you like. But it’s also a matter of public policy on behalf of the government of Canada that keeps increasing our immigration quota year on year.”

In October 2020, the Liberal government promised to bring in 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years, despite hurdles in processing created by the global pandemic. But the bottleneck of applications show cracks in the IRCC’s ability to keep up with the demand, said Bernhard.

“The processing capacity of the ministry has just not kept up, and they’ve been a very late adopter of digital anything. And there is a lot of frustration on behalf of people who call. These applications just disappear, and there seems to be no recourse to get things sped up or to find out even what the holdups are. So the ministry seems to be dealing with old systems that are just outmatched for the number of applications that are coming in.”

Travel restrictions and remote work has had a significant impact on processing times at IRCC, said communications advisor Julie Lafortune.

“IRCC has been moving towards a more integrated, modernized and centralized working environment in order to help speed up application processing globally,” said Lafortune in an email.

She said 5,000 people are writing their citizenship test online each week and that between 3,500 to 5,000 applicants are being invited to do the citizenship oath virtually each week.

As of March 2, “there were 3,411 applications from clients in New Brunswick in the current citizenship grant inventory,” said Lafortune, “of which 1,111 were more than 12 months old.”

And while so many wait, their lives become more complicated.

Source: Newcomers struggle under long waits for citizenship

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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