Citizenship applications full-year 2021 operational data

IRCC released the full 2021 data on the number of applications for citizenship. Given the delays in IRCC entering application data in GCMS (for both Permanent Residents and citizenship), this three-month old data reflects an accurate number.

The month-by-month overview:

With the full-year data, I can now update the overview chart of the impact of COVID-19 on the range of immigration-related programs 2021-18 (How the government used the pandemic to sharply increase immigration), showing that applications declined by 10.3 percent compared to new citizens, 37.6 percent.:

The average for applications in 2021 was about 19,000 monthly, with small variations.

Given current processing trends, an average of 31,000 for the first quarter, IRCC should be able to continue chipping away at the backlog of 400,000 (April 11-12) unless applications increase significantly.

Lastly, my standard chart, comparing applications, new citizens and new Permanent Residents:

CIMM Citizenship delays call for Minister to appear [before end May]

Will be interesting to see the response, and the degree to which information is forthcoming:

Given that significant delays in citizenship applications (over two years) risk disenfranchising Canadians who are waiting for their citizenship in order to vote, and this issue is particularly urgent in light of the June 2nd Ontario provincial election, the government should move quickly to address this issue so that all Canadians who are eligible for citizenship and who choose to apply are able to participate fully in our democratic life. In light of the situation, the committee requests the Minister appear before the committee for two hours by May 27, 2022 to outline actions taken and further actions intended.

Source: https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/CIMM/meeting-21/minutes

Canadian citizenship application delays causing uncertainty for Calgary immigrants; ‘There’s nothing left to do’: Soon-to-be Canadians slam long waits for citizenship oath ceremonies

Funny that on the same day, we have stories in Calgary and Montreal on the impact of delays on citizenship applications.

Significant delays in the approval process to become a Canadian citizen due to ongoing staffing shortages and widespread travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic have forced some immigrants to wait nearly two years to take their oath.

The extra wait times are now impacting hopeful Canadians like Amani Kaman. who immigrated to Canada as a refugee in 2013 to escape from war. Sadly, his father was killed by rebels in the process.

Source: Canadian citizenship application delays causing uncertainty for Calgary immigrants

From Montreal:

When Rakhee Barua and her family’s permanent residency (PR) cards expired last year, she said she didn’t even consider renewing them.

After all, the Bangladesh-born family, who came to Canada in 2016, had passed their Canadian citizenship exam months earlier, and had just one last step to take before becoming full-fledged Canadian citizens: being sworn in at an oath ceremony, typically scheduled three to four months after passing the exam.

But almost a year later, Barua and her family are still waiting for an invitation to take their oath from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

“We were thinking, ‘we’ll get it next month, we’ll get it next month, we’ll get it next month,'” said Barua’s husband, Jewel Debnath, of the torturous wait for the invitation.

The uncertainty weighs heavily on Barua, who can’t travel to Bangladesh to be with her mother — who has breast cancer — due to her expired PR card and the delay on her status.

“My mother is sick. I cannot wait because I don’t know what will happen.”

Barua said her mother has been pleading for a visit before undergoing more treatment.

IRCC delays in scheduling the simple ceremony, which has been moved online due to COVID-19, has left thousands of Canadian hopefuls like Barua and her family in limbo — waiting months, and even years, to become citizens.

“There’s nothing left to do,” said a frustrated Debnath of the citizenship process.

‘I’m just waiting for that oath’

Because her PR card has expired, Barua would not be allowed back into Canada after travelling overseas to visit her mother. Renewing the card costs $50 per person, and after looking into the process, she said the wait time is between five and six months due to the backlog at IRCC.

“Like us, many people are suffering,” she said.

Oleksii Verbitskyi, a software developer from Ukraine, says his family has been waiting for more than two years for their Canadian citizenship, and he’s spent 11 months of that time period waiting for a date to attend the oath ceremony.

“It’s ridiculous, I have everything completed, I’m just waiting for that oath,” said Verbitskyi, who came to Canada with his wife and daughter in 2016 and passed the citizenship exam in March 2021. His youngest son was born in Montreal.

“It’s important … but it’s [a] formality, to be honest.”

After contacting the IRCC through online forms and emails, Verbitskyi says he still only receives boilerplate responses from the department. He says the lack of communication is frustrating.

“We live in the 21st century, you have online tools and everything,” he said. “Give us something, some feedback, like some way to know.”

60,000 approved applicants awaiting ceremony

Last year, Canada announced it would spend $85 million to plow through the backlog of immigration applications caused by COVID-19. On Monday, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser said the government hopes to expand virtual citizenship ceremonies, as well as introduce an electronic oath of citizenship to help speed up the process.

Fraser said there are currently around 60,000 people approved for citizenship who are waiting for a ceremony.

“We will be having conversations to ensure that we administer the system in a way that improves efficiency, but at the same time doesn’t deny those people who want to take part in a formal ceremony and be welcomed into the Canadian family in that traditional way,” the minister said.

But the president of Quebec’s association of immigration lawyers, which goes by its French acronym, AQAADI, says there’s no reason the process should be taking this long.

“The oath is the end of the process, it’s not a question of deciding anything, it’s just to receive the documents,” said Stéphanie Valois. The process took only a few weeks before the pandemic, she said.

“[People have] been waiting a year, more than a year, a year and a half … It should definitely be addressed because there are no reasons,” she said.

A responsibility to make Canada better

Both Barua and Verbitskyi immigrated to Canada with the hope of giving their children a better life, and are eager to obtain citizen status.

“It’s a very peaceful country … It’s known as the best country in the world,” Barua said of Canada, smiling.

Verbitskyi says he loves living in the quaint suburb of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in Montreal’s West Island, and he touts the expertise of doctors who he says saved the life of his youngest child.

“For eternity, I will be grateful to Canada,” he said, tearfully.

But Verbitskyi says calling out the inefficiencies in the country’s immigration system is his civic duty, and he hopes it will make the process easier for other prospective immigrants and citizens.

“It’s our responsibility as loyal citizens to make [Canada] even better.”

Source: ‘There’s nothing left to do’: Soon-to-be Canadians slam long waits for citizenship oath ceremonies

Canadian citizenship applicants with representatives can now apply online

Progress:

Canada’s online citizenship application portal is open to people who have representatives, but reps will not be able to apply on their behalf until sometime next year.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) expanded its online portal to include applications from applicants who have representatives on November 30.

“These applicants will still need to complete, sign, date and submit the application themselves and must not share their account access or password with anyone, including their representative,” IRCC said in an email. “Representatives cannot yet apply online on behalf of an applicant, but they can still provide advice on completing the application and they can communicate with IRCC on the applicant’s behalf after the online application is submitted.”

This is the latest move in modernizing the citizenship application system. Single applicants have been able to apply for citizenship online since August. Recently, Canada also started accepting proof of citizenship applications online. These documents allow the foreign-born children of Canadians to prove their right to citizenship.

In 2022, IRCC says it will open the online applications to:

  • families,

  • minors,

  • representatives to apply on behalf of their clients, and

  • clients who are declaring residence outside of Canada as a crown servant or with a crown servant family member.

Source: Canadian citizenship applicants with representatives can now apply online

Canada now accepts citizenship applications online

Good. Will be interesting to see the take up once expanded to families and whether that reduces processing time along with providing more timely application statistics:

Canadian permanent residents can now submit applications for citizenship online.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has launched a new online tool that allows citizenship applications to be submitted online.

Get help applying for Canadian citizenship

As of August 11, IRCC has opened the online portal to single applicants over the age of 18. It is not open to family applications, nor representatives. Also, it is not open to those who are employed by the crown and living outside of Canada.

Later in 2020, IRCC intends to open the online application to families, and minors under age 18. In 2022, the online application will be available to representative to apply on behalf of their clients. It will also be open to crown servants declaring residence outside Canada.

Applicants who have already submitted on paper should not try to reapply online, IRCC says in a media release.

IRCC had already been developing this new tool, as part of an initiative to modernize the immigration system. In late 2020, it released the tool to test the platform’s capacity.

The new online portal allows applicants to save partially-completed applications and resume them at a later time. It also allows users to upload supporting documents, proof of payment, print a PDF and ask for a confirmation of receipt.

Modernization of the immigration system

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has said his vision for Canada’s immigration system to become paperless.

The pandemic forced IRCC to start modernizing to allow for immigration to continue amid public health measures. So far, Canada has made citizenship testing available online, and also started holding virtual citizenship ceremonies.

Along other lines of business, the department has also begun doing virtual landings for newly-arrived permanent residents. For immigration applicants, a number of paper-based programs are starting to go digital.

Source: Canada now accepts citizenship applications online

#Citizenship applications, new citizens and Permanent Residents: 2020 Update

IRCC kindly provided me with the 2020 citizenship application monthly data (not available on opendata), allowing me to update one of my standard charts, showing the dramatic declines in 2020:

Annual decline 2020 compared to 2019:

  • Applications: 26.5 percent
  • New Citizens: 56.8 percent
  • Permanent Residents: 45.7 percent

Surprised by the relatively small decline in applications compared to new citizens, suggesting that IRCC may be developing a backlog as has happened in the past.

As I have noted in the past, the number of applications and new citizens fluctuates widely compared to the more stable trajectory of new Permanent Residents, reflecting policy changes in terms of applications and resource and management issues in the case of new citizens.

Historically, this has been met by injections of funding to clear backlogs (often near to elections!) and I understand that the 2014-15 increase in citizenship fees (from $200 to $630 for adults) may have been a way to pay for increased funding.

Immigration application system set for massive revamp after COVID-19

Looking forward to the details. Hopefully implementation will be closer to CERB than Phoenix:

A complete overhaul of how Canada processes immigration applications is in the works as the government braces for post-pandemic demand for migration to Canada.

Aging computer systems, paper applications and in-person interviews are among the things that must be adapted for the “new normal” after COVID-19, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a tender posted to the government’s procurement website and marked “urgent.”

“When travel restrictions begin to ease, a significant surge of applications and support requirements is anticipated, putting tremendous demand on our global operations and supporting branches,” the tender request says.

“IRCC needs to act quickly to develop (i) updated and new strategies, and (ii) processes and digital systems to cope with the rapid change it is undergoing.”

Immigration to Canada came to a near-halt in March when borders around the world slammed shut to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Though some already authorized to enter Canada before the pandemic – temporary foreign workers and students – have still been able to arrive, thousands of others, including refugees, remain abroad, waiting for travel restrictions to lift.

Meanwhile, the government has closed or significantly scaled back many of its immigration operations, including all in-person interviews and the collection of biometrics, while many private visa centres around the globe that have contracts with Canada are also shuttered.

It’s effectively put the kibosh on new applications, and the uncertainty means the government has now abandoned even estimates on how long it will take to process them.

The department is trying to get through some of the applications, said spokesperson Nancy Caron.

“In the face of so many challenges, IRCC has made great efforts to adapt, for instance, by prioritizing applications from Canadians returning to Canada, vulnerable people and people who perform or support essential services,” she said in an email.

“We are processing those as quickly as possible.”

In its request, the department notes that among its challenges is operating while respecting physical-distancing protocols. The requirements make it harder to do everything from in-person interviews to citizenship ceremonies.

At least one virtual citizenship ceremony has already been held, for a researcher awarded a major grant to study the impact of the pandemic on supply chains, but the tender seeks guidance on more digital solutions for those and for traditional in-person interviews.

The Liberal government had intended to welcome as many as 371,000 new permanent residents in 2020, a number that will fall dramatically due to COVID-19.

A recent report from RBC Economics suggested the slowdown will have knock-on effects on the economy, noting among other things the $6 billion in tuition alone that international students contribute to the economy each year.

Source: Immigration application system set for massive revamp after COVID-19

2019 Citizenship applications and new citizens

With the full 2019 numbers available, I have updated by standard chart comparing the number of applications, new citizens and permanent residents:

The following chart shows the number of citizenship applications per month for 2019, with the drop off in the fall likely reflecting the Liberal election commitment to waive citizenship fees (a smaller drop than I would have expected). It will be interesting to see if that trend continues in 2020 until the COVID-19 disruption mid-March (applications still being accepted, however):

From immigration limbo to liberty: Canada sees surge of non-American migrants

Interesting shift but not surprising given the impact of the Trump administration on US immigration policy and practices:

After spending almost all her life in immigration limbo in the United States, Paras Pizada can finally set down roots and plan for a future … in Canada.

The 27-year-old woman is part of a surge of non-American citizens arriving here legally from south of the border where they’ve faced an increasingly hostile environment since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

Canada’s new biometrics visa requirements, however, could prove a deterrent for undocumented migrants in the U.S. who, like Pizada, try to come here legally.

Since January, applicants worldwide must provide fingerprints and have their photos taken at facilities designated by Canadian immigration.

In the U.S., almost all facilities are operated by American immigration officials. Undocumented migrants fear this will put them at risk of arrest and deportation. Indeed, the Canadian immigration website warns biometric applicants that they must be legally in the U.S. to go to a centre.

These biometrics requirements could potentially drive up irregular migration into Canada which has dropped by half to 5,140, between January and May, compared to the same period last year.

“Since these people can’t get fingerprinted to apply for Canadian work permits and study permits legally, they will all just walk across the border. Ottawa has made it impossible for the majority of undocumented U.S. residents who want to apply legally for Canada to do so,” said Winnipeg-based immigration lawyer Vanessa Routley.

According to Canadian immigration data revealed for the first time, in 2018, non-Americans in the U.S. accounted for 85 per cent or 13,754 of the 16,158 permanent residence applicants from south of the border, up from just 48 per cent or 1,477 of the total 3,077 applicants in 2015, with India (10,556), China (768) and Nigeria (337) being the top three source countries in 2018.

In 2015, non-Americans made up just 14 per cent or 4,664 of 33,062 applicants in the U.S. for Canadian work permits and student visas.

In 2018, the number almost doubled to 26 per cent or 11,840 of all 45,202 applicants.

It is not known how many of these applicants were actually undocumented in the U.S., because that data is not collected.

Pizada was two when her family arrived as visitors to the United States from Pakistan in 1994. They never left, moving from place to place to evade detection by immigration enforcement officials. Though both Pizada and her sister later qualified to remain temporarily in the U.S. under a special program for undocumented children launched under then-President Barack Obama, they had had no access to permanent residence and citizenship.

When Trump was elected in 2016 and stepped up the removal of undocumented migrants, the sisters started looking for places to go outside the U.S. In June, Pizada, who has a master’s degree in media studies from Pratt Institute in New York, came to Canada as a permanent resident under the federal skilled workers program, following in the steps of her sibling, Mahaik, who had arrived here the year before.

“We are so relieved,” said Pizada, who now lives in Niagara Falls. “I can finally put down roots and have a place to call home. I’m allowed here and no one can kick me out.”

Pizada was lucky she could avoid the biometrics dilemma presented by Canadian immigration because she had already been known to American homeland security officials by having registered with the Obama administration’s program that offered her a renewable temporary residence in the U.S. every two years. Most undocumented migrants didn’t meet that program’s criteria and are off the enforcement officials’ radar.

Of the 133 facilities in the U.S., only two, one in Los Angeles and the other in New York City, are run by private contractors, which means most undocumented applicants must either travel long distances to those two offices or take the risk of going to their local centres and potentially be intercepted by American immigration authorities.

Sharma, who asked that her full name not be used because she is undocumented in the U.S., has been accepted by four Canadian universities — these are Waterloo, Concordia, New Brunswick and Dalhousie — in their graduate programs, but is afraid of setting foot in her local centre run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as it collects fingerprints.

“There is definitely a heightened fear of getting arrested with all these government raids against migrants,” said Sharma, 21, who arrived in the U.S. from Indian with her family 12 years ago.

She graduated in May with an undergrad degree in biomedical engineering.

“This biometrics requirement is hindering our ability to regularize our status in Canada. We just want to make a better life.”

Canada is doing everything it can to make the biometrics collection process as smooth as possible for all applicants, according to Canadian immigration department spokesperson Nancy Caron.

“In a situation where an applicant is unable to comply with the biometric requirement, these individuals can self-identify themselves by contacting the department and provide a supporting rationale for their situation. Canadian migration officers have the discretion, in specific circumstances, to exempt an applicant from providing biometric information,” Caron told the Star in an email.

“It is important (for us) to be aware of an applicant’s previous immigration history and their compliance with immigration laws, including their current immigration status. This helps in determining whether an applicant is admissible to Canada and whether they are likely to respect the conditions of their visa.”

Officials said the data on biometrics exemptions requested and granted is unavailable.

Source: From immigration limbo to liberty: Canada sees surge of non-American migrants

USA: Wait Times for Citizenship Have Doubled in the Last Two Years

Another illustration of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies:

After working through the Las Vegas summer lugging boxes and heavy furniture to raise money to apply for United States citizenship, Jose Silva plunked down the $725 fee in the fall of 2017, just days after he turned 18. “I hoped to vote in the midterm elections,” he said.

But it took until last week, more than a year and a half after he applied, for the college student to be scheduled for a citizenship interview, which he will have on March 20. If approved, Mr. Silva will take the oath later this year.

The time that aspiring Americans must wait to be naturalized is now almost twice as long, 10 months, as it was two years ago. In Las Vegas, where the office has a particularly large backlog, applicants could wait 31 months.

The delays come as the Trump administration tightens scrutiny of applications, diverts staff from reviewing them and introduces proposals likely to make it more difficult, and cumbersome, for green-card holders to qualify and complete the process.

Nearly nine million immigrants are eligible for citizenship. The steep application fee and the civics and English tests have historically deterred many from naturalizing. Instead, they renewed their legal residence every decade.

But the administration’s move to tighten restrictions on immigration have awakened many longtime permanent residents to the fact that a green card does not shield them from deportation. It has also compelled many to seek citizenship in order to cast a ballot, with hundreds of thousands of immigrants poised to become potential voters ahead of the 2020 election.

After supporting legislation that would cut overall immigration, President Trump recently championed the economic benefits of attracting foreign talent. In his State of the Union address, the president said he wanted “people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.”

Yet the lengthening backlog in applications is making it more difficult for immigrants to become civically engaged and to solidify ties to their adopted country, critics of the administration’s policies say. “Far from the public eye, the Trump administration is strangling the naturalization process,” said Steven Choi, a chair of the National Partnership for New Americans, a coalition of advocacy groups that is pushing to offer naturalization workshops and legal services to would-be citizens.

Coalition members filed a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles in September against the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that reviews the applications, challenging the processing delays.

The federal agency has blamed the delays on a sharp rise in applications.

“U.S.C.I.S. continues to adjudicate the pending naturalization caseload, which skyrocketed under the Obama administration, more than doubling from 291,800 in September 2010 to nearly 700,000 by the beginning of 2017. Now, despite a record and unprecedented application surge workload, U.S.C.I.S. is completing more citizenship applications, more efficiently and effectively — outperforming itself,” Michael Bars, an agency spokesman, said in response to emailed questions.

There have been bigger application spikes in the past, such as in 2007, when the caseload swelled to 1.4 million and the agency was able to work through the backlog by the following year. That has not happened with the current pileup.

A total of 750,793 applications were pending at the end of June, the latest period available. But the rate at which they are being processed is at the lowest in a decade, according to an analysis released this month by Boundless Immigration, a technology company in Seattle that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship. The agency was able to work through only about half its applications in 2017, compared to about 60 percent in 2016. (Data for 2018 is not available.)

“Applications for citizenship have surged many times in the past and U.S.C.I.S. was able to bring enough resources to bear to tame them. Wait times have doubled and the agency is barely processing half of their backlog,” said Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration.

A Feb. 12 letter to the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services that was signed by 86 members of Congress raised concerns about the “alarming growth in processing delays” for naturalization and other services like green cards and visas.

It noted that the agency’s proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year included a request that more than $200 million of its fee revenue be transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that rounds up people for deportation.

“This appears to represent part of U.S.C.I.S.’s larger shift toward prioritizing immigration enforcement over the service-oriented adjudications at the core of the agency’s mandate,” said the letter, which sought details about efforts to reduce and eliminate backlogs.

Processing times vary across the country, depending on caseloads and staffing at regional offices. Applicants in Houston could wait almost two years; in Atlanta, the wait could be even longer. In contrast, those seeking citizenship in Louisville, Ky., have been completing the process in up to 10 months. In Buffalo, the wait is just over a year.

Citizenship applications are receiving additional scrutiny — and that is likely to intensify. The Trump administration says that it is placing a premium on integrity. But immigration lawyers and other experts report that officers are digging up information going back years to raise questions that are delaying, and jeopardizing, citizenship for many applicants.

“The Trump administration has infused the entire legal immigration system with skepticism, but naturalization should be different: These people are already here legally; they want to be citizens to better assimilate,” said Mr. Rand, who served in the Obama administration.

The government has also been taking a harder look at some immigrants who have already become citizens. Last year, the agency launched a denaturalization task force with the aim of stripping citizenship from people found to have committed fraud to obtain it.

Some applicants have shown up for their interview only to learn they could be deported.

“This past year, for the first time we have started to see people who apply for naturalization not only have it denied but also be placed in removal proceedings to take away their permanent residence,” said Ted Farrell, an immigration lawyer in Louisville.

Ahmed Bafagih, 31, a permanent resident since 2010, was denied citizenship after he told an officer during his interview last month in Houston that he was born in Kenya, not Yemen, as appeared in his file. He is appealing the decision.

“Acting in good faith, I tried to correct the error that would have gone unnoticed,” said the lab technician, who moved to Sana from Mombasa, his birthplace, when he was about 30 days old.

The denial, reviewed by The New York Times, stated that, “Your record reflects that there was fraud in procurement of your Legal Permanent Resident status,” referring to the erroneous birth certificate.

Mr. Bafagih’s Yemen-born parents and three sisters are American citizens.

His father, Jamal Bafagih, who won awards during 25 years of service with American government missions in the Middle East, including with the Pentagon and the Commerce Department, said: “I raised my kids to love this country. Suddenly when my son reports an error, it bounces back to hurt him; that leaves a very bad taste.”

Slated for implementation are a series of regulatory changes that are likely to make the process even more onerous.

One proposal would require many citizenship applicants to produce a decade of international travel history, rather than the current five; more documentation, like children’s birth certificates, which many refugees lack; as well as more information to ascertain “good moral character.”

The agency has also proposed narrowing the eligibility criteria for a waiver of the full $725 filing fee, which would reduce the number of low-income immigrants who could afford to naturalize.

Meanwhile, many agency officers who conduct citizenship interviews have been reassigned to the southern border to interview asylum seekers, whose cases the administration wishes to expedite, according to an agency official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak to the media.

For many of those waiting their turn, more is at stake than the simple pride of citizenship. Holding an American passport opens access to certain jobs, such as in law-enforcement agencies, and scholarships that are not available to noncitizens. Mr. Silva the applicant in Las Vegas, is studying Arabic, a language in high demand by government agencies, which often only hire citizens.

He’s studying at a community college, but hopes to transfer to a four-year university next year — and that’s another issue.

“My passion is languages,” said Mr. Silva, “and for scholarships I have found, you have to be a U.S. citizen.”