Dangzalan: Half-Cooked, and Under-Seasoned: IRCC’s Haste To Move to Online Applications for Permanent Residence

More on the online hopefully teething problems:

Before the pandemic, I stumbled into a pub and ordered their buttermilk fried chicken with waffles. The server happily took my order, and after about ten minutes, the order arrived. I was impressed with the speed. When I took my first bite, I suddenly spit it out – it was raw, with blood gushing through the undercooked flesh. It was not at all ready. It was clearly done in a hurry. In life, most things that are rushed do not end well. This is also true for institutions.

On September 1, 2022, IRCC came out with a news release, “Transitioning to online applications for permanent residence.” The announcement was promising until you read on: “…Starting on September 23, 2022 … IRCC will begin transitioning to 100% digital applications for most permanent residence programs.”

Twitter went into a frenzy – in just three weeks, applications for Permanent Residence will only be accepted through IRCC’s application portal. While the portal was soft-launched on March 31, 2021, the impression at the time was that IRCC would continue to iron out the problems with the online infrastructure. In the meantime, the department continued to accept paper applications for permanent residence.

We in the immigration bar understood this to be a good sign: IRCC appeared committed to ensuring that the transition to a digital application platform will have minimal technical issues at best. The backstop was there – in that people who have technical issues or are simply unsure if they trust the new platforms had the choice to submit a paper application.

We have also experienced nightmare scenarios where applicants needed to submit their applications on the same day but were not able to because of technical issues. The list of reasons is long, but it includes issues ranging from the website crashing, to the lack of space to submit complex humanitarian and compassionate applications that require heavy papering of evidence, to sudden portal outages, to files not being accepted due to ill-explained formatting issues.

Folks who have been trapped in these nightmare scenarios stand to lose a lot: they lose their status in Canada and endure long family separations. Sometimes the remedy involves filing a separate application that increases the ever-growing inventory of applications. Transitioning so recklessly to a zero-sum online intake system may have the unintended consequence of exacerbating the already politically toxic immigration backlog. Surely the Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office will not want this.

Make no mistake: this transition is a critical part of IRCC’s push for digital transformation in the department. Converting applications from paper to digital will accelerate the collection of big data that will allow IRCC to develop further its deployment of advanced analytics and machine learning in triaging an ever-growing pile of applications. Let’s also be very clear: electronic application platforms allow for a more accessible government. E-governance is generally a good thing. But this requires a proper and well-thought-out strategy for the deployment of technology. What is not good is a forcible ramming through the door of a system that has no emergency backstops.

To be sure, a lot of advocates have long pushed for online applications for Permanent Resident candidates. Yet the manner of hurried and almost cloak-and-dagger execution, with portals still riddled by technical problems, does not bode well among advocates and members of the bar.

It’s not too late. IRCC and Minister Sean Fraser can still put a pause to this. Minister Fraser should delay the compulsory implementation until a dialogue can be opened between the department and its stakeholders to hear what the issues are. As always, we at CILA are open to collaborating with the department to ensure that this project enjoys the highest possible chance of success.

Source: Half-Cooked, and Under-Seasoned: IRCC’s Haste To Move to Online Applications for Permanent Residence

Canada aiming to open online citizenship applications for multiple adults in fall 2022


Couples and families with multiple adults will soon be able to apply for citizenship online, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Currently, only single adult applicants can submit their citizenship applications online. However, IRCC told CIC News in an email that adults may be able to apply together in fall 2022. After that, the online portal will open to minors and families.

“IRCC is working towards an expansion of the e-Application in order to allow Adults (i.e., 18 or older) to apply online together as a family or a group, and is currently targeting a Fall 2022 implementation,” an IRCC spokesperson said. “Planning has commenced for further e-Application expansion to minors under 18 years of age, as well as adults and minors applying together as a family or a group.”

IRCC said following the implementation of the e-application, it will begin to develop “additional functionality for representatives.” Currently, representatives can only help prepare online applications, but cannot submit on a client’s behalf. They can communicate with IRCC on the applicant’s behalf before and after the online application is submitted.

“In November of 2021, IRCC updated the system so clients can submit the IMM 5476 – Use of Representatives form, allowing them to use the services of a representative in preparing their applications. We also updated the screening questions to allow clients working with representatives to submit their application electronically,” IRCC wrote.

“Following the implementation of the e-Application expansion to minors and groups, the Department will begin development of additional functionality for representatives.”

In August 2021, IRCC claimed online citizenship applications would open to families and minors later in the year, and to representatives in 2022.

IRCC opened an online portal to proof of citizenship applicants in November 2021.

Source: Canada aiming to open online citizenship applications for multiple adults in fall 2022

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


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):