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.”


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.


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

Canada has a backlog of nearly 1.8 million immigration applications

Striking. One of the disadvantages of IRCC’s shift to monthly stats was the elimination of regular reports on backlogs, and in the case of citizenship, application data. So having this information fills a needed gap in understanding IRCC’s operational challenges.

For citizenship, highest previous backlog was 323,000 in 2012, impact of Discover Canada study guide and related knowledge test, along with cutbacks in citizenship processing capacity in a government-wide program review exercise:

IRCC’s backlog stands at almost 1.8 million immigration applications.

CIC News has received data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) showing the following number of applications in IRCC’s inventory as of October 27, 2021 (figures are rounded):

  • 548,000 permanent residence applications (economicfamily, refugee, and humanitarian class applicants)
  • 776,000 temporary residence applications (applications for study permitswork permits, temporary resident visas, and visitor extensions)
  • 468,000 Canadian citizenship applications (as of October 26)
  • 1,792,000 total applications in inventory

IRCC’s figures indicate their backlog has grown by nearly 350,000 applications since July.

In August, a report by Nicholas Keung of the Toronto Star showed that the backlog as of July 6, 2021 stood at about:

  • 375,000 permanent residence applications 
  • 703,000 temporary residence applications 
  • 370,000 Canadian citizenship applications. The Star reported that this figure did not include Canadian citizenship applications sitting in IRCC’s mailrooms that have yet to be processed.
  • 1,448,000 total applications in inventory

In an email to CIC News, an IRCC spokesperson explained “Ongoing international travel restrictions, border restrictions, limited operational capacity overseas and the inability on the part of clients to obtain documentation due to the effects of COVID-19 have created barriers within the processing continuum. This hinders IRCC’s ability to finalize applications, creating delays that are outside IRCC’s control.”

At the same time, the spokesperson acknowledged the challenges that applicants are facing, noting “Despite our efforts, we know that some applicants have experienced considerable wait times with the processing of their applications, and we continue to work as hard as possible to reduce processing times. We thank them for their patience and understanding at this moment, and we look forward to welcoming them to Canada.”

IRCC also shared data on the number of applications it has processed during the pandemic:

  • 337,000 permanent residence applications processed between January and September 2021. It processed some 214,000 applications in 2020.
  • 1,500,000 temporary residence applications processed between January and September 2021. This compares to nearly 1,700,000 applications in 2020.
  • 134,000 Canadian citizenship applications processed between January and September 2021. This compares to about 80,000 applications processed in 2020.


Daphne Bramham: ‘Political Drano’ needed to unclog Canada’s refugee system

Of note:

Canada’s refugee system is in chaos, a victim of its own success and Canadians’ eagerness to help.

Even before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, it struggled with a backlog of close to 65,000 refugees with permanent resident cards languishing in over-crowded United Nations camps and in countries eager to move them along.

Many are Syrians, who were promised a Canadian home during the 2015 federal election that resulted in an extraordinary effort to settle 25,000 within 100 days.

Also among those waiting are people on Canada’s priority list to help — torture victims, members of persecuted minority groups, people with disabilities, single mothers, and unaccompanied minors.

Afghanistan’s rapid descent has bumped their arrival here even further back, making what was an untenable situation worse. The only solution to unclogging it is “political Drano,” says Chris Friesen.

Friesen is the chief operating officer of Immigrant Services Society of B.C. who helped coordinate Operation Syria in 2015. He says that, as difficult as that was, “this is much worse.”

What he means by political Drano is not just an immediate infusion of money for the processing and settlement of Afghans. It’s more money to fulfill promises of safe haven already made.

It means enhancing the highly successful Group of Five program where citizens can privately sponsor and support the full cost for refugee families’ resettlement for the first year, including rent, shelter, transportation, spending money, food, clothing and household essentials.

There are so many applications already in that queue that — like the refugee queue itself — Friesen said it would take “upwards of two years” for an application filed today to sponsor an Afghan family to make it to the top of the pile.

Like health-care during a pandemic, refugees are triaged. And, right now, few people are at more risk than Afghan human rights activists, judges, journalists and translators who worked with the Canadian military. They are being hunted by the Taliban doing door-to-door searches.

So far, the Canadian response has been muddied because of the federal election.

The immigration minister is still able to sign special permits for Afghans to use as exit visas, but it was impossible for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to get extra money to match the Liberals’ campaign promise to evacuate and settle 20,000 Afghans. The resources have had to come from other programs.

Emergency evacuations have unique problems and costs. Normally, refugees are screened by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees before joining the queue for Canada. Even before now, the Canadian process was taking up to two years, with some of that due to COVID restrictions.

There has been no time for that process now. Instead, Afghans are fleeing using special permits issued on the recommendations of various trusted sources and being processed for permanent residency in hotels in Toronto and Calgary, while they quarantine for two weeks under pandemic protocols.

But even that has had unforeseen problems. A measles outbreak was discovered when the first group of Calgary-bound Afghans landed in the United States. They are now quarantined for 28 days and will have to quarantine another 14 days when they get to Canada.

“It’s all very intense,” said Friesen.

On any given day, there is no way to know when, let alone how many, Afghans might arrive. Some come on government-sponsored flights, while others arrive with the help of non-profit groups. 

No targets have been set for how many will go to each province. The working assumption is that it will follow the traditional patterns. For B.C., that’s 10 per cent of the total. But, as of this week, only 78 families and 300 individuals will have arrived.

The intense public glare is adding another layer of stress for those on the front lines. Public interest was high with the Syrians, but Friesen said interest in the Afghans is “astronomical”.

After 20 years of civil society engagement with Afghanistan, Canadians have made personal connections with the country and its people. They have engaged through non-profit groups supporting women, building schools and libraries, as well as through international professional organizations.

As well, deep loyalties were forged with Afghans who helped journalists and soldiers during Canada’s nearly 15 years of military presence. Plus, there are close to 125,000 Afghan-Canadians.

Many of these Canadians have been fielding desperate pleas for help from their friends and colleagues. In turn, they are asking what the government is doing to help.

Among the loudest voices are some of Canada’s 40,000 veterans — 540 live here, including the founders of Veterans Transition Network. It is raising money to shelter and support Afghan interpreters and their families as they await evacuation.

That is in addition to its ongoing work supporting veterans — some of whom already have post-traumatic stress that may have been triggered by the Taliban’s resurgence.

Every day, already over-stretched staff of settlement services across the country and at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada are diverted from their primary roles to field calls from corporations and individuals offering help.

It is more than most can deal with since among the things that IRCC hasn’t been able to do is hire more staff or provide money for the provincial welcome centres.

For now, Friesen said what ISSofBC urgently needs is help finding affordable housing so that refugee families already here can move out of its Welcome House to make room for new arrivals.

It all sounds like a dreadful mess until you realize that what is driving it is something quite rare and precious — Canadians’ desire to be good global citizens and provide safe haven to desperate strangers.

It is goodwill that could easily be frustrated and squandered unless the government acts quickly to unclog the pipeline. And that can only happen with both strong leadership and cooperation within the new minority parliament.


Canada faces a staggering immigration backlog. With the border reopening and applicants anxious to get here, how should Ottawa prioritize?

Good overview of the backlog and related issues that IRCC will have to address:

Thanks to COVID-19, Linda Shaji and Canada have had what you might call a bad romance.

After a lengthy vetting process, the 29-year-old from India was approved for permanent residence here on March 20, 2020 — two days after this country’s border was closed.

Now, 16 months later, her Canadian immigration visa has expired and Shaji is still home at her parents’ house, waiting to be admitted into this country.

The worst part is, after all this time, she’s still in the dark — met with automated email responses and told by Canada on its immigration website: “To wait for us to tell you what happens next. You don’t need to contact us again.”

“Ghosting us when we ask questions. Denying anything is wrong. Saying we are too needy when we question the long silence,” Shaji paused, “if this is a relationship, these are some serious red flags.”

The pandemic has wrecked havoc on the entire immigration system, with backlogs for every program — from family reunification to different economic immigration streams — that are only growing.

Now, as the border begins to reopen, the federal government is faced with long lines of disgruntled applicants, all looking to be the first to come in and start new lives in this country, while the bureaucracy struggles to digitalize an outdated case management and processing system.

Since March 18, 2020, when Canada closed its border in the face of the emerging pandemic, the immigration system has ground to a halt. The federal immigration department found itself scrambling to secure laptops for stay-at-home staff and to transition its processing online.

As of July 6, the backlog of permanent residence applications had skyrocketed by 70 per cent to 375,137 since February 2020, with the number of applications for temporary residence currently sitting at 702,660 cases.

The backlog of citizenship applications has also ballooned: it’s reached 369,677 people from 208,069 over the same period. These numbers do not include the applications that have been received at the mailroom of immigration offices but which have yet to be entered into the system.

Amid border lockdowns here and around the world, Canadian officials prioritized foreign nationals whose travels were deemed essential, such as migrant farm workers and health workers. They also responded to the plight of international students, who had paid a fortune to study in Canada and were in immigration limbo.

Wanting to keep the country’s immigration pipeline flowing, but not knowing how long travel restrictions would be in place, officials turned to the huge pool of migrant workers already in Canada to offer some of them permanent residency.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has, meanwhile, been criticized by applicants left, right and centre who have had their lives, careers and dreams put on hold, some facing prolonged separation from spouses and parents or grandparents who are being kept out of the country.

“The growth of the inventory or what is described as backlogs is very much a function of the pandemic. There (was), quite literally, in the case of new permanent residents, no place for them to come to as a result of the travel restrictions,” Mendicino said.

“We hear you. We see you. Each and every one of your cases matters to me and to our department and to our government.”

While Mendicino has boasted about the quick adaptation of the immigration system to the pandemic, often citing the virtual citizenship test and oath-taking ceremony as examples, he has yet to make public a detailed plan or priorities for when the border reopens.

Recently, Canada’s reopening effort reached a new milestone, with the federal government set to welcome fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and green card holders at the land border for non-essential travel beginning on Aug. 9 without having to quarantine, and from other countries beginning Sept. 7.

What Mendicino needs to do immediately, experts and advocates say, is bring in the migrants who have already been vetted and approved for permanent residence but kept outside of Canada.

“All of the backlogs have now been exacerbated. The government has to provide some clear pathways and criteria for prioritization,” said independent Sen. Ratna Omidvar, a strong voice on migration, diversity and inclusion in the Senate.

“It should do everything it can to process those people who’ve already been processed. They should be a priority. They’ve put their lives on hold because we’ve selected them. They need to come to Canada. They need to put roots down.”

Shaji quit her job at an artificial intelligence development firm last July, when she got her visa after the visa office in India reopened. But Canada’s door was closed to immigrants even if they had valid visas because it was deemed non-essential travel.

“There is still no set timeline for anyone. It means further agony of waiting,” said Shaji, who has yet to hear from the federal government on what she needs to do regarding her expired documents in order to get here.

“Immigration surely matters to Canada, but do immigrants matter?”

In late June, Ottawa started opening the border to immigrants who have valid permanent residence visas to enter Canada, but the ones with expired documents were told more information would be forthcoming and not to contact officials.

For travellers like Shaji from India, Canada’s top immigrant-source country, getting here is another logistical challenge.

Ottawa has just extended its ban on all flights from India to Aug. 21, meaning even Canadian citizens can’t travel back. The ban was introduced in April due to the unruly surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country.

The pandemic has exposed many shortcomings of the immigration process, said MP Jenny Kwan, the NDP’s immigration critic, and officials must cut unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy in these unprecedented times.

One of the things they could do, she said, is to automatically renew immigration applicants’ expired documents.

Requiring people to scramble to update outdated documents during a pandemic may buy Ottawa time, she noted, but it won’t solve the crisis and is going to further agonize immigration applicants.

“To this day, it is a mystery to me why the government has insisted on contacting each individual with an expired or expiring permanent resident visa to see if they still wanted to come to Canada, instead of just automatically renewing it,” Kwan said.

“Why did they do that? Why did they spend all those resources doing that instead of putting it into processing applications? They need to adopt an approach that’s not so rigid.”

Taraneh Gojgini sponsored her parents, Kaykavoos and Sima Gojgini, both American citizens, to join her in Vancouver from Long Island, N.Y., in 2018. The couple were issued their confirmation of permanent residence in September 2019 and had booked a flight to move here in April 2020. Due to COVID-19, the border was closed and their flight cancelled.

They didn’t hear anything from immigration officials for 10 months until this February, when they were asked if they were still interested in moving to Canada. The couple confirmed their desire to come here but wanted to delay the trip until the summer after most Canadians were expected to have been vaccinated.

Last April, after their visas expired, they were asked again if they were ready to come and told to send in their passports and photos for a new visa. In June, another email came asking them a third time if they planned to come to Canada. This time, they were also told to do a new medical exam.

“My parents are past the point of worry. They are so upset and anxious that there is no calming down their concern at this point,” said Gojgini, who moved to Vancouver in 2011 after marrying her husband, Behzad Pourkarimi. “They have become disillusioned with Canada.”

Kwan said reuniting families, whether spouses or parents, should be a priority for the immigration department, even if it means letting applicants abroad come here first on temporary visas and have their permanent residence applications processed within Canada so families won’t be kept apart even longer.

Suhani Chandrashekar, an engineer, came to Canada from India on a work permit in 2018 and went back to marry Naveen Nagarajappa, a close family friend, in December 2019. She returned to Canada and entered her profile into the skilled immigration pool for permanent residence.

In March 2020, just before COVID was declared a global pandemic, she received an invitation to submit her application under the Canadian Experience Class. Her case has since been stalled.

“Staying away from each other for so long is putting unnecessary strain on our marriage. We are also planning to start a family. But the uncertainty is not helping our cause here,” said the 29-year-old Toronto woman, who also has a pending application to have her husband join her here on a temporary work permit.

“Even after more than a year and a half of marriage, we are not able to see each other.”

Vancouver immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens said many of the permanent residence applications in the backlogs are actually near “finalization,” just pending approvals and admission.

Application backlogs in economic immigration, such as Canadian Experience Class or federal skilled workers, should be quick to clear, he contends, because they are processed online based on points allotted to applicants’ age, education, language test result and related work experience — and only require straightforward document reviews.

The paper-based family class applications, however, will be a problem because these are harder to process remotely and involve more discretionary decision-making by individual officers, and will take longer to finalize.

“The government has shown that where they’re willing to allocate resources and put the effort toward processing files, they can achieve it,” Meurrens said. “If they want, they can clear out this backlog easily.”

To him, the biggest question for Ottawa is whether it has the will to greatly exceed the annual immigration targets that they’d set — 401,000 in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and 421,000 in 2023 — while simultaneously clearing backlogs and processing new applications that keep coming in.

“Are they prepared to explain to Canadians why immigration levels are going to go up because we’re processing this backlog while maintaining existing plans?” Meurrens asked. “If they don’t do that, they will have more application backlog delays.”

One of the blessings of the pandemic, he said, is that it gave Ottawa the opportunity to transition a large number of migrants on temporary status in Canada, such as precarious low-skilled workers who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for immigration, to become permanent residents.

“COVID has reduced that gap between the number of people who work here and the number of people who can immigrate,” said Meurrens. “Otherwise, we risk developing this permanent foreign worker class in Canada.”

Earlier this year, Ottawa introduced a one-time special program to grant permanent residence to 90,000 international graduates and essential migrant workers already in Canada in part to meet its 2021 immigration targets and in part to recognize migrant workers’ contributions to Canada during the pandemic.

Sen. Omidvar said the pandemic has shown Canadians that our economy not only needs highly educated STEM scientists and engineers but also immigrants who deliver essential services such as in agriculture and health care during the crisis.

A 21st-century immigration system needs to recognize those “essential skills” in the labour market that go beyond minimum language requirements and how many university degrees an immigration applicant has, she said.

“Let’s get away from this dichotomy and this unfortunate language of low skills and high skills. It doesn’t suit us anymore in this new era,” Omidvar said. “We need to view the labour market a little bit more broadly than we have done in the past. Coming out of this crisis, that’s the new horizon we need to grasp.”

For front-line immigration officers, many of whom are still working from home, having the proper digitizing infrastructure is key post-COVID-19, said Crystal Warner, national executive vice-president of the 27,000-member Canada Employment and Immigration Union.

During the pandemic, immigration staff were not equipped to work from home and some had to take turns going into the office, which only allowed a 20 per cent capacity at one point. Programs were de-prioritized and then reprioritized, and her members — 78 per cent women — weren’t given proper training and support, she said.

“There is a lack of a centralized digitization process. Staff are scanning mailed applications on desktop scanners at their desks in the office. It’s not an effective strategy. Progress is being made, but it is slow,” she said.

Warner said some of the systems are still not upgraded appropriately and crash all the time. Just recently, after a meeting where staff were told that significant investments were being made into the bandwidth and server space, the whole system crashed for the day, nationwide.

“This is ongoing,” she said. “On the one hand, they are digitizing like crazy and on the other hand, the hardware and system upgrades are not keeping pace.”

It’s an issue the federal government is hoping to address with an $800-million investment to modernize the immigration system in its 2021 budget, said the immigration minister.

“That’s the really exciting work that lies ahead of us, which is going to, I think, catapult us into an entirely transformed immigration system,” Mendicino said. “Our system needs to be transformed, needs to be modernized, so that it can accommodate the great demands that are placed on it.”

While the current immigration case management system certainly needs an upgrade, critics said Mendicino must first figure out the vaccination requirement for travellers — both permanent and temporary residents — who don’t meet current border exemptions.

Whether to let someone into the country should be based on vaccination status rather than just about which immigrant group Ottawa wants to prioritize, said Ravi Jain, past president of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration division.

“If people are fully vaccinated, I think we’ve got to start opening up,” he said, adding that processing immigration applications abroad depends very much on how well other countries manage the pandemic and their lockdown conditions, which hinders Ottawa’s priorities.

Ottawa, Jain noted, needs to figure out a vaccine passport that’s easy to enforce and can complement ArriveCan, the government app for travellers to provide travel info before and after entry to Canada, as well as which vaccines should be recognized based on science.

For fairness, he said, officials do need to allow prospective immigrants who have been waiting the longest to come first and start a new life here, as well as fast-tracking investors and businesspeople who can create employment in Canada for its economic recovery.

“I don’t want to say that you prioritize this and that particular group, and everyone else is waiting,” said Jain.

“There’s nothing preventing the government from moving forward on all fronts and on all these issues. What’s been preventing them, frankly, has been the border. That’s been the real sticking point.”

For overseas immigration applicant Maninderjit Singh, it’s simply heartbreaking to see those applying for permanent residence from abroad being shut out from the process.

The lawyer from Punjab, India, entered the federal skilled worker pool in January with 467 points, but the government has not had one single draw for the program.

And time is running out because a candidate loses points with increased age, five points per year as the system targets those in prime working age. Singh’s score has already come down by five points to 462 after he turned 32 recently.

“Thousands of federal skilled worker applicants are getting prejudiced with each passing day. Our life is now at a stand still,” he said. “With reduced score and thousands of new applications adding into the pool, the chances are getting bleak for me to get invited to Canada.”

Source: Canada faces a staggering immigration backlog. With the border reopening and applicants anxious to get here, how should Ottawa prioritize?

Citizenship application backlog ‘skyrocketed’ under Trump, report finds

Not surprising, whether deliberate or due to incompetence:

The backlog of pending applications for immigrants legally in the country trying to become U.S. citizens has “skyrocketed” under President Donald Trump, according to a new report from an immigrant rights organization.

There were nearly 730,000 pending naturalization applications as of the end of last year, a more than 87 percent increase since 2015 under President Barack Obama, according to the report from the National Partnership for New Americans, an alliance of immigrants’ rights groups.

“The Trump admin has built a second wall that prevents legal immigrants in the U.S. from becoming voting U.S. citizens,” Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the partnership, told NBC News.

He said the backlog at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services means processing rates have reached as high as 20 months, raising concerns in a critical mid-term election year that some people will be unable to vote. Last year, over 925,000 people applied for U.S. citizenship, according to the report.

“They may be waiting for as much of 20 months after submitting a 21-page application, paid the $730 fee, submitted their fingerprints for a security a check and then sat and waited to take an exam,” he said.

As of Dec. 31, 2015, under Obama, the backlog was 388,832, according to the report.

“This is either absolute gross incompetence affecting close to a million legal immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens, or it is an intentional second wall that is designed to slow the pace at which lawfully present immigrants can become voters,” he said.

The report also found that certain states saw “enormous spikes” in denials of citizenship applications in the last quarter, noting changes in Alabama, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Utah.

From Oct. 1, 2017, to the end of last December, the backlog increased in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and several 19 states, including Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the report.

The states with the largest increase in pending applications over the last fiscal year included Utah with an increase of more than 53 percent, Texas with an increase of over 50 percent and Washington with over 46 percent, according to the report.

A United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) spokesman strongly contested the reports findings Monday afternoon.

“The truth is that the total number of people the U.S. naturalizes each year has remained virtually unchanged. What we’re looking at is a dishonest and desperate attempt by open borders advocates to undermine the work of Homeland Security officials, law enforcement and the administration to protect the integrity of our immigration system and uphold the rule of law,” said spokesman Michael Bars in a statement. “The current pending workload does not equate to a backlog — it’s a statistic used in the USCIS report to include every application for naturalization filed including those filed in recent days and weeks — and is being inaccurately portrayed as evidence of delays”

“Many of these cases, which can remain pending from one quarter to the next, are well within the processing time goal established by the agency with variances being a direct result of geography and capacity. USCIS will continue to process all applications and petitions in a judicious and comprehensive manner and will do so as efficiently and expeditiously as possible in accordance with the law,” he added. “We reject the inaccurate claims of those fundamentally opposed to this effort.”

The agency naturalizes approximately 700,00 to 750,000 as citizens a year, according to USCIS, and naturalized 716,000 people in fiscal year 2017.

The partnership announced the report’s findings later Monday at a news teleconference with Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., and other immigrant rights groups.

The members of Congress also sent a congressional sign-on letter asking the director of USCIS to explain the backlogs and would call for congressional hearings and legal action to address the backlog,

The backlog was denying potential citizens the right to vote, and also left some at risk for potential deportation under Trump’s policies while their applications are pending, said Gutiérrez.

“The rules have changed — legal permanent residency does not protect you from deportation under Donald Trump,” he said. “People want to participate in the democratic process, they also want to protect themselves.”

Angelica Salas, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), said, “More and more every day you have a situation in which legal permanent residents, even for minor violations decades old, are being visited by ICE.”

Salas said during the teleconference that their naturalization campaign for 2018 was looking towards the 2020 elections to support legal residents seeking the right to vote, despite the “insurmountable hurdles they face.”

“If you want to vote in November of 2020, you’ve basically got to apply in the next 60 to 90 days. That is something unconscionable,” he said during the teleconference.

Hoyt said the advocates were also working with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, for a mayoral sign-on letter. Sign-on letters are used by lawmakers to come together and express a view on a policy or political matter. He added that the group was planning to file a Freedom of Information Act request looking for internal communications and numbers regarding the backlog.

USCIS did face a higher backlog after Obama was first elected, Hoyt said, but officials worked to curb that backlog to about 8 or 9 months.

Hoyt said his advocacy group has been tracking the backlog of citizenship applications for years and had never seen numbers like this.

He noted that while the backlog is ongoing, USCIS has launched an office focusing on identifying Americans suspected to have used fraudulent means to get their citizenship — and then strip them of it.

USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna told The Associated Press the agency is hiring dozens of lawyers and immigration officers to review cases and look for immigrants who were ordered deported and then used fake identities to later obtain green cards and eventually citizenship.

“We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place,” Cissna said. “What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”

Hoyt said the move was a poor use of resources considering the current backlog.

“They’re not paying attention to their core responsibility of processing people in a timely manner,” Hoyt said. “Instead they’re on a witch hunt to try to denaturalize citizens who have been here for over 20 years.”

Salas said denaturalizations were very uncommon in the past.

Authorities would have to “demonstrate high, high levels of violation of any type in order for a person to be denaturalized,” she said. “It was something that was very, very rare.”

Source: Citizenship application backlog ‘skyrocketed’ under Trump, report finds

Citizenship Legislation Pre-Messaging

Starting with an interview with Citizenship and Immigration Minister Alexander, he confirms his focus will be on implementation of policy changes of Minister Kenney, with the exception of citizenship legislation, developed largely during Minister Kenney’s time, will be stickhandled through Parliament by Minister Alexander.

Promise of lower wait times and backlogs should be matched by better performance information and service standards, publicly available on a quarterly basis (i.e., not requiring ATIP requests), to ensure accountability.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander promises lower wait times, fewer backlogs in 2014.

And pre-messaging on the upcoming changes to the Citizenship Act suggest the following elements:

  • Longer residency requirements (currently three years, four to six years floated);
  • No longer granting citizenship based upon place of birth (jus soli);
  • Fast tracking citizenship from applicants from the Canadian forces (USA has similar provision);
  • Possible improved citizenship processing compared to current 2 year processing times;
  • Possible additional measures to address the remaining “Lost Canadians” for people caught without citizenship given their circumstances before 1947 when Canadian citizenship was instituted;
  • Whether the government will revisit the second generation limit (it has signalled in the past that it will do so for crown servants working abroad).

As Canadian citizenship rules face an overhaul by the Harper government in 2014, here’s what to expect

Similar to my own list in The citizenship review: what to watch for (which included more “housekeeping” measures) but we shall see exactly what is in and what is out once the Bill is tabled.

Federal government to reduce citizenship backlog by slashing dormant applications

While a sound administrative measure, one that has the convenience of reducing the numbers that tell a terrible story of the government’s handling of citizenship, it does not address the fundamental administrative and processing challenges of the citizenship program, reflecting chronic under management across a number of years and governments.

Australia processes 60 percent of its citizenship applications within 60 days, Canada is over 2 years. Speaks for itself, after all, from a service perspective, the government also has to take citizenship processing seriously, not just the applicants.

Federal government to reduce citizenship backlog by slashing dormant applications.