Applicants to Canada’s special, one-time immigration program are being forced to navigate the system alone, critics charge

Will be an interesting and important test of IRCC’s modernization efforts. We will see whether the fears of immigration lawyers and consultants are overblown or whether IRCC can design pathways and processes that many can navigate on their own.

Not to be cynical, but simplification in any area or online tools (e.g., will and tax software) often prompt fears of lawyers, accountants and other professionals who benefit from complexity:

With Canada’s highly anticipated special immigration program set to open Thursday, experts say they’re worried about the potential for chaos.

Immigration lawyers briefed about the new program and its portal say they’ve been told applicants must create their own accounts, complete the online application and upload all required documents on their own — without professional legal help.

“There are different forms they need to fill out about family information, travel history, all the (previous) addresses, work history and study periods. They require all the forms and documentations upfront, just shy of the medical and police clearances,” said Toronto lawyer Barbara Jo Caruso.

“Everything needs to be labelled, uploaded and properly attached. If they are not done properly, they will be deemed incomplete and refused.”

The applications are being taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Even if an application is incomplete or an applicant is ineligible, once it’s logged into the portal, it’s counted toward the 90,000 cap under this new program. The system will stop accepting applications once that cap is reached.

Lawyers and consultants asked during the briefing if the portal would reopen if many applicants turned out to be ineligible, but they said immigration officials didn’t have an answer.

The one-time-only immigration pathway, announced in April, aims to grant permanent residence to 90,000 applicants comprising recent international graduates and temporary foreign workers with experience in health-care and essential occupations.

These already-in-Canada candidates have been prioritized to help the country meet its 410,000 annual immigration targets amid uncertainty given the ongoing COVID-19 border restrictions.

The new pathway has already created a buzz — and frenzy — among candidates who have found themselves scrambling to register for one of the two government-designated language tests required to prove language proficiency in their application. (Details about the application process have yet to be published.)

Authorized lawyers and consultants have previously had their own portals with the immigration department that they use to complete and submit applications on behalf of clients.

However, the new stand-alone portal for the new pathway only allows applicants to log in through their personal email and there’s no interface to link their account to their counsel.

“If your whole future depends on this whole process, you want to be fair, you want to be understanding, you want people to have experience in working in the government portal to assist you,” Caruso said.

“It’s tedious work. Government technology is not user-friendly at the best of times, let alone when you are under pressure. There’s a cap and you want to make sure you’re the first one in.”

Among the 90,000 spots of the new program, 20,000 will be dedicated for temporary foreign workers in health care; 30,000 for those in other selected essential occupations; and the remaining 40,000 for international students who graduated from a Canadian institution.

Many of the essential workers will likely have to take time off from work and spend hours to figure out the new pathway application process.

“They are the essential workers. They are the people driving trucks. They’re the people on the front line in the health-care system,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Ravi Jain.

“Many people will apply even if they don’t have their language test results. They are just going to ignore the instructions and hit the submit button. Every time you hit ‘submit,’ you take a spot.”

Last year, the federal government got rid of its first-come-first-serve system for Canadians to sponsor their parents and grandparents abroad as permanent residents after public outrage that the available spots were snapped up within minutes.

It prompted Ottawa to re-introduce a lottery system, in which interested sponsors are now required to first register to enter into the draw, then submit a full sponsorship application if they are selected after duplicate and incomplete forms are weeded out.

“The reality is there are always going to be people who are going to be harmed no matter what direction it goes. There’s a race to file. There are so many things that could go wrong. But then what are the alternatives?” said Mark Holthe, chair of the Canadian Bar Association immigration law section.

“There’s a lot of little nuances with the application that people won’t understand. I envision that we could have up to 20 per cent or even 30 per cent of spoiled applications that people are ineligible who are using up the capped spots.”

Holthe, who started an online course in April to help applicants manoeuvre the basics of the immigration portal, expects the application package for the new pathway to be comparable to the existing one for the immigration of skilled workers.

Anyone interested in applying should start compiling and scanning documentations such as copies of their passports, work permits, reference letters and employment records as these are likely what would be required in the application, he suggested.

There is still time for the immigration department to get the process “right,” says Kareem El-Assal, managing editor of immigration news site CIC News and policy director at CanadaVisa.com.

“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada deserves credit for trying to accommodate more essential workers and graduates during this crisis,” he said. “But they need to be careful about dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s before they launch the (pathway) streams.”

Alexander Cohen, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s press secretary, said his office is aware of the concerns raised regarding the access to the new portal.

“We remain in close contact with several key stakeholders and are looking into this,” Cohen told the Star.

Source: Applicants to Canada’s special, one-time immigration program are being forced to navigate the system alone, critics charge

Canada’s record-setting invitation to immigrants after COVID shortfall an ‘absolute shock’

More reaction to the minimal Express Entry score of 75 and essentially opening to all with work experience in Canada. Money quote: “The draw transforms a well-structured and predictable system into a lottery ticket,” said [immigration lawyer Sergio] Karas. “It makes the system look worthless and game-able.”:

If you’re an immigrant living in Canada and looking for permanent residency, this might be your lucky year.

Canada has set a record for the number of skilled migrants invited to apply for permanent residence on a single day, as the government scrambles to make up for an immigration shortage caused by COVID-19 and the resulting travel restrictions.

On Saturday, Feb. 13, the immigration department held its latest draw from a pool of candidates and issued 27,332 invitations — five times more than its previous high of 5,000 people — to hopeful candidates already living in the country.

The news caught immigration experts and applicants by surprise and created a buzz on social media, with pundits tagging it #SaturdaySurprise from Canada.

“It was an absolute shock to everyone. We all thought there was a glitch on our screens and the numbers were incorrect,” said Kareem El-Assal, managing editor of immigration news site CIC News and policy director at CanadaVisa.com.

The plan is not without its critics, however, who say the strategy could open up the program to people with limited qualifications who would have been out of luck had it not been for Ottawa’s attempt to meet its immigration targets in the middle of a pandemic.

Applying for permanent residency is usually a long and competitive process.

Skilled immigrants who are interested must create a profile in a government management system called Express Entry, where they score points for things such as age, language skills, educational attainments and work experience.

The highest rankings are then invited via routine draws to apply for immigration. While an individual typically needs a minimum score of 400 points or above to make the cutoff, the lowest-ranked person invited in the latest round only had a score of 75. (The immigration department posts the results of each draw on its website.)

This latest draw applies to people in what’s called Canadian Experience Class, meaning they’ve worked in the country.

The instance of requirement loosening means some applicants, with scores too low to normally be considered, are now being encouraged to create a profile and try their luck, experts say.

“Between now and the next draw, you are going to have more Canadian Experience Class candidates entering the pool,” said El-Assal.

“If I’m in Canada right now and I meet the minimum requirements, I will be rushing to submit my profile ASAP because there’s a very good chance that I will be invited.”

Given the challenges presented by the travel restrictions and reduced processing capacity, El-Assal expects the immigration department will continue to prioritize immigration candidates from within Canada before it looks further abroad.

Canada had set to bring in 340,000 new permanent residents in 2020, but ultimately only 180,000 landed here, the lowest annual immigration intake since 1998, according to El-Assal.

This year, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino planned to bump up immigration levels to 401,000 in order to make immigration part of Canada’s economic recovery post-COVID-19.

But as the pandemic continues, international travel remains slow, and immigration with it.

“They’ve got these massive (immigration) levels that they have to hit and they took a real beating last year. They thought the border would be more open now but they are not. They’re scrambling to find a way to meet those targets,” said Alberta-based immigration lawyer Mark Holthe, chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration section.

“This was a really wonderful development. So many people have invested so much time and effort in getting here in the first place, whether it’s the hundreds of thousands of dollars that (foreign) students have paid and worked here. They’re paying taxes. They’re contributing. It’s not like they’re on handouts.”

In a news release, the immigration department said 90 per cent of the 27,332 people invited in this round are already living in Canada, with at least one year of Canadian work experience.

“This means they’re unaffected by current travel restrictions and won’t face the same barriers as overseas applicants when gathering the required documentation and undergoing criminality and medical screening,” it said.

“Those invited to apply who are not currently living in Canada will be able to travel once restrictions are lifted.”

However, Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas said trying to meet the immigration target by lowering the bar is a “terrible” way to make policies.

The latest draw unfairly rewards the low scorers, who “took a flyer” and entered the pool, he said, even if they have poor qualifications, poor language skills and poor job prospects while qualified applicants who are still collecting documentation and not yet in the system lose out.

“The draw transforms a well-structured and predictable system into a lottery ticket,” said Karas. “It makes the system look worthless and game-able.”

Since immigration employees are still working from home, he questioned whether the department has the processing capacity for the flood of applications coming from this draw without compromising the processing time or quality of decisions.

Independent immigration policy analyst Richard Kurland said the system is nimble and flexible as it’s supposed to in adapting to the challenging environment under the pandemic.

“Due to COVID, fewer people registered in the system, resulting in a lower pass mark,” he said. “Now, the publicity (of this news) will flood the system with new candidates. You’ll likely see a lot more people registering just in case immigration lightning strikes twice, increasing the pass mark again.”

Source: Canada’s record-setting invitation to immigrants after COVID shortfall an ‘absolute shock’