Newcomers struggle under long waits for citizenship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Newcomers struggle under long waits for citizenship

Immigration Minister Fraser takes heat for ‘short-sighted’ approach to processing backlogs

Informative account and opposition right to hold government to account on processing times and the choices and trade-offs they made in order to meet the higher levels in 2021:

Opposition MPs accused Immigration Minister Sean Fraser of being “misleading” about processing times for Canada’s considerable immigration backlog, with the department’s timeline to address the 1.8 million applications still “opaque.”

Fraser (Central Nova, N.S.) fielded questions and took heat from some MPs on the House Immigration and Citizenship Committee during his Feb. 15 briefing on immigration timelines and acceptance rates.

The government’s fall economic statement promised to inject $85-million into Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to reduce the backlog of 1.8 million applications that continues to grow. The funding is being specifically directed towards reducing processing times for work and study permits, permanent residency applications, and visitor visas. Much of the money is being used to automate aspects of the application review process, as well as introducing electronic systems for immigration applicants to review the status of their applications.

In response to a question from NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) about the processing times for family reunification applications, Fraser enthusiastically shared that immigration processing times were back to the service standard of 12 months.

Fraser acknowledged there were some “real frustrations” for some whose family reunification applications got stuck in limbo while Canada’s borders were closed due to the pandemic.

But, through federal investments in the system, including hiring 500 staff, Fraser said IRCC now has “the capacity to process new applications and family reunification streams in 12 months in accordance with the service standard that has existed since before the pandemic.”

However, later in the meeting, officials from IRCC confirmed this standard processing time is only back in place for new applications—not for those applicants who are still pending in the backlog. After hearing this, Kwan said the minister’s comments were “misleading.”

The 12-month processing time only applies to people who are submitting applications starting this year, Daniel Mills, senior assistant deputy minister at IRCC, told MPs at committee.

“However we do have to work on the backlog or the inventory that we have, and that’s what we are doing,” he said.

In the Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 tabled in Parliament on Feb. 14, Fraser set new goals for immigration levels, raising this year’s goal of 411,000 new immigrants to 432,000, with the hope to reach immigration levels of 451,000 newcomers to Canada by 2024. One way the department plans to do this, he said, is by boosting departmental productivity due to a new digital platform in the works. For MPs at committee, however, questions still remained as to how the department will clear the existing backlog, rather than more quickly process new and future applications.

In an interview with The Hill Times, Kwan said she hears from constituents who have family who have applied through the family reunification stream that have been stuck in the system for two or three years “all of the time.”

“Those people have already missed the boat with respect to that processing standard,” Kwan concluded. “And they’re going to probably get another problem because soon people will come back and say, ‘how come the newer applicants got processed before me?’”

Kwan called it a “short-sighted way of dealing with the situation.”

“They’re trying to create this perception that they are somehow on top of things, when in fact, frankly, they’re not. And the system remains opaque. There’s a lack of transparency, and lack of accountability,” she said.

At committee, Conservative MP Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords-Lloydminster, Sask.) followed up on Kwan’s point.

“I’m actually very concerned with what MP Kwan had just brought up. What I had heard you as the official say is that applicants as of this month, February 2022, will have the service standard of 12 months. So what is happening to all of the backlogs previous to this? What is the timeframe to clean these backlogs up?”

The department’s answer: “it depends.” Family class applications, for instance, has 35,000 pending applications, Mills said, and the department processed 8,000 applications in January—above the average processing rate of about 6,000 applications per month the department saw in 2021.

Falk pressed officials during the same exchange to offer details on Fraser’s instructions to the department.

“What direction has the minister given the department to clean up these backlogs, that I’m hearing the excuse of the delayed processing times is because of COVID?”

Mills told Folk the department is trying to reduce the inventory and process them “as quickly as we can.” That is being sped up through digitization of files, which allows the department to process applications virtually, he said.

Off the bat, Fraser laid blame for the backlog at the feet of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the members of the committee know, the pandemic has caused applicants processing delays and backlogs,” he said in French. In English, “folks, it’s not lost on me that there are challenges when it comes to processing in the immigration system,” he stated.

Several members of the committee across parties did not accept that premise, and said the COVID-19 pandemic was being used as an “excuse.”

Kwan said “that excuse is running tired.”

“Let’s face it, there were backlogs pre-pandemic. There’s no question that COVID has exacerbated it. But you know, we’re more than two years into the pandemic,” said Kwan, who is her party’s immigration critic.

Fraser said the primary cause of the backlog was the fact that during the first year of the pandemic when borders were closed, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada stopped bringing in new immigrants, and instead processed the applications of newcomers and permanent residents who were already in Canada.

COVID-19 public health orders also resulted in the shut-down of a number of in-person immigration offices and services within an application process that requires some elements to be conducted in-person. Prior to the pandemic, for instance, citizenship ceremonies were only ever done in-person, and initially, the pandemic put these ceremonies on hold. Now, the minister said they are able to conduct them online, which should help expedite the clearing of that backlog.

“At the same time, when we were welcoming people who were located in Canada already, we continued to see a significant number of applications that were coming in from people who were overseas,” Fraser said.

He said he believed it was the right decision to make, and as a result of focusing on applications of people who were already here, Canada welcomed the most new permanent residents in any year.

“But we knew that that would come with certain consequences that we now need to deal with.”

At the meeting, Conservative MP Kyle Seeback (Dufferin-Caledon, Ont.) cited backlog figures including 548,000 Permanent Resident applications, 112,392 refugee applications, 775,000 temporary resident applications, including study permits and work permits, and; 468,000 Canadian citizenship applications.

Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan (Calgary Forest Lawn, Alta.) also took issue with the suggestion that COVID-19 was responsible for the delays and lack of communication he is hearing about from Afghan refugees and their families who are trying to come to Canada.

“You know, it’s easy for now to say, you know, it’s COVID, and we didn’t have time or IRCC wasn’t prepared, but I mean, [the government was] more prepared for an election plan than they were for an evacuation plan. And the same thing goes with IRCC… I don’t think we can use COVID as an excuse anymore for what’s going on,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

MP Hallan’s exchange with the minister became heated early in the meeting, with Hallan concluding his line of questioning with accusations of the election taking priority over Afghan refugees. Tensions were high at the meeting as Conservative MP Brad Redekopp (Saskatoon West, Sask.) accused immigration officials of “remarkable callousness” in their lack of response to applicants, citing an instance in which one of his constituents’ permanent residence card was 66 days overdue, meaning she could not travel home to visit her dying mother.

“Is this a systematic failure based upon incompetence or are you maliciously blocking PR cards for people who want to see their dying parents?” Redekopp asked. The minister said he would “pass on commenting” on malicious intent.

“I can reassure all members of this House that any challenges that we are facing are due to the circumstances tied to the pressures that COVID-19 has put on Canada’s immigration system, including on PR cards, which typically require somebody to show up for an in-person appointment when many of the offices have been closed down and there hasn’t been that opportunity for face to face engagement,” Fraser said.

Source: Immigration Minister Fraser takes heat for ‘short-sighted’ approach to processing backlogs

‘This is a screwed up system’: frustrated Liberal MPs want to slash immigration processing times

Of note:

Backbench Liberal MPs say they’re frustrated over extended delays in the processing of immigration and citizenship applications and they want new Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to take urgent action to fix the system.

“The entire system is broken down,” said one frustrated Liberal MP who spoke to The Hill Times on not-for-attribution basis in order to offer their candid opinion. “This is a screwed up system.”

MPs interviewed for this story said that for about two years they’ve been hearing that COVID-19 is the main reason for longer application processing times at Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. Now, they said, they are being told the delays have been caused by the government’s decision to expedite the applications of 40,000 vulnerable residents of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The MPs said they think the government will come up with another reason for the delays once the Afghan refugees are settled, and their constituents will still have to suffer. They noted that their government has been in power for more than six years and they’ve had four immigration ministers since 2015, including John McCallum, Ahmed Hussen (York South-Weston, Ont.), Marco Mendicino (Marco-Mendicino, Ont.), and now Fraser (Central Nova, N.S.), but “the mess the Stephen Harper Conservatives left in 2015,” in terms of long wait times, is still not fully cleaned up.

Fraser was appointed to the immigration portfolio on Oct. 26. McCallum served as immigration minister from November 2015 to January 2017; Hussen from January 2017 to November 2019; and Mendicino from November 2019 to October 2021.

“They’ve been telling us COVID, COVID, COVID as the reason for the delay,” said a second MP. “Now they’re saying Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Afghanistan. Who knows, tomorrow there will be something else.”

Some MPs said the “funny thing” is that the department is currently processing student applications or other temporary resident-to-permanent resident applications within a couple of months, compared to other streams of immigration and citizenship that in some cases take years. They said that in the past, one often cited reason for long processing times was the background security checks that alone, in some cases, would take several months or years. It’s hard to understand, they said, how the department now is completing the whole processing process, including background checks, within a couple of months for some applications.

The time to process an application at IRCC depends on whether it’s a family sponsorship, a refugee application, temporary resident permit, economic immigration application or a citizenship application. Also, it depends on whether the sponsored person or the immigration applicant is within Canada or outside of Canada. For example, according to IRCC website, in the case of spousal application, the current  processing time is 12 months. For a parental or grandparent application,  the processing time is 20-24 months. In the case of investor visas, the processing time is 64 months. All applications are not processed within the estimated time offered by the IRCC website.

Based on statistics provided by IRCC, CBC reported recently that as of Oct. 27, the department had a backlog of 1.8 million applications. Of these, the report said, 548,195 were for permanent residency, 775,741 were temporary residence applications, and 468,000 were for citizenship.

Immigration and citizenship issues are top of mind for all MPs representing major urban centres. MPs say that, in some cases, around 90 per cent of the calls they get from their constituents are related to immigration issues. For this reason, almost all MPs in urban centres have one or more staffers in their constituency offices who deal exclusively with these files.

Constituency work plays a critical role in the re-election of every MP. Major urban centres like the GTA and Metro Vancouver play a key role in deciding the outcome of every election. On top of that, MPs say it gives them a morale boost when they are making a difference in their constituents’ lives.

“It [constituency work] is everything, I mean, when I go knock on doors, and hear people give a positive response to recognize my office, especially a certain staff that they got served [by], I get an extra boost in my confidence,” said Liberal MP Han Dong (Don Valley North, Ont.) in an interview with The Hill Times. “I’m there to serve a purpose and the purpose again is to serve [constituents]. So it’s very important.”

MPs said that in every weekly Liberal regional or national caucus meeting, MPs raise the issue of delays in immigration and citizenship applications with the immigration minister and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.).

Earlier this month, Liberal sources told The Hill Times that a GTA resident, frustrated with problems trying to sponsor his wife and children from a South Asian country, tried to commit suicide by pouring gasoline on himself in front of Liberal MP Judy Sgro’s (Humber River-Black Creek, Ont.) constituency office, but the police arrived on time and stopped the person from doing so.

In an interview Sgro confirmed that the incident had taken place. She said she believed that the person in question had mental health challenges, and the sponsorship of his family was just one of many other issues he was dealing with.

Still, Sgro said, seeing someone pouring a container of gasoline on himself and trying to light himself on fire was a traumatic experience for her staff. At the time of this incident, Sgro was in Ottawa.

“Gasoline was everywhere, the smell of gasoline for my staff was a lot because they were looking at someone who was about to light themselves on fire,” said Sgro. “So it was a very traumatic thing for my staff to go through. I had to close the office for a couple of days until we could clean up some of the fumes and for them to kind of recover from that shock.”

After the incident, Sgro said that House of Commons security visited her constituency office to assess if any measures could be undertaken to improve the security in her office.

Sgro said that she understands the frustration of people who have to wait longer for their family members’ applications to be processed, but she said that certain issues like COVID or the situation in Afghanistan are beyond anyone’s control. So, people will have to be patient.

Meanwhile, in an email to The Hill Times, Alexander Cohen, press secretary to Minister Fraser, said that the global COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected Immigration Canada’s ability to process applications in an efficient manner. He said that since the start of the pandemic, the department has made significant adjustments. Cohen said that the government is investing $800-million to create a new state of the art digital platform that will further improve the efficiency of the department. He added that the government is expecting to welcome 401,000 new permanent residents this year, “the most in Canadian history.”

“One of the very first things we did was implement priority processing for those who need it most, like vulnerable people, family members seeking to reunite and those in essential services.,” said Cohen. “We’ve also added new staff—including 62 new employees at the IRCC office in Sydney NS—to help reunite families faster. These will help us return to the one-year processing standard for spousal sponsorship. We’ve improved technology and digitized more of our operations, and increased the amount of processing happening virtually.”

As for the faster processing of student applications or other temporary residents, he said, it’s a “single time-limited program this year” under which Canada is granting immigration to 90,000 people, including essential healthcare workers and international students who are already in Canada and have the required skills and experience.

Liberal MP Julie Dzerowicz (Davenport, Ont.), chair of the informal Liberal Immigration caucus, conceded there were challenges in processing the applications, but added that things have improved since her party first came to power in 2015. She agreed that a lot of work needs to be done but said that since coming to power, the government has made a number of improvements and it will improve even more in the coming months.

“There’s a lot of valid reasons why people are very upset,” said Dzerowicz. “But I will say to you that we’ve made a lot of advances. It’s been unfortunate that we’ve all gone through this COVID. But hopefully in the coming months, days and months, we’ll start seeing some of that cleared up.”

Liberal MP Terry Duguid (Winnipeg South, Man.) agreed: “We have made Minister Fraser aware of some of the challenges we have been facing with immigration cases at the constituency level,” said Duguid in an email. “We know he has listened carefully and have every confidence he will address these issues. COVID is a big factor in the disruption to our systems.”

Dong also echoed the same view, saying that things slowed down at the Immigration Department because of the pandemic, but now it has started to pick up the pace.

“Since the election, things are moving along actually, things are happening,” said Dong. “I get regular reports from the constituency office that some files [that are] outstanding, they’re being resolved. The ministry is getting back to MPs’ offices faster. So I see signs that things are recovering. But the backlog is one of the issues that we share regularly. There are signs things are getting better.”

Rookie Liberal MP Michael Coteau (Don Valley East, Ont.), who in the past served as an Ontario immigration minister, said that like other countries, Canada has to respond to international emergencies, and that put pressure on the immigration system. He said Fraser is committed to fixing the system, and that in the coming months wait times will reduce significantly.

Coteau said that his office gets several calls every day from constituents who need help with immigration cases. He said the callers are always very respectful and understand why the wait times are longer. Since the Sept. 20 election, he said his office has started several hundred immigration files for his constituents, and is trying to help those people.

“It’s the No. 1 issue because that’s 90 per cent of the phone calls we get,” said Coteau.


Sweden sees drastic rise in waiting time for citizenship applications

Of note. Combination of increased demand and reduced resources:
Over the course of just a few years, average waiting times for Swedish citizenship applications have increased dramatically, and currently stand at over two and a half years, new data reveals.

There were 86,853 citizenship applications in processing at the end of June this year, according to the Migration Agency’s figures.

On Monday, the agency’s website showed that applications for citizenship could expect a 30-month (or 913-day) waiting time, adding that this did not necessarily mean all applicants would get a decision within that time. This is two months longer than the estimated waiting time as shown back in January this year, and much longer than was the case a few years ago.

Although the website states that this number “shows how long it has taken for people with similar applications to receive a decision”, a press officer for the Migration Agency told The Local that it represented “the longest expected time if you apply for citizenship today”.

Press officer Mardin Baban told The Local in an email that people receiving their decision on citizenship in July 2019 would have waited an average 284 days, well below the expected 913-day waiting time for those submitting their application in July 2019.

The average processing time for citizenship applications which have already been concluded in 2019 is 292 days, according to Migration Agency figures. This is up from 230 days in 2018, 185 in 2017, 176 in 2016, and 177 in 2015.

Two key factors behind the long wait are, as expected, a rise in the number of citizenship applications, and reductions in the Migration Agency’s staff numbers.

“Since the refugee situation in 2014-2016, many of those who were granted asylum in Sweden have now reached the criteria to be granted Swedish citizenship. Between 2014 and 2016, 131,109 people were granted asylum in Sweden, which is the most ever in such a short time,” said Baban.

“So the easy answer to the question is that there are very many at the moment who want to apply for citizenship in Sweden, which is why the processing time has almost doubled.”

The number of people becoming Swedish citizens has soared over the past decade. In 2010, a total of 28,100 people were granted citizenship, a figure which reached a peak of 65,562 in 2017 and was 61,312 last year.

The Migration Agency’s general director Mikael Ribbenvik has said that cuts to resources have also been an issue, telling the TT news agency: “If you have limited resources, you have to invest in certain areas. You can’t invest in all areas if there aren’t sufficient resources.”

However, he added that citizenship cases were now being prioritized, saying that the agency had allocated more staff to work on these cases as well as digitalizing parts of the process. The Local has contacted the Migration Agency for comment.

Earlier this year, the agency began prioritizing applications from British citizens in order to avoid additional paperwork and delays in the event of Brexit.

People of over 170 different nationalities became Swedish in 2018, with Syria the most common country of origin. Syrians, Somalians, stateless people, Iraqis, and Afghans accounted for almost a third of the total number of new citizens, and the next most common nationalities were Eritrean, Polish, Iranian, Thai, and British.

Source: Sweden sees drastic rise in waiting time for citizenship applications

More resources needed for federal agencies processing refugee claims: AG

No surprise here, reflecting some long-term and ongoing issues:

Canada’s refugee and asylum system will continue to be overwhelmed if additional resources are not committed to the three federal agencies responsible for processing refugee claims, the country’s auditor general said Tuesday.

“We project that if the number of asylum claimants remains steady at around 50,000 per year, the wait time for protection decisions will increase to five years by 2024 — more than double the current wait time,” interim Auditor General Sylvain Ricard said in his spring report.

The current backlog, the auditor general said, is “worse than in 2012,” when a mountain of unresolved claims led the Harper government to reform the system.

The federal watchdog said in December last year that some 71,380 people were waiting for their claims to be heard. In March 2010, that number was 59,000.

Canada was the ninth-largest recipient of refugee and asylum claimants in 2017, with some 50,400 claims filed, a number that jumped to 55,000 in 2018.

About 40,000 of those asylum claimants came via the United States, with most crossing into Quebec.

The surge of claimants has put additional pressure on a system that has long grappled with processing delays, the auditor general’s office said — a crunch that is expected to continue if funding levels and processing capacity remains the same.

“Overall we found Canada’s refugee determination system was not equipped to process claims according to the required timelines,” the report notes.

Long wait times

At the end of December 2018, the auditor general’s office said the average wait time for a decision in Canada was two years. As of 2012, refugee claimants are supposed to have a hearing scheduled within 60 days of their arrival in Canada. 

In the March 2019 budget, the Trudeau government pledged $1.18 billion over five years for Canada’s strained refugee claimant system.

“Budget 2019 did provide additional resources to enhance the capacity of the system but it was not clear exactly how it’s going to deal with the backlog and reduce the wait times for claimants,” said Carol McCalla, the principal director of the auditor general’s report on processing asylum claims.

About 65 per cent of claimants have seen their hearings delayed at least once, the auditor general said — an action that led to an additional five-month delay, on average. 

About 25 per cent of claims made saw multiple delays, the auditor general said, noting most of the holdups were “due to administrative issues within the government’s control.” 

In almost half of the cases, hearings were delayed because a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada was unavailable. 

Another 10 per cent of cases were stalled because security screens were still being processed, even though the necessary paperwork had already been filed in one in five of the cases delayed for security reasons.

CBSA has since reallocated resources to “significantly improve the timeliness of security screening,” the auditor general’s report noted.

Canada’s refugee processing system isn’t utilizing available fast-tracks, either — processes that allow the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to decide certain claims by simply reviewing a file rather than hold a hearing. 

The auditor general found the board only expedited about 25 per cent of eligible cases, even though 87 per cent of the remaining eligible cases eventually received a positive outcome. 

“Moreover, we found the Board did not process expedited claims more quickly,” the report said. “On average decisions for expedited claims took about the same amount of time as regular claims.” 

The board, the auditor general noted, announced changes to its expediting processing system in January.

Missing security checks

Processing delays weren’t the only issue flagged by Canada’s auditor general Tuesday. 

Canada’s federal watchdog also found poor quality assurance checks between Canada Border Services Agency and the federal immigration department meant about 400 applicants (or 0.5 per cent) were not subjected to the necessary criminal or identity checks because of system errors or failure to take claimants’ fingerprints. 

“Neither organization systematically tracked whether a criminal records check was always completed because of poor data quality,” the report reads, adding those records are “important for public safety and the integrity of the refugee determination system.”

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office said initial screening by CBSA of individuals arriving in Canada include biometric and biographic screening.

“This layer of screening screens out individuals with serious criminality. No individuals with serious criminality or security concerns were allowed into admitted to Canada,” Goodale’s office said.

“With respect to the layer of biometric screening examined by the Auditor General, the only new piece of information captured by this layer of screening is whether or not an individual had previously claimed asylum in another country.”

Poor data quality wasn’t the only concern flagged by the auditor general’s office.

Canada’s federal watchdog said poor communication between the three organizations responsible for Canada’s asylum claim system was made worse by the fact the CBSA, the federal immigration department and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada use “different information technology systems, with limited interoperability.” 

As a result, the auditor general said it found “important gaps in which information was not shared, such as changes to hearing dates.”

“The system needs to be more flexible to be able to be scalable to increases in demand. As well, improvements are needed in how it uses its resources to share the information and processes the claims more efficiently,” McCalla said.

All three organizations also remain heavily dependent on paper and faxes to share specific claim information, the auditor general said, with the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada relying “almost exclusively on paper files in its work.” 

“Collecting and sharing information securely and efficiently are critical to the proper processing of asylum claims, especially when claim volumes are high,” the report noted.

In response to the auditor general’s report, all three organizations pledged to improve their quality assurance programs. “Through regular monitoring, issues such as missing, delayed, incomplete, or ineligible claimant information will be identified and addressed in a timely manner by the responsible organization,” reads a statement attributed to the organizations in the report.

Additional work will also be done to improve the department and agency’s technological capabilities, they said, including an eventual shift to digital processing.

Source: More resources needed for federal agencies processing refugee claims: AG

Australian citizenship approvals record dramatic slowdown

In its last report, the department only met its service standard 45 percent of the time:

The processing of citizenship applications has been painfully slow this year with the Department of Home Affairs approving 54,419 applications during the first eight months of 2017-18, compared to 139,285 last year, according to information released to the Federal Parliament on Monday.

During this financial year, a total of 141,236 citizenship applications were received as of February 28, the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs revealed.

The Department of Home Affairs last month told the Federal Parliament that over 200,000 people were awaiting the outcome of their citizenship applicants as of April 30 this year with the average waiting period for processing applications ballooning up to 16 months.

The relatively low number of citizenship grants is attributed to the period of April- October 2017 when the Department held on to new applications after announcing the citizenship reforms that sought to increase the general residence requirement and introduce a standalone English language test. The Government is planning to bring back a reworked version of the Bill after its proposed law was defeated in the Senate.

Home Affairs officer Luke Mansfield told a Senate Estimates hearing last month that an increased number of applications coupled with tightened national security requirements had led to an increase in the processing time of citizenship applications.

Citizenship applicants facing uncertainty

Atul Vidhata who runs an online forum – Fair Go for Australian Citizenship, says many migrants have been waiting much longer than sixteen months.

“When these people contact the department, they are told it’s not a service standard to process the applications within this timeframe,” he tells SBS Punjabi.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty due to a lack of clear communication. In our experience, some applications that were made in 2018 are being processed faster whereas applications made in 2017 are still held up.”

MP Julian Hill had questioned the Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge about the criteria applied for applications requiring ‘thorough analysis’ or ‘further assessment’.

“All applications for Australian citizenship are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the legislative criteria,” Mr Tudge responded.


India overtakes the UK as top source of Australian citizenship

Responding to questions by Victorian Labor MP Julian Hill, Mr Tudge revealed the country-wise break up of citizenship statistics.


India has been the top source of citizenship in Australia for the last five years overtaking the United Kingdom.

Since 2012-13, over 118,000 people born in India have pledged their allegiance to Australia by becoming Australian citizens. Indian migrants also top the list of country-wise visa recipients in Australia’s annual immigration program.

As of February 28 this year, 10,168 Indian-born migrants were granted Australian citizenship with 25,408 Indian-born people applying during the same time. The 2016-17 figure stood at 22,006 citizenship grants to Indian migrants with 29,955 Indians applying for it.

Source: Australian citizenship approvals record dramatic slowdown