Australian #citizenship approvals up by 56 per cent but waiting period shoots up

More on Australian citizenship numbers and processing delays:

Highlights:

  • 170,819 people have been conferred Australian citizenship in 2019-20
  • 15,000 people have received citizenship online during the pandemic
  • 117,958 applicants still in the queue for citizenship

“The Government has moved to online citizenship ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 750 online ceremonies are being conducted each day, and to 20 May 2020, more than 15,000 people have received citizenship this way during the pandemic,” a spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS Hindi.

“In 2019-20 to 15 May 2020, 170,819 people have been conferred Australian citizenship. This is up 56 per cent on the same period last year,” the spokesperson said.

However, those who have applied for citizenship and are awaiting the outcome of their Australian citizenship application will have to wait longer.

The latest processing times released by the Department of Home Affairs indicates the waiting period for Australian citizenship has shot up.

Compared to waiting period of 16 months, from date of application to ceremony, in June 2019, the average waiting period for 75 per cent of applicants has shot up to 23 months from date of application to ceremony in April 2020.

Australian Citizenship PRocessing times April 2020

The latest processing times released by the Department of Home Affairs indicates the waiting period for Australian citizenship has shot up.
Department of Home Affairs

“Due to the health risks, all face-to-face citizenship appointments, such as interviews and citizenship tests, have been placed on hold. This has meant an increase in overall processing times,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department will recommence in-person interviews and citizenship tests when it is safe to do so.

“New applications for Australian citizenship are still able to be accepted during this period.

“Processing continues for applications that do not require a face-to-face appointment. Processing also continues for lodged applications up to the point where an appointment is required so that the applicant will be able to undertake an appointment when it is safe to do so.”

Last month, as COVID-19 pandemic forced citizenship ceremonies to move online, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge said additional resources will be deployed once it is possible to resume tests and interviews.

‘Additional resources will be deployed to conduct testing and interviews as soon as social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ease,’ he said.

As of April 30, 2020, 117,958* applicants were still awaiting the outcome of their citizenship application.

India top source of Australian citizenship

India has been the top source of Australian citizenship for the last two years, with over 28,000 Indian nationals becoming Australian citizens in 2018-19.

Source of Australian Citizenship 2018-19

Source of Australian Citizenship 2018-19
Department of Home Affairs

Indian-born applicants also top the list of visa recipients by country under Australia’s annual permanent immigration program.

Source: Australian citizenship approvals up by 56 per cent but waiting period shoots up

Thousands now face indefinite wait for Australian citizenship as ceremonies cancelled

Similar to Canada in terms of applications and ceremonies on hold, but overall demand has returned to more traditional levels following C-6:

Tens of thousands of migrants waiting to become Australian citizens are now facing an indefinite wait for the process to be finalised after ceremonies across the country were cancelled due to restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many are now calling on the government to follow New Zealand and temporarily waive the requirement of a public ceremony and oath-taking while national restrictions on mass gatherings remain in place.

Concerns have also been raised that pressing pause on citizenship ceremonies all together will create further unnecessary delays in the already overloaded citizenship process.

But despite meeting the residence, character, and other requirements to become a citizen, and passing the citizenship test, her hopes were shattered after the City of Sydney council announced their ceremonies would be cancelled until further notice.

While she understands the public health rationale for shutting down the ceremonies, she wants the government to find an alternative way to grant her citizenship.

“We have been left in limbo … we don’t know when it’s going to end,” the 32-year-old told SBS News. “To have the citizenship put on hold right at the end when all we need to do is attend the ceremony is a bit disappointing.”

Ms Parmentier said she was particularly worried as her home country has stopped issuing passports and she is currently unable to travel in an emergency.

After joining a forum with other people left waiting for their citizenship to be finalised, she decided to start a petition calling on the government to act.

“It’s a goal that has taken, for many of us at least, five years of hard work, taking tests, having our degrees assessed, saving money for visas and permanent residencies,” she said.

“The majority of people are looking forward to making the pledge of commitment, that’s part of the requirement and we’re more than happy to do it, either electronically or via statutory declaration.”

After an application for Australian citizenship is approved, migrants are required to attend an in-person ceremony and make the Australian Citizenship Pledge before becoming an official citizen. Incoming citizens are usually invited to a ceremony organised by their local council within six months of their application being approved.

In the 2018-19 financial year, 127,674 people became Australian citizens – almost 2,500 every week – but a backlog is now expected to pile up.

On 29 February 2020, the Department of Home Affairs had more than 120,000 applications on hand, with more than 16,000 new applications received in February alone.

The current waiting time from date of application to ceremony can be up to two years for 90 per cent of applicants in the main stream.

New Zealand national Carla Jones is among the thousands waiting for their citizenship process to come to an end after she said “ceremonies came to a grinding halt”.

The Brisbane resident, who came to Australian in 2011 following the Christchurch earthquakes, said there has been “no communication whatsoever” about the cancellation, leaving her and others who have had their applications approved to discover the news on social media.

“I want to be able to vote, there are state elections coming up in October, I want to be able to fully participate in Australian society and currently I’m hamstrung from doing so,” she said.

Ms Jones added that she was unable to finalise her divorce without proving her Australian citizenship.

Last month, New Zealand’s department of internal affairs announced that all citizenship ceremonies would be cancelled and prospective citizens would be allowed to sign a statutory declaration as a replacement for a public oath.

Professor Mary Crock, an expert in citizenship law at the University of Sydney, said there were alternative ways prospective citizens could take an oath without attending a mass gathering, but that developing a new process was likely low priority for the government.

“You’re dealing with a government that is just struggling to keep its head above water, and for that reason, citizenship has just slipped down the list of priorities,” she said.

Those waiting for their official ceremony are still able to access most of the same rights afforded to Australian citizens, including unemployment benefits for permanent residents, but they are not able to vote or apply for an Australian passport.

New Zealand nationals in Australia affected by the COVID-19 restrictions have also been included in the Government’s JobKeeper supplement, which allows employees of companies and not-for-profits that have lost at least 30 per cent of their revenue to be paid $1,500 a fortnight.

The Department of Home Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

In September last year, Immigration Minister David Coleman said his department had been working to process citizenship applications as “efficiently as possible, while also maintaining the integrity of the program”.

Source: Thousands now face indefinite wait for Australian citizenship as ceremonies cancelled

Australian citizenship: Waiting time drops by ten per cent

I always had looked up to Australia when working on citizenship given their service standard, if I remember correctly, that 80 percent of applications would be assessed within six months. Since then, the various policy changes and likely funding constraints have resulted in a significant backlog, even if the situation appears to be improving:

The number of migrants granted Australian citizenship has doubled compared to last year and the waiting time has dropped according to the Department of Home Affairs.

The latest figures released by the department reveal the waiting time for Australian citizenship has dropped by ten per cent.

The time period from lodgement to citizenship ceremony (by conferral) has dropped for 75 per cent of applications from 20 months to 18 months.

For 90 per cent of applications, though, it remains unchanged at 23 months.

Australian Citizenship May 2019

The Department attributed the reduction in waiting time to a range of reforms implemented to streamline the process.

“There is no greater privilege than Australian Citizenship and the Department takes its responsibility to efficiently and effectively process applications within the law very seriously.

“The number of people approved as Australian Citizens between 1 July 2018 and 30 April 2019 is around double the number approved in the same period last year.

“This follows from the implementation of a range of reforms that seek to streamline Departmental processes as much as possible without compromising on national security or program integrity,” a spokesperson of the Department told SBS Hindi.

“Long queue will continue to reduce”

Despite the drop in the waiting time and an increase in the number of approvals, the long queue of people awaiting the outcome of their citizenship application is still well above 200,000.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, there were 221,859 applications in the queue as of May 26th 2019.

The department, however, states the number of applications in the queue has significantly reduced compared to over 250,000 last year.

Indian population in Australia increases 30 per cent in less than two years; now the third largest migrant group in Australia
After England and China, India ranks third on the list of residents born overseas according to the latest figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

A spokesperson for the Department said with a high level of focus on the Australian Citizenship program, the number of applications waiting for an outcome is expected to continue to reduce.

“The Department is placing a high level of focus on the Australian Citizenship program.

“As a consequence of these measures, the number of Citizenship by conferral applications on-hand with the Department is reducing and is expected to continue to reduce.

“The improvement has occurred against a backdrop of a record number of applications and an increase in complex cases in recent years,” it said.

Source: Australian citizenship: Waiting time drops by ten per cent

A big player in becoming a US citizen? Your ZIP code.

Some interesting analysis of regional discrepancies in citizenship processing time. Haven’t seen comparable data for Canada and not sure whether IRCC’s system could generate the data.

The chart on the effect of steep increases in fees is of interest (in Canada, somewhat camouflaged by the effects of longer residency and testing of 55-64 year olds, reversed in October 2017, with full year 2019 data, when available, will separate out those effects):

The ties are straightened, hair combed, and jewelry gleaming here, and the line to get into the federal courthouse is spilling outside into a chilly morning.

Get here 30 minutes early, someone says; they weren’t kidding. Two U.S. airmen from nearby Goodfellow Air Force Base, here to sing patriotic songs, joke about being late for their own gig.

It’s a long drive from here to San Antonio – 220 miles, about the same as from New York to Washington. But for the 33 newly minted American citizens, all the round trips over the past year feel more than worth it.

Milagros Carnes, from the Philippines, says her American daughter worried she (Milagros) would be deported if she didn’t become a citizen. Alejandro Fraire has an American wife and three American children, and his green card was close to expiring. For both of them, naturalizing just made sense.

“It’s a hard and long process, but it’s worth it,” says Mr. Fraire, a Mexican national who has lived in the United States for two decades.

Barriers to becoming a U.S. citizen can vary significantly depending on where in the country a person lives, according to a recent report from Boundless, a Seattle-based startup that helps families navigate the immigration system.

Analyzing data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the report used processing times, backlog numbers, and distances to agency field offices to rank the best and worst metro areas for becoming a citizen.

The report doesn’t explore why these geographic disparities may exist, and it includes some red herrings, according to experts. Austin, Texas, for example, is ranked as the hardest city in which to become a citizen in large part because applicants have to report to a USCIS office in Houston, three hours away. But the report also notes broader trends in how barriers to American citizenship have gotten steeper over time.

The volume of citizenship applications fluctuates from year to year, but the past two years have seen a surge in applications. There hasn’t been a corresponding increase in the processing rate, experts say, exacerbating a backlog that had already doubled during the Obama administration. The success of field offices in clearing this backlog differs. In Providence, Rhode Island, 81 percent of those who applied in the past year or had applications pending have been processed, while in Miami and Dallas the number is only 30 percent, Boundless found.

SOURCE: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
|

“Despite a record and unprecedented application surge workload, USCIS is completing more citizenship applications, more efficiently and effectively—outperforming itself as an agency. USCIS strives to adjudicate all applications, petitions, and requests as effectively and efficiently as possible in accordance with all applicable laws, policies, and regulations,” said USCIS spokesperson Jessica Collins in a statement.

Staffing levels and office cultures and personalities might affect approval rates and backlog sizes at particular offices. Different field offices can also vary on discretionary aspects of the naturalization process, such as an officer determining if someone is of “good moral character” or if the person’s ability with English is good enough. Having a criminal history, tax debts, or a spotty record of making child support payments are some indications of character issues that can be interpreted differently depending on the USCIS office or officer.

“The only time I’ve seen variation is when there is discretion on an issue of character,” says Marisol Perez, an immigration attorney in San Antonio.

“I think all the offices follow the law,” she adds. “It’s case by case and officer by officer with regard to [who they say] deserves favorable discretion.”

As part of its efforts to continue eliminating the backlog, Ms. Collins added, “USCIS is in the process of realigning our regional, district and field offices to streamline our management structures, balance resources, and improve overall mission performance and service delivery.”

The realignment, effective October 2019, will realign the 88 existing field offices under 16 district offices (instead of the current 24) in order to evenly distribute workloads and provide more consistent processing times. The last such realignment occurred in 2006.

The Trump administration has increased the burden on USCIS offices. In 2017 the administration moved to expand in-person interview requirements for certain permanent residency applications and a year later expanded the interview requirement for married couples applying for a green card. While these changes didn’t affect the naturalization process directly, they have had an indirect impact by increasing the workload on USCIS officers, experts say.

“Placing a lot of emphasis on national security is applying more scrutiny to applications, is increasing their workload in looking at applications,” says Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, “and there are proposed changes that could increase that further.”

The administration is considering other changes for this year, including a wholesale fee review and more expansive questions and travel records for citizenship applications. The administration is also reportedly considering shuttering all 21 international USCIS offices, which could slow the processing of family visa applications, with The Washington Post reporting that officials are preparing to do it.

Perhaps the biggest effect the administration has had on the naturalization process has been through its consistent anti-immigrant tone, however.

The USCIS field office in San Antonio saw a 40 percent increase in citizenship applications last year, according to Ms. Perez. The agency changed its mission statement last year – removing the words “nation of immigrants” and adding “protecting Americans, securing the homeland” – causing clients to come to her seeking naturalization.

“They fear their status is at risk because of the tone of this administration,” she says. “These are folks who should have no reason to be worried but are worried.”

“I have faith in the system, and I have faith in USCIS,” she adds. “We have good relationships with USCIS, but that’s the tone we have out there.”

Source: A big player in becoming a US citizen? Your ZIP code.

Australia’s citizenship process is not efficient, audit finds

When I was working on citizenship files, Australia’s performance standard was the gold standard compared to Canada’s less than bronze (80 percent of processed within 80 days).

The official Canadian performance standard, as reported in departmental reports, is a meaningless one: the total number of immigrants who have become citizens irrespective of how long a time they have been in Canada (the total “stock”) versus a more meaningful measure of how many have become citizens within a certain period of time (e.g., 5-9 years since arrival):

Australian citizenship applications are not being processed in a timely way by the Department of Home Affairs, according to the auditor-general.

But the department disagrees, arguing measures introduced in the past three years to protect national security and community safety are delivering results.

An Australian National Audit Office review has found just 15 per cent of applications for citizenship “by conferral” – which makes up the bulk of applications – were processed within 80 days in 2017/18.

That compares to the department’s former target to process 80 per cent of applications within 80 days, which it dropped in 2017.

The department does, however, measure the time taken to obtain citizenship from lodging an application to attending a ceremony.

Australian citizenship applications are not being processed in a timely manner.

The auditor-general found that time “increased significantly” between March 2017 and September 2018, despite a dip in the “relative complexity” of applications being lodged.

“Growth in demand for citizenship in recent years was driven by people with good supporting documents who arrived in Australia on a skilled visa,” the audit office found.

The review suggests increased screening of applicants has played a major role in extended processing times.

Nevertheless, it found staff were not being using efficiently.

“The department has a suite of initiatives in train that are designed to enhance efficiency but has been slow in implementing them,” the review stated.

The Department of Home Affairs disputes the audit office’s claim. In a statement to the auditor-general, it highlighted that the proportion of citizenship applications knocked back has doubled from 3.4 per cent in 2014/15 to 6.8 per cent in the first few months of 2018/19.

That comes as new security measures have been introduced.

“The enhanced integrity measures adopted by the department over the last three years to protect Australia’s national security and community safety are delivering results,” the department said.

“We will always prioritise these efforts over speed.”

The department has agreed to the auditor-general’s recommendation to revise how it funds its citizenship activities, based on the latest activity levels.

But the department has knocked back a recommendation to publicly report its key performance indicators, saying they could give people unrealistic expectations.

The inquiry came after the commonwealth ombudsman, Refugee Council of Australia and others raised concerns about the duration of the citizenship application process.

Source: Australia’s citizenship process is not efficient, audit finds

Australia: Road to citizenship gets longer for ‘demonised’ applicants

Australia generally has had a better track record than Canada in processing times with short processing times and limited backlogs:

An 18-month investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, released in December, found the number of people subject to heightened identity checks and waiting more than two years on the outcome of a “citizenship by conferral” application – such as former refugees – had skyrocketed 450 per cent.

This increase – a jump from 338 cases requiring enhanced screening in November 2016 to almost 2000 by the middle of last year – was despite an overall drop in the number of complex applications awaiting a decision, the ombudsman found.

As of early January, there were 167,820 outstanding conferral applications, 5680 of which were more than two years old.

The ombudsman’s investigation focused on those subject to “enhanced screening and integrity checks” due to background factors such as country of origin, an “irregular” arrival or due to any changes made to personal information.

The oldest of these case had been “on hand” for more than four years, according to the report. This compared to the department’s “service standard” for processing most cases of just 80 days.

“In early 2016, the Commonwealth Ombudsman started to experience an increase in complaints from people awaiting decisions on their citizenship applications for more than a year, and sometimes over two years,” the December report said.

“In the past year and a half, we have received approximately 300 complaints about delays by the department.”

‘Enhanced’ identity checks

Applicants from Afghanistan topped the list of those facing delays, the ombudsman found, noting those hailing from the war-torn nation had been singled out by the department as a particular caseload with “integrity issues”.

A finding from the ‘Delays in processing of applications for Australian Citizenship by conferral’ 2017 report.
Commonwealth Ombudsman

“Although the department has made progress in reducing the overall backlog of applications, its assessment of more complex cases is still an area for improvement,” the report said.

But critics say the delay is part of a deliberate policy shift that “demonised” those from refugee backgrounds and exacerbated problems caused by inadequate staffing.

“It doesn’t make sense that the department is satisfied with someone’s identity to grant them a permanent visa so they can stay in Australia for their whole life, yet when it comes to citizenship they have no idea about their identity,” the Refugee Council of Australia’s Asher Hirsch said.

Refugee community ‘demonised’

Mr Hirsch said beyond denying many refugees a sense of belonging and security, the citizenship delay effectively halted bids by some to see their loved ones. According to a 2014 ministerial directive, boat arrivals are given the lowest processing priority for family reunification visas.

The ombudsman recommended the department work on improvements to its processes to help it meet the “various challenges” of its caseload.

A 2016 Federal Court case brought by two Afghan men that found it should have reasonably taken between six and seven months to process their cases was “important guidance” for the department, the report said.

The department denied there was a backlog or delay in processing citizenship applications, and noted that Australia has “non-discriminatory migration and citizenship programs”.

“Applicants for Australian Citizenship must meet the legislative criteria, regardless of how and when they arrive in Australia,” the department said in a statement.

“The department has a duty to thoroughly assess the genuine nature of all citizenship applications.”

The report acknowledged the department’s concerns:

“In recent years, the increased awareness of identity fraud and the increased focus on ensuring the applicant is who they say they are before they are granted citizenship, has most likely caused decision-makers to take more time with high-risk applications,” it said.

“The department is acutely conscious of the fact that after a person has been approved for citizenship, it is difficult to cancel it later if it is determined the person has lied about their identity.”

via Road to citizenship gets longer for ‘demonised’ applicants

Parliamentary report offers fixes for ‘frustrating’ immigration system

Recommendations do not appear very surprising in their focus on service and service standards.

But I am surprised in their recommendation number 16 on service standards that they did not include regular performance reporting on meeting those standards, basic to accountability:

The Immigration Department’s most recent clients’ survey in 2015 found 85 per cent of clients were satisfied with the service, with the rest complaining about a range of issues from the inability to access case status information to errors in applications.

In 2016, the department received 5,000 complaints and the top three concerns related to processing times, the call centre and the operation of the applicants’ online accounts.

The report’s number one recommendation was to train staff at the call centre on client service and on how to communicate with people who may have limited English or French, as well as setting a 15-minute waiting time standard for clients to talk to a live agent for inquires.

The report recommends the department consider having agents specialize in particular programs or application types such as temporary residence, permanent residence, refugees, citizenship and passports.

“The call centre may be used to check the status of an application that is beyond the normal processing time and report changes regarding an application that is in process,” suggested Toronto immigration lawyer Stephen Green.

“While the idea of the call centre is commendable, unfortunately the limits placed on call centre agents in terms of the information that they are permitted to disclose often results in the applicant being unable to ascertain the information required.”

The report said immigration officials should establish service standards and processing times for all programs and publish the information on its website. It said the department should simplify its forms and evaluate common patterns in mistakes and errors made on its applications.

“If you talk to any MP, 80 to 85 per cent of our caseload involves immigration files. The long delays and lack of information are frustrating people,” said MP Jenny Kwan, immigration critic for the opposition NDP, who sits on the immigration standing committee.

“All we are saying is these are simple fixes that make an inordinate amount of sense.”

Bernie Derible, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said the department has made tremendous strides in speeding up processing times and simplifying processes, particularly for family sponsorship applications.

“We are reviewing the recommendations and have been improving many areas already under our government . . . Client experience is a key focus of Minister Hussen’s mandate,” said Derible, adding that the government has designated a director general responsible for improving client services.

Source: Parliamentary report offers fixes for ‘frustrating’ immigration system | Toronto Star

The Conclusions and Recommendations from the report:

The Committee recognizes that IRCC has made a priority of modernizing client service delivery. Testimony heard in the course of this study confirms both the necessity and the complexity of this endeavour. Immigration is a life-changing journey for individuals who should not be frustrated by processes and bureaucracy. As such, the Committee makes the following recommendations to build on the department’s efforts already under way.

Call Centre

The Committee was pleased to hear about the changes IRCC has implemented to the Call Centre for family class applications. These changes address concerns raised by witnesses and improve operational efficiency, as evidenced by the reduction in the number of same-day calls. The Committee encourages the department to implement similar changes in other lines of business and looks forward to hearing progress reports on further Call Centre improvements.

As IRCC moves forward with reforming the Call Centre, the Committee wishes to draw attention to several issues. The Committee heard that Call Centre agents do not communicate their knowledge in simple-to-understand terms for those who may be new to English or French; nor do they facilitate calls when interpreters are involved. The Committee also heard that callers often wait for long periods before being connected to a live agent. Finally, witnesses suggested that Call Centre agents could be assigned to a certain type of immigration application so that they could develop greater subject-matter expertise as a means of improving service. In light of this testimony and the important role that the Call Centre plays in conveying IRCC’s information to clients, the Committee recommends the following:

RECOMMENDATION 1

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada train all Call Centre agents on client service excellence and on how to communicate with people who may have limited English or French speaking abilities.

RECOMMENDATION 2

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provide a standard process to facilitate calls between a client and a Call Centre agent when an interpreter is used.

RECOMMENDATION 3

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have a 15-minute standard for clients to be connected with an advisor or agent for all Call Centre operations.

RECOMMENDATION 4

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consider including specializations and subject-matter experts for Call Centre advisors and agents based on application type, including (1) temporary residence, (2) permanent residence, (3) refugees, including protected persons, (4) citizenship and (5) passports.

Website

The IRCC website is also an important client service interface. Witnesses drew the Committee’s attention to certain problems with the website in its current form and also provided concrete suggestions for improvement. In light of what we heard concerning the IRCC website, the Committee recommends the following:

RECOMMENDATION 5

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consider, as part of the redesign of its website, using (1) client-centric design principles to produce digital channels for each business line, (2) plain language, (3) languages other than French and English, similar to what the Government of British Columbia is doing, and (4) virtual assistance.

RECOMMENDATION 6

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada make improvements to “My Account” to allow clients to view and print applications before filing and during processing, and allow applicants to maintain a complete record of every application filed.

RECOMMENDATION 7

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada improve the ability for applicants and their representatives to link paper applications with online accounts.

RECOMMENDATION 8

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provide alternative payment methods for individuals without access to online payment services and credit cards, such as returning to the previous policy of accepting proof of payment at a bank.

Providing more frequent and useful information

Another important issue also raised in the course of this study is the need to obtain more frequent and useful case information from IRCC. Witnesses made a number of suggestions in this regard, including making GCMS notes available online and providing more detailed status updates through a client’s online accounts. With respect to the private sponsorship program, witnesses suggested that the government establish standards for frequency of communication with sponsoring groups so that their resources can be used effectively and they can maintain support for the sponsorship.

The Committee heard from the department that providing clients with greater assurance that their application is moving forward is one of their current priorities for client service. We fully support this priority and make the following recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION 9

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada contact clients via email or other channels when (1) processing exceeds times provided at the time of application (2) an incorrect payment is made (3) common or simple errors are made on the application.

RECOMMENDATION 10

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada implement an online portal for clients and authorized representatives to track application progress, including but not limited to: (1) current status of the application, (2) any reasons for delays, (3) an estimated time for decision and (4) any missing information or complications with the application.

The Committee also feels that the department could consider providing more useful information on refusals, particularly for temporary resident visa applicants and humanitarian and compassionate applications. The example from Australia suggests that it is possible to provide failed applicants with a more fulsome explanation while maintaining fast processing. Further, as indicated by witnesses, proactive disclosure of reasons for refusal may lower the volume of Access to Information requests made to the department. In light of these observations, the Committee recommends the following in relation to providing clients with more useful information:

RECOMMENDATION 11

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provide more information and details to clients on the reasons for negative decisions.

Finally, in the area of providing more frequent and useful information, the Committee recommends as follows:

RECOMMENDATION 12

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada examine ways, in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, to increase the number of pre-arrival service sessions available, including attendance, in Foreign Service locations.

RECOMMENDATION 13

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada ensure Members of Parliament and Senators continue to have access to the Ministerial Enquiries Division.

Application forms

The Committee would also like to address the issue of application forms. We understand that the department plans to draw on its experience with revamping the spousal sponsorship application kit to make changes to other programs. The Committee supports regular review of application forms so that they can be as client-friendly as possible. The Committee would also like to address the issue, as raised by some witnesses, of clients being penalized by form changes that occurred after their application was submitted. On the matter of application forms, the Committee recommends as follows:

RECOMMENDATION 14

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada regularly review all application forms to (1) simplify the form, (2) improve the client experience, and (3) evaluate common patterns in mistakes and errors made on applications.

RECOMMENDATION 15

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada establish a process for notifying applicants when forms are changed and establish a mechanism to ensure that completed applications submitted with once-current forms are not rejected due to form changes.

Processing Times

Processing times and service standards were also identified as important client service issues by witnesses, who noted that not all IRCC lines of business are subject to service standards. Witnesses also noted that, for certain applicants working temporarily as they await a final decision that would allow them to remain in Canada, the validity period of the work permit does not correspond with the waiting period for the decision. To address these concerns, the Committee recommends as follows:

RECOMMENDATION 16

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consider establishing service standards and processing times for all business lines and publish the standards on the website.

RECOMMENDATION 17

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada extend the validity period of work permits from six months to one year to take into account processing times at the department.

Performance Measurement and Client Feedback

The Committee heard that IRCC has mechanisms in place for soliciting client feedback and some performance indicators for client service. The Committee encourages the department to continue work in this area and recommends as follows:

RECOMMENDATION 18

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada offer automatic client service feedback forms for applications to the department.

RECOMMENDATION 19

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada review key performance indicators for all client service channels and review best practices from other immigration systems around the world, such as those of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Reconsideration

The Committee heard that errors in processing applications that could easily be rectified sometimes end up in court because there is no other way to address them. The Committee is of the opinion that it would be in everyone’s interest to avoid this costly route, and we make the following recommendation accordingly:

RECOMMENDATION 20

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada create a “Reconsideration Committee” to deal with reconsideration requests within applicants’ 15-day deadline.

Continuous Improvement in Customer Service

In the spirit of continuous improvement, the Committee feels that IRCC should conduct more outreach, including targeted efforts for employers and refugees. We also encourage the Department to examine the possibility of providing customer service in person, which is not currently possible. Specifically, the Committee recommends the following:

RECOMMENDATION 21

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada conduct “client service and delivery” consultations with customer and client service experts, the private sector, former and current clients of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and all Canadians on how the department can better provide service.

RECOMMENDATION 22

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consult with refugees to determine their issues with client service and take steps to address them; the review would include (but would not be limited to) the website, Call Centre, languages used, access to technology and payments.

RECOMMENDATION 23

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada work to better serve Canadian businesses and employers by studying the possible benefits of the department creating a trusted employer program to offer employers an expedited service for assessments (subject to a fee); that this study include input from Canadian businesses and employers; and that IRCC make its findings available to the Committee.

RECOMMENDATION 24

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada conduct a cost‑benefit analysis on having regional immigration offices to deliver in‑person service similar to Passport Canada and Service Canada locations.

For many Members of Parliament, a large percentage of their constituency work is related to immigration and citizenship applications filed with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The Committee recognizes that the department handles many applications on a daily basis and generally delivers timely and professional service. It is our hope that the recommendations in this report will assist IRCC in its continued efforts to modernize its approach to client service and at the same time reduce the need for intervention from Members of Parliament.

Full text: Report 9: Modernization of Client Service Delivery Presented to the House: March 23, 2017

Citizenship and Immigration Canada finds passport lost for 13 years

Fortunately, a very rare occurrence, but why should it have taken so long, and why were previous MPs not able to ‘encourage’ officials to find it?

A woman whose passport was lost in the depths of a federal department for over a decade is finally on her way to becoming a permanent resident.

“It has cost us so much heartache,” said Janina Ibarra. “I haven’t seen my mother in 11 years and I have not been able to go back.”

Ibarra came to Canada 17 years ago from Sri Lanka, which was in the midst of a civil war at the time. She says she had hoped to stay as a refugee.

Before her refugee case was settled, Ibarra met and married a Canadian citizen, and he applied to sponsor her for permanent residency status.

As part of that process, 13 years ago Sri Lanka sent her passport to Citizenship and Immigration Canada — but it went missing, leaving her with no official residency status in Canada.

Ibarra says for the past two years she has been under a deportation order she was told could be enforced at any time, which would mean leaving behind her husband and their two children.

The situation put her and her family in a precarious position — emotionally and financially — leaving them to rely on their community for support.

“There were times we would have money thrown in our mail slot,” she said. “At the end of the day it really was the benevolence of our church and church friends.”

Note buried in file

After the federal election last fall, Ibarra decided to ask her new MP Harjit Sajjan for help.

She got the answer she was hoping within three weeks. Buried in a half-metre-tall file was a note that said the passport had been archived by the government at least five years ago, if not longer, and where to find it.

Ibarra’s sponsorship application is on track for the first time since 1999. She says she hopes to have her permanent residency by late summer.

In the meantime, she’s looking for answers from the federal government for the years of her life she feels were put on hold waiting for her paperwork to get processed.

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada finds passport lost for 13 years – British Columbia – CBC News

Liberal MPs put heat on McCallum to address immigration processing ‘mess,’ say lengthy delays ‘unacceptable’

Not surprising, the range and nature of complaints (which may have been a factor among visible minority voters during the recent election) but turning this around takes time:

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum has been under intense pressure at recent national caucus meetings from Liberal MPs who want him to address the “mess” in the processing times of immigration applications, which in some cases is taking more than six years for family class applications.

“This is not acceptable. We have to do something about it,” Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal (Surrey-Newton, B.C.) told The Hill Times.

In the last two national caucus meetings—Sunday, Jan. 24 and Wednesday, Jan. 27—about 20 MPs spoke up, in total, in both meetings, Liberal sources told The Hill Times. Liberal MPs told Mr. McCallum (Markham-Thornhill, Ont.) that, up until the last election, Conservatives were to be blamed for the slow processing of applications because they were in power. But Canadians now want to know what the Liberals have done to speed up the processing times in the last three months, according to Liberal sources. During the Jan. 24 caucus meeting, Mr. McCallum and his departmental officials conducted a briefing for MPs about the causes of the delay and introduced them to some departmental resources that can help MPs in serving their constituents on immigration files.

Sources told The Hill Times that Liberal MPs recognize that Mr. McCallum and the Immigration Department is focused on the politically sensitive Syrian refugees file, but they also want swift action on Immigration applications in the regular streams.

During the last election campaign, the Liberals had promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of last year, but they missed the deadline and are now aiming to achieve this goal by the end of February. As of last week, about 14,000 have arrived in Canada. Because of the high-profile domestic and international implications of the Syrian refugee file, Mr. McCallum and the Immigration Department have been in the media spotlight for months. The Syrian refugee crisis is considered the biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II and it’s estimated 12 million have been displaced as a result of the civil war in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Immigration application processing times are different for different categories including family class, economic class, refugee and humanitarian and compassionate classes.

In the case of parents and grand parents sponsorship applications, the department is currently processing the ones that were filed on or before Nov. 4, 2011, according to the departmental website. The processing time for spouses or common-law partners living inside Canada is 26 months and for the ones outside of Canada is 17 months.

In the economic class, if an application was filed between 2008 and 2010, the processing time is 67 months while for the ones filed between 2010 and 2014, is 13 months.

Canada takes in about 260,000 immigrants each year in all categories, combined. The statistics were not available for last year, but in 2014, 66,661 received Canadian immigration in the ‘family class’ category, 165,089 in the ‘economic class’ category and 23,286 in the ‘refugee class’ category, according to the departmental website. In 2013, Canada took in a total of 259,023 immigrants including 81,843 in family class, 148,155 in economic immigrant class and 23,831 in refugees class.

In interviews last week, Liberal MPs told The Hill Times that about 60-70 per cent of their constituency work is immigration related and specifically for family class applications.

Mr. Dhaliwal said that Mr. McCallum, who also served in former the Cabinets of prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, has assured MPs that he understands and recognizes the processing of applications and will take steps to speed things up.

“He [Mr. McCallum] has publicly said and he has privately said that he’s going to fix and fix [this issue] once for all. The pressure is on and this is one of the toughest ministries and tasks to handle and John McCallum comes up with a lot of experience behind him. He’s a thoughtful individual and working on this file. We are trying to help him by giving our input and he’s consulting people,” said Mr. Dhaliwal.

Source: Liberal MPs put heat on McCallum to address immigration processing ‘mess,’ say lengthy delays ‘unacceptable’ | hilltimes.com

NDP MP to challenge Chris Alexander over visa data requests

Further to the earlier post (Minister Alexander helped bureaucrats avoid giving full details on visa wait times), more detail on the amount of work required.

Tend to believe the points made by the parliamentary briefings coordinator: if the data base can’t spit out the information and the data needs to be manipulated (technical use of the term) in Excel, this time required would increase exponentially.

Not necessarily a reason to refuse what is a valid request (an extension could have been requested):

She also warned the massive quantity of data involved would lead to server crashes, thus further delaying the process.

“We estimate that the [temporary resident] population being requested corresponds to upwards of 16,000,000 records,” she wrote.

“The tools currently at our disposal do now yet fully integrate all the TR data and would therefore require substantial amount of manipulation in Excel of a very large amount of data, which regularly results in system crashes and slower processing of requests of this magnitude.”

The next day, Gagnon’s colleague, Amanda Morelli, called off the search.

“You can hold this work — [the minister’s office] has come back to advise ADMO that we will use the same response we provided to Q-359,” Morelli wrote in an internal email — a reference to an earlier reply to a similar written question filed by Liberal MP John McCallum.

NDP MP to challenge Chris Alexander over visa data requests – Politics – CBC News.