Canadian immigration lawyers are anxiety relievers


Authored by Viviane Albuquerque, Canadian and US Immigration Lawyer, at Mobilitys. 

Pedro sent me an email on a Friday afternoon to talk about his work permit application. A few minutes later, he urgently called our office. By the time I wrapped up my meeting, Pedro had called my extension multiple times. Upon returning his call, fearing an emergency, Pedro simply wanted to confirm if I received his first email.  

At our offices, we take pride in being anxiety relievers. We consistently provide clients with status updates, respond to emails within 24 hours, and have received training in mental health to enhance our understanding of our clients. Yet, our office regularly receives anxious emails from clients, reflecting the challenges of the immigration system and its impact on mental health. 

One unspoken consequence of the complex Canadian immigration system is its negative impact on applicants’ mental health. In Pedro’s case, he and his partner gave up their jobs, sold their assets, and moved to Canada as students over 10 years ago. Pedro had applied for a work permit but could not benefit from maintained status and could not work, waiting over 100 days for his work permit while his permanent residency application was processed. The lack of work led to depression and strained his relationship with his partner. 

The immigration process causes mental health issues  

IRCC needs to take into account the mental health effects of its immigration process to make it more appealing for future Canadians. From a financial standpoint, addressing mental health issues now can prevent higher healthcare expenses later on when applicants become permanent residents and Canadian citizens. It can result in fewer but higher-quality submissions.  

I have compiled three potential tools that could aid individuals’ mental well-being during the immigration process. These tools are all geared towards helping you understand your application and forecasting potential outcomes. 

Small tools can have a big impact 

Firstly, my suggestion is for IRCC to publish reasons for refusal. The United Kingdom and the United States, for example, already provide personalized reasons for refusing an application. Currently, IRCC’s agents write down personalized and detailed reasons. However, these reasons are not shared with applicants when they receive their refusal letter. Allowing individuals to understand why their application was refused creates transparency, improves subsequent applications, and reduces IRCC workload with ATIP requests, judicial reviews or similar applications that will end up being refused for similar reasons. 

Secondly, IRCC should publish a tool for real-time status. Similar to Form I-94 in the United States, individuals, employers, or even enforcement officers could have access to an individual’s status in Canada at any time, including the expiration date. Having this information available would prevent clients from misunderstanding their departure date, being abused due to lack of information, and would serve as proof of their status for employment purposes. It will ensure compliance with immigration rules, which would eventually decrease IRCC’s operational budget for compliance and enforcement. 

Finally, IRCC should organize and publish operational instructions, guidelines, policies, and memorandums. While IRCC has already published a lot of guidance and information online, our clients often struggle with the abundance of information, and it is not rare to find instructions on IRCC’s official website that contradict each other. Keeping in mind that we, immigration lawyers, have the goal of helping IRCC make fair and just decisions, IRCC needs to share internal documentation that will help us better prepare application, assist in representations, and manage our clients’ expectations.  

We all need to work together towards the common goal of improving Canadian immigration. Lawyers can act as gatekeepers for fraudulent, vexatious, and incorrect immigration applications, which overwhelm the system and slow it down. Employers can ensure that work permits are valid and their workers remain under status. Individuals can know how to improve their applications. Provide us with the tools we need to assist you. 

Acknowledging is the first step   

A few days ago, Pedro learned that his work permit was approved. He cried tears of joy and planned to call his job the next day. While Pedro’s immigration process is not finished yet, having the permit means he can stay occupied while waiting for his permanent residency application to be finalized. However, there is still stress in his relationship, overdue bills to pay, and uncertainty about his next country of residence. His mental health struggles as a result of immigration are far from over.  

Recognizing the mental health impact on immigrants is IRCC’s initial step in establishing an immigration system that is fair, predictable, and transparent for all, and together, we can strive towards this shared objective. 

*The name “Pedro” is used fictitiously for the purposes of this article. 

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