There is a disconnect within Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Something is not functioning as it should, a fact that is abundantly clear to individuals who have applications that are being processed by the IRCC system.
The gap between what IRCC officially states should be happening and what actually happens to applicants is wide, and only increasing with time. It truly is time to ask the following question: “is IRCC unaware of the fact that there are two distinctly different versions of their program delivery?”
The first version is the official version stated on the IRCC website, and repeated by IRCC personnel who respond to calls, emails, and Web Form inquiries (IRCC’s preferred method of communication). It is the version IRCC spokespeople will cite in the media. That version sounds like this example from a recent article published by CTV News, in which IRCC is on record saying that “PR cards for new applicants should arrive within two weeks of landing in Canada (…) If the delay is much longer, applicants should contact the Client Support Centre to allow IRCC access to their file and find out why they are still waiting for their PR card.”
The second version is the reality experienced by applicants who await their PR cards for more than six to nine months, on average, after landing. When they inquire about their applications via the Web Form, they receive a generic response that states their file is “in processing”. The response is templated, generic, and offers no reason for the delay, clarity about the process, or estimate of remaining wait time. Client Support Centre will likewise only confirm that the application is in process. Apart from that, applicants have no other direct avenue to escalate their inquiry. Lately, due to COVID-19 and Afghan refugee crisis, IRCC’s templated response only states that they have no capacity to address applicant’s questions due to these two events and will only tend to “Priority Enquiries”. In other words, applicants receive no answer at all.
What is the cause for these delays? An IRCC call centre representative recently suggested only 25 percent of staff are physically in the Production Centre, while the remaining 75 percent are still working remotely almost two years into the pandemic. Apparently, the cards cannot be made remotely and without staff on hand, there are delays addressing plastic and ink running out and spools being replaced or to address mistakes or machines breaking down. We cannot be sure what exactly is the cause of the delays, but what we do know is that applicants are being left in the dark about the status of their PR card. In some cases that we know about, PR cards can not be printed because of an issue with the photo, which is not promptly communicated by IRCC to the applicant. Weeks or months may go by before the applicant is asked to resubmit new photos. In other cases we are aware of, PR cards are ready for pick up but notices have not been sent out to applicants because offices are closed to the public. Repeated requests for appointment dates go unanswered. Possible disruptions in production and frequent miscommunication or no communication by IRCC, coupled with the fact IRCC has landed a record 401,000 people this year is likely contributing to the backlogs.
COVID-19 has been difficult on everyone, and we are certainly not lacking any appreciation of the massive pivoting everyone, including IRCC, has had to undergo to remain productive in these challenging times. However, what we are noticing is that clear and relevant communication is lacking, and that is the key piece in the process. Without transparency and full disclosure regarding the processing of their PR card, applicants are simply being left in the dark.
PR card renewal may not seem like a priority matter, until one considers what it means not to have a valid one. Unless they have a valid PR card, applicants cannot travel. This means that they are not able to leave Canada over holidays or for vacation, they cannot tend to urgent matters if a family member gets ill unexpectedly, they cannot go on a business trip if their job requires them to do so. Their life is placed on extended hold, indefinitely, with no information forthcoming, due to IRCC’s processing delays.
It is time for this gap to close.
CILA calls on IRCC and the Minister of Immigration to provide clear and honest information to applicants, particularly with regards to processing time.
CILA also calls on IRCC and the Minister of Immigration to resume responding to all Web Form inquiries and calls to the Client Support Centre, and to provide meaningful information on the application status.
CILA suggests IRCC consider delegating the renewal and processing of new PR cards to Service Canada officials similar to the way a passport is renewed. The PR card is after all primarily a travel document.