Delays in Permanent Resident Card Issuance may Scuttle Holiday Plans for New Immigrants

by Ronalee Carey Law

November 2021

Pandemic-related processing delays continue to plague Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC.)  With the holidays fast approaching and international travel opening up, the delays in issuing permanent resident cards for new immigrants are becoming a huge problem.

Permanent residents can only fly into Canada with a permanent resident card or permanent resident travel document. (A PRTD is inserted into a passport like a visa.)  Once permanent resident status is confirmed, either upon entry to Canada or through the new permanent resident confirmation portal, individuals can no longer use their visa or electronic travel authorization to enter Canada. 

According to the IRCC website, the current processing time for issuing permanent resident cards for new immigrants is 75 days.  Unfortunately, this is inaccurate for many applicants.  We have applicants who have been waiting eight months for their permanent resident cards to arrive.  Further, it may be accurate for one member of a family and not others.  I have a husband waiting for a permanent resident card despite his wife receiving hers in early October. 

Unfortunately, we can do little to help individuals without a permanent resident card who want to travel.  It is almost impossible to get through to IRCC’s client service centre by telephone. Webforms receive an auto-reply stating that unless the inquiry is considered a ‘priority,’ no reply will be sent.  Applicants can contact their Members of Parliament.  Constituent assistants have access to a dedicated telephone number for IRCC and might find out whether there are issues with the photos provided or if the card was mailed out. 

We advise clients that if they can enter the USA, they may consider leaving their vehicle at the airport and then driving back to Canada after their trip.  At land borders, the Confirmation of Permanent Residence document can be presented as proof of status. 

PRTD applications can only be submitted to a visa office.  We can’t help clients apply for them until they have left Canada.  The applicant must submit their passport through a Visa Application Centre.  Processing times vary by the visa office.   As such, for individuals who want to make a short trip or won’t be close to a Visa Application Centre, applying for a PRTD won’t be feasible.

There are solutions: allowing an eTA or visa to be used for a certain period after permanent residence is confirmed and allowing PRTD applications from within Canada are two.  Unfortunately, IRCC seems unwilling to provide a remedy.  We are assured that IRCC is doing its best to get through its backlog, but that will be little solace to my clients looking to visit friends and family after long separations caused by pandemic travel restrictions.

New Portals, Old Portal Woes

by Ronalee Carey Law

October 2021

 It’s not often that immigration lawyers get excited about Federal budgets, but the 2021 budget contained some welcomed news:

 

… Budget 2021 provides IRCC with 428.9 million dollars over five years, starting in 2021-2022 (with 398.5 million dollars in remaining amortization) to develop and deliver an enterprise-wide digital platform that will improve application processing and better support applicants, beginning in 2023.


Anyone who had to login to an IRCC secure account recently likely experienced any number of error messages.  The portal for authorized representatives has had similar problems, and system-wide outages have affected them both.  I spent much of last weekend working on an Express Entry application due Monday.  I don’t usually leave things to the last minute, but my assistant and I could not access the account to complete the data entry and upload the clients’ documents for the entire week before.

To ease the burden on the outdated secure account structure, IRCC has implemented numerous new portals for specific categories of applications.  It started with the TR to PR program portal, which was heavily criticized as authorized representatives were not permitted to login to their client’s accounts.  Since then, IRCC has introduced a Permanent Resident Portal and a Representative Permanent Residence (PR) Portal.  These new portals accept family sponsorship applications, protected persons applying for permanent resident status, In-Canada Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations and Permit Holders Class, and some economic applications such as non-Express Entry provincial nominee applications.  I have not had any issues logging into this new portal.  However, the representative portal includes a section for clients to review their information and documents and electronically sign their applications.  Several of my clients have had issues logging in with the information provided to them by IRCC.  Thankfully, updating the client’s email address triggered another notice with new login information.

 

I have not yet used the new portal for visitor visa applications but have heard positive feedback from colleagues.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the new Canadian Refugee Protection Portal, which a colleague described as a ‘disaster.’  

For those of you navigating the clunky old portal and having trouble logging in, here are a few tricks to try:

  • If you are presented with the ‘welcome’ page (the one asking you to choose French or English), close the browser, reopen it, and without clearing your cache, try logging in again. 
  • If that doesn’t work, clear your cache/browsing history, close the browser, and then reopen it and try logging in again.
  • Next, repeat the steps above with different browsers.
  • In Chrome, use Incognito mode and in Edge, use InPrivate browsing. 
  • If you receive an error message, try clicking the back arrow or Alt-back arrow.  Do this each time you receive the error message.
  • Avoid business hours; try first thing in the morning or late at night.

Work-life balancing has been hard while dealing with all of these technical issues.  I don’t ask my staff to work at 11 pm on a weeknight.  The introduction of the new system will be a banner day for all of us in the immigration field.  

What IRCC Is, Is Not, and Cannot do for the People of Afghanistan

by Ronalee Carey Law

September 2021

If you tried to contact the IRCC Client Support Centre these past weeks, you likely received a message that a high volume of enquiries related to the crisis in Afghanistan has required a 'shift in resources.'  Webform responses state that no reply will be sent unless your query is on a list of those considered 'priority.’

Shortly after the crisis in Afghanistan erupted, the Canadian government announced that it would resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghan nationals to Canada.  It created two programs:

  • A special immigration program for those who had 'assisted the Government of Canada,' including interpreters and former Embassy staff. Applicants are permitted to apply directly to the program through an email address and do not have to be outside of Afghanistan.
  • A special humanitarian program to resettle vulnerable individuals, including women leaders, human rights advocates, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTI individuals, and journalists and people who assisted Canadian journalists. Applicants must be outside of Afghanistan and be designated as a refugee by the UNHCR or another designated referral organization. They will be resettled as either government or privately sponsored refugees.

The program to get interpreters and other individuals out of Afghanistan was limited by the Canadian military's decision not to send troops to assist those trying to get to the Kabul airport's secure area.  In this riveting podcast, you can listen to how the Globe and Mail assisted two of its interpreters to get to the airport with the help of soldiers from Ukraine. 

The special humanitarian program is a great start, but there are 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees in countries such as Pakistan and Iran.  And with the influx of individuals to neighbouring countries, UNHCR and other designated referral organizations will be hard-pressed to register all those in need of protection. 

Outside of the special immigration program for those who had assisted the government of Canada, IRCC does not have the mandate to help those still in Afghanistan.  By definition, a 'refugee' is someone who is outside of their country of nationality.  This definition is set out in the United Nation's 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.  The UN's definition of a refugee is incorporated into section 96 of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.  Groups such as the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program are hopeful that IRCC will create an expanded program to help those in and outside Afghanistan and are gearing up to be ready to help.  Dropping the requirement to have UNHCR status was done during the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015.

Concerning its regular immigration programs, in a program delivery update, Special measures for Afghanistan, IRCC mandated that the following types of applications will receive priority processing:

  • Visitor visa and sponsorship applications for immediate family members (spouses/partners, dependent children) of Afghan citizens or permanent residents
  • Protected persons applications for permanent residence for Afghan citizens where a spouse or children are residing outside of Canada
  • Dependents of resettled Afghan refugees

Thus, Canada is not providing priority processing to Afghan citizens who do not have a spouse or a parent in Canada.   

The Canadian Association of Refugees Lawyers has called on the Canadian government to issue temporary resident permits to allow family members to travel to Canada immediately.

I have received many inquiries from those wanting to help friends or family members, including aid workers in Afghanistan, resettled refugees in Canada, U.S. immigration lawyers, and members of the Canadian judiciary.  I have also heard of many Canadians wishing to sponsor Afghan refugees.  The will is there; there need only be the means.

 

How Much Has the Pandemic Impacted Processing Times? (Spoiler: A Lot)

by Ronalee Carey Law

August 2021

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has a nifty page on its website where you can look up how long your immigration application is likely to take to process. 

For months, the page has had a statement regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on processing times:

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