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Canadian Bar Association Raises Client Concerns with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

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The Canadian Bar Association (CBA), the largest professional association for lawyers in Canada, has requested an emergency meeting with officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly known as CIC) to discuss technical and client service issues, particularly with respect to online services.

In a letter sent to the Director General of IRCC’s Operational Management and Coordination, three principal areas of concern were outlined by the Chair of the CBA Immigration Law Section, Stéphane Duval. These related to:

  • webform inquiries not being reviewed and/or forwarded to the office handling the case;
  • requests for additional documents to be submitted mid-processing, yet ports for the documents to be uploaded not opening; and
  • Case Review taking 30 days or more to respond to enquiries.

Members of the CBA are currently compiling a list of related issues and examples to further illustrate the issues raised in the letter, which was publicized on February 10, 2016 in National magazine, the official periodical of the CBA.

‘These technical and client service issues have resulted in numerous cases being closed or refused due to “incomplete” applications or for a “failure to provide requested documents,” when documents have been provided via the webform or portal (and often via an additional back-up method, such as courier or email to the responsible office). The additional documents are simply not being properly reviewed, noted or matched up to the in-progress application,’ states the letter.

‘In the meantime, people are out of work, damages are accruing, and there is no simple or expeditious way to resolve issues that stem from inefficiencies and problems with IRCC’s tools and service options.’

An increasing amount of IRCC/CIC services have moved online over recent months and years. The most well-known example is the Express Entry immigration selection system, which was launched in January, 2015. In addition to Express Entry, however, many applications made under the various Provincial Nominee Programs — as well as numerous applications for temporary residence in Canada — are now processed either entirely or primarily through online services. Previously, the principal method of communication and submission of requested documents was via post (mail).

The concerns highlighted by the CBA may be of particular concern to applicants who have not retained legal counsel for the purposes of their application to immigrate to Canada.

The importance of getting it right

‘The decision to immigrate to Canada is typically one of the top three most important decisions that an individual might make over the course of his or her life. This reality is even more heightened when one is also making the decision on behalf of accompanying family members,’ says Attorney David Cohen.

‘Not far behind the initial decision to immigrate rests another decisive decision, namely whether to go it alone, or whether to retain the services of an experienced representative to assist and provide legal counsel throughout the immigration process.

‘What is particularly noteworthy from this CBA request for a meeting with IRCC is that it raises issues about applications that have already been submitted. Oftentimes when candidates receive an Invitation to Apply through Express Entry, for example, they may think that they already have at least one foot in Canada. The reality, however, is that it is only by getting the next part — the actual application — right that applicants can reduce the risk of experiencing the kind of pitfalls that have befallen other applicants.’

To learn more about legal advice and services for Canadian immigration, visit the new Legal Services section on

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