Last Updated On 8 October 2022, 5:53 PM EDT (Toronto Time)
Canada’s new online immigration system has numerous flaws that could hurt applicants’ futures. Several applicants and lawyers say Canada’s new immigration application platform is not user-friendly.
If you have been facing trouble logging into your application portal or do not have enough space, or are unable to upload specific documents due to their size, then you are not alone. Even Super Visa application portal is not recognizing .pdf format; although, it is mentioned that .pdf is an acceptable format.
As Ottawa continues to work on modernizing and digitizing its out-of-date system, above are some issues that immigration applicants and lawyers claim they have experienced when submitting applications through the federal government’s online portals.
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The new online immigration system
People can no longer submit paper applications unless they are excluded due to an accessibility issue, as the immigration department began its move to mandatory electronic submissions on September 23. Some of the technological issues, however, existed before that changeover.
These technology glitches could result in a high risk for permanent residency candidates. For example, a candidate could move months behind due to a flawed application caused by missing documents, incomplete information, or missed deadlines.
As a result, Canadian immigration lawyers insist Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on bringing back the change and accept paper applications. At least for the time being, until the system is proper and has technical support to help those who need it.
Lisa Middlemiss, chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration law division, says there are frequent technical issues with the online PR (permanent resident) portal and online PR representative portal. Additionally, these errors prevent applicants or attorneys from submitting their applications.
Why was the immigration system updated?
As a result of employees having to work from home and having restricted access to traditional paper files and documentation, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impeded Canada’s ability to process immigration petitions.
There were 2.4 million immigration applications in the system as of July, and 1.3 million had already taken longer than expected to process as per IRCC standards.
The immigration department expanded its online application system to manage increasing backlogs beyond temporary immigration programs, such as visitor visas, study permits, and work permits. The new addition is the Express Entry system to reduce processing times and backlogs.
To accept electronic applications for various permanent-residence programs for family reunification and skilled workers, officials soft-launched several new web portals last year.
Online applications were previously optional, despite the government investing $428.9 million over five years to establish a new, departmentwide digital platform.
Immigration department’s response to the technical issues
According to Isabelle Dubois, a spokeswoman for the immigration department, officials have taken the time necessary to ensure the successful conversion to online applications by thoroughly testing the technology, training staff members, and distributing it in a phased manner.
Before making the technology available to a larger audience, a small-scale controlled group of applicants tested, modified and improved user experience.
Since the permanent residence portal’s launch, she claimed there has only been one outage that affected customers, which occurred in June 2022.
Authorities did find a problem with the portal for authorized paid representatives that stopped certain representatives from getting a confirmation email after submitting payment and application; Dubois said the department is working to fix the problem.
Lawyer feedback on the online immigration system
According to Tamara Mosher-Kuczer, an immigration lawyer in Ottawa, some technical problems existed before the new portals. Still, more of them have emerged due to the need for all applications to be submitted online. Moreover, despite the department’s efforts to aid applicants, she claimed that the online user guidelines are unclear.
There are conventional paper forms as well as online forms that must be completed within the portal. But according to the new rules, those conventional paper forms now require digital signatures (using an encrypted and authenticated electronic fingerprint created by the signer).
She claimed that numerous lawyers have brought up these concerns with immigration officials over the previous year, but most of the issues mentioned have not been resolved.
According to Mosher-Kuczer, this requires “crazy” amounts of effort because attorneys must take screenshots of each procedure page for their records in case of a dispute to protect their client’s interests.
The immigration department’s Dubois says applicants and their legal counsel can find answers to their questions on the government’s FAQ page. In addition, they can submit a web form asking for help in case of no solutions.
Some of the prominent and ongoing issues in the new system
A Toronto attorney said, in a recent post on the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association website, that she had filed multiple web forms to get assistance with a portal problem. However, officials didn’t answer the queries; instead, they just emailed links to a web form in response.
Eventually, the department responded to the attorney, letting her know that her client had missed the deadline for submitting a permanent-resident application. The mistake was “due to a technical issue with our online tools,” according to an email from officials.
When contacting immigration in this way, according to Mosher-Kuczer, it may take weeks before someone responds, if at all.
Moreover, along with these obstacles, other issues cause rejection or investigation of applicants for possible misrepresentation. These include character count limits on some forms and problems adding supplemental information.
Additionally, the system limits the size of documents that may be uploaded, which is difficult for complex cases, according to Ronalee Carey, another immigration lawyer from Ottawa.
She claimed that as it is, the technology only serves as a “stopgap” method of receiving electronic applications, allowing immigration call centre staff to identify which office is in charge of an inquiry manually.
Carey recognizes that immigration officials must move through with the digitization plan to deal with the backlog issue. Still, tech support must be available to users around the clock, especially for applicants from outside who are in various time zones.
Because immigration petitions are time-sensitive and supporting documentation must be submitted by deadlines, Middlemiss claimed that these issues are system-wide and that her members are frustrated.
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