US and Canadian Immigration Lawyer Andy Semotiuk: Now that the Liberal party has won the Canadian federal election, changes are sure to be coming to Canada’s immigration policy. For starters, Chris Alexander will no longer be the immigration minister – indeed, Alexander did not even keep his seat in Parliament.
While the Liberals might be taking time to pat themselves on the back for winning a majority government, I believe they need to quickly get down to business. Here are five changes that the Liberal government needs to make to Canadian immigration procedures. Immigration professionals will especially recognize the importance of these changes in better serving immigrants to Canada:
- Provide advance notice to the immigration community of a change in the paperwork to be used in immigration cases. Believe it or not, you can spend months making sure everything is filled out correctly, only to start over when the government changes a form in the most trivial way.
- Use a system of ‘requests for further evidence’ for obtaining information that may be missing from a form, rather than the current policy of returning all incomplete submissions. Is an address missing? Did someone forget to check a box? Then call the person or their counsel so they can quickly solve the problem. Don’t toss the whole file.
- Improve the function of the national call centers. No more 90 minute waits to talk to someone and then getting cut off or, worse yet, simply having your call go unanswered that day.
- Introduce clear, one-address contacts for all immigration processing offices. This includes overseas consulates and visa application centers whether it be for mailing, couriers and personal visits. There is nothing as frustrating as receiving a letter of denial from an office with no return address, phone number or email contact.
- Respect the right to counsel as represented by the use of representative forms. Even where the right to counsel is not specifically spelled out in the rules, honor counsel by copying them on correspondence with the client. Counsel will likely be able to promptly solve the issue.
These steps would go a long way in alleviating the biggest problem facing immigrants to Canada today: delays, delays, delays. And more delays.