Evidence of meeting #9 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was applications.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Sharon Chomyn  Director General, International Region, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Lillian Zadravetz  Immigration Program Manager, Chandigarh, India, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Sidney Frank  Immigration Program Manager, New Delhi, India, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Kent Francis  Acting Immigration Program Manager, Manila, Philippines, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Naeem  Nick) Noorani (President and Chief Executive Officer, Destination Canada Information Inc.
  • Colin Busby  Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute
  • Sima Sahar Zerehi  Communications Coordinator, Immigration Network

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Yes, please.

11:10 a.m.

Immigration Program Manager, Chandigarh, India, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Lillian Zadravetz

I'll finish my French.

Two visa application centres, in Chandigarh and Jalandhar, facilitate the handling of temporary resident applications. The vast majority of our applicants choose to use these centres.

The visa office in Chandigarh opened in 2004. It's currently staffed by five Canada-based officers and 18 locally engaged staff, supplemented in the summer by Canada-based temporary duty officers.

Our visitor, study, and work permit programs have grown rapidly since the office opened, with the total number of applications doubling since 2004. In 2010, we received close to 35,000 applications, of which 20,000 were visitor applications, almost 13,000 were study permit applications, and over 1,000 were work permit applications. There were also over 1,000 applications for permanent resident travel documents.

The summer peak period for visitor applications coincides with student applications for the September semester and also with the kabaddi program. So even with temporary duty over the summer, it is a challenge for Chandigarh to cope with the volumes over this period. On the other hand, Chandigarh is now increasingly issuing longer-term multiple-entry visas for frequent visitors, which will be more convenient for the clients and will lessen the processing burden on Chandigarh.

The kabaddi and religious worker programs we have in Chandigarh, which are important to the Punjabi community in Canada, require more processing steps and monitoring, thus requiring more resources. In 2011 we received approximately 1,600 applications from religious workers. The number of kabaddi applications in 2011 was 800, doubling last year's number and quadrupling levels from 2008 and 2009. We are working with the gurdwaras and the sports clubs to improve the process, but there are still some issues to be resolved.

To improve efficiency and processing times, we are continually looking for ways to streamline processing. But we are also operating in a high-risk environment where fraud is endemic. Confirmed and suspected fraud is encountered in a high number of cases and in all business lines, that is, those involving visitors, students, and workers. We must factor this fact into our risk management in order to protect the integrity of our programs.

Despite the economic growth in India, push factors from the Punjab are strong. Unscrupulous consultants play on this and actively dupe people into submitting applications with fraudulent documentation. There have even been fake visa officers who have visited villages and posed as consulate staff. Happily, law enforcement authorities in the Punjab are increasingly taking action against such fraudulent activities, and a few consultants have recently been arrested.

I would just like to add that the approval rate for Chandigarh's visitor applications has been slowly increasing to a current average of around 50%.

This is just a quick summary of Chandigarh's operations, but I would be happy to answer any questions the committee may have.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you, Ms. Zadravetz, for your contribution.

After we hear the other two speakers, I know there will be questions from members of the committee.

Sidney Frank, who is the immigration program manager of New Delhi, is speaking to us from Pakistan.

You're on the air, sir. You can proceed with your presentation.

November 15th, 2011 / 11:15 a.m.

Sidney Frank Immigration Program Manager, New Delhi, India, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

That's great. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the committee for inviting me to speak. My name is Sidney Frank, and I am the program manager of the New Delhi visa office and area director for South Asia.

I would like to provide a short overview, emphasizing topics that I understand are of most interest to the committee.

New Delhi is Canada's largest visa office, with over 150 staff. We are responsible for delivery of the immigration program in India, Nepal and Bhutan. A satellite office in Chandigarh processes temporary residence applications, primarily from the states of Punjab and Haryana.

We operate a network of visa application centres in nine major Indian cities and in Nepal to make the application process more convenient for private visitors, tourists, business travellers, students and temporary workers.

I am certain that you are aware that in spite of the current worldwide economic downturn, India's economy continues to grow rapidly. Consequently, our visitor, study permit, and work permit programs have grown very rapidly in the past decade. They have roughly tripled in size. This pattern continued in 2010, with an increase of about 20% over 2009 volumes.

New Delhi assessed over 96,000 temporary resident applications in 2010, and it receives over 1,500 passports on peak days. Nevertheless, we are able to maintain our processing standards on all temporary resident business lines at all times.

A significant portion of the Indian population has not benefited from economic growth. As a result, strong push factors for migration remain, and fraud and misrepresentation are widespread. In spite of high levels of fraud, roughly 75% of our temporary resident visa applications are approved.

We also have several innovative programs through which we work closely with stakeholders to facilitate documentation for low-risk travellers. For example, our business express program, in cooperation with about 55 large and reliable firms that do regular business in Canada, provides simplified documentation and 24- to 48-hour processing. It has an approval rate of over 98%.

Our student partners program, inaugurated in 2009, and now with 43 participating community colleges, has succeeded in improving approval rates and in quadrupling application volumes while managing risk through stricter documentation and feedback on actual attendance.

In each of our temporary resident business lines, processing times are falling. For example, 92% of all visitor visa applications are finalized within one week, and a growing number are done within two days.

India has been Canada's second-largest source of permanent residents in recent years. New Delhi issued over 25,000 permanent resident visas last year.

New Delhi has by far Canada's largest number of family class program applicants and also the largest inventory of economic category applications. They issue about 20% of the global family class visas each year.

In our priority category--spouses and dependent children--we finalize 80% of cases within six months. The median is three months. Although marriages of convenience are common, the large majority of marriages are genuine. About 82% are normally approved.

In the parents and grandparents category, output is managed globally. We process a sufficient number of cases each year to meet the objective assigned to the office. Current processing time at the visa office is 31 months, but this does not include sponsorship processing time at the case processing centre in Mississauga.

For sponsored parents and grandparents, the primary difficulty relates to the misrepresentation of dependent children. Many families provide fraudulent documentation showing that children are still full-time students, or they add unrelated children to their applications. As applicants are generally elderly, these cases are also frequently delayed by complex medical conditions.

New Delhi had the largest inventory of skilled worker cases submitted prior to the ministerial instructions pursuant to Bill C-50. In 2008-09 significant progress was made in reducing the pre-2008 inventory of over 140,000 persons to the 119,500 persons there are today, which is a decrease of 15%. The processing time for these cases continues to lengthen. It was 79 months in 2010.

Due to the large number of new cases submitted under ministerial instructions, we processed few old inventory cases in 2010. At the present time we are devoting all available resources to the quick processing of new cases received under the second and third set of ministerial instructions. In 2010 we finalized 80% of all these cases within 10 months.

New Delhi issued over 11,900 skilled worker visas in 2010, which was an increase from about 8,400 in 2009.

I would also note that New Delhi is quickly becoming one of the major source countries for provincial nominee programs. This program was small in India until recently, but tripled in size between 2008 and 2010.

The federal investor program was very small in Delhi in the past, with few applications prior to 2007. Intake has increased significantly in the past two years. In 2010 we finalized 80% of cases within 28 months.

I wish to assure you that the team in India is committed to the expeditious processing of all types of cases and is working hard to advance Canada's interests in India.

I also would be happy to answer any questions the committee might have.

Thank you.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you, sir.

Our final presenter, speaking from Manila, in the Philippines, is Mr. Kent Francis, who is the immigration program manager.

Welcome to the committee, sir.

11:20 a.m.

Kent Francis Acting Immigration Program Manager, Manila, Philippines, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm honoured to be here.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Please proceed with your presentation, sir. Thank you.

11:20 a.m.

Acting Immigration Program Manager, Manila, Philippines, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Kent Francis

My name is Kent Francis and I'm the acting immigration program manager in Manila.

I understand the committee is studying the immigration application backlog in light of the action plan for faster immigration. I will therefore provide you information on this in the context of Manila's operations.

Manila is a large centre for both permanent and temporary migration. Our office currently consists of 17 Canada-based officers, including a medical officer and migration integrity officer, and 77 locally engaged staff. It covers a large territory of Pacific islands, although the vast majority of the applications we receive are from the Philippines.

To give you an idea of the size of our program and to provide some context, on the temporary side we receive some 30,000 temporary resident applications per year. We also receive a large number of temporary foreign worker applications each year, but this number tends to fluctuate with the health of the Canadian economy. For example, in 2008, Manila received almost 29,000 temporary foreign worker applications but the number dropped by half the following year, and further in 2010. The 2009-2010 drop allowed us to reduce our inventory and processing time significantly.

We also have a sizeable live-in caregiver program and are making significant inroads in reducing inventories and processing times in that category.

With respect to permanent migration, we issued more than 27,000 permanent resident visas last year and will issue between 25,000 and 26,000 permanent resident visas this year. Of note is the large increase in the provincial nominee program in Manila over the last few years. Almost 10,000 visas were issued in that category in 2010. For 2011 we will issue more than 10,000 visas, the vast majority processed in less than a year.

Manila also has a large federal skilled worker program. We have been able to process the majority of our skilled worker applications received after July 2010, the so-called C-50 MI-2 cases, and have also processed many of our C-50 MI-1 cases, but only a few of our pre-C-50 inventory. We continue to have a large inventory and we are working to reduce it.

Our economic immigrant programs such as provincial nominees and federal skilled workers will account for about 15,000 permanent resident visas this year. The remaining visas will come from dependents of live-in caregivers and family class.

Manila sees a large and increasing number of applications from dependent family members of live-in caregivers in Canada. For the second year in a row, we issued 6,000 visas in that category in 2010 and will do so again this year. In the family class category, we issued more than 4,000 visas in 2010, and processing times for family class priority cases—spouses, partners, and children—remain within the departmental service standards.

As we moved from the older CAIPS system to GCMS to process cases, we looked at each step to determine if there were ways to cut time and if there were steps that could be eliminated altogether, for low-risk cases. We have made changes that allow some cases to be processed in a matter of a few months. We also took the opportunity to clean up our older inventory. For parents and grandparents and other family class applications, we expect to issue more than 900 visas this year but will continue to have a large inventory, and our processing times are about two and a half years. We continue to recognize the inconvenience this may cause and show flexibility by issuing visitor visas to parents and grandparents who are waiting for their immigrant application to be finalized.

While there is fraud in the Manila immigration program, it is not as prevalent as in other programs. Nevertheless, Manila continues to conduct quality assurance and anti-fraud exercises to detect fraud and reduce our risk. There are, however, challenges that are particular to Manila. For example, communication outside major urban centres is sometimes not reliable. This is particularly true for the postal service to rural areas. There are also other factors that help Manila process applications in a timely manner, including the fact that the majority of our applicants are from the Philippines and can easily travel to Manila for an interview if required.

In closing, Mr. Chair, Manila is in a good position to deliver on its commitment again this year and to further reduce processing times in key categories. However, in a program as large as Manila's with important fluctuations in some categories and the support we provide to other missions in our area, we need to always be prepared to prioritize and reallocate resources as needed and to constantly review our internal procedures to find more efficiencies and to provide better service to our clients, and that is what we're doing.

For example, as part of our efforts at the local level, we have implemented several changes as a result of the global case management system and the suite of electronic services we have, which are beginning to have a positive impact on our work.

Manila has had GCMS for almost a year now, and we already see gains in terms of processing efficiencies, redistribution of work, and tracking of cases. We have leveraged its capabilities so we can better manage our permanent resident cases by immigrant category and processing stage.

We have learned and developed these techniques and shared them with other offices through the CIC Wiki, and we have also benefited from lessons learned and best practices of other offices, such as the one in New Delhi.

Thank you.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you very much to all of you.

We're now going to proceed with questions from the committee. The first member of the committee who wishes to address you is John Weston, who is with the government.

Mr. Weston.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all our guests today.

I think that all Canadians are particularly proud of our Department of Citizenship and Immigration. The results you've reported today are outstanding. The application rate is enormous.

I have some relevant experience. Twenty years ago, I worked for the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei. I know what pressure is on you when you work abroad. So we salute you and congratulate you on this marvellous job.

I have a few questions about applications that you raised. The first one is about fraud.

Ms. Zadravetz and Mr. Frank, you said that there was a considerable amount of fraud. Can you say how many files are affected by fraud?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Ms. Zadravetz is first, please.

11:30 a.m.

Immigration Program Manager, Chandigarh, India, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Lillian Zadravetz

Thank you.

There is one way of counting fraud, and that is the number of applicants we find inadmissible because of confirmed frauds. We find them inadmissible for two years because of the fraud that was committed.

Last year we had 654 such applications, where we discovered and verified fraud. We offer the applicants the opportunity to respond to those concerns. If they respond, then we assess the response and make our determination. That is a long process, especially when we're giving the applicant time to respond. We give them 30 days.

It is something that we do, but I would say that we don't do it in every single case. If we find highly suspect documents, and there are other reasons that we would not be satisfied that the applicant meets our requirements or is inadmissible, we may simply refuse.

We don't have numbers for those cases. The figure of 654 is a firm number, but I would say we have discovered fraud in a number of other cases but did not go to that length to find the person inadmissible.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Frank, can you give me a short answer, please?

11:30 a.m.

Immigration Program Manager, New Delhi, India, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Sidney Frank

The majority of applications refused by us, especially those for temporary resident visas, involve fraud or false statements. As Ms. Zadravetz explained, we can refuse applications under section 40 of the act. We don't do that all the time, especially during the high season. However, it's true that people are going to make false statements to give us the impression that they're working at a certain place, although they aren't working, that they've completed certain studies that they haven't really done, or that they have money in a certain bank account, which in fact doesn't exist. This practice is very widespread among many of the applications we refuse.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Thank you.