Thank you very much. Good morning.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to thank the committee for inviting me to speak. My name is Kathleen Sigurdson, and I am the immigration program manager in Moscow, Russia.
I would like to provide a short overview of the program in Moscow, emphasizing topics that I believe are of the most interest to the committee. The Moscow visa office is a full service centre, serving a vast territory spanning nine time zones and comprising six countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Armenia. Of these countries, Russia provides two-thirds of the office's permanent resident application intake and 86% of the temporary resident application volume.
There are eight Canadian-based officers in Moscow, including two mission integrity officers employed by Canada Border Services Agency and 28 permanent locally engaged staff positions. Unlike many missions, there are no local decision-makers in Moscow.
The year 2010 brought with it numerous specific challenges and pressures. The Winter Olympics and G-8/G-20 in early 2010 placed increased demands on the temporary resident program. The fires and heat wave during the summer of 2010 resulted in the evacuation of most of the Canadian visa officers, though basic operations continued and the embassy remained open. All of these factors inevitably meant that in 2010, temporary resident processing often took priority over permanent resident files.
I will now talk about temporary residents. Despite the fact that Russia was seriously affected by the global economic crisis in 2009, Russians are more interested than ever in visiting Canada. The overall trend over the past four years has been a considerable increase in temporary resident visa applications.
In total, the office processed temporary resident visa applications from 25,024 people in 2010, with an overall approval rate of 81%. This represents a 17% increase over 2009.
Regarding students, the number of study permit applications received in 2010 remained at the same level as 2009, with 1,518 applications.
Regarding temporary foreign workers, in 2010, Moscow received 473 applications for work permits. Intra-company transferees constitute most of the applications for work permits in Moscow.
I will now address the permanent resident program in Moscow, which I understand to be the main area of interest for the standing committee.
Fraud and misrepresentation are problems in most immigration application streams. Of the 200 immigrant refusals in 2010, approximately 5% resulted in a report for misrepresentation. This is often due to fraudulent education or employment documents.
In 2010, there was a considerable reduction in the intake of both federal and Quebec economic applications. Application intake under federal skilled worker and business categories was nearly half that of 2009. This is likely a direct result of Bill C-50 and is also likely related to the recent economic recovery in Russia. Moscow does not have an inventory of skilled worker applications received before November 2008, or pre-Bill C-50.
The approval rate for federal skilled worker and business cases in 2010 was 75%, slightly less than in 2009. For Quebec skilled worker and business cases, it was more or less unchanged at 96%.
Investors: there are 81 federal investor cases in process and 31 active investor cases selected by Quebec. All of our federal cases predate the administrative pause on federal investor processing of June 28, 2012. Lengthy background checks have contributed to the long processing times of federal investors of 43.5 months. Processing times for Quebec investor cases are somewhat shorter, at 32.1 months.
Family class: spouses and common-law partners represent 56% of the total family class intake, which was 551 in 2010. The current processing time for 80% of spouses and common-law partner applications is 9.4 months, with an approval rate of 91%. The main reason for refusals in these cases remains marriages of convenience.
Children represent 4% of the family class intake; 80% of applications are processed within 7.5 months, with an approval rate of almost 83%.
Parents and grandparents represent 26% of the family class intake. Processing time for 80% of these applications is 26 months, with an approval rate of 93%.
Adoptions represent 13% of family class intake. Processing time for 80% of applications is 3.6 months. There were no refusals in 2010 under this category, and problems in this movement are rare.
Refugees, protected persons: visas issued to refugees nearly doubled in 2010, primarily as a result of the resumption of regular referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the second half of 2009 and several interview trips conducted in former Soviet republics of central Asia in both 2009 and 2010. This has led to a moderate growth of an inventory of government-assisted refugees and privately sponsored refugee cases, allowing for better refugee target management. Processing times for most refugees were also reduced significantly in 2010. Security and war crimes concerns are not infrequent in Moscow's refugee caseload, and lengthy background checks continue to create a challenge for managing targets.
In terms of client service initiatives, there is a strong perception among hosts, partners and the business community that processing times for temporary residents are too long and the application process is burdensome. In the past six months, numerous improvements to client service have been made for high-profile, business and other urgent cases.
I wish to assure you, Mr. Chair, that we are committed to providing excellent and timely client service for applicants in all categories while upholding our obligation to protect the health and safety of Canadians. In addition to considering the feasibility of streamlining certain aspects of our upfront immigration screening process, we have planned various quality assurance activities for the immigration program in 2011.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.