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.