Any person versed in civics lessons knows that the government (in a democratic society) serves the people. If the government offers a service, it should let people know about that service. People should be given enough information to avail themselves of a government service as they deem appropriate. Canada’s immigration department has an immigration website which provides most of the forms necessary to make most of the applications needed by most people. There is also (in Canada) a call centre. The official role of the call centre is as follows: “Call Centre agents can help you with questions about in‑Canada processes for citizenship and immigration programs and services.” There is a qualification, stated as follows:
“Please note: Agents cannot make decisions on applications that are being processed by Case Processing Centres or CIC offices, nor can they assist in processing applications more quickly.”
There is also a description of the typical uses of the call-centre as follows:
- listen to pre-recorded information about Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) programs,
- order application kits, and
- check the status of your application.
I think the above descriptions are good except for one omission: the above descriptions to not adequately spell out what a call-centre agent is NOT to do. In an ideal world, the call centre, as described on the Canada’s official immigration website (www.cic.gc.ca) should mention in very explicit terms that a call-centre agent is NOT a source of advice. Some immigration lawyers go farther and state that the call centre agents should only provide information on the status of the file to the client or the client’s representative, and not even refer to any forms on the cic website.
Those on the jaded side of things would disagree and feel that it is just fine to for the Canadian government to have call-centre agents give advice on how and where to file applications, what type of application is appropriate to file in any situation, etcetera. Those on the jaded or cynical side may feel that this can cut out the ‘middle man’ (i.e. immigration lawyers who practice Canadian immigration law). The jaded types would be right, but only if immigration services were akin to pizza selection and delivery.
I like different types of pizza every time I order one: thin crust/goat cheese sometimes, regular crust/double cheese other times. Sometimes I prefer different toppings on one side (e.g. just cheese and pepperoni on one half for the kids, while the other side may have ‘icky’ things like banana peppers and pineapple for the adults). When I pick up the phone, I place my order, and the pizza comes within minutes, as I requested; works like a charm. By contrast, Immigration services require a whole lot more detail. Every competent immigration lawyer asks lots and lots of questions about any number of things such as a person’s work/educational circumstances, previous dealings with the immigration department, details about family members, travel history, employment history, and more. With that information in hand, the lawyer can then advise a client. It is completely inappropriate for a call-centre agent to listen to a person describe their situation (usually in a few minutes) and advise what immigration form is necessary and where to file it – trouble often results.
But as the title above states, there is a love aspect to these situations. Immigration lawyers often deal with clients who followed the incorrect advice of the call-centre. These clients have gotten into trouble like missing deadlines, or have filed the wrong application, or have filed the right application at the wrong location. When the waste matter hits the fan (usually in the form of a rejection letter), the client will come to me, refusal letter in hand, and ask what can be done. Sometimes nothing can be done, and I advise the client accordingly. Other times, the client and I can work together and come up with a solution. However, this solution is usually much more expensive than the initial visa application that was incorrectly lodged. In other words, the call-centre is sometimes a good source of work for immigration lawyers. We love this. However, justice would dictate that the call-centre simply advise on the status of a previously lodged case, which makes immigration cases less complicated and less expensive.