Skilled Worker Cases at Sydney: the Toronto Immigration Lawyers perspective
By Author: Admin | September 20, 2010
Centralized processing may save the Canadian government money. Prior to November 28 2008, Canada’s immigration department had a de-centralized method of processing where applications were processed outside of Canada. Prior to June of 2002, visa offices were subject to ‘visa office shopping’ by Toronto Immigration lawyers and Canadian immigration lawyers in general. The factors chosen by these Toronto immigration lawyers and Canadian immigration lawyers included processing times, which program manager was sitting where, whether there were visa officers who were interested, and whether the clerical staff did their job competently, among other things.
The November 28 2008 change ushered in the expansion of centralized processing into the federal skilled worker program and business categories such as investor and entrepreneur (prior to this only family class applications were centrally screened in Canada at the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga, an exurb of Toronto where South Asian and Chinese food venues are gradually supplanting British pubs). For an immigration lawyer sitting in Toronto, or in Canada generally, the initial change was likely uneventful, due to the fact that the initial change only required the application forms to be submitted to Sydney, as opposed to an entire package of documents. The officers of the Canadian immigration department at Sydney were screening the immigration application for completeness, and whether or not the correct visa office was selected for further processing.
There is a valid outcry by Canada’s immigration lawyers on the idiosyncratic method of assessment by the Canadian immigration office at Sydney. As a Toronto immigration lawyer, I was very surprised to have a file returned because I selected the destination office for my client as “Syria”, instead of Damascus. Or, for example, having a package returned because too many of the immigration photos submitted had the client’s name inscribed on the back. Similarly, I had a file returned because I indicated “any office in the USA” as a destination for a client file rather than “Buffalo”. Being familiar with Regulation 10 of Canada’s Immigration Refugee Protection Regulations I did not think my phrasing of the destination visa office was material to Reg 10.
As of June 26 2010 Centralized processing at the CIO (“Centralized Intake Office”) at Sydney took on a bold new meaning the screening of an entire package of documents by an officer at the Centralized Intake Office, as opposed to screening merely the forms. I know what most laypersons are thinking: yawn. Files are now looked at in their entirety at the Centralized Intake Office. Big. Deal.
However, this is an attempt at more consistent decision making, and more accountability. This is something of interest to a Toronto Immigration lawyer and any immigration lawyers based in Canada. The consistent decisions sought by Canadian immigration lawyers are supposed to be positive ones (leading to visa issuance), based on our actions, done in the best interests of our clients within the boundaries of the law. Accountability may not be forthcoming due to staffing concerns and the narrow mandate of the Centralized Intake Office: to screen a package only and not make a substantive positive decision, but only a positive screening decision.
There are about forty-seven (47) persons staffing the Centralized Intake Office: an office where one or two thousand applications come in every week. This seems like a skeletal staff given the quantity of applications received. This may make the Centralized Intake Office not ready for prime time.
Will there be cost savings for the government? This is hard to say, as I am a Toronto immigration lawyer, not an employee of the government. But in bureaucratic logic, where hammers cost $436.00, Canada’s immigration department is often preoccupied with ‘final dispositions’, which mean approvals or refusals. I, along with other Canada immigration lawyers have witnessed first hand the ‘final disposition’ of a file, only to be resubmitted again after a minor change (e.g. from “Syria” to “Damascus”). This merry-go-round of processing can at best be a minor annoyance, or at worst, can eliminate a client’s rights. I suppose it increases the ‘final dispositions’ at the Centralized Intake Office which may be a marker of efficiency, and harbinger of increased funding to the CIO.
One example of eliminating a client’s right is when the law changes. The occupation list for Immigration to Canada changed on June 26 2010. In the situation of a change in the laws, the refusal of an immigration application based on a trivial matter around the time of the change in the occupation list can mark the death knell for an applicant whose work experience is no longer on the new occupation list. The only remedy in this situation is to seek judicial review of the refused decision at the Federal Court of Canada. Judicial review ‘locks in’ the date of assessment as of the time in which the original application was submitted.
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