Helping IRCC communicate better

  • January 21, 2022

Few people know the challenges of communicating with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada like lawyers whose job is to represent IRCC applicants. In a letter to IRCC, the Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association summarizes feedback provided by its members, “in the hope that they may assist IRCC in evaluating and improving its client communication mechanisms.”

Some 110 members of the CBA Section provided their comments. Overall, the survey shows legal representatives typically use multiple means of communications on single issues, which is an inefficient use of resources – for the lawyers and for the government.

Below is a summary of the prevalent trends outlined in answers to the survey.

Interactions with visa posts

When lawyers need to reach IRCC to discuss overseas applications, they tend to send both an email to the generic IRCC email address as well as an inquiry using the webform. To little effect, as the majority of respondents report being dissatisfied that their inquiries went unanswered, and half of respondents say “they did not receive any acknowledgement of receipt within 30 days of submitting their inquiry.”

Interactions with Case Review teams

Immigration lawyers sometimes have to reach out to the Case Review team. About one-third of respondents reported doing so when dealing with urgent matters. At best, they say, the Case Review team is “somewhat responsive.” They also report the responses are often unhelpful, “stating either that the Case Review team has no authority to intervene and referring the issue back to the visa office without intervention,” the letter reads.

Interactions with Program Managers

Program Managers fare better in the experience of members of the Immigration Law Section, at least when it comes to being responsive to queries. Usually queries to Program Managers happen because of one of two reasons: seriously excessive processing times and errors that need fixing. In the experience of survey respondents, the level of responsiveness by Program Managers varies across different offices.

Interactions with Case Specific Enquiry

Members of the Immigration Law Section who answered the survey say they send Case Specific Enquiries, or CSE, much more often than other kinds of communications, usually about applications that are pending in Canada. The CSE team was generally considered responsive, especially when respondents used this channel to submit new information or document, the CBA letter reads. But not when used to request urgent processing.

“Unfortunately, respondents found the responses unhelpful, as they tended not to answer their query or they requested a new Use of Representative form when a valid one was already on file with IRCC,” the Section writes. Similar responses were given when respondents were asked whether the CSE team was responsive in dealing with reporting of errors or requests for reconsideration. “Again, the reason cited is that the response was either not given or was given too late.”

Interactions with the IRCC call centre

Respondents agreed, nearly unanimously, to describe the IRCC call centre as unhelpful. “The most commonly cited reasons for dissatisfaction were long wait times and the lack of helpfulness once they manage to get through to an operator.”

Receiving communications in error

Sending information or communications to the wrong recipient is a serious breach of confidentiality and privacy. A number of respondents to the CBA survey reported having received communications in error from IRCC.

“We recommend that IRCC establish a dedicated email for representatives to report these occurrences,” the CBA Section writes, “so the correct applicant is not prejudiced by the delay in receiving the notice and steps can be taken to mitigate breaches of privacy.”