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It’s official: We have a new immigration backlog

It was an extraordinary promise. In 2008, Jason Kenney promised to cut the backlog for permanent residence applications — but many are still waiting.

It was an extraordinary promise.

On Oct. 30, 2008, Jason Kenney became Canada’s immigration minister and took hold of unprecedented new powers cleverly inserted by the Tories as amendments to our immigration laws in the 2008 budget bill, knowing full well that the opposition would not dare oppose it and risk triggering a federal election.

At that time, there were almost 997,000 applicants for permanent residence to Canada waiting in our backlog. Many were waiting up to six years or more for an answer from our immigration department.

On Nov. 28 2008, less than a month after he became immigration minister, Kenney announced how he would be using these special powers to advance what the Tories had dubbed as Canada’s “Action Plan for Faster Immigration.”

“The Plan” was fairly simple. Give priority to everyone who applied on or after Feb. 27, 2008 and dump into a backlog the hundreds of thousands who applied before that date.

Unfair, perhaps, but efficient.

To offset this unfairness, Kenney announced that “We expect new federal skilled worker applicants... to receive a decision within six to twelve months compared with up to six years under our old system.”

Pretty ambitious for a rookie minister, huh?

Since that announcement, the lawyers in my office and I have been telling our clients who were applying under the Federal Skilled Workers (FSW) category of the minister’s promise to process their applications within a year. However, we also cautioned them that we were sceptical that this result could be achieved or sustained.

Not surprisingly, it’s not working out quite as the minister expected.

Many FSW applications are languishing beyond the expected year, without explanation. Last week, my office received written confirmation from a visa post that a FSW application that we submitted after the announcement in June 2009, which should have been finalized by now, will take “at least 24 months” more to process.

The “6-12 months” promised by Kenney is now looking like “at least” three years or so... and counting.

And so, a new backlog is born!

There is more bad news: Those who applied under the FSW prior to Feb. 26, 2008 and who were processed in 2009 were completed in 26 to 60 months and saw a success rate of 58 per cent. Those who applied between Feb. 27, 2008 and Nov. 27, 2008 were processed in 7 to 17 months and witnessed an approval rate of a measly 12 per cent.

In 2009, only 1,712 applications that were submitted after November 28, 2008 were approved, reflecting a 16 per cent approval rate and a processing time of 2 to 7 months.

In sharp contrast, of the skilled workers who applied under the Quebec program and who were processed in 2009, a whopping 97 per cent were approved and in only 6-16 months. (How is that possible?)

In all categories, 20 per cent of the cases took longer to process.

By the end of 2009, our backlog of applicants was reduced only slightly to 945,445.

In the final analysis, and since Kenney’s announcement, our backlog has not gone away; 6 to 12 months has become at least three years; and approval rates in the FSW have become abysmal, especially when compared to similar cases in Quebec.

Kenney is now promising that if his refugee reform package Bill C-11 is passed, refugee claims will be completed in 60 or possibly 90 days instead of the current 19 months.

Beware of promises!

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is
certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration
specialist. For more information, visit www.migrationlaw.com or email metro@migrationlaw.com

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