On June 15, Citizenship and Immigration Canada disclosed how it plans on processing Federal Skilled Worker applications in a year or less.

Under our “old system” -- those cases that were received before February 27, 2008 -- such cases took two to six years on average to process. All applications were sent to a visa post that served the applicant’s country of nationality or residence. Visa posts were never obligated to finalize an application within a certain amount of time. They often estimated how long the process might take but were often wrong. Cases languished, and a backlog measured in the hundreds of thousands resulted. Our immigration department often found itself working on files that were old, that needed updating, and that involved applicants who had lost interest in coming to Canada.

A new regime dubbed an “Action Plan for Faster Immigration” was announced on Nov. 28, 2008 which had retroactive application to all cases submitted after Feb. 27, 2008. This plan was accompanied by an undertaking by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to process these new cases in six to twelve months.

Such cases are now being screened by a new Centralized Intake Office (CIO) in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The CIO receives the application fee, creates a computer file, and enters key data into its computer system. It also assesses the work experience claimed by the applicant.

The CIO sends a letter to those applicants that do not qualify stating that they are ineligible and that a refund will be forthcoming.

If the CIO determines that the applicant appears to qualify, it transfers the applicant’s electronic data to the appropriate visa post and sends a letter to the applicant stating that all supportive materials must be sent to that visa post within 120 days.

The operational bulletin released on June 15 explains how the visa post will ensure that the six to twelve month processing target will be achieved.

Firstly, applicants are being advised through the online application guide that they should not start the process if they are not able to submit all of the expected documents to the visa post within 120 days. The kit states that “visa offices are strictly enforcing the 120-day rule and will not provide extensions.” Legally speaking, CIC must entertain requests for extensions but applicants should not count on getting them easily.

Applicants who miss the 120-day deadline will not be sent a reminder. Officers will “make final determinations quickly in the absence of any submission.” In other words, if you’re late, expect a quick refusal.

If the visa officer receives the material within 120 days, they will review the material “as-is.” If the applicant’s documents are poor in quality, are incomplete, or fail to prove some aspect of the applicant’s experience or credentials, the officer will not be asking for clarification or better supportive documents. Instead, they will simply refuse the application.

Any documents received after a final determination of eligibility will simply be ignored.

This no-nonsense and unforgiving approach may be quick, but applicants whose documents fall short in the slightest way may find themselves going through this process more than once.

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at metro@migrationlaw.com.

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