Eddie Song is a permanent residency applicant living in Winnipeg. He applied through the Express Entry program in February of 2020 and obtained a nomination from the Province of Manitoba. However, his and seven other applicants’ stress levels began to climb when there was no change to the status of their applications for over a year.
NCM took their concerns to the IRCC to find out why the applications were delayed, why they were routed to a small IRCC office in Etobicoke, Ont., and how can there be a backlog when immigration fell because of the pandemic.
“As we confront the pandemic and chart a course for our recovery, attracting skilled immigrants—who bring the talents and skills our economy needs to thrive—is a central part of our plan,” the IRCC spokesperson replied, skirting NCM’s questions. They went on to talk about how the IRCC is introducing new techniques and is adapting to the pandemic. “In the face of great challenges, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is rapidly adapting, innovating and evolving to best serve Canadians and those who wish to come here.”
Here is the IRCC response in full.
“They’re just telling people what they already know”
Song doesn’t hide his frustration with the IRCC’s response. “I just feel disappointed. Maybe also frustrated. They’re just telling people what they already know,” he told NCM about his reaction to the response. “They just keep telling people what jobs they are doing.”
Song says his application has not been looked at since last June. His and his husband’s medicals expired two months ago, and no extensions or re-examination dates have been granted. Song is leading the push to demand answers about the status of his application and those of seven other hopefuls. He compiled their statements in one document and distributed it to as many news outlets as possible.
“They said the (delay) was because of COVID-19. You just have to be patient,” Song told NCM. “No matter what they are doing right now, they just say ‘because of COVID-19 we don’t have the staff to process the application.’” But Song isn’t buying it. He says applicants who have applied as late as last October, November and even December got their approvals. “We are backlogs. They don’t even touch your file.”
Saeedeh Afshari, who immigrated from Iran, shares in Song’s desperation. With a PhD student husband who is in Canada on a study permit, the computer data scientist relies for her job on her application going through. She supports herself and her husband.
“Without a permanent residency, there are many things you cannot do. Like it is difficult to change jobs. Your employer needs you to have PR,” Afshari said. She gained Canadian experience by working and studying in British Columbia for just over four years. She was told that her application would take around six months but says it has been more than a year.
“From August till now, I’m calling them every weekend. Every two weeks I am sending email. And nothing. From call centres, the answer is to wait, be patient.” Both Song an Afshari have spent more than $3,000 on their applications.
News outlets have been repeatedly reporting that immigration numbers are at historic lows. The Globe and Mail reported last month that immigration last year dropped to its lowest level since 1998. A total of 184,370 people were welcomed in 2020 compared to 341,175 the previous year, based on the IRCC data; the immigration level in 1998 was around 174,000 people. The lower numbers would suggest a lower workload. The IRCC did not comment on what is causing the backlog.
Mansoor Tanweer is New Canadian Media’s Local Journalism Initiative reporter on immigration policy. An immigrant himself, he has covered municipal affairs and the Brampton City Council in addition to issues relating to newcomers over several years.