In an ideal world, applicants to Canada’s immigration system wouldn’t need an immigration lawyer. We do not live in an ideal world. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) website contains clear misstatements, conflicting advice, and information on programs that no longer exist. Faced with many obvious (and not so obvious) roadblocks, applicants can benefit significantly from the expertise of an immigration lawyer in navigating the complexities of Canada’s immigration system.
Misstatements on IRCC’s Website
Misstatements on IRCC’s Website Canadian immigration landscape is the presence of misstatements and inaccuracies on IRCC’s website. For example, the educational requirements for graphic designers to obtain a work permit under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) outlined on IRCC’s website do not mirror the requirements of the actual CUSMA. CUSMA indicates a graphic designer must have a “Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three year’s experience.” IRCC’s website, on the other hand, indicates a graphic designer must have a “Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial licence.”
The inaccurately posted requirements on IRCC’s website mean that an employer might decide against hiring a talented candidate because they mistakenly believe the candidate does not meet CUSMA’s requirements. In this instance, the impact on applicants and employers is significant, as relying on incorrect information harms careers and businesses. Additionally, when the public is misinformed about the immigration provisions of multilateral agreements, the broader goals of international treaties like CUSMA and Canada’s diplomatic agenda are compromised.
Regular website audits should be conducted to identify and rectify misstatements, ensuring accurate information is available to applicants.
Conflicting Information on IRCC’s website
IRCC’s Processing Times Tracker is a valuable resource for applicants, providing estimated timelines for visa processing. However, even this official tool is not immune to flaws. A recent example of conflicting information can be observed in the case of Pakistani visitor visa processing times. In early May 2023, the tracker displayed an alarmingly high processing time of 802 days. A tweet from the Minister of Immigration, Sean Fraser, clarified that the 802-day timeline was for applications backlogged due to the COVID-19 pandemic but that new applications would be processed in 30-60 days.
The impact on applicants is profound when decisions regarding whether to apply, the timing of family visits, etc., are made based on incorrect data. Based on the information in the tracker, many applicants have told me they’d rather not apply at all. These same applicants were shocked when I told them that new visitor visa applications should be processed within 1-2 months.
To prevent families, business travellers, and the like from making ill-informed visa decisions, IRCC should display multiple processing timelines on their tracker: (1) for those applications impacted by the pandemic; and (2) for fresh applications.
Outdated Program Information on IRCC’s website
Another challenge arises from outdated program information on IRCC’s website, specifically about programs that are closed.
For example, the operational manual for the Investor Visa program, which has been discontinued since 2014, is currently available under the “active manuals” list on IRCC’s website. Potential clients frequently contact me, asking to enrol in the Investor Visa program, having arranged their lives and assets to become eligible to immigrate to Canada under this program. I have to break their hearts by telling them they have invested time and money preparing for a program that hasn’t existed for almost a decade.
Outdated manuals have also led to 110 applicants taking the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to Federal Court – and winning. In Tafreshi v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2022 FC 1089, the applicants submitted their immigration applications based on information in the Entrepreneur and Self-Employed manual posted under “active manuals” on the IRCC website. Unbeknownst to the applicants, their applications were judged against a newer manual’s criteria. The judge found that, “IRCC’s labelling of [the manuals] created and continues to create a confusing situation, one which I am unable to ignore in considering the Applicants’ allegations of procedural unfairness.” The Federal Court ruled in the applicants’ favour.
To halt these heartbreaks and unnecessary litigation, IRCC must remove obsolete information from their websites.
Navigating Canadian Immigration Regulations
Clients ask me point blank during consultations: “Why should I hire you?” Ideally, there would be no need. But the reality is that applicants are navigating an immigration system racked with misstatements, conflicting data, and outdated information. When so much is on the line, and one small mistake or misunderstanding can have disproportionate consequences, proceeding without professional guidance can be incredibly risky.
Of course, IRCC’s resources are already spread thin, and policies change rapidly in this area of law. It is understandably difficult to keep informing the public of all the system’s moving parts. By the time the website team has been informed of a required change, the change might already be outdated.
But there is hope for a brighter future. If the will is present, additional resources could be allocated to maintaining and regularly auditing IRCC’s websites, ensuring instructional guides are consistent with international treaties, and routinely updating processing trackers. In the meantime, immigration lawyers are aspiring applicants’ superheroes in suits!
Yameena Ansari is the Founding Partner of Ansari Immigration Law. Seeking help navigating Canadian Immigration regulations? Reach out to Yameena and her team today