Recently, I have dealt with several files where the issues were entirely a matter of technology and administrative challenges, rather than substance. In the cases that come to mind, refusals/litigation could have been avoided with what in my mind is a simple solution – moving the Response to Further Information Request system to an online form/upload/portal based system.
Currently, when Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) request further information, most of the time this takes the form of a letter or email sent to the email address on file, usually the Applicants or their Representatives. Often times it is unclear what file the request or confirmation is referring to due to a lack of identifying features on the usually generic IRCC letters.
Upon receipt, applicants are given a set amount of time to respond. Many times it is not made clear where to respond. Other times it specifies it should be done by email.
The email response process comes with its’ fair share of inherent challenges. In fact, earlier this year, as one of their first Operational Bulletins since taking over power, IRCC set to clarify the process by which email communication with clients is to take place. OB265A is accessible here.
Asides from the issues listed in the Bulletin, there are often several other issues. For one, it is quite common that Requests for Further Information, particularly in the context of a file with a long immigration history such changes in email address and representative’s email, go to the wrong address. It is quite embarrassing for both client and old/new representative, when the email goes to the old representative instead of the new, particularly where the client may no longer be on good terms with the old representative. I have heard of several cases of delay on the part of old representatives in passing on information to the client, in some cases leading to refusals.
Second, the process of uploading attachments to emails bound for IRCC inboxes is unclear. I personally, set myself a 5MB limit for attachments, after which I will try to send a separate email. However, it is entirely unclear what IRCC’s inbox limits are and whether the documents are received in good condition. Just think about the number of times we receive corrupted files in our own day-to-day emailing.
Third, IRCC (particular I found internal visa offices) asides from automatic replies, rarely confirms delivery of further submissions sent by emails. Particularly where further clarification or extension is being sought, this leads to a long “wait and see” approach that generates a lot of unnecessary stress for all parties.
Possible Solution – Utilizing a Secure Online Form/Portal for Submission
From my understanding of IRCC’s online application systems, there are already mechanisms in place for requests for further information to occur online. Of course, this is complicated in a paper-based PR process – again, an issue I think in itself will need to be revisited. However, it makes sense to me that a portal – similar to that used for online TRV/study/work permit applications exist so that applicants can have peace of mind that their uploads have been properly uploaded and their documents properly received. This has the added benefit of being able to require a digital signature of the Applicant, to verify that all the documents are true – adding a potential barrier against A40 Misrepresentation.
What are your thoughts on possible solutions here? Do you agree that moving things digitally would promote greater procedural fairness? What do we do about several countries where access to technology/the internet is not up to par?