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CIMM Committee Report

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Government Response to the Ninth Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, entitled Modernizing Client Service Delivery

Introduction

The Government of Canada thanks the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) for its ninth report, entitled Modernization of Client Service Delivery, which was tabled in the House of Commons on March 23, 2017.

The Government’s ability to provide quality, timely and efficient service is central to ensuring a high-performing immigration system that maintains the confidence of Canadians and is reflective of the Government’s goal to continue welcoming those who want to contribute to the future of Canada.

The Committee’s study and the resulting Report provide the Government with an opportunity to build upon significant gains made in recent years and explore the ways in which the Department can further modernize to meet client needs and expectations going forward. The Government welcomes the Committee’s work examining client service delivery issues from the broad and rich perspectives of stakeholders and parliamentarians who participated in the study.

The modernization of client service

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is a service-focused Department that operates a vast service delivery network, interacting with millions of clients in Canada and across the globe every year, including applicants for electronic travel authorizations, visas, permanent residency, asylum and resettlement, citizenship and passports, as well as Canadian sponsors, employers and schools, amongst others.

The immigration program is growing and permanent resident admissions and temporary resident volumes are on the rise. At the same time, clients increasingly expect fast, streamlined and electronic service.

In recent years, coordinated efforts to increase levels space, invest in technology, and re-engineer existing processes have resulted in: the Express Entry application system for economic immigration; reduced inventories and faster processing times for spousal and citizenship grant applications; end to end automated service for most Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) clients; and, increased availability of electronic application forms and online tools to check application processing times and access case status information.

Despite these significant modernization gains, the Government acknowledges that clients are also concerned about how we engage with them over the course of their wait time, however long that may be.  The Department’s services touch on very important decisions and milestones in people’s lives, and it is imperative they are delivered in a way that reflects the very best of what Canada has to offer.

Better service can attract global talent, ease business and tourist travel, and benefit those reuniting families or seeking refuge in Canada. Failure to address common frustrations and issues will continue to impact clients and stakeholders, as well as Departmental operations, as it results in high volumes of enquiries and requests for help which could be avoided if the client experience was improved.

The Government shares the Committee’s commitment to improving client service and welcomes the focus on this subject, which is a key Departmental priority. Indeed, in 2017 the Government has mandated the Department to work on reducing processing times and on improving its service delivery and client services to make them timelier and less complicated. Additionally, in the Budget Implementation Act, 2017 (BIA), the Government proposes to make amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to ensure that the Express Entry system “is responsive to the needs of the Canadian labour market, and that the candidates most likely to succeed in Canada are selected.” This legislative change will benefit clients and increase processing flexibility and efficiency.

The response below to the Committee’s recommendations is organized by the seven areas identified by the Committee. The Government agrees with most recommendations and, as suggested by the Report, the Department will continue to build on efforts already underway.

Some of the recommendations in the Modernization of Client Service report align with recommendations relating to client service contained in the Committee’s report on Family Reunification, released on March 9, 2017. These complementary reports underscore the importance of client service in delivery of immigration programs.

Area 1: Call Centre

1.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada train all Call Centre agents on client service excellence and on how to communicate with people who may have limited English or French speaking abilities.

2.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provide a standard process to facilitate calls between a client and a Call Centre agent when an interpreter is used.

3.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have a 15-minute standard for clients to be connected with an advisor or agent for all Call Centre operations.

4.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consider including specializations and subject-matter experts for Call Centre advisors and agents based on application type, including (1) temporary residence, (2) permanent residence, (3) refugees, including protected persons, (4) citizenship and (5) passports.

The Committee’s recommendations relating to the Call Centre highlight the importance of this function as the first line of personalized support for clients. Expanding on recent changes to the Call Centre, rebranding to the Client Support Centre and continuing to reform the service delivery model is an immediate Departmental priority. 

Service excellence is a key tenet of the new client service approach implemented at the Client Support Centre in January 2017. Specifically, the Department is focused on resetting the relationship with the client to be more welcoming and assuring and geared towards building trust with each interaction.  This new approach includes the increased use of positive and clear language by the Integrated Voice Recognition (IVR) system and by agents who respond to calls and email enquiries.  For all client enquiries, the Department now systematically provides case status information based on the latest information on file, provides follows-up to clients via emails as necessary and records and refers back to clients’ history of contacts and enquiries.

The Department is also increasingly focused on providing agents with advanced training and support to ensure their soft skills are perfected and aligned with best practices across industry. Understanding that the Department’s client base has a range of abilities when speaking an official language, agents are trained in techniques to communicate efficiently with clients in clear and simple language and to be alert and sensitive towards clients with varying linguistic fluency.

The Client Support Centre has in place a standard process to facilitate calls between agent and client when an interpreter or third party is used to assist in the communication. Ensuring compliance with privacy requirements is fundamental to this process and the Department requires that both documentary and verbal authorization are provided by the client before engaging with any third party, including interpreters.

As noted in the response to the CIMM study on Family Reunification, the Department’s Client Support Centre is a key point of contact for in-Canada clients and is operating at capacity based on its current resources and service model. The Department is exploring ways to incrementally reduce the amount of time it takes clients to reach a live person on the phone, when they otherwise can’t self-serve. This could involve addressing enquiries via another channel, extending hours of operations for responding to email enquiries, and simplifying Client Centre technologies including the Integrated Voice Recognition (IVR) system. A plan is being developed to explore how the Department might best do this, however the impact of these potential changes on productivity is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, the Department will review how a clear standard could be implemented for clients to be connected with an advisor or agent.

Comprehensive cross-training across program areas has proven to be a more effective investment in human resources than specialized training in one line of business as it provides the Department with the flexibility to be responsive to volume fluctuations by program and ensures equal coverage regardless of seasonal peaks. The current structure of the Department’s Client Support Centre includes a tiered escalation process that allows agents to consult a subject matter expert for complex client enquiries so as to provide clients with resolution on first contact. This means the majority of agents are trained and possess knowledge in immigration and citizenship services writ large and a subset of agents receive more in-depth training to address complex questions and cases.

As well as this, specialized training is provided to agents who handle enquiries from those who are in particularly vulnerable circumstances, such as emergency or abuse situations.  Also, it is important to note that currently Passport clients are not served by the Department’s Client Support Centre, as Service Canada is the principle service delivery body in Canada and Global Affairs Canada’s missions are the principle delivery body abroad

Area 2: Website

5.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consider, as part of the redesign of its website, using (1) client-centric design principles to produce digital channels for each business line, (2) plain language, (3) languages other than French and English, similar to what the Government of British Columbia is doing, and (4) virtual assistance.

6.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada make improvements to “My Account” to allow clients to view and print applications before filing and during processing, and allow applicants to maintain a complete record of every application filed.

7.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada improve the ability for applicants and their representatives to link paper applications with online accounts.

8.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provide alternative payment methods for individuals without access to online payment services and credit cards, such as returning to the previous policy of accepting proof of payment at a bank.

The Government agrees with the overall concerns raised by the Committee with regard to improving the online service experience.  Recognizing that for both the private and public sector the future of front end client support is digital, the Department is investing in technology to ensure that clients have access to program information, applications, and case status updates in a well-designed, accessible and usable online environment. Focus groups conducted during March 2017 in ten locations across Canada showed that most newcomers are heavy users of the website, and while there is room for improvement, in general found the site resourceful, helpful and generally easy to use.

Website information provision

Client-centric design principles are embedded in Government of Canada directives on web style, accessibility and architecture. The Department will continue to work on developing digital channels that make sense and incorporating more services into our online application environment.  As part of the redesign of the online service experience, the Department will increasingly apply usability and user-centered methodologies to support more in-depth examinations of the online experience. Any changes to its online presence and services will also respect the Treasury Board Web Accessibility Standard.

As with all types of communications, the Department is committed to implementing plain language content on the website. The Department takes an iterative approach to website improvements, most recently undertaking a plain language re-write of the top 750 web pages to a grade 8 level, improving search and navigation and resolving common user issues with uploading documents and paying fees. As changes are made to improve the website, client feedback is monitored to inform a continuous improvement cycle.

On the website, non-official language content in 15 languages has been implemented to support new traveller requirements for Electronic Travel Authorization.  In other instances, such as through campaigns aimed at recruiting skilled workers and preventing immigration fraud, the Department has also translated the content into common non-official languages. The current non-official languages approach of the Department is to provide services in local languages to temporary resident clients at the Visa Application Centers (VAC).

The Department is in the early stages of exploring client service opportunities that might be supported by virtual assistance.  As with all potential client service solutions, including those enabled by technology, the Department is committed to ensuring that client insights drive our choices to test and experiment with specific technologies and that we measure client outcomes to determine which options are worth investing in and scaling up.

Online case status portal

As noted in the Response to the CIMM Report on Family Reunification, the Department is moving toward My Account as being the primary portal for clients to be able to access information on their case status and receive mail online. My Account is the platform to enable the Department to gradually move toward a single window for the majority of services, whether the client submits an application online or by mail. As of Fall 2016, the majority of immigration clients are now able to link their application submitted by mail to My Account to receive online case status information.

The Department is continuously making improvements to My Account. Enhancements, which include the provision of more information on the status of applications, are planned for fiscal year 2017-18. Additionally, the Department is exploring ways to permit clients to print and/or save a copy of their online application during various stages in the process for a specified period of time. Work on improving view, print and save functionalities is a longer term effort that will require operational, technical, privacy and legal considerations and assessments before investments and timelines can be confirmed.

Further to this, the Department is evaluating ways to improve the guidance and support provided to clients and authorized representatives who are having difficulty linking paper applications online.  The ease of users’ ability to access My Account needs to be balanced with the obligation to maintain and safeguard the significant amount of private information within this online portal.

Payment services

As noted in the Response to the CIMM Report on Family Reunification, many payment options are already in place for clients as the Department accepts payment by major credit cards (Visa, Amex, MC and JCB) as well as Interac Debit and Visa Debit. As new forms of online payment are developed, the Department will explore the possibility of accepting them at that time.

As per the Department’s strategy to be more efficient and effective by moving processes online, payment services are also moving online.  This enables the Department to keep in step with banks in Canada that are gradually moving away from in-person paper remittance slips. It also enables the Department to address some of the complexities and inefficiencies that existed as a result of the payment of fees at Canadian banks. As such, the Department will not be returning to the previous policy of accepting proof of payment at the bank. For exceptional and emergency situations where clients are unable to pay fees within the currently available options, the Department does have an alternative payment mechanism. For example, in scenarios where online payment is unavailable for more than two consecutive business days, an urgent request resulting in being out of status, or for certain and more exceptional accessibility limitations, a credit card form can be requested and sent via mail to the Department.  Outside of a Canada, Visa Applications Centres (VAC) offer a range of payment options for clients who use their services.

Area 3: Providing more frequent and useful information

9.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada contact clients via email or other channels when (1) processing exceeds times provided at the time of application (2) an incorrect payment is made (3) common or simple errors are made on the application.

10.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada implement an online portal for clients and authorized representatives to track application progress, including but not limited to: (1) current status of the application, (2) any reasons for delays, (3) an estimated time for decision and (4) any missing information or complications with the application.

11.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provide more information and details to clients on the reasons for negative decisions.

12.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada examine ways, in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, to increase the number of pre-arrival service sessions available, including attendance, in Foreign Service locations.

13.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada ensure Members of Parliament and Senators continue to have access to the Ministerial Enquiries Division.

Contact with clients via email or other channels

The Government shares the Committee’s commitment to ensuring clients and stakeholders have regular and clear communication channels with the Department. The Department is moving toward My Account as being the primary portal for clients to access real-time information on their case status and receive communications. The Department is also experimenting with proactively communicating with clients about case status, next steps, and when processing times exceeds the average to determine what type of information has the biggest impact on decreasing clients’ anxiety about what is happening with their case and to ensure clarity while clients are waiting for their final decision.

In order to ensure efficient processing and to deliver on processing time objectives, the Department needs clients to provide necessary information upfront. Flexibility afforded in the past from accepting incomplete applications has been resource intensive and introduced inefficiencies in processing, leading to increases in processing times. For spouse and partner applications, the Minister recently issued Ministerial Instructions to require that applicants submit upfront the documents needed by immigration officers to assess their application. Any application which is incomplete or missing key documents must be returned. This approach has also been used in the Parent and Grandparent program, Express Entry and Citizenship. While there was a period of adjustment, the Department has noted progressively lower rates of application returns as well as increases in efficiency as a result of such measures.

As concerns errors made on applications, the Department continuously strives to make the application process simple and intuitive for clients.  Examples of this include the recent changes the Department made to simplify forms and processing for spouses, partners and children.

The Department continues to use feedback gathered directly from clients to inform further refinements to these new products.  Additionally, the Department uses online application guides and responds to frequently asked questions via the Help Centre  (www.cic.gc.ca/helpcentre) to advise clients of common errors, with a view to helping clients avoid having their application returned for missing forms or documents.

The Department’s long-term goal is to implement pre-submission validation for a majority of services, which would mean that no matter the channel which clients apply to (online, VACs, Service Canada, etc.), clients would know upfront whether or not their application is complete. In cases today where there are small omissions in information, and where these omissions do not render the application incomplete, the usual practice of the Department is for the officer reviewing the case to send a request to the applicant to ask them to supply the missing information. Where appropriate, the officer responsible for the application may also contact the applicant by telephone or convoke the individual to an interview, particularly if an interview is required to finish assessing the application or where more documents are required to assess eligibility or admissibility.

The Department recognizes that in some cases the need to return files for the correction of incorrect payments presents delays in the processing of applications.  The Department works with clients to quickly and conveniently resolve the issue without significant delays to the acceptance of the file for processing.   As part of a review of the Department’s refund policy, there is consideration of including clear and specific guidelines to clients on how to pay the missing fee difference when there is a discrepancy.  This would eliminate the need to complete a full refund of incorrect fees and repayment of the correct fees.

Reasons for refusals

While the Government is committed to providing clarity and transparency of decisions to clients, the Response disagrees with the recommendation to provide more information and details to clients on negative decisions.  

In order to communicate decisions as consistently and clearly as possible as well as manage the volume of demand, officers use standard refusal letters which clearly identify the legislative or regulatory requirement(s) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its Regulations that have not been met. In some lines of business (e.g. refugee, Humanitarian and Compassionate and spousal processing) officers may on a discretionary basis, provide additional information in their letters to explain the reason for the refusal. 

To achieve the objectives of transparency and clarity, a review of refusal letter wording was conducted this year. The Department will be using this input and feedback from across the global network to make standard refusal letter templates simpler for clients.

Pre-arrival information

The Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendation to examine ways to increase the uptake of pre-arrival settlement service sessions available to eligible clients outside Canada, and is committed to offering pre-arrival services as a means to provide information and support to eligible clients in preparation for settlement and integration into Canadian life. Starting in 2015-16, the Government increased its investment in pre-arrival services to eligible newcomers and has been working with service provider organizations to provide an increased number of in-person sessions in more locations as well as more on-line services. 

The Department has recently taken action and will be further implementing initiatives to improve eligible clients’ uptake of pre-arrival services. This has included a review and update of information available online, the increased use of social media to promote the use of pre-arrival services to eligible clients, and the proactive and early notice about the existence of pre-arrival services via letters at the beginning and end of the processing of eligible clients’ applications for permanent residence. The Department is also working on implementing an automated message to notify all applicants of the availability of pre-arrival services when they successfully pass a preliminary assessment of their Permanent Residence application.

In the fall of 2017, the Department plans to launch a pre-arrival services Call for Proposal process to solicit proposals for new pre-arrival services contribution agreements starting April 1, 2018. As part of this process, the Department is currently conducting an analysis of existing projects and engaging with external stakeholders to develop lessons learned to inform future delivery and uptake of pre-arrival services.

Service to Members of Parliament

The Government agrees that Members of Parliament (MPs) should have clear and accessible support from the Department on immigration matters. With the objective to enhance services and provide a single point of contact to MPs and Senators seeking departmental assistance, year the Department implemented the Information Centre for MPs and Senators (ICMPS) in 2016 for general and case status enquiries, including urgent processing requests. The ICMPS currently receives enquiries on approximately 3,500 client cases each week, through phone, fax, and email.

While implementing ICMPS, Ministerial Enquiries Division (MED) has consistently remained available and accessible to MPs and Senators for complex case enquiries including sensitive or high-profile cases. Contact information for MED is distributed to all MP constituency and parliamentary offices. MED will remain available and accessible to Parliamentarians.

Area 4: Application forms

14.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada regularly review all application forms to (1) simplify the form, (2) improve the client experience, and (3) evaluate common patterns in mistakes and errors made on applications.

15.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada establish a process for notifying applicants when forms are changed and establish a mechanism to ensure that completed applications submitted with once-current forms are not rejected due to form changes.

The Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendations to enhance the overall client experience by improving the forms and tools provided to clients to submit applications. Some lines of business such as Express Entry and Electronic Travel Authorization are already using dynamic online applications instead of application forms to collect the information needed for processing in a simplified manner. 

As previously noted, the Department’s long-term goal is to have all services include pre-submission validation, which would mean that clients would know before they submitted the form if information was missing.

The Department has already made efforts, particularly in some targeted programs, to identify where forms can be improved or simplified, and to flag to clients areas where mistakes are commonly made. For example, the guide for spouse/partner applicants published in December 2016 includes a section which is specifically dedicated to flagging common errors so that clients are sensitized to them and can avoid them.  The Department is using client feedback received on the new guide to continue making changes to improve it for clients use. In addition, in September 2016, the adult citizenship grant application form was modified to address known reasons for return due to incompleteness.  This change resulted in an 11% decrease in incomplete citizenship applications.  A plain language review of a number of tools is also underway in several programs.

Increasingly, the Department will be applying client-centered and usability methodologies to the review and redesign of forms and guides to ensure that changes make them more intuitive and simpler for clients to complete, thus avoiding common errors and mistakes that are driven more by poor design than by client inattention.

The Department recognizes that updates to forms can cause confusion. Forms and instruction guides are updated regularly to reflect for example, regulatory changes.  Minor changes may also be made to correct typos or other minor issues that do not affect the information collected. When forms are updated, the department advises clients on the website by changing the “date updated” next to links for that form. The Department also aims to provide sufficient notice and communication when the forms are changed and is currently looking at additional ways to highlight when changes are made to forms.

Area 5: Processing Times

16.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consider establishing service standards and processing times for all business lines and publish the standards on the website.

17.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada extend the validity period of work permits from six months to one year to take into account processing times at the department. 

Processing times are a key issue that impact clients in all of the Department’s business lines. The Government welcomes the Committee’s focus on this important issue and the Department has been and will continue pursuing efforts to improve processing times for economic immigrants, citizenship applicants, family class immigrants and refugees. For instance, increased admissions of permanent residents have allowed the Department to process more applications in a given year, resulting in inventory and processing times reductions across permanent resident lines of business (i.e. economic class, family class, and refugees). The Department is also investing in processing innovations, including making better use of data and electronic tools to deliver a fast, streamlined and online application process that will help the Department keep up with growing volumes across lines of business.

The Government recognizes that in addition to timely processing, clear communication of what clients can expect is important. As noted in the Response to the CIMM Report on Family Reunification, the Department provides regularly updated processing time information for the majority of services on its website to give clients a general idea of how long a process takes.

The Department has set service standards for a number of services. On an annual basis, the Department reviews all service standards and lines of business to determine readiness to set new service standards based on an analysis of factors such as inventory levels, processing capacity, programming complexities, and processing time analysis. Once a service standard has been established, service standard adherence rates are published annually on the Departmental website.

The Government supports the recommendation to issue open work permits for 12 months for categories of applicants where it makes operational sense to do so and in fact this is already Departmental practice. For some clients, for example pre-removal risk applicants who face removal in the near term, work permits will continue to be issued for 12 months or less.

Area 6: Performance Measurement and Client Feedback

18.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada offer automatic client service feedback forms for applications to the department.

19.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada review key performance indicators for all client service channels and review best practices from other immigration systems around the world, such as those of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

20.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada create a “Reconsideration Committee” to deal with reconsideration requests within applicants’ 15-day deadline.

The Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendation to offer clients feedback channels and the Department is exploring ways to automate and expand its collection of client feedback.  Currently, the Department receives feedback a number of ways including via an online web form, annual client satisfaction surveys and at the Client Support Centre.  The Department is increasingly seeking client feedback online on specific changes, such as to the new Family Class kit and guide. Increasing and automating the collection of feedback will benefit both the client and the Department by making it more convenient and timely for clients to submit feedback and for the Department to analyze the data to identify trends and insights and use them to inform continuous improvement cycles.

The Department is already engaged in reviews of key performance indicators and best practices from comparable immigration systems around the world. Under the auspices of the Migration Five (M5), which was formerly the Five Country Conference, the Department contributed to comparative analysis of the member countries’ (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States) client satisfaction surveys and document verification practices, as well as a report on contact centre best practices.  As chair the of the M5 working group that focuses on the traveller experience and traveller facilitation, the Department will continue to engage with other immigration agencies around the world to exchange best practices and potentially collaborate on initiatives to address mutual client experience gaps, either on a bilateral or multilateral basis, if research validates the need.

The Government has assessed the Committee’s recommendation regarding the creation of a ‘Reconsideration Committee’ and views this as not needed for a number of reasons.  Firstly, under the Designation and Delegation Instrument, officers have the delegated authority to assess and take positive and negative decisions which take into account legislative and regulatory provisions related to eligibility and admissibility. Functioning within the legislative framework of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act, the Department is bound to principles of procedural fairness. Where an application is refused, the Department issues refusal letters which identify which legislative or regulatory requirement(s) have not been met.

Additionally, there are already mechanisms in place for applicants who disagree with a decision. Applicants for temporary residence may opt to reapply if they have new information to provide or if their situation has changed such that it would address the issue with their initial application. In permanent residence streams, sponsors in the Family Class may appeal a refusal of their relative’s permanent residence application to the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), with some exceptions (e.g., there is no right of appeal if the applicant is inadmissible based on security reasons). In addition, under Canadian immigration, citizenship and passport law, applicants have recourse to the Federal Court to seek judicial review or judicial review with leave. 

Finally, the Department is committed to using its current resource and funding complement to ensure timely and efficient decisions. Redirecting these resources to reconsider negative decisions when mechanisms exist for this to occur based on a clear set of legislative criteria is not the optimal use of finite resources at this time.

Area 7: Continuous Improvement in Client Service

21.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada conduct “client service and delivery” consultations with customer and client service experts, the private sector, former and current clients of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and all Canadians on how the department can better provide service.

22.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consult with refugees to determine their issues with client service and take steps to address them; the review would include (but would not be limited to) the website, Call Centre, languages used, access to technology and payments.

23.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada work to better serve Canadian businesses and employers by studying the possible benefits of the department creating a trusted employer program to offer employers an expedited service for assessments (subject to a fee); that this study include input from Canadian businesses and employers; and that IRCC make its findings available to the Committee.   

24.

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada conduct a cost-benefit analysis on having regional immigration offices to deliver in-person service similar to Passport Canada and Service Canada locations.

The Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendations to engage directly with clients, client service experts and the private sector to inform the Department on how to better provide service. 

Over the past year, the Department has started applying user-centered design methods to the review of services, specifically for Family Class and Citizenship Grant. This approach includes direct consultation with clients and other stakeholders, such as lawyers, academics, community workers, client service experts, and private sector leaders. 

In the coming year, the Department also plans to put in place an advisory committee made up of client experience experts with a mandate to provide advice on leading-edge approaches to service design, as well as a client experience roundtable made up of actual clients and users of IRCC services from whom the Department can solicit direct feedback on tools and services.    

The Department’s Client Service Strategy includes plans to increasingly engage with clients and analyze data to understand pain points, to develop client insights, and to use insights and evidence to drive innovation and test solutions that make sense to clients based on clear evidence and best practices. This core capacity will be established over the next fiscal year, and the Department will continue its review of the service experience as informed by regular and rigorous consultation and engagement with users.

Specifically as it relates to the service experience of refugees, the Government acknowledges the Committee’s observation that this is a uniquely vulnerable client group and is committed to addressing issues specific to this at risk group of clients.  Over the past year, the Department has accelerated its work to focus on interactions with refugees being resettled to Canada.  A review of the Department’s contact points and messaging is in progress, and includes an assessment of all contact points that may be accessed by an overseas refugee or his/her sponsor or representative, including the website, Client Support Centre, processing offices, and partners involved with refugee resettlement. 

The Department remains committed to further engage directly with refugees and sponsors to ensure the suite of short-term and longer-term solutions meet these clients’ distinct needs.  Use of plain language in all messaging is another change being pursued; visa offices, and their overseas partners, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), are also resourced with officers who can speak in the local language and/or use interpreters to communicate with refugees.

The Department is committed to ensuring it responds quickly and efficiently to the needs of Canadian businesses and employers when recruiting talent, without creating a new administrative burden for employers.  Creation of a trusted employer program has been contemplated in the past, however, it was not pursued as it would subject employers to another set of program requirements and potential compliance measures necessary to ensure program integrity. Instead, the Department has undertaken to implement measures that will further support Canadian businesses and employers in a more streamlined and client focused manner.  The Employer Liaison Network (ELN), launched in 2015, assists Canadian businesses by providing individual guidance on how to access the Department’s programs and services, and connects employers to Canada’s visa offices to facilitate recruitment of overseas talent. As part of the Global Skills Strategy, the Department has committed to implement a two-week service standard for the processing of select work permits to support the recruitment of needed talent from abroad. This will be done without new fees. A new work permit exemption will also be introduced for certain foreign nationals coming to work in Canada for a short duration and who met other criteria. As well, the Department will be opening a Dedicated Service Channel to provide additional support, as it relates to immigration requirements, to companies making significant investments in Canada. Employers have welcomed these changes and noted they will enhance their ability to attract and retain top talent. Implementation of these measures is scheduled for June 2017. Moving forward, the Department will continue to consult with business and private industry on policies and programs aimed at supporting Canada’s economic growth.

With regard to in-person service, the Department’s service delivery model is increasingly moving online to meet most clients’ expectations. As a result, in-person interactions are no longer required for a number of tasks.  However, the Department does offer many in-person services such as the intake of asylum claimants, in-person interviews to help resolve issues and make decisions as expeditiously as possible for clients whose applications are complex in-Canada Permanent Resident landings, and Citizenship Grant testing, hearings, ceremonies, and itinerant services.

As committed to in the Government’s response to the CIMM study on Family Reunification, the Department recognizes that under certain circumstances, information available to clients online or by telephone and current in-person offerings may not sufficiently meet the needs of either the client or the Department. In the case of complex applications, offices may reach out to clients to provide further information or seek clarifications. Flowing from the Committee’s recommendation, the Department commits to explore the feasibility of limited in-person services being offered to clients at Departmental offices on a case-by-case basis. The extent of this cost-benefit analysis will not necessarily include an assessment of the full cost to deliver all services in-person as per the Passport Canada and Service Canada model, as the Department’s current focus is to consider what is feasible within existing resource levels and funding.

Supplementary Recommendations

With regard to supplementary recommendations put forward by CIMM members related to the review of fees, the Government notes that the Department monitors fees annually to identify any changes in costs which may include efficiency improvements that have been implemented in service delivery during the year.  This annual monitoring also guides the Department in determining the timing of its regular fee review process.  As a result of a full fee review in 2014, fees under the Temporary Resident Stream as well as the Grant of Citizenship Fee were amended.  The Department is now undertaking a review of the Permanent Resident fees with a commitment to be completed in 2018.   

Conclusion

As the committee members are aware, the Government’s immigration plan for 2017 will maintain the historically high levels from the previous year. At a target of 300,000 new permanent residents, this is the highest number of projected admissions put forth by the Government of Canada which still only represents less than 1% of Canada’s current population.

In recognition of immigration's important role in our country's economic growth and future, one of the priorities of the Government is to ensure the effective implementation of Canada's increased annual immigration levels.  Achieving these immigration levels will support another of my mandate priorities, namely to reduce application processing times and improve the department’s services to clients, as will other departmental efforts to make application processes less complicated and more timely for all applicants.

 I wish to thank the committee members for their study on client service. The Government of Canada is committed to the modernization of client service delivery and will take into consideration its recommendations as we work to improve services for our clients.