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Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 15:32
Hello. Good afternoon, Madam Chair, respected members of the committee, and ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for inviting me today to present on the modernization of client service delivery. I'm the chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, CAPIC. We are the association that represents immigration consultants in Canada. Across Canada, we have four chapters and about 1,500 members.
Thank you for inviting us to appear before the committee today.
I'm pleased to be here and to give you a presentation on the modernization of IRCC's client service and other services.
The presentation was submitted to you in English; however, it's a pleasure for me to answer your questions in French or English.
As an introduction, I would like to start by mentioning that IRCC processes millions of applications. These include temporary residency applications, PR applications, eTAs, and ATIP applications. I'm using acronyms to make things fast. I believe we are all familiar with these acronyms.
Throughout the years, we've made improvements throughout the system. However, in an era of technology, today it is time for IRCC to be on top of the technology and to offer adequate and respectful—excuse me; respectable—service to the clients.
I'll start with the communication offered by IRCC. In fact, this is split into three categories.
The first one is personalized messages. These are mainly the letters that the candidates and the immigration consultants who are their representatives receive, in the name of their client, to advise them about the status of the case, the decision, and/or other required documentation.
The second category of communication is automated messages. Under the new system and with electronic services, IRCC has been starting to send what we call massive communication to its clients, advising them about an issue, etc. The point here is that so far we have been struggling with the fact that IRCC has been sending some messages that really are not personalized. Therefore, these messages are missing the names, file numbers, and contact information of the authorized representative. This is a point that we would like to raise today.
The third category is the call centre. Here I would like to commend the move that it made. I'm not sure if you have tried the call centre recently, but the message, way, and approach are completely different. We are happy to see this kind of approach from IRCC. To give you an example, the previous message used to start by saying something like, “If you are offensive to our staff and to the people on the call, then we will take measures, and we will hang up.” The new message says something more like, “Welcome. Thanks for calling Immigration and Citizenship Canada.” This is a big change.
We also would like to recommend that our centre agents be split into categories so that some of them would be more senior. Then we would have the option that they would speak to immigration consultants who represent clients on specific files. We believe that in this way—by asking immigration officers to make changes and by sending them emails, and so on—we can save a lot down the road. We could call a specific phone line to ask for minor changes on the file.
Now I'll move to the processing times. We all know that the processing times have reached unacceptable levels.
I think Minister McCallum is to be highly commended on the final decision he has taken. We know how many resources and how much funds it would take to lower the family class processing time to 12 months. However, that is in comparison to an express entry application. For express entry, the candidate is invited to apply, and it is a process of six months or less. We are still putting our humanitarian and non-economic classes behind. These are 50% slower than the economic class.
Another aspect I would like to touch on is what is known as GCMS, the global case management system that is running the whole operation in IRCC, in CBSA, and, of course, other agencies. With this system, there is something called the APR portal, the authorized paid representatives’ portal, which allows us and authorized representatives to have access to their clients securely. It also allows us to send applications to Immigration Canada and submit applications of all types, except family class, so far.
It allows also the department to move files in crisis zones. For example, you may have a crisis in one zone, so now electronically and securely, without diplomatic bags, they can transfer complete office files to another file or retrieve them from Canadian processing centres and so on, electronically and securely.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 15:47
Thanks for the question. In fact we have also brought a few recommendations. Most of them are based on technology.
Number one, when an officer is making a decision, the officer puts notes into the case file. When a case is represented by an authorized representative within the GCMS system and within the AR portal, it could be very securely available to get those notes, so in this way we would save time by not having to make another access to information application. This would be in the same portal through which we submit. We could have double-direction communication.
We also recommend creating additional levels of call centres. This way, with technology you would just need to go through the call centre and find a more senior agent who could answer your question if it was not a basic question but was pertaining to a specific case.
We have also some other points that we want to bring forward. Tracking is very important. More than 3,000 complaints were received last year by IRCC, and the large majority were very focused on the fact that the client didn't know where his or her file was. That's really what it was. I think having something like the tracking systems that all of the courier services have now: when you order something, you know where it is in transit, and then at the end of the day it gets to you. That would be a very good practice that IRCC could start within the AR portal. That way authorized representatives could know through tracking that the case was with a particular officer. The names of officers would not be disclosed. Most of the time officers have used their initials and they could continue doing so to respect their privacy. There is no issue with that, but at least we would know where the case was and we could follow up accordingly.
Those are some of the points we have brought forward in terms of technological access to the system.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 15:52
That's more about complex cases. However, in terms of status updates, we know it can be done through the system with interactions we have regularly with IRCC. We are recommending that within the portal, you have a section that tells you exactly where every specific case stands. Every officer working on the case is tracked with the new system. All it requires is a second level of security, allowing more access.
What's going on now with all MPs—and we hear it every time we come to Ottawa—is that they are swamped by requests from their own constituents saying they don't know where their case is. Maybe it's been a year. This is exactly what the complaints are about. In order to satisfy those individuals, in my opinion, we recommend that at least they know where the case is. That's all. I don't think this is difficult technologically. This should be easily done through the process.
Right now, if you have a case—and I'm sure many assistants in your offices will tell you—there can be about three or four statuses. They are fixed: open, closed, in process, and I think, decision to be taken. I'm not really familiar with all of them, but there are not more than four statuses. I think tracking the case, when a case takes a year, is important for a client. This is where technology can play a big role helping IRCC to do better.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 15:57
This happens. It's a matter of consistency. Sometimes in a visa office or a processing centre, this is very common. The officer would finish his job and on an operations side would not put the exact information into the system. The letter or the work permit, or whatever the extension was, was sent to the client. However the call centre could not see it.
I'm not privy to the details of how the system works. However, this happens from time to time, and I can tell you that the GCMS, the system that is used right now, is the best system to get this result, because it is instant. When you make a change, it automatically affects all individuals who see the file. It's human error these days; before it used to happen very often.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 15:57
The new system is not supposed to make these mistakes anymore, except for human error, but it used to be the case. If a case is processed in Vegreville, for example, and you're checking the case in Ottawa and a decision has been taken on the case, by the time you know the decision has been taken, because of the time difference.... I don't think this would happen now, except for human error.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 16:00
I would like to add one thing. I tried the call centre today before coming, just to make sure how it works. I agree that they started to do that. You press up to seven sections.
I think what needs to happen would be that more of the technicalities and the skills need to be given to every one of those agents. Some of them should be more focused on refugees, some more focused on work permits, some more focused on PR. This is the key. Even if you can press a certain button to go somewhere, the person who answers you needs to be able to reply to that particular request.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 16:04
Thank you.
In fact you're dealing with, I believe and I'm sure you are aware, two different acts, the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act. In these cases, what's going on is, first of all, we continue to recommend that the person needs to be in Canada. Therefore what's going on is that if you have a username and password for anyone to access his or her file, you're exposing the whole system to a security issue. That's number one.
Number two, when you deal with a client and you start to file and submit an application on his or her behalf, what would happen at the later stage is that the client would get a decision and/or is waiting for a decision. In this process, you can still, at any time, file an access to information request. We have been working on workshops and other programs with IRCC teams in order to see how we can improve this.
Every time we file an access to information—and by the way, for the information of the committee, IRCC is the largest solicited agency in the government for ATIP access—what goes on in this case is, if it's available on the authorized representative portal, we don't have to file an access to information, which is more work for them. It's already there. All you need to do is just make a tick to then access what the officer has done so far, because this information is not hidden from authorized representatives. The only difference is that it requires one additional step on the side of the client and his representative and on the side of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 16:08
All income tax accesses are done by Canadian citizens who can be under the Canadian law, but in immigration not all of the applicants are Canadian citizens, which is a different ball game in different jurisdictions.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 16:09
Thanks for asking.
In fact, I'm aware of the process. This process has been in place and we've been working on it with IRCC for at least one and a half years, and it's the whole functionality that has changed.
By the way, just to make a long story short, the message is a shell. In order to get there, there has been a lot of changes in the functionality and the hiring and the way they were doing it, but there is still room to improve.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 16:10
The first thing is the agents are supposed to be more trained. Second is the way the call gets in. IRCC receives five million calls or more a year. The way the system used to work was that you could go to either immigration or to citizenship and it was the same group helping you. Most of the agents were on a general knowledge inquiry basis. For example, if you said you wanted to do something to your file, they would answer that they couldn't help you, and they would tell you to wait or to send an email or a file.
Right now, we are seeing that you can, for example, change your address. We're looking for more improvements on that level. If, for example, they had a specific line for authorized representatives who really know the file and the case, it would save time if the officer could make the change. We would call the call centre on that specific line and say this case is at that stage and it requires this and that, so please give it to the officer, and then the agent would be able to deal with it.
We need to still improve on it, but we have gone from two entries through the system to seven, which is also an improvement.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 16:12
We believe it would make a lot of difference. Let's speak about those two categories, which are different from the situation faced by refugees who don't have access to the system. Those categories are used by Canadian citizens who have access to the Internet. Of course, for the parents and grandparents, it's the same.
The nuance here is that if we take as an example the express entry model, which is all online, what happened was that they were able to deliver in six months because the whole system works online. They hired new, fresh officers to deal with it, and they can process it in Canada or in any other centre because, as I said, GCMS allows IRCC to move files from here and there.
The less paper you have, the more efficient you can be and the more new blood you can inject into the system. Those newcomers, new graduates, will deliver differently from the way they would using paper. This is where we see the big difference. It can all be filed online, especially with the help of the children who are sponsoring their parents or the spouses helping their spouse come to Canada. It's much better.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 16:13
Do you mean in Canada? The most solicited one among Canadians is CRA. It is the one we all test, and I believe it is one of the best.
Dory Jade
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Dory Jade
2016-12-13 16:17
Thank you.
Well, first, they don't have to put, let's say—l'll get it from your mouth—“big bucks”.
You are dealing with immigration law, and to start, the first section of the law says that you must submit a complete application. The word “complete” is used in there and is exactly what it means. Anything that is missing will lead to a refusal or rejection, or, if the process allows it, probably a long processing time, because they need to ask you for more documentation.
In my opinion, they can make it as easy as possible, but because it's law.... What we're seeing now is that everybody thought that if express entry was in, then it's easy: you put it in, you get out, and it's all about numbers.
Well, that is not correct. It's all about law. This is why there is also a need for an authorized representative. Those authorized representatives who exist do not exist by chance. The market has a need for those individuals, and they are under the law. They are authorized by law to do it.
I really can't see how you can make a law simpler to individuals. With due respect, I will give you a very simple example: matrimonial law. If the couple is not really 100% accepting, the two parties would still have to go to a lawyer, and maybe not to court, but for arbitration. It is part of our law. This is how the country functions, and this is how Canada works. This is our system.
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