Interventions in Committee
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View Bob Saroya Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you again, Minister. Coming from the community, you and I worked with the community long before we became MPs. These are the habits we have developed over the years.
Regarding the client services, as you know, much of our money gets spent on the immigration files on a daily basis. If you talk to one client or to 50 clients, the answer is basically the same. They will probably tell you that the process is taking too long, unsatisfactory answers, dropping of phone calls, and the list goes on. What can you tell them, Minister? What have you done to improve this, and is there something coming soon?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you. That's a really great question.
Client service is not just about faster processing and reducing backlogs or eliminating them. It's also about how we interact with people. It's about how the immigration system deals with the client in terms of how they feel after going through a phone call, or how they find the complexity of the forms, the website, and so on. All those things are on the table with respect to client service, so it's not just the question of processing times and backlogs.
Client service is our focus and we meet frequently about this. I get weekly updates on the progress we're making with respect to client service.
View Bob Saroya Profile
Minister, we have talked about the crooked consultants. We heard the horrible stories. I personally want you to watch one of the videos that I'm going to give you on how people get ripped off. They are talking about committing suicide and so on.
I think many of us believe that if the application were made easier to fill out, people could do it themselves. Because the application is a bit harder, they end up going to the crooked consultant and this is where they get ripped off. Is there any way we can shorten it? Can something be done?
View Ahmed Hussen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Doing something with respect to lessening the complexity and making it easier to use forms, the website, the phone, and the 1-800 number is absolutely part of our focus, making sure that, not only is it easier to use the various aspects of the immigration system, but also having the client, once they interact with the system, feel much better than they did coming in. That means putting them first, putting the client central to everything we do.
Does that mean faster processing times? Absolutely. Does that mean reducing wait times? It also includes the fact that some people don't mind waiting a little bit longer if they know what the status of their file is. Therefore, that may also include communicating more regularly with the client and letting them know the progress of their file.
View Bob Saroya Profile
From time to time—we hear this on a regular basis—people who fill out their own applications make a mistake. They're trying to save $1,000 or whatever the cost is.
We asked this question many times in the last committees. If there is a smaller issue, for example, data is filled out wrong, filled out in the wrong spot, or minor variances, why can't we call or email the client to tell them to fix it?
Robert Orr
View Robert Orr Profile
Robert Orr
2017-03-20 17:14
We're making real efforts so that we're not rejecting applications for minor issues of that nature. We're also getting better at communicating with our clients, be it by email, by phone, or face-to-face interviews, indeed.
We're also using technology more effectively. For many applications that are not electronically lodged, we now have a mechanism where people can register, and then they can submit supplementary material very rapidly. This is making the turnaround for applications much faster. It's growing, but we're seeing very positive results from that.
View Borys Wrzesnewskyj Profile
Lib. (ON)
Committee, I understand that Mr. Arnold has a commitment that he has no option but to leave for. I will allow Mr. Arnold the opportunity to quickly say a few words, and we'll then launch right into questions.
I understand you have to leave in about seven to 10 minutes.
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:29
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is David Arnold. I am the chief migration officer. I work for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection as part of the Australian government. I'm a posted officer here at our high commission, just down the road on O'Connor Street.
We thank you for the opportunity to present today and talk a little about some of the client service modernizations that my department has been undertaking over the last couple of years, and certainly what we're looking to do into the future.
My department manages millions of entries into and departures from Australia of temporary visitors and permanent migrants, as well as Australian citizens. This includes the monitoring and resolution of their status, and the promotion of values and Australian citizenship.
Our visa system plays a key role in promoting Australia's economic and social prosperity. Australia has a universal visa system—that is, every single individual who wishes to travel to Australia for temporary or permanent purposes is required to have a visa before they board their method of travel.
The department already manages a significant volume of activities through digital channels. One such example is our electronic travel authority, which I know Canadians have introduced recently; as well as our ImmiAccount, an online portal for visa applicants; and SmartGate. Like Canada, we have traditionally had front-line officers doing a passport check and an admissibility check, like a border service officer here. We've moved that to more automation through SmartGate, using e-passports and biometric capture.
ImmiAccount, in particular, has been quite a success for us in moving clients away from higher-cost channels such as face-to-face ones and by telephone. Individuals who make application to travel to Australia are required to establish an ImmiAccount. It's not dissimilar from, say, setting up an Internet banking facility with your financial institution. It acts as our front door. Since its launch in 2013, it has grown significantly. Clients are able to access 41 forms, essentially 41 visa types to travel to Australia. It generates in excess of $1.1 billion a year in revenue through visa application charges.
Last financial year, we received more applications via ImmiAccount than we did paper applications. Applications lodged via ImmiAccount are 100% electronic. We have no paper files for those applications. Approximately 18 months ago, Australia moved away from the issue of foil; we refer to it as a “visa label”. There is no longer any legislative means to issue a foil to a visa applicant or visa holder to Australia. For example, in the very limited processing that some of my staff do here in Ottawa, we don't see passports. That has enabled the department to set up a rather agile and responsive service delivery network, where we can pick up visa applications and caseloads and move them very quickly depending on the issues—for example, post-natural disasters or generally big demand, such as during Chinese New Year.
We are moving our eLodgement to our biggest caseloads in the foreseeable future, which will be Chinese nationals and Indian and Indonesian applicants. We do partner with service delivery agencies, as Canada does. Those organizations at the moment accept applications on our behalf via paper. That will soon move to digital for those particular markets, which will enable us to move our most significant caseloads around our service delivery network.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you all for being here. We apologize that we had to quickly run to the House for votes.
As you know, for all of us MPs, most of our work is dealing with a lot of immigration files, so we're looking at ways to improve the system. With the advanced technology available now, are there better ways to improve client services through more online services or with technology? I'd like to hear from a couple of you.
If anyone wants to speak first they can, but maybe we can go around and ask that question.
Chantal Desloges
View Chantal Desloges Profile
Chantal Desloges
2017-02-01 16:34
I have a couple of comments about that.
First of all, in terms of use of technology, I think there are a lot of functions within IRCC that could be automated to allow for a greater client touch without necessarily generating more work for people by having to send handwritten emails.
For example, there are very simple software solutions that allow you to send autogenerated emails to people at various periods of time. One of the biggest complaints from clients is not necessarily about how long they have to wait but that they don't know what's going on; they're not able to find out what's happening with their case. Even just an autogenerated email that we'd send to them every once in a while just to let them know and reassure them that everything is fine, that their file is with us, and that we're working on it and we'll get back to them if we need anything, I think, would be an easy solution.
The other thing is interview scheduling. A lot of time is wasted calling people for interviews that they can't make at a particular time and then they have to be rescheduled through a manual process that is very time-consuming and labour-intensive. There are simple software solutions that allow people to choose their own interview time, which are fully automated and don't require any manpower whatsoever. Those would be two really simple ways.
Finally, there is the immigration e-CAS system, through which you can go online and check your case status. There is rarely any useful information in it. That system already exists and it could be used to much greater effect if officers could simply upload the information more regularly. People could go on and check their status online and not have to bother with phoning the telecentre or emailing Immigration.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
That was one of my other questions. A lot of our time is wasted just getting status updates. Clients come in and ask where their application is, at what step, and then we have to fill out a consent form and so on and go through all the steps and then call and finally deliver that message to our constituents.
Thank you for sharing that.
Would anyone else like to share?
Go ahead, Mr. Green.
Stephen Green
View Stephen Green Profile
Stephen Green
2017-02-01 16:36
I'll be very brief.
I think it's important to understand that immigration is a human endeavour, so while we can push a lot of stuff to technology, please don't forget that there is a human element to this. In the old days we used to have centres that people could walk into. I would submit that if you opened up some of those centres to a restricted audience who could attend there, 50% of your inquiries would drop.
My last comment would be that the call centre is a wonderful thing. It has helped a lot of people, but the problem, unfortunately, is that there's not enough information given out. If I call on behalf of my clients, it takes about four to five minutes for me to go through a process to identify myself. If you call the bank, you give them your client ID and you're in—one, two, three. Immigration actually goes through the application: is your client's address this? Is your client's telephone number this? What is your address? What is your name? And it must do this for each file. So if I have four files, I go through this four times. It's really not efficient.
Last, you can't tell the client on the phone that their application is in process; we know that. They have to be able to give more information. If that was released, and if these call centre people had more authority to give out information, your workload would drop with respect to the basic inquiries.
Arleigh Luckett
View Arleigh Luckett Profile
Arleigh Luckett
2017-02-01 16:38
I was just going to say that I'm from a private sponsorship group, and I know that one of the concerns our groups have had regarding delays in refugees coming here when we have applied for them is that some groups are very self-conscious about asking the MP for help but others are relying heavily on the office, which is very forthcoming in offering it. However, if access to the up-front information on the website—from the minute the group comes together and wants to sponsor and even before a group applies—were better and modernized and thought through from the point of view of a group of volunteers trying to figure out how to navigate this system and what the rules were, they wouldn't be calling their MP's office so often. The information is there, but the path through it is terrible; it's very hard to find the information, and it's not all up to date.
Vance P. E. Langford
View Vance P. E. Langford Profile
Vance P. E. Langford
2017-02-01 16:39
Our brief highlights a number of technical issues that the Canadian Bar Association's immigration law section believes could help. We've put those under the larger umbrella of program improvements that could be made. I think that's what the Government of Canada would like to achieve.
Some of our recommendations are around communication. They sound simple and they sound practical. Maybe it's trite, but in terms of updating clients on delayed applications, it's that issue of how “in process” really means nothing. They include perhaps making a more robust system of where processing status is actually at, with accountability for processing times that are published, and also requesting additional information before refusing applications. As we move to a more automated system, it's about not losing the human element and not forgetting that peoples' lives are affected by the system.
The example of that is express entry, with that sort of one-touch approach that was talked about. It wasn't an official policy, but if peoples' job offers didn't have specific language in the job offers according to the ministerial instructions, they were bounced. I had highly educated people come to me after failing three times in express entry. Simply, there could have been a request for the proper documentation before refusing.
Also in our suggestions is increasing transparency on decision making by giving better written reasons. A suggestion made was to attach the GCMS printout to the rationale for the decision. That isn't really hard to do, and that would make it no longer necessary to do an access to information request to get the reasons in order to understand whether this was just not a viable application or whether it should be appealed or redone.
Those are some suggestions.
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