October 18, 2017

New Client Centric Focus for IRCC is Long Overdue, Now Let’s Get it Right!

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

In a recent story by Nicholas Keung in the Toronto Star[1]Customer service a new concept for Canada’s Immigration Department the piece spoke to a new client centric focus happening at Immigration Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC).  It read in part:

The cultural shift from an enforcement mindset to a client-centered approach could mark a new era at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, which has long faced complaints about poor customer service, long processing times and failing to provide timely and accurate information to applicants.

In an upcoming piece for Immquest, Cultural Shift Afoot at Immigration Refugees & Citizenship Canada? Should We Send Immigration Officers Back to School? I noted that a need for a client centric approach at IRCC was long overdue. It has been something I have been urging for over a decade like many others.

In the article, I speculate that a cultural makeover is no small task for a department that has experienced historical challenges of resourcing and backlogs while operating at different corners of the world and under global scrutiny. IRCC is not a private enterprise.  Its rank and file are not rewarded financially or otherwise for the number of applicants that are processed.  To the contrary, it is the applicant that slips through the cracks and either violates immigration policy, commits criminality or even worse that garners the most attention, albeit negative for a particular visa office.

Ultimately, the system is structured to assess the merits of an applicant before determining final admissibility.  Statutory clearances are usually conducted at the back end and can add considerably to processing time.  In turn, this can lead to a perceived lack of transparency, uncertainty and delays that all contribute to the client experience.  So how can this be improved given these realities?  Australia retrained its immigration officers and many private companies are relying on the latest technology as well as reaching out to receive as much feedback as possible from those they service to improve the customer experience.  In my view for this client centric focus to succeed, it cannot happen behind the scenes, IRCC should (1) define what the scope of client service means, (2) survey its clients, stakeholders and the public given the very high profile of immigration law and policy in Canada, (3) retrain officers and (4) employ new messaging regarding representatives.

 So IRCC cannot embark on this journey alone. It requires the cooperation, vision and assets of all stakeholders. The key goal of such initiatives is to test and deliver an immigration program before application to resettlement that has been carefully defined and debated.  No one has all the answers and the issues are so complex especially in a world of growing tensions and terrorism.  Subject matter experts like representatives should be seen as an asset and not an impediment to enhancing the system.  It starts with fair messaging about counsels’ role in the process.  Immigration applicants are as worried about transparency as they are about the certainty of selection. So, predictability of the system is fundamental to attracting the best applicants and given that a positive client experience in a “just in time” immigration system is in all parties’ best interests, it is important for this process – to understand and enhance the client experience – is inclusive, comprehensive and forward looking.

For information on Permanent and Temporary Migration, please click here and here.