August 30, 2021
Online Citizenship Applications Are Here!
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced on 11 August 2021 that they would be accepting the online submission of citizenship applications. Advocates have long expressed concern over the lengthy processing times for these applications, which were only exacerbated by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. As reported by CBC news, after 11 March 2021 all citizenship tests were cancelled, excepting urgent exams. Further to this point, through an Access to Information Request CBC obtained a series of emails sent internally in IRCC suggesting that the backlog for citizenship tests had grown by almost 30, 000 between March 2020 and January 2021 – from 87, 000 to 102, 000. The information accessed also confirmed that in January 2021 almost 312, 000 applicants were waiting for their applications to be even processed, with many waiting up to a year and half for this process to begin.
IRCC’s recent announcement brings a measure of hope for applicants waiting in these long lines. The goal of this new tool is to make the application process more efficient and user friendly – applicants will be able to save partially completed applications, upload all of their material, and print both a PDF and receipt of confirmation once their application is submitted.
We commend the Canadian government for these steps taken to support permanent residents seeking Canadian citizenship. We question, however, why access to these online platforms have only been extended to applicants without a representative. Representatives will in fact not be able to apply on behalf of applicants until 2022. This continues the messaging that sidelines immigration advocates and counsel, which our firm has previously pointed to as a significant problem. The presentation on IRCC websites that effectively marginalizes authorised representatives will harm many migrants, who end up being self-represented or underrepresented. This is particularly concerning with citizenship applications, which can be incredibly tedious and require significant detail of travel over several years, as well as the support of legal arguments in many cases. We thus again urge IRCC to present a balanced view of the crucial role of counsel, in particular as it relates to complex cases like citizenship. This will contribute to more expeditious decision-making as it will ensure submission of a complete and fulsome application in the first instance.