Mr/Ms Name, MP
City, Province, Postal Code
I am writing to express my concerns about Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s poor administration of the citizenship grant process, its increasingly frequent usage of the Residence Questionnaire (RQ) and the growing backlog of almost 350,000 applicants. As the MP of my riding, I hope that the continued and seemingly deliberate disenfranchisement of immigrants such as myself will be of concern to you.
The CIC has the right and responsibility to verify the integrity of citizenship applications, but this does not eliminate their responsibility to administer the grant of citizenship in a fair, clear and timely manner. While I am not in a position to speak to its fairness, the CIC’s administration of the citizenship grant is neither clear nor timely. Opacity and long delays do not engender confidence in fair processing.
Long or Unknown Citizenship Timeline:
The CIC helpline estimates that an Residence Questionnaires adds from 1 to 4 years to an applicant’s processing timeline. This is in addition to the 3-4 year qualifying period as a Permanent Resident, the one year of initial processing by CIC Sydney and the one or more year wait for a citizenship judge hearing. This indicates that citizenship may be a ten year process for the tens of thousands of RQ recipients per year. This arbitrarily disenfranchises, with neither explanation nor proof, the overwhelming majority of these immigrants who will be found to have met the qualifications of citizenship years before. It discourages other qualified permanent residents from applying for their own citizenship after witnessing friends and family navigate a slow, opaque, and seemingly capricious process. It actively discourages integration and democratic participation.
Deliberate Policy Decision:
By increasing the frequency of the RQ, as seems to have been done since the 3 May 2012 issuance of CIC OB 407, without allocating the necessary resources to process them in a timely manner, the leadership of the CIC has decided to increase the wait times, increase the size of the backlog and delay the grant of citizenship to tens of thousands of qualified applicants.
The slowdown of citizenship grants is clear in the CIC’s data. The data from 2012 shows that the CIC had only approved 113,142 new citizens that year while receiving 317,440 applications. This is a significantly lower rate of citizenship grants than at any point in the past five years. This low rate of citizenship grants, coupled with a high rate of applications is contributing to the dramatic increase in the citizenship backlog, which grew by 65,000 cases since 2011 to an all-time high of 344,516. In 2007 the backlog was 189,886. [http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/statistics/data-release/2013-Q1/index.asp]
Vulnerability to Arbitrary Application Elimination:
The growing backlog of Residence Questionnaires leaves us vulnerable to an arbitrary “wipe-out” of in-process applications, as happened with the CIC’s arbitrary action to clear the backlog in the Federal Skilled Worker Program on 29 March 2012. The CIC eliminated almost 98,000 immigration applications, representing 280,000 individuals.
Demands for Extensive Documentation in Short Time Frame:
The RQ demands extensive and personal documentation to be delivered within 45 business days. There is no mention at any earlier point during the permanent residence or citizenship application processes that this documentation will be required of 1 out of every 5 citizenship applicants. This lack of forewarning exacerbates the difficulty of the process. Many documents, especially those from foreign and provincial governments, cannot be retrieved by the deadline. The CIC helpline was unable to provide consistent advice about how to deal with this.
Dearth of Quality Advice on RQ:
The Residence Questionnaire has no official handbook or guide. Many CIC helpline agents seemed largely unfamiliar with the form and I was given inconsistent and contradictory advice on multiple occasions. This is frustrating given the CIC’s increasing reliance on this form, which has been demanded of approximately 33,000 applicants/year. [https://residencequestionnaire.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/rq_stats_apr2013.pdf]
The RQ itself listed unclear and inconsistent requirements including the due date (listed in some places as 45 days and others as 45 business days.) When there is difficulty in clarifying something as basic as the due date, it suggests that the form and process may not have gone through the level of consideration one would expect for such a serious matter.
Opacity of CIC’s Concerns:
Residence Questionnaires provide no indication of what concerns, deficiencies or falsehoods the citizenship official suspects. Applicants are asked to disprove the unspecified suspicions of unspecified officials and then left to wait years for any response. This lack of transparency does not engender confidence in the process but instead suggests that the process could be arbitrary or vulnerable to prejudice.
Request of Minister:
I have met the residency requirements for citizenship and I hope that one day the government will recognize that. Like the overwhelming majority of RQ recipients, I am not a fraud and I do not deserve to have citizenship withheld from me indefinitely. Like thousands of other recipients of the Residence Questionnaire, I would like the opportunity to clear my name. Due to the current and seemingly deliberate growth in the citizenship backlog I fear I will not have that chance.
I request that the Minister speak out against the growing and unreasonable backlog of qualified immigrants who are being denied their democratic rights through this deliberate underfunding and administrative slowdown of the CIC.
Additionally I would like to suggest:
1. The CIC create a guide for citizenship applicants who have received the RQ, with suggestions of documents to provide, their names and the processes to find them.
2. Inform PRs, student and work visa holders that, should they ever wish to apply for citizenship, they will need to diligently and accurately document all travel outside of Canada, from the date of their first arrival here on any visa.
3. Inform PRs, students and work visa holders of the extensive documentary requirements that may be demanded of them should they ever apply for citizenship (rent receipts, years’ worth of bank, hydro, garderie, credit card records, expired visas, etc.)