Wednesday, December 5, 2012


The files that were located at the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo, NY, have been transferred to the Ottawa office but the process has substantially slowed the finalization of those applications. Still, the story below is not completely accurate, as some kinds of applications that were being dealt with in Buffalo, such as sponsorships, have actually seen a marked improvement in processing time,  Our office has been receiving decisions on sponsorships originally located in Buffalo in approximately six months.  I think that the problem of delay is most acute with files where the medical exams have not yet been ordered. Also, the subject of the article below may not be the best indicator of processing times, as citizens from certain couturiers like Iran may be subject to  more scrutiny than those from other countries.

Buffalo immigration backlog leaves new Canadians in limbo


Concordia University graduate and immigrant from Iran, Alireza Saberi, poses for a photograph in his neighbourhood of Cote-des-Neiges in Montreal on Tuesday. Saberi's Canadian residency has already been delayed for two years after the federal government closed the Buffalo visa office and transferred applications to the Ottawa office.

Photograph by: Dario Ayala / For Postmedia News, Postmedia News

OTTAWA — The closure of a visa office in upstate New York last spring has meant extra long delays for thousands of increasingly cash-strapped would-be permanent residents and Canada could risk losing the very immigrants it wants most as a result.International students and foreign workers — young, educated newcomers with so-called Canadian experience, the kind of people Canada’s revamped immigration system is increasingly keen to court — comprise the vast majority of the nearly 10,000 files that were transferred to Ottawa from Buffalo, N.Y. Some say they have waited as many as two years for their papers while they watched others who applied later get their permanent residency before them. A number of them are now on the hook for expensive new medical tests since their previous ones expired, while others are growing desperate as their savings runs out. Many self-described “forgotten ones of Buffalo” have even taken to Facebook to voice their concerns and swap status updates. Alireza Saberi, a 28-year-old McGill University electrical engineering graduate from Iran, is one of the organizers. He estimates he’s among some 4,000 students and recent grads in the Montreal area now in limbo. “I am jobless and looking to find a job. Just spending my personal savings,” said Saberi, who applied to the federal skilled worker program after receiving the okay from Quebec in December 2011, about a year after he graduated. He received a post-graduate permit that allows him to work and has applied to hi-tech companies like Cisco Systems and Qualcomm, but each time it’s the same refrain. “I passed the qualification but it’s the last level of HR where they request you to be a permanent resident at least,” he said. “By default, I was rejected.” He figures he’s got enough savings to survive another three or four months and isn’t sure what he’ll do if processing takes any longer. Returning home is certainly an option and he knows of others who are already considering it. It’s the situation Loic Kerbrat now finds himself in. The 29-year-old from France came to Quebec three years ago on a holiday working visa, found a girl and a new calling and would like to stay. The childcare worker with a degree in nursing, however, has spent the last nine months doing volunteer work, trying not to cut too far into the money he’s saved for a down payment on a house. He can’t work, pending his permanent residency, and says he’s already decided to return to France in January if there’s still been no movement on his file. “I followed all of the rules, I did everything I was told to do. Mostly I was disturbed by the lack of information from the government. I just want this to be over” he said. “I don’t understand how this kind of thing could happen in Canada.” Canada closed its Buffalo visa office in May after announcing foreign students and workers living in Canada would no longer have to leave the country to renew a visa or apply for permanent residency. At the time, about 9,508 permanent residency applications and 700 temporary resident applications were packed up and sent to a new office in Ottawa for processing. Citizenship and Immigration spokesman Remi Lariviere said the packing started around June and the files were received in Ottawa in July. The files spanned all immigration streams and involved applicants across Canada, though it appears a good number of them involved Quebec skilled workers. When the office closed, processing times were around 15 months, though Lariviere said new files now received in Ottawa will take only nine months to be finalized. He said the Buffalo backlog should be completed by next summer. “By centralizing more processing in Canada, particularly for files that are more straightforward and with lower risk, we can be more efficient and create jobs in Canada,” he said. The opposition has raised the issue on several occasions in the House of Commons over the last few weeks. In an interview Tuesday, NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims said she suspects overworked, understaffed citizenship officers “just forgot” about the boxes of Buffalo files sitting in the corner as many of them haven’t even received a file number or been assigned a case worker yet which means they’re still in the very early stages of processing. “It creates a lot of instability. I think my fear is we’re going to have people not trusting their government and beginning to look somewhere else for places to go to and that is a real concern,” she said. In response to repeated questions in the House of Commons, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney merely noted that the “new central processing office in Ottawa is processing applications more quickly than they were in Buffalo.”

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