Couple could lose jobs, but IRCC can't explain years of limbo for permanent residents
MONTREAL -- It seems Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is still unable to explain why some permanent residents are stuck in limbo, waiting months -- and even years -- in the pandemic to hear back about their files.
Many permanent residents in Montreal say they're being told that the local office is still closed due to COVID-19 and they don't know if anyone is even working on their papers.
Nassrat Mikhail, who immigrated to Canada with his family in 2014, says he's beyond frustrated with the system.
"It has been a trauma for our family," he says. "IRCC never sent us a reason for the delay. To be honest, I have lost confidence in this department. It is the first place all newcomers interact with and unfortunately, they do their best to give the worst experience."
Both he and his wife are employed by a Canadian company that has them stationed in the Middle East.
The couple, with their two children, aged nine and 11, returned to Canada in 2019 to renew their permanent residencies and have been stuck here waiting for the last 27 months.
"Trusting in what the government said regarding meeting the residency requirements if we lived outside Canada and worked for a Canadian corporation, we sent all the documents requested to prove why we were eligible for the exemption of living inside Canada," he explained.
He stresses that if they do not return to their posts soon, he and his wife could lose their jobs.
"Our work requires both of us to keep working in the Middle East," he tells CTV News, adding he's mentioned this to IRCC and submitted documents to this effect.
"This is why we could lose our jobs."
The renewal application was submitted in August 2019 and, according to Mikhail, immediately transferred to the Montreal office.
"After seven months of complete silence, we finally hear from IRCC on the day the whole world was shutting down because of the pandemic," he said.
"They ask us to deliver those documents by mail to the local office in Montreal within two months, or else we risk the cancellation of our application."
He says he sent the requested documents via Canada Post -- who attempted multiple times before successfully being able to deliver the package -- as well as through the digital web platform.
In return, he received "more silence for one more whole year."
"We have been in Canada since July 2019. We feel it’s our fault that we trusted in what the government says and we’re paying for it for the last two years by being stuck in the country, many months before COVID-19 and now again, after travel has opened up again," he said.
"We don’t know when IRCC will ask us to pick up the cards [in person]."
In an emailed response to Mikhail's attempt to gather information about his file, IRCC simply stated:
"Due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID‑19) pandemic, please note the following:
- Our office is closed until further notice;
- We cannot send your card by mail;
- We cannot give your card to a third party;
- We will contact you when our office is able to accommodate clients.
Please note that no response will be sent from this email address."
Mikhail says the most frustrating thing about the whole process is that he hasn't been able to get in touch with an actual person at IRCC who can help explain what is happening.
"All they say is that there is no problem with the file and it’s ‘processing,'" he told CTV News.
"How on Earth do they state they can renew residency for people working with a Canadian corporation outside Canada, yet in reality, it’s taking 27 months and counting?"
EXCUSES, BUT NO ANSWERS
In a statement to CTV News, IRCC said the family's permanent resident card renewal applications "are presently in process" and because their applications were referred to a local office "for an in-depth review of their residency requirements, processing will fall outside [regular] timelines."
The department did not provide more information about the file.
The agency insisted that operations "are starting to ramp up with strict health and safety measures in place to ensure the well‑being of our clients and staff."
"Existing permanent residents who submitted PR card renewal applications may encounter additional delays due to the ongoing difficulty in accessing processing offices," IRCC admitted.
"The Montreal IRCC office is currently distributing PR cards to clients by appointment only. Clients are being contacted when their card is ready to pick up and they are provided with an appointment time to collect it."
The department says it hopes to shorten processing times "in the coming months" as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift and with the help of virtual tools like the Permanent Resident Portal, which allows applicants to submit photos electronically and "speed up the production of the PR card."
"A PR card is not needed to travel or exit Canada, but one is needed to re-enter," IRCC noted.
"If an individual has to travel urgently outside Canada, and their PR card has not yet arrived, they need to apply for a permanent resident travel document (PRTD) at the immigration office serving the country they plan to visit."
According to IRCC, PR cards for new applicants should arrive within two weeks of landing in Canada.
"If the delay is much longer, applicants should contact the Client Support Centre to allow IRCC access to their file and find out why they’re still waiting for their PR card," the department stresses.
For existing permanent residents awaiting renewal, "the current processing time for PR card renewals is 138 days and is updated weekly."
The department could not explain why CTV News has received dozens of messages from multiple people saying their wait times have exceeded this number.