ARCHIVED — Vol. 146, No. 23 — November 7, 2012
SOR/2012-225 October 18, 2012
IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION ACT
Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations
P.C. 2012-1369 October 18, 2012
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, pursuant to subsection 5(1) and sections 14 and 201 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (see footnote a), makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
REGULATIONS AMENDING THE IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION REGULATIONS
1. The portion of subsection 10(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (see footnote 1) before paragraph (a) is replaced by the following:
Form and content of application
10. (1) Subject to paragraphs 28(b) to (d) and 139(1)(b), an application under these Regulations shall
2. Subsection 11(5) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
(5) A person who applies to sponsor a foreign national, other than a foreign national who is making an application for a permanent resident visa under Division 1 of Part 8, must send the application to the Department’s Case Processing Centre in Canada that serves the applicant’s place of habitual residence.
3. Section 12 of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
Return of application
12. Subject to section 140.4, if the requirements of sections 10 and 11 are not met, the application and all documents submitted in support of it shall be returned to the applicant.
4. (1) Paragraph 139(1)(b) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
- (b) the foreign national has submitted an application for a permanent resident visa under this Division in accordance with paragraphs 10(1)(a) to (c) and (2)(c.1) to (d) and sections 140.1 to 140.3;
(2) Paragraph 139(1)(i) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
- (i) subject to subsections (3) and (4), the foreign national and their family members included in the application for protection are not inadmissible.
5. The Regulations are amended by adding the following after section 140:
140.1 An application for a permanent resident visa submitted by a foreign national under this Division shall indicate that the foreign national is outside Canada and is making a claim for refugee protection and shall
- (a) contain the name, address and country of birth of the applicant and of all their accompanying family members;
- (b) contain the name and country of birth of all the applicant’s non-accompanying family members; and
- (c) indicate whether the applicant or any of their accompanying or non-accompanying family members is the spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner of another person.
Sponsorship of foreign national — requirement to attach applications
140.2 (1) If the foreign national making an application for a permanent resident visa under this Division is being sponsored, the application for a permanent resident visa shall
- (a) be accompanied by a sponsorship application referred to in paragraph 153(1)(b) by which the foreign national is being sponsored; or
- (b) be attached to the sponsorship application sent by the sponsor in accordance with subsection 153(1.2).
Place of application
(2) The foreign national who has chosen to have their application for a permanent resident visa accompanied by the sponsorship application shall send the application for a permanent resident visa and the sponsorship application to the Department’s Case Processing Centre in Canada for processing those applications.
140.3 (1) If the foreign national making an application for a permanent resident visa under this Division is not being sponsored, a foreign national making an application for a permanent resident visa under this Division shall submit their application with one of the following referrals, if the referral has not yet been submitted to the immigration office by its issuer:
- (a) a referral from a referral organization;
- (b) a referral resulting from an arrangement between the Minister and the government of a foreign state or any institution of such a government relating to resettlement; or
- (c) a referral resulting from an agreement relating to resettlement entered into by the Government of Canada and an international organization or the government of a foreign state.
(2) A foreign national may submit the application without a referral if they reside in a geographic area as determined by the Minister in accordance with subsection (3).
(3) The Minister may determine on the basis of the following factors that a geographic area is an area in which circumstances justify the submission of permanent resident visa applications without a referral:
- (a) advice from referral organizations with which the Minister has entered into a memorandum of understanding under section 143 that they are unable to make the number of referrals specified in their memorandum of understanding for the area;
- (b) the inability of referral organizations to refer persons in the area;
- (c) the resettlement needs in the area, after consultation with referral organizations that have substantial knowledge of the area; and
- (d) the relative importance of resettlement needs in the area, within the context of resettlement needs globally.
Place of application
(4) If the foreign national who is being referred under any of paragraphs (1)(a) to (c) or if the foreign national resides in a geographic area as determined by the Minister in accordance with subsection (3), the foreign national shall submit their application to the immigration office outside Canada that serves the foreign national’s place of residence.
Return of documents
140.4 An application for a permanent resident visa made under this Division, its related sponsorship application made under Division 2 of this Part and all documents submitted in support of the applications shall be returned to the person who sent the applications as a result of the choice made under subsection 140.2(1) if
- (a) in the case of an application for a permanent resident visa, the requirements set out in paragraph 139(1)(b) are not met; or
- (b) in the case of a sponsorship application, the requirements set out in paragraph 153(1)(b) and subsections 153(1.2) and (2) are not met.
6. Subsection 141(2) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
Non-application of paragraph 139(1)(b)
(2) For greater certainty, the requirements set out in paragraph 139(1)(b) do not apply to the application of a non-accompanying family member.
7. Paragraph 142(a) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
- (a) at the time the application referred to in paragraph 139(1)(b) was made; and
8. Section 150 of the Regulations is repealed.
9. (1) Paragraph 153(1)(b) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
- (b) must make a sponsorship application that includes a settlement plan, an undertaking and, if the sponsor has not entered into a sponsorship agreement with the Minister, a document issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or a foreign state certifying the status of the foreign national as a refugee under the rules applicable to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or the applicable laws of the foreign state, as the case may be; and
(2) Section 153 of the Regulations is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):
Non-application of paragraphs 13(1)(a) and (b)
(1.1) Paragraphs 13(1)(a) and (b) do not apply to the document referred to in paragraph (1)(b) issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or a foreign state.
Place of application
(1.2) If the foreign national has chosen to have their application for a permanent resident visa attached to the sponsorship application in accordance with paragraph 140.2(1)(b), the sponsor must send the sponsorship application and the application for a permanent resident visa to the Department’s Case Processing Centre in Canada for processing those applications.
10. Section 334 of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
Applications for protection abroad
334. With the exception of subsection 140.3(1) of these Regulations, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act applies to an applicant described in section 7 of the former Regulations or section 4 of the Humanitarian Designated Classes Regulations, who made an application for admission under the former Act if the application is pending on the day on which this section comes into force and no visa has been issued to the applicant.
COMING INTO FORCE
11. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
Issues: Low approval rates, large inventories and long processing times in the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP) have reduced the efficiency of the program and detracted from its original objectives of expanding Canada’s refugee protection capacity and engaging civil society in resettlement. This has impacted negatively on all parties involved in the program: sponsors, refugee applicants, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
As the PSRP evolved, it came to be used by sponsors as a means to reunite families in Canada. This understandable but unintended driver has contributed substantially to these program inefficiencies. Overwhelming demand combined with the lack of an effective application intake control mechanism has had an adverse impact on the quality of applications and added to growing backlogs and long wait times.
Description: The regulatory amendments will affect the PSRP resettlement application process and the Groups of Five (G5s) and Community Sponsors (CSs) sponsorship requirements. First, the changes will require the foreign national’s application for protection from abroad (permanent resident application) to be submitted at the same time as the sponsor’s application (sponsorship undertaking). These changes will also define what constitutes a complete application for protection from abroad and allow Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to return both applications (permanent residence and sponsorship undertaking) if information is missing. These measures are intended to reduce delays in the processing of privately sponsored refugee (PSR) applications. Second, the amendment to sponsorship provisions will limit G5s and CSs to submitting applications for persons recognized by either the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or a foreign state as a refugee. Limiting access to the G5 and CS refugee sponsorship streams is intended to resettle refugees who are most in need of Canada’s protection while increasing approval rates and better managing the PSR inventory.
Cost-benefit statement: The anticipated costs resulting from the regulatory amendments are negligible, both overseas and in Canada. Additionally, some modest cost savings may be expected from the anticipated gains in processing efficiency. The costs to Government associated with this proposal will be limited to the human resources employed to create new electronic application forms and kits. These one-time costs are estimated at $155,000 and will be absorbed within CIC’s current operating budget.
“One-for-One” Rule and small business lens: Neither the “One-for-One” Rule nor the small business lens applies to this proposal, due to the nature of the amendments.
Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Program is concerned with refugees outside Canada and aims to bring them to Canada to live as permanent residents. It is composed of two streams. GovernmentAssisted Refugees (GARs) are identified for consideration by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and receive financial assistance from the Government of Canada. Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs) are identified for consideration by and receive support from private sponsors in Canada.
The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP) gives Canadians and permanent residents an opportunity to help resettle refugees in Canada. The program evolved during the mass movement of Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970s. During this crisis, the Canadian government referred over 50 000 refugee families to organizations and groups of individuals in Canada who provided settlement support, including housing and income, help finding employment, and orientation to these families after their arrival. Due to the overwhelming success of this program, it became enshrined as a fundamental part of Canada’s Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program.
The PSRP is celebrated domestically and internationally as an innovative and diverse public-private partnership. To date, it has welcomed through resettlement to Canada over 200 000 refugees and persons in refugee-like situations who otherwise might not have received protection.
In 2009, CIC’s Immigration Levels Plan included a maximum of 4 500 PSRs and 7 500 GARs. The Government committed in June 2010, as part of the measures to reform Canada’s refugee protection system through the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, to increase the total number of refugees resettled by 20%. By 2013, Canada will resettle up to 14 500 refugees annually.
There are three types of private refugee sponsoring groups. All sponsoring groups must demonstrate that they have the financial resources to provide the refugees with care, lodging, settlement assistance and support for the duration of the sponsorship period. Normally, this is for one year or until the refugee becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first.
- Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) are local, regional and national incorporated organizations that have signed multi-year agreements with the Minister for the purposes of submitting sponsorship cases on a regular basis. Most current SAHs are religious organizations, ethno-cultural groups or other humanitarian organizations. SAHs assume overall responsibility for the management of sponsorships under their agreement. SAHs submit approximately 60% of all refugee sponsorship applications.
- Groups of Five (G5s) are five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are at least 18 years of age, live in the applicant’s expected community of settlement and have collectively arranged for the sponsorship of a refugee living abroad. The five individuals act as guarantors that appropriate support will be provided for the full duration of the sponsorship. An immigration officer assesses members’ collective contributions to the sponsorship, both financial and non-financial. G5s are intended to be temporary groups that only sponsor one or a few cases and do not need an ongoing agreement with the Minister. G5s submit approximately 40% of all refugee sponsorship applications.
- Community Sponsors (CSs) are organizations (for-profit or not-for-profit, and incorporated or not incorporated) that have not signed formal agreements with CIC. An immigration officer assesses financial and settlement plans each time CSs wish to sponsor. CSs must demonstrate that the organization is willing and able to commit funds toward the sponsorship. The CS stream is designed for organizations that wish to sponsor only once or twice, but do not need an ongoing agreement with the Minister. CSs submit a handful of applications each year.
The Province of Quebec is responsible for its own sponsorship criteria, the assessment of financial and settlement plans, and determining the number of sponsorships it will submit to CIC.
As the PSRP has evolved, family reunification has become a prominent driver alongside the original program objectives of expanding Canada’s refugee protection capacity and engaging civil society in resettlement. While the program still fulfills its protection objectives, and refugee family reunification is in line with the overall objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the program was not designed to support the overwhelming demand for family reunification that it faces today. Furthermore, instead of private sponsors sponsoring refugees who had been assessed and referred to them by CIC, in the majority of cases, sponsors name the applicants they wish to sponsor. High demand due to the understandable desire for family reunification, combined with the lack of an effective application intake control mechanism for the program, has had an adverse impact on the volume and quality of PSR applications.
I. Delays in PSR application process
For all three streams of the PSRP (SAHs, G5s and CSs) there are two parts to the PSR application process. First, the sponsor submits a sponsorship undertaking application to a designated CIC office in Canada. A CIC officer then determines whether the sponsor meets the requirements to sponsor, taking into consideration the sponsor’s financial resources. Normally, the CIC office takes 30 days to process the undertaking. Second, the applicant overseas submits an application for permanent residence to a visa office abroad. A visa officer then determines whether the applicant meets all relevant requirements under IRPA, usually through an interview. Processing of the PSR application cannot begin until the visa office has both the sponsorship undertaking and the application for permanent residence.
Processing times for PSR applications vary significantly from mission to mission. It can take anywhere from 6 months to 34 months to process a PSR application. (see footnote 2) Multiple stakeholders have voiced concerns about long processing times. Delays in the processing of applications make it difficult for sponsors to plan for the refugees’ arrival. Also, when a sponsor submits an application, the sponsor’s funds to provide support to the refugees on arrival are tied up until a decision is made on the application. From the Government’s perspective, long delays reduce the efficiency of the PSRP.
Two key factors contribute to delays in processing PSR applications:
- (1) Refugee and sponsorship applications often lack basic and essential information and CIC does not currently have the authority to return incomplete refugee applications. Considerable time is required to follow up with the applicant and/or sponsor to obtain all the necessary information. This is particularly true in countries where poor communications infrastructure makes it difficult to contact the applicant.
- (2) Additionally, delays often occur between the submission of the sponsorship undertaking in Canada and the submission of the permanent residence application overseas. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 24 months to receive both applications. A PSR application cannot be assessed until both documents have been received by the visa office.
Long processing times mean that situations in a country of origin may change and leave applicants ineligible for resettlement because they may safely return home by the time they are interviewed. Long processing times may also lead to the sponsor or CIC losing contact with applicants.
II. Large inventories and low approval rates of sponsorship applications
In contrast to the GAR program, the PSRP has been characterized by large inventories and low approval rates. Two issues have contributed to this situation:
- (1) The PSRP receives far more applications than the number of refugees CIC can land in a given year. This has led to a growing program inventory and long wait times, with some missions operating with a backlog in excess of five years. As of December 31, 2011, the global PSR inventory stood at 29 125 persons. If the level of applications and current approval rates are maintained, it will take until 2025 to reduce the PSR inventory to a manageable level.
- This situation does not occur within the GAR program. Canada and the UNHCR reach an agreement on the number of GAR referrals Canada will receive in a given year. This results in a predictable intake of refugee applications that is sufficient to achieve the level of GAR landings tabled annually in Parliament.
- (2) Approval rates in the PSR program are far below those in the GAR program. From 2006 to 2010, global approval rates in the PSR program were on average 57%. Before that, approval rates were commonly closer to 50%. From 2008 to 2010, the average approval rate for all G5s was 64%. However, this includes a large proportion of Iraqi cases recognized prima facie by the UNHCR as refugees. When Iraqi cases are removed from this calculation, the G5 average approval rate falls to approximately 37%. The acceptance rate in the PSRP for applications is low because many overseas applicants are found to be ineligible for Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Program.
- The cases that the UNHCR refers to Canada for the GAR program have been interviewed and assessed to ensure that they meet Canada’s eligibility requirements for resettlement. This helps to account for the much higher GAR approval rate of approximately 90%. Private sponsors in Canada rarely have direct access to the refugees they wish to sponsor, and understandably, the compelling desire for family reunification may hinder sponsors’ ability to ensure that the applicant has a genuine protection need.
Low approval rates, large inventories and long processing times in the PSRP reduce program efficiency and civil society engagement.
The overall objective of the regulatory amendments is to increase program efficiency and realign the PSRP with its original objectives of expanding Canada’s refugee protection capacity and engaging civil society in resettlement.
I. Reducing delays in the resettlement application process
The amendment intends to increase program efficiency by reducing processing delays in all three streams of the PSRP (SAHs, G5s and CSs). This will ensure CIC receives a complete application, including the basic necessary information, thus eliminating delays caused by efforts to obtain the essential information.
II. Increasing approval rates and reducing inventory of applications
The amendments aim to realign the PSRP with its original objectives of expanding Canada’s refugee protection capacity and engaging civil society in resettlement by increasing PSRP approval rates to an average of at least 65–70%. The proposal will also reduce the backlog of applications in the global PSR inventory. This will be achieved by improving the quality of PSR applications, thereby limiting the number of ineligible PSR applications submitted.
I. Reducing processing delays in the resettlement application process
This proposal responds directly to stakeholder complaints about processing times and is in line with broader departmental efforts to improve the efficiency of application processing. To ensure CIC has all the necessary tools to process an application, the following four regulatory amendments will apply to all three streams of the PSRP (SAHs, G5s and CSs):
(1) Definition of a complete application
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (the Regulations) do not currently specify what constitutes an application for a permanent resident visa from refugee resettlement applicants abroad. The amendments will define what constitutes a complete refugee application so that CIC receives the basic information and documentation necessary to process applications. Namely, the information and documentation required as part of an application for a permanent resident visa from refugees abroad will be
- (a) an application submitted in writing using a form approved by CIC, if any;
- (b) an application signed by the applicant;
- (c) all information and documents required by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, as well as any other evidence required by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act;
- (d) the name, address, and country of birth of the applicant and of all accompanying family members of the applicant;
- (e) the name and country of birth of all non-accompanying family members;
- (f) a statement as to whether the applicant or any of the family members is the spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner of another person;
- (g) a statement that the person is outside Canada and is making a claim for refugee protection;
- (h) the name, postal address and telephone number of any person who represents the applicant, and the person’s fax number and electronic mail address, if any; and
- (i) if the person who represents the applicant is charging a fee for representation:
- (i) the name of the organization referred to in any of paragraphs 91(2)(a) to (c) of IRPA of which the person is a member;
- (ii) the membership identification number issued by that organization to the person; and
- (iii) a declaration that the information provided is complete and accurate.
- (i) the name of the organization referred to in any of paragraphs 91(2)(a) to (c) of IRPA of which the person is a member;
(2) Concurrent submission of applications to a designated CIC office in Canada
Applicants and sponsors may currently choose to submit the application for a permanent resident visa and sponsorship undertaking together or separately. Many have voluntarily chosen to submit them together. The amendments will require that both applications be submitted together.
Steps have been taken to mitigate impacts on privacy rights. (see footnote 3) To ensure that the new process does not compel refugee applicants or sponsors to disclose personal information to a party other than CIC, the amendments will give applicants the flexibility to designate either themselves or the sponsor as the party to submit and receive the returned application package where information is missing or incomplete. To ensure that this new process does not compel refugee applicants to disclose to their sponsor sensitive medical or personal information related to their refugee narrative that is normally included in the application forms, an exception will be made in the forms allowing applicants to indicate instead that they choose (by signing a declaration on the forms) to provide this information in person to a visa officer if they are invited for an immigration interview. Visa manuals and visa officer training will include information on these changes and will inform visa officers how to approach such exceptions when they occur.
Under the existing Regulations, sponsors must submit the sponsorship undertaking to a designated CIC office in Canada, while the refugee applicant must submit their permanent residence application to a visa office overseas. However, to facilitate the process, departmental policy has allowed refugee applicants to submit their permanent residence application together with the sponsorship undertaking to a designated CIC office in Canada. Many applicants and sponsors have already adopted this option. The amendments will require that both applications be submitted together to a designated CIC office in Canada.
(3) Returning applications
Citizenship and Immigration Canada does not currently have the specific authority in the Regulations to return incomplete refugee applications. Officers must contact applicants to acquire missing information, which is an inefficient use of resources that could be dedicated to other areas of visa processing. Under the new amendments, if the application is deemed incomplete, CIC has the authority to return both the permanent residence application and the sponsorship undertaking to the designated party. This reflects the reality that without necessary basic information or documentation, the ability to process an application is limited.
II. Increase approval rates and reduce inventory of applications
Sponsorship Agreement Holders are local, regional and national incorporated organizations that have signed multi-year agreements with the Minister for the purposes of submitting sponsorship cases on a regular basis. They are an identifiable group with an elected Council and an official advisory group with whom CIC consults regularly. G5s are groups of five or more individuals who typically sponsor one or a few refugee cases in their lifetime. Finally, CSs are organizations that have not signed formal agreements with the Minister, and which typically sponsor refugees only once or twice. G5s and CSs are typically temporary and dispersed. Due to the different structure of these sponsoring groups, CIC has resorted to different solutions to manage the intake and quality of their applications.
(a) Administrative measures for SAH applications
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has taken actions to address these challenges over the past four years. The Minister and senior officials from CIC have also appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Immigration to answer questions related to the management of PSR application intake. Actions taken by the Minister have included increased training and funding to improve communication between SAHs, and, in 2012, the establishment of a global cap on the number of PSR applications CIC will accept from SAHs. These measures will manage the intake and improve the quality of applications submitted by one of the three streams of sponsors to the PSRP–SAHs. However, G5s and CSs cannot be similarly managed through administrative measures as they do not have on-going, multi-year agreements with the Minister.
(b) Regulatory amendments for G5 and CS applications
The regulatory amendment to the G5 and CS streams of the PSRP is intended to complement the introduction of a cap on applications by SAHs in 2012 and is an equally important measure in the management of the global PSR inventory.
The amendment will require that applications for sponsorship by a G5 or a CS include documented proof, from the UNHCR or a foreign state, that the applicant being sponsored is a recognized refugee. The amendment will reduce the total number of G5 and CS applications received each year, principally from among those applications least likely to meet the regulatory requirement for resettlement. This will also increase the approval rates for G5- and CS-sponsored cases, requiring fewer visa officer resources to achieve the same number of landings. Currently, given low approval rates, visa officers must process about two cases for each refugee resettled to Canada. This amendment will improve operational efficiency, decrease processing times and reduce the inventory, which in turn will reduce wait times.
The amendment will require applications for sponsorship by a G5 or CS to include documented proof from a foreign state or the UNHCR that the applicant being sponsored is a recognized refugee. This will include proof that the applicant has undergone a refugee status determination process carried out by either a foreign state or the UNHCR.
The UNHCR is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. As part of this role, the UNHCR registers asylum-seekers and conducts refugee status determination procedures where host countries are unable or unwilling to do so. Requiring UNHCR or State recognition will help ensure that the applicants whom G5s and CSs seek to sponsor are, in fact, refugees.
When refugee claimants arrive in a country of asylum, they are generally issued documentation by the host State or the UNHCR confirming their status as a refugee. This documentation varies from country to country. In consultation with the UNHCR, CIC will provide operational guidance to Canadian visa offices about what constitutes acceptable documentation. Canadian visa offices, in consultation with the UNHCR, will generally be in the best position to assess documentation provided by host states and to keep abreast of any changes.
In rare circumstances where the applicant overseas does not have access to a State’s or the UNHCR’s refugee determination process, there is still the possibility of sponsorship under the auspices of a SAH, or consideration under the humanitarian and compassionate or ministerial public policy provisions of IRPA.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada anticipates a significant reduction in the number of G5 and CS applications submitted each year as a result of the regulatory change. It is expected that the majority of the reduction will occur in those applications that would be ineligible under IRPA and its Regulations. The extent of this reduction will depend on world events and the sponsorship community’s response to refugee situations. CIC anticipates that reduced volumes of ineligible cases will lead to improvements in operational efficiency and processing times, and a reduction in the PSR application backlog.
By identifying and sponsoring recognized refugees from countries of asylum around the world, G5s and CSs will continue to have the opportunity to play an important role in refugee protection.
Regulatory and non-regulatory options considered
As an inventory management measure, in 2012, the Minister used administrative measures to cap the number of applications that Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) may submit in a year. A similar non-regulatory option for G5s and CSs is not possible as, unlike SAHs, they do not have on-going, multi-year agreements with the Minister. Additionally, an administrative cap would not necessarily address the issue of poor quality permanent resident applications in the G5 and CS streams, whereas the amendment to require documented proof of refugee status from a State or the UNHCR is also intended to increase the quality of applications.
Benefits and costs
The anticipated costs resulting from the regulatory amendments are negligible, both overseas and in Canada. Additionally, some modest cost savings may be expected from the anticipated gains in process efficiency.
I. Reducing delays in the resettlement application process
The costs to Government associated with this proposal will be limited to the human resources employed to create new electronic application forms and kits. New application forms and kits will be required to reflect the information and documentation requirements proposed through this amendment. These one-time costs are estimated at $155,000 and will be absorbed within CIC’s current operating budget.
The regulatory proposal envisions that refugee applicants who may not have computer access will be assisted by sponsors in providing complete applications.
With the amendments, time and resources previously used by visa offices to track down missing information from applicants and sponsors may be allocated to other areas of visa processing. As the amount of time currently consumed for this purpose varies from mission to mission, it is not possible to provide an accurate estimate of the potential savings.
As for the sponsors and applicants, the cost associated with this proposal will be the additional cost of communicating with one another to acquire necessary information that is missing from the application and the cost of mailing an application to Canada instead of the visa office serving the applicant’s area of residence. On the other hand, there will be savings for the sponsors in the long term. Once the delays in processing PSR applications have been reduced, the sponsors’ funds that are tied up until a decision is made will be freed sooner.
II. Regulatory amendments to increase approval rates and reduce inventory of applications
Overseas, the regulatory change is expected to decrease the number of G5 and CS applications processed. Funding to process applications is allocated based on the number of PSR visas expected to be issued each year (target) and the number of applications CIC needs to process in order to issue those visas (levels). If the number of applications submitted by G5s and CSs falls, given the PSR inventory, the number of SAH applications processed will increase proportionately. Overseas, the cost of processing a SAH application and a G5 or CS application is the same. Therefore, assuming the overall PSR immigration level remains the same, there will be no cost or savings effect on processing PSR applications.
Additionally, the regulatory change is expected to increase the approval rate within the G5 and CS stream of the PSRP after the existing inventory is processed (three to four years). As a result, CIC will need to process fewer G5 and CS applications in order to issue the same number of visas for G5 and CS sponsored applicants. This will contribute to an increase in the global PSR approval rate. Meanwhile, CIC will monitor the number of G5 applications submitted every year and adjust the SAH cap accordingly to ensure there are always enough PSR applications being submitted to meet the PSR levels. As the G5 and CS proportion of the program shrinks and the SAH proportion of the program rises, the effect of increased approval rates will be less pronounced. As a result, the overall net impact on costs will be negligible.
In Canada, it is likewise anticipated that the number of sponsorship undertakings submitted by G5s and CSs will decline. However, there is no anticipated effect on cost since any reduction in G5 and CS applications will be balanced by a proportional increase in SAH applications, as explained above.
The “One-for-One” Rule with respect to creating a new regulation does not apply to this proposal as it amends the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, and does not create a new regulation. The “One-for-One” Rule with respect to administrative burden does not apply to this proposal, as there is no change in administrative costs to business.
Small business lens
The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as there is no additional burden on small businesses.
Consultations with stakeholders have been undertaken since March 2006 to discuss inefficiencies associated with the PSR application process and consider options to improve it. Stakeholders who have been consulted include SAHs, representatives from the UNHCR, representatives from the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and the Ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada consults with the SAH community regarding policy and program changes on a regular basis through meetings of the elected SAH Council. The issue of a G5 and CS intake management strategy has been discussed by this council in the context of a broader PSR intake management strategy on numerous occasions. SAHs were also notified that changes to the G5 and CS program were forthcoming in a letter from the Minister in early 2011. In the summer of 2011, some members of the elected SAH Council participated in consultations with CIC on how this regulatory change might affect SAHs.
Long processing times are a major concern for the broader sponsorship community. There is recognition among SAH representatives and by members of the SAH Council that all parts of the PSRP must contribute to a backlog reduction solution, including the G5 and CS streams; otherwise, the positive effects of the SAH intake management strategy may be lost. SAHs had requested that limits on G5s and CSs come into effect at the same time as the cap on SAHs, i.e. in 2012. SAH representatives have also expressed a concern that there may be increasing pressure on SAHs to sponsor cases where G5s cannot. CIC expects this pressure to be manageable, as many SAHs already deal with many requests for sponsorship.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada consulted the UNHCR on the regulatory amendments and continues to work with the UNHCR towards their implementation. Initially, the UNHCR expressed concerns that the changes would create an incentive for persons to register with the UNHCR and apply for a Refugee Status Determination solely for the purpose of obtaining a G5 or CS sponsorship. After numerous discussions with the UNHCR, these concerns have been reduced by recognizing in this policy that State recognition has the same international footing as UNHCR recognition.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has also consulted with the Province of Quebec about the regulatory amendment. The amendment would not apply to sponsors in Quebec, although both the Province of Quebec and the Government of Canada recognize that backlogs in the PSRP are a common challenge.
By their nature, G5s and CSs are not organized or easily identifiable groups with whom it is possible to engage in consultations. CIC did, however, publish a Notice of Intent on December 10, 2011, in the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, followed by a 30-day comment period. Members of the SAH community, members of the public and other interested parties were solicited to provide comments.
Following the publication of the Notice of Intent in the Canada Gazette on December 10, 2011, comments were received from the CCR, the UNHCR, and a private citizen. All of the comments pertained to the requirement for G5 and CS sponsored refugees to obtain proof of recognized refugee status. The comments concerned the restriction of access to resettlement for G5 applicants, the availability and reliability of the documentation requested, and whether the new requirement will meet its stated objective. UNHCR also expressed concern that they would face increased pressure to recognize individuals wishing to be sponsored by a G5, putting further strain on their limited resources.
While the new requirement may restrict individuals without documented proof of refugee status or those eligible for resettlement through the Country of Asylum Class from being sponsored by a G5, they are still eligible to be sponsored by a SAH. All other eligibility requirements remain the same. CIC is working closely and will continue to work closely with visa offices abroad and the UNHCR to verify the integrity of documents and to identify appropriate documentation, and will communicate this to applicants and stakeholders through updates to our operations manuals, Web site and application kits.
Following a 30-day prepublication period of these amendments in the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, beginning on June 9, 2012, CIC received comments from the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) National Immigration Law Section and a SAH. Both respondents expressed their opposition to subsection 9(1) of the amendments, which requires G5 and CS applicants to obtain refugee recognition by either the UNHCR or a foreign state.
The comments received outline concerns related to the fallibility of UNHCR and foreign state determinations, accessing refugee determination processes and requisite documentation, and potential unintended consequences of the amendment, including increasing the likelihood of smuggling. A respondent also proposed that G5 application intake could be managed through administrative restrictions.
The main objectives of the PSRP are to expand Canada’s refugee protection capacity and engage civil society in resettlement. Long processing delays reduce both program efficiency and civil society engagement. The regulatory amendment is in line with broader departmental efforts to increase efficiency. This amendment is not intended to reduce the number of privately sponsored refugees resettled to Canada annually.
In many cases, receiving refugee recognition in the state of first asylum enhances protection and imparts certain rights on the individual that will improve their circumstances while awaiting resettlement. CIC recognizes that some refugee claimants may face harassment or intimidation in their country of asylum. In the event that they are not able to obtain recognition by a state or the UNHCR, sponsorship by a SAH remains another avenue for resettlement, or, in exceptional cases, consideration under the Minister’s public policy authority. There is no evidence to suggest that this amendment would incite an increase in human smuggling.
As the majority of G5 and CS applications are refused for eligibility reasons, CIC anticipates that this amendment will have a significant impact on the quality of G5 and CS-sponsored refugee applications and will reduce the volume of non-bona fide applications sponsored by G5s and CSs. CIC will monitor the impacts of the regulatory amendment to ensure that it meets its objectives.
Several options, including administrative measures, have been considered by CIC. After careful analysis, it was decided that a regulatory amendment was necessary to address both processing times and approval rates. The proposed administrative measure would reduce processing times for the SAH stream, but would do nothing to reduce inventory and processing times in the G5 and CS streams, nor improve the quality of G5 and CS applications.
The regulatory amendments are an essential step in CIC’s overall strategy to deal with growing inventories and long processing times in the PSRP.
The changes to the way PSR applications are submitted and granting CIC specific authority to return incomplete applications are designed to increase efficiency and reduce delays in the processing of PSR applications.
Changes that limit G5s and CSs to sponsoring refugees recognized by either the UNHCR or a State are designed to realign the PSRP with its original objectives and reduce the volume of ineligible applications in the G5/CS streams. These changes will increase approval rates, improve processing efficiency and complement the non-regulatory inventory management action (administrative cap) already undertaken in the SAH stream of the PSRP.
Overall, the regulatory amendments are designed to realign the PSRP with its original objectives of expanding Canada’s refugee protection capacity and engaging civil society in resettlement.
Implementation, enforcement and service standards
The new requirements will come into force upon registration. Sponsorship undertakings and permanent residence applications submitted prior to the coming into force of the regulatory amendments will not be affected.
New application kits outlining the new sponsorship requirements for G5s and CSs will be developed. The CIC Web page explaining refugee sponsorship will also be updated to reflect the new sponsorship criteria.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada will work with the UNHCR to ensure all regional UNHCR offices are aware of the new requirements facing Canadian G5 and CS sponsors. CIC will also work with the UNHCR to ensure alignment between the documentary evidence CIC requests from G5 and CS sponsors and the documents which prove that the sponsored person has obtained recognition of refugee status from either the UNHCR or a State.
All inquiries and comments are to be forwarded to
Refugee Affairs Branch
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
365 Laurier Avenue W
S.C. 2001, c. 27
From July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, 20% of cases were processed within 6 months or less, while 80% of cases were processed in 34 months or less.
As the proposed amendments to the application process can have an impact on privacy rights, a Privacy Impact Assessment was completed and submitted to the Privacy Commissioner in November 2010. It determined that the level of risk in the proposed application process is low.