ARCHIVED — Vol. 146, No. 23 — June 9, 2012
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Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Department of Citizenship and Immigration
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
1. Executive summary
Issue: 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 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 proposed regulatory amendments would affect the PSRP resettlement application process and the Groups of Five (G5) and Community Sponsors (CS) sponsorship requirements. First, the proposed changes would 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 proposed changes would also define what constitutes a complete application for protection from abroad and allow Citizenship and Immigration Canada to return both applications (permanent residence and sponsorship undertaking) if information is missing. These proposed measures are intended to reduce delays in the processing of privately sponsored refugee (PSR) applications. Second, the proposed amendment to sponsorship provisions would 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 proposed regulatory amendments are negligible, both abroad 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 would 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 would be absorbed within CIC’s current operating budget.
Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Program concerns refugees outside Canada and aims to bring them to Canada to live as permanent residents. It is composed of two streams. Government-Assisted 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 PSRP 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 that 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 be resettling up to 14 500 refugees in total.
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. The G5 stream is intended to allow people who may wish to sponsor one to a few cases in their lifetime. 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) who 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 it determines 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. A further evolution has been that instead of private sponsors sponsoring refugees who had been assessed and referred to them by CIC, in the vast majority of cases, sponsors have named the applicants they wish to sponsor. High demand driven by 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, which 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 abroad submits an application for permanent residence to a visa office abroad, which determines whether the applicant meets all relevant requirements under IRPA, usually through an interview conducted by a visa officer. 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 1) 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 abroad. 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 also may lead to the sponsor or CIC losing contact with applicants.
II. Large inventories and low approval rates of sponsorship applications
The PSRP has been characterized by large inventories and low approval rates. In contrast, these problems have not been reproduced within the GAR program. Two factors 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 coordination 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 PSRP are far below those in the GAR program. From 2006 to 2010, global approval rates in the PSRP were on average 57%. Before that, approval rates were commonly closer to 50%. From 2008 to 2010, the average approval rates for all G5s were 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 applicants abroad 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 around 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 proposed 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 proposed amendments intend to increase program efficiency by reducing processing delays in all three streams of the PSRP (SAHs, G5s and CSs). The proposal would 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 proposed 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 would also reduce the backlog of applications in the global PSR inventory. This would 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 proposed regulatory amendments would 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 proposed amendments would 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 would 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 email 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 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.
(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 proposed amendments would require that both applications be submitted together.
Steps have been taken to mitigate impacts on privacy rights. (see footnote 2) 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 would 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. To ensure further that the new process does not compel refugee applicants or sponsors to disclose personal information to a party other than CIC should they prefer not to, the proposed amendments allow applicants the flexibility to designate either the refugee applicant or the sponsor as the party to submit and receive the returned application package where information is missing or incomplete. Visa manuals and visa officer training would also include information on these changes and would inform visa officers on 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 abroad. 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 proposed amendments would 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 try to contact the applicants to acquire missing information, which is an inefficient use of resources that could be dedicated to other areas of visa processing. The proposed amendments would grant CIC the authority to return both the permanent residence application and the sponsorship undertaking to the party designated by the refugee applicant and sponsor on the application forms, where the application would be deemed incomplete. 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, which CIC consults regularly through an official advisory group, the NGO-Government Committee. G5s are groups of five or more individuals who typically sponsor one to a few refugee cases in their lifetime. Finally, CSs are organizations that have not signed formal agreements with the Minister, and which typically sponsor temporary refugees only once or twice. G5s and CSs are typically temporary and dispersed. Due to the different structure of these sponsoring groups, CIC 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 include increased training and funding to improve communication between SAHs and, more recently, 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.
To assist in the management of inventories, in 2012, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration administratively capped the number of applications SAHs may submit in a year. However, G5s and CSs cannot be similarly managed through administrative measures as they do not have ongoing, multi-year agreements with the Minister as do SAHs.
- (b) Regulatory amendments for G5 and CS applications
The proposed amendments which apply to G5 and CS applications are intended to complement the introduction of a cap on applications by SAHs in 2012 and are equally important measures in the management of the global PSR inventory.
The proposed amendment would 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 proposed amendment would 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 would 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 would improve operational efficiency, decrease processing times and reduce the inventory, which in turn would reduce wait times.
The proposed amendments would require applications for sponsorship by a Group of Five or Community Sponsor to include documented proof from a foreign state or the UNHCR that the applicant being sponsored is a recognized refugee. This would 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 would help ensure that the applicants whom G5s and CSs seek to sponsor are, in fact, refugees.
Refugees are issued documentation by the host State or the UNHCR confirming their status. This documentation varies from country to country. In consultation with the UNHCR, CIC would provide operational guidance to Canadian visa offices about what constitutes acceptable documentation. In host States, Canadian visa offices, in consultation with the UNHCR, would generally be in the best position to assess documentation by the State and to keep abreast of any changes.
In rare circumstances where the applicant abroad 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 an SAH, or consideration under the humanitarian and compassionate or ministerial public policy provisions of the 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 proposed regulatory change. It is expected that the majority of the reduction would occur in those applications that would be ineligible under Canada’s IRPA and its Regulations. The extent of this reduction remains to be seen and depends greatly on world events and the sponsorship community’s response to refugee situations. Regardless, CIC expects that reduced volumes of ineligible cases would lead to the improvements in operational efficiency and processing times and reduction of the PSR application backlog already described.
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.
6. Regulatory and non-regulatory options considered
In 2012, the Minister administratively capped the number of applications the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) may submit in a year, to assist in the management of inventories. A similar non-regulatory option for G5s and CSs was considered; however, G5s and CSs cannot be managed through administrative measures as they do not have ongoing, multi-year agreements with the Minister as do SAHs. Additionally, an administrative cap on applications for G5s and CSs would not necessarily address the issue of the poor quality of permanent resident applications, whereas the amendments to require documented proof from a State or the UNHCR that the applicant being sponsored is a recognized refugee are partly aimed at reducing the volumes of ineligible cases.
7. Benefits and costs
The anticipated costs resulting from the proposed regulatory amendments are negligible, both abroad 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 would be limited to the human resources employed to create new electronic application forms and kits. New application forms and kits would be required to reflect the information and documentation requirements proposed through this amendment. These one-time costs are estimated at $155,000 and would 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 implementation of the proposed 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 a close estimate of the potential savings.
For the sponsors and applicants, the cost associated with this proposal would 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 to the visa office serving the applicant’s area of residence. Nonetheless, there would be savings for the sponsors in the long term. Reducing the delays in processing PSR applications will translate into the sponsors’ funds that are tied up until a decision is made being freed sooner.
II. Proposed regulatory amendments to increase approval rates and reduce inventory of applications
Abroad, the regulatory change is expected to decrease the number of G5s and CSs 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 would increase proportionately. Abroad, 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 would 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 would need to process fewer G5 and CS applications in order to issue the same number of visas for G5 and CS sponsored applicants. This would 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 would be negligible.
In Canada, it is likewise anticipated that the number of sponsorship undertakings submitted by G5s and CSs would decline. However, there is no anticipated effect on cost since any reduction in G5 and CS applications would be balanced by a proportional increase in SAH applications, as explained above.
8. Small business lens
Based on consultations with Sponsorship Agreement Holders and Community Sponsors, as well as through comments received following the Notice of Intent published in the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, 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 to 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 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 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, namely 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 proposed regulatory amendments and continues to work with the UNHCR towards its 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 proposed regulatory amendment. The proposed amendment would not apply to sponsors in Quebec, as previously noted, although both the Province of Quebec and the Government of Canada recognize that backlogs in the PSRP are a common challenge.
Groups of Five and Community Sponsors are, by their nature, not an organized or easily identifiable group with whom it is possible to engage in consultations. CIC has, however, published 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, the following comments on the proposed regulatory amendments to increase approval rates and decrease inventories (amendments affecting G5s and CSs) were received from the CCR, the UNHCR, and a private citizen:
- The proposed amendments to regulations affecting G5s/CSs would lead individuals to pressure the UNHCR for recognition in order to be eligible for sponsorship.
The first step for individuals who are refugees and who wish to acquire protection is normally to seek out UNHCR (or State) recognition. CIC will recommend to G5s and CSs, through application guides and CIC’s Web site, to consider refugee recognition by the UNHCR (or a State) as a precondition for initiating sponsorships for refugees. SAHs, on the other hand, will continue to be able to identify individuals for resettlement to Canada, whether they are members of the Convention refugees abroad or the country of asylum classes.
- Requirement of proof of “recognized refugee status” will exclude some refugees in need of protection and/or a durable solution. In some countries, refugees are not able to receive recognition for a range of reasons, including lack of resources (in large refugee camps) or political reasons.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada recognizes that, in some situations, refugees are not able to obtain a refugee status determination due to lack of access to the UNHCR or State asylum processes. Focusing Canada’s resettlement efforts on persons who have undergone a positive refugee status determination is the most effective use of Canada’s resources. For refugees who are unable to access the UNHCR or a State process, SAHs are an avenue for resettlement. Those potential immigrants who do not meet Canada’s resettlement application criteria may apply under a variety of other immigration streams, including the family and economic classes. Additionally, IRPA has provisions for humanitarian and compassionate consideration. As refugees may, in some situations, have a long wait for a refugee status determination, this regulatory amendment also helps to ensure that Canada is focusing its efforts on refugees who have waited the longest to be resettled.
- Proposed requirements are inconsistent with the country of asylum class: This class is specific to Canada and the class criteria are not considered by the UNHCR or host states when they evaluate refugees.
Canada will continue to accept refugees under the country of asylum and Convention refugee classes. The regulatory amendments will restrict applications by G5s and CSs to individuals with UNHCR or State recognition.
- Ambiguity of the concept of “recognized refugee status” and lack of clarity for G5s and CSs on what documents are acceptable.
“Recognized refugee status” means that the person being referred by a G5 or CS has documentary evidence that they have undergone and received a positive refugee status determination carried out by either a State or the UNHCR. CIC recognizes that refugee status documentation will vary from country to country. In consultation with the UNHCR and Canadian visa offices abroad, CIC will provide operational guidance to officers indicating what constitutes acceptable documentation in different countries/regions of the world. CIC will update its Web site and application kits accordingly so that G5s and CSs have access to information on which documents will be acceptable.
- “Recognition by a foreign state” may confuse G5s and CSs leading them to sponsor refugees with durable solutions in other countries.
Refugees who have a genuine durable solution in another country are not eligible for resettlement to Canada under IRPA. This is not a new requirement. CIC employs a variety of tools to help potential sponsors understand the regulatory requirements related to PSR (the CIC Web site, application guides, etc.). These tools will be updated to explain the new requirements affecting G5s/CSs. These updates will explain the distinction between the granting of asylum through a State refugee status determination that leads to a durable solution (such as local integration in the country of asylum) and the granting of asylum that does not lead to a durable solution.
- Situation of refugees and their access to documentation may change over time.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada recognizes that refugee situations are fluid and conditions around the world, including access to documentation, may change. Several sections of IRPA allow the Minister to exercise exceptions in such situations. Subsection 150(3) of the Regulations allows the Minister to exempt applications in some geographic areas from the requirement of a referral. Section 25.2 of IRPA (public policy considerations) provides the Minister with the discretionary authority to grant an exemption from any requirement of IRPA if the Minister is of the opinion that it is justified by public policy considerations.
- The regulatory amendments impose criteria for sponsorship by G5s/CSs that are different from those of SAHs.
Groups of Five/Community Sponsors are different from SAHs. The proposed regulatory amendments recognize the differences between these sponsors in terms of their experience, available information and organizational structure.
- Will the proposal meet its intended objectives of managing intake and improving the quality of applications?
From 2008 to 2010, the average annual acceptance rate for all G5s was 64%, although this includes a large proportion of Iraqi cases recognized by the UNHCR to be refugees. When Iraqi cases are removed from this calculation, the G5 approval rate falls to approximately 37%, largely due to ineligibility of applicants. Therefore, the requirement for proof of refugee recognition/status will reduce significantly the number of ineligible applications. These amendments are intended partly to focus applications from G5s and CSs on persons who need Canada’s refugee protection most.
- Risk of exposing refugees to fraud schemes related to production of documents.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada recognizes that persons are vulnerable to fraudulent schemes. Private sponsors in Canada have a responsibility to access the resources available to them to assist them in ensuring the persons they wish to sponsor are not being exploited in this way. CIC will monitor the implementation of the proposed Regulations and will continue to work closely with its international partners on strategies aimed at deterring fraud in applications. CIC also recognizes the unfortunate fact that fraud may be perpetuated by applicants themselves. Visa offices will continue to verify the authenticity of documents with UNHCR and States in order to help mitigate this risk.
The proposed regulatory amendments are an essential step in CIC’s overall strategy to deal with growing inventories and long processing times in the PSRP.
The proposed 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 stream. These changes would 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 proposed 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.
11. Implementation and enforcement
The new requirements will come into force upon registration. Sponsorship undertakings and permanent residence applications submitted prior to the coming into force of the proposed 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
Refugees Affairs Branch
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
365 Laurier Avenue W
Notice is hereby given that the Governor in Council, pursuant to subsection 5(1) and sections 14 and 201 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (see footnote a), proposes to make the annexed Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Regulations within 30 days after the date of publication of this notice. All such representations must cite the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Debra Pressé, Director, Resettlement, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Jean Edmonds South Tower, 17th Floor, 365 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1 (tel.: 613-957-5833; fax: 613-957-5836; email: Debra.Presse@ cic.gc.ca).
Ottawa, May 31, 2012
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council
REGULATIONS AMENDING THE IMMIGRATION
AND REFUGEE PROTECTION REGULATIONS
1. The portion of subsection 10(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (see footnote 3) 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 section 153 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.
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. The Commissioner determined that the level of risk in the proposed application process is low.
S.C. 2001, c. 27
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