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Canadian immigrant's shot at permanent status ruined by 'glitch' in gov't website

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Pakistani immigrant invited to apply for permanent residency after 10 years in country

Apparent technical issue with online portal prevented him from submitting an application

Immigration agency notorious for poor communication, lawyer says

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – After more than 10 years of studying and working in Canada, Syed Husain finally got an opportunity to cement his right to remain in the country.

But he says an apparent glitch in the country’s online immigration system has left him in limbo while he tries to secure a future in his chosen homeland.

“So now I’m stuck in the middle here,” said Husain, who asked that only his first and middle name be shared to protect his privacy.

Vancouver man frustrated by immigration system

Husain first came to Canada for school in 2010. He had to interrupt his studies to return to Pakistan to care for his sick father but eventually eventually graduated as a civil engineering technologist in 2018.

He soon found employment in Metro Vancouver and was on track to gain permanent residency through the country’s “experience class” for people already living and working in Canada.

Husain created a profile on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website with documentation of his residency, education and employment earning him points on his digital profile.

The Canadian government issues a new round of invitations to candidates wanting to apply for permanent residency every two weeks. It determines the number of applicants it wants and then sets a points threshold.

Husain, along with thousands of people in Canada and around the world, checked the criteria for each draw, hoping to have enough points.

Results from an English-language test that would have given him enough points to qualify for a round of invitations in July 2020 arrived a day late. In subsequent invitation rounds the point threshold was raised, forcing him to wait.

Canada invites huge wave of residents to stay

Finally, on Feb. 13, 2021, IRCC announced it was dropping the points threshold from the mid-400s to 75, accepting more than 27,000 applications – virtually every immigrant in the experience-class stream.

When Husain logged into his account that day, he had yet to receive the official invitation. In the early hours of Feb. 14, he got an email telling him there was an update to his profile, but he was unable to sign in. He believes the deluge of invitees crashed IRCC’s servers.

He was finally able to log in the next day, but his profile displayed as “expired,” leaving him unable to file an application. While the profile was slated to expire Feb. 14, Husain believes it should have been frozen because he had received an invitation the day before.

“It’s such a huge coincidence that they conducted a draw one day before my expiry date,” Husain told NEWS 1130.

Husain says he tried to call IRCC more than 20 times before finally getting through, but was told to fill out an online form explaining his predicament, which he did.

Waiting in ‘limbo’ without communication

He was then left with two choices.

He could wait for the complaint to be heard, with no assurance of when it would be considered or whether IRCC would allow him to submit an application based on the Feb. 13 invitation. Or he could delete his existing profile – to which the invitation and complaint are linked – in order to create a new one in the hopes he qualifies for a future round of invitations.

“I’m waiting in limbo right now,” Husain told NEWS 1130 last week.

He recently married and sponsored his wife to come to Canada.

Husain said they are keen to build a life here and are both planning to pursue graduate degrees, which they cannot start without permanent residency exempting them from inflated foreign-student tuition.

“We all come here to basically get educated and then work here and then basically get settled here because it’s such a nice place – everything is just good about it,” he said. “It’s just missing a chance like this is a very tough situation and hard to believe.”

IRCC doesn’t answer ‘glitch’ questions

NEWS 1130 emailed IRCC on Thursday Feb. 18, relating Husain’s story and asking whether technical issues had prevented invitees from submitting permanent residency applications.

The following Monday, after NEWS 1130 followed up, an IRCC spokesperson said the agency “must have completely missed” the initial request and asked for more time to respond.

On Thursday, a spokesperson provided a written statement that did not answer any questions about potential glitches in IRCC’s online application system.

“Due to privacy laws, we cannot comment on an individual’s case without consent,” communications advisor Peter Liang said, suggesting Husain contact the agency’s support centre or complete an online form.

The Feb. 13 draw inviting 27,332 experience-class candidates to apply for permanently residency was the largest in the agency’s history.

“These aspiring Canadians are already established here, possess valuable skills and are giving back to their communities. They are hard at work in some of the most essential parts of our economy and are ready to build their future in Canada,” he said.

‘No real good communication’ with agency, lawyer says

Will Tao, an immigration lawyer based in Vancouver, said the massive draw came without warning and it’s unclear what IRCC plans to do next.

When NEWS 1130 described Husain’s situation to Tao, he said a “technical snafu” was likely to blame.

“From my perspective, there’s no reason he shouldn’t have 90 days to apply for PR and that profile should be live,” Tao said.

Tao said Husain is right to be concerned information related to his complaint could be lost if he deletes his existing profile to create a new one for future draws.

But he said Husain’s story fits into a larger and longstanding issue with IRCC – a seemingly impenetrable bureaucracy that regularly fails to respond to questions and complaints, including from professionals like Tao.

“There’s no real good communication channel with immigration that allows for something like this to be fixed – and that, to me, is a major shortcoming,” he said.