In reaction to a growing number of government note requests made under the Access to Information and Privacy Act (ATIP), the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced a Management Action Plan that hopes to mitigate delays in providing case notes to applicants and decrease the number of requests made by offering clearer communication through the MyAccount portal.
“This government strongly believes in the values of openness, transparency and accountability and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada takes its responsibilities and obligations under the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act seriously. We want to increase the availability of information to our clients, and we will continue to make improvements and evolve in how we do business through policy and digital service delivery.“The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
What is the Access to Information and Privacy Act?
The Access to Information and Privacy Act provides Canadian citizens, permanent residences, or any other person or entity that is present in Canada the right to access government records. In the context of immigration, this act allows applicants to request detailed notes from an officer’s review of their file through the Global Case Management System (GCMS) that the IRCC uses to process applications.
Why request GCMS notes?
An applicant may choose to request GCMS notes of their file if their application has been rejected, to provide more details on the reasons for refusal than what had been offered in the letter issued by the IRCC. Other applicants choose to request GCMS notes to offer more insight into the reason for a processing delay, as it is not always clear from the MyAccount portal. While the IRCC portal shows a general overview of the stages an application has passed, it often happens that many months pass without any update or communication from the IRCC on the processing of an application.
What changes have the IRCC committed to?
In recent years, the number of requests made through the ATIP act has more than doubled, with the IRCC receiving more requests than all other federal institutions combined. The IRCC currently has 30 calendar days to respond to ATIP requests, with some exceptions. In adapting to this increase, the IRCC has released a plan to expand the capabilities of the MyAccount portal and provide faster responses to these requests by improving the performance of the ATIP office and providing short-term human and financial resources that allow them to meet demand and response time obligations under the act.
In expanding the capabilities of the MyAccount portal, the IRCC hopes to address the root cause that is currently driving applicants to submit a request for their case notes – a lack of information available to them through the MyAccount portal. Through the Management Action Plan, the IRCC has committed to identifying how to improve the way they communicate a client’s immigration case status and to providing clients with more clarity on the reasons for their application’s refusal.
What does this mean for immigration applicants?
Since the pandemic, the processing time for many applications has been delayed significantly. One particular outland Federal Skilled Worker applicant – an application that normally takes about 6 months to process, has been waiting nearly two years for a decision to be made on their application, calling the lack of communication from the IRCC “mentally torturing.”
The lack of acknowledgment from the IRCC after months of delay is likely one of the contributing factors to the influx in ATIP requests. Many applicants request the notes in hopes of finding the root of the delay and moving their application forward.
The IRCC’s recent announcement promises to provide more information to hopeful immigrants to allow greater transparency and offer some relief to those anxious about the outcome of their application.