Immigration officials find own website ‘confusing and not user friendly’

Reprinted with permission from Toronto Star

It turns out Canada’s immigration officials are as confused as prospective immigrants and travellers by the information provided on their own department website.

“We expect clients to know just what to do because ‘it’s on the website,’ ” says an internal Immigration Department document from last year.

“Yet, even for immigration officers like ourselves, we often find the website to be confusing and not user-friendly.”

The document, prepared for an immigration management retreat last winter, shows senior officials grappling with how to improve communication with clients, including ways to simplify government response “to make it more responsive to the client’s actual needs.”

Also on the meeting agenda was a discussion about ways to combat the misinformation that clients face in bulletin boards, by immigration consultants and fraudsters.

Immigration lawyer and policy analyst Richard Kurland, who obtained the document through an access to information request, said he was not surprised by management’s concerns.

“Reducing correspondence is good for everyone. All that needs to be done is to allow (applicants and their lawyers) more access to their own file information,” said Kurland in an interview.

The ride-hailing service Uber, which allows users to follow the driver’s route on a phone app, should inspire change, he added.

“You should be able to see what is happening in your case all along the processing journey.”

The managers also complained about the huge workload created by people applying for visas to visit Canada. Many were initially refused because they were confused what documentation was required. However, they do get approved in their second attempt.

“While it is obvious to officers what we need to see, there is very limited information available on our official outlets helping to point applicants in the right direction,” said the immigration management’s meeting agenda.

Canada processes more than a million visitor visa applications a year and one out of five is rejected. Someone applying for a visa may just state the purpose of the visit as “travelling,” for example, without specifying he or she is here to see a Canadian sibling.

The department’s “vague and generic” refusal letters is the main cause of repeat applications from confused people over Canadian requirements, according to the document.

Kurland said the document underscores the need for immigration officers to be more flexible when processing applications that may include mistakes.

“How is the public supposed to get it right when these managers struggle?” he asked.

 

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