One of the biggest concerns from foreign nationals who have already filed an application with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or the Immigration and Refugee Board is whether the timeline to get a decision on their application will increase.
The IRCC publishes average processing timelines for all temporary and permanent resident applications including visitor visas, study permits, family sponsorship and citizenship applications. The IRCC has put up a notice on their website indicating that the processing times available may not accurately reflect disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Pre-Coronavirus Immigration and Citizenship Application Delays
The delays in the processing of immigration and citizenship applications have been a source of frustration for applicants to Canada long before COVID-19. Applicants have expressed frustrations with the lack of information about why routine applications can take many months, if not years, to process. For example, an overseas humanitarian and compassionate application can take 36 months to process.
In February 2020, Thompson Citizen profiled the case of a family who had been waiting for over five years for a family sponsorship application with medical inadmissibility issues to be processed. This applicant applied in 2011 to immigrate to Canada and the application was initially rejected in 2013 for medical inadmissibility reasons and re-opened in 2015. To date, no decision has been made. Unfortunately, this experience may sound all too familiar to many applicants who continue to wait for their applications to be processed despite having diligently complied with IRCC’s requirements.
How to Speed Up The Processing of Your Immigration or Citizenship Application
Although IRCC accepts requests for urgent processing for applications, this option is very rarely exercised. For the vast majority of applicants who have been waiting for a decision on their application, the seemingly only available option is to wait for a decision. However, there is a judicial remedy called a “writ of mandamus” that is available if an applicant meets the legal requirements. The purpose of this remedy is to compel IRCC to make a decision on the application for both immigration and citizenship files.
The starting point to determine if an applicant should use the remedy of mandamus is to look at whether the processing of their application exceeds the average processing time for similar applications. The Court will also look at whether an applicant has made inquiries into the delay in the processing of the application and whether IRCC has provided a reasonable justification for the delay. The decision whether to pursue a mandamus depends on the unique facts of each application and must be assessed accordingly.
The reality is that many immigration and citizenship applications may be stalled with no reasonable explanation. The remedy of mandamus is an effective legal option for applicants who have been waiting to have their citizenship or other immigration applications processed and who meet the requirements. In my experience, this has been an extremely powerful and effective legal tool in speeding up the processing of citizenship applications that have surpassed the average processing time. In many of my routine mandamus cases, a decision is made on the application within a short period of commencing the litigation, depending on whether settlement is appropriate.
If you have any questions about speeding up the processing of your citizenship or immigration application, and how COVID will impact on the processing of your application, please contact me to discuss whether a mandamus is an appropriate remedy for your case.
Written by Adrienne Smith, B.A., M.A., J.D.