The following is a summary of the Environmental Overview of the immigration functions at the Canadian Embassy in Senegal (the “Environmental Overview”). The Environmental Overview was prepared as part of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2013-2014 planning exercise, and is current as of January 2013.
Areas in blockquote are direct passages from the Environmental Overview.
The Canadian Embassy in Dakar (“CIC Dakar”) provides visa services to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. Remote printing facilities are available in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, and Mali.
Dakar has been managing multiple changes and challenges over the past years in addition to catching up on inventories built from the crisis in Ivory Coast: developing operational structure and tools; training new staff (2 positions were filled in in Summer 2012); implementing 5 VACs in 2011-2012; finalizing closure of satellite offices in the region early 2012; office move to new facilities in June 2012; operational response to crisis in Mali in 2012 and again in 2013; implementing new regional positions over Summer 2012.
Area travel takes time and is expensive. Availability of routes and airline services is slowly improving but routings remain complicated and trips often require one to multiple stopover(s) when travelling to Central Africa. Furthermore, flight schedules are rarely conducive to flying during hours of work. The average cost of a 1-week area trip (airfare, accommodations, and per diems) is $2500-$3000, with trips to remote areas such as Cameroon, Chad or Central African Republic costing even more (around $4000-$5000), and requiring more time. Country conditions are taken into account when organizing area trips in light of the political instability and in high-level organized criminal and/or terrorist activity in the region.
A full-time resource is devoted to responding to the 75-100 e-mail communications that CIC-Dakar receives each day.
So far, only 3 e-applications have been submitted to and processed by Dakar. But this method risks being used infrequently, even if credit cards are available, given slow internet connections (even in this office), and limited availability of scanners to capture documents more easily than by taken photos to upload.
Permanent Resident Program
Many of our contacts feel that the Canadian visa program is very restrictive and that the processing times are extremely long. We have a large SWQ movement in which continued growth is expected as the eligibility criteria under the SWF program becomes more restrictive and less focused on skill sets common within our region. Dakar is currently working towards reducing processing times for all PR cases. The refugee program is also becoming more important with increasing political instability in many countries covered by Dakar.
Dakar has a CAIPS inventory of approximately 600 files, primarily Economic Class, and aims to have eliminated this inventory by the end of 2013. A large “clean-up” project has already been started for these files, many of which have been, and will be, refused for non-compliance, Quebec Selection Certificate withdrawal and medical inadmissibility. This project will likely lead to an increase in Dakar’s overall PR refusal rate.
The refusal rate is 4% for Quebec Skilled Worker s, the largest economic class inventory. The refusals are generally due to fraud and misrepresentation (fraudulent documents). In 2012 approximately 500 pending CPP-O files were sent to Dakar for finalization.
The FSWP refusal rate is 17% .
We receive relatively few Provincial Nominee applications; they are primarily from Manitoba and New Brunswick where Francophone minority communities exist. We have a very small inventory of investors and entrepreneurs, which again, are all in CAIPS and should be finalized by the end of 2013. Many of our business immigrant files require security verification and these files will be transferred to GCMS for continued processing as these verifications often take many months.
Processing times are still relatively high after a year of catching up from the crisis in Cote d’lvoire and the office transfer to Dakar, but are expected to decrease as Dakar now has additional officer resources and more proactive procedures in place. Over 2012, Dakar risk-managed and aimed to reduce processing times by sending the Ready for Visa letter at the same time as the request for medicals and Right of Permanent Resident fees with the large majority of its skilled worker files. Overall, this resulted in less time between officer selection and finalization, but due to medical inadmissibility cases, this has also meant a slightly higher number of reimbursements of the RPRF and some applicants being required to pay unnecessary courier fees for having sent their passport. That said we intend to continue this procedure where possible, although it should be noted that CPC-Sydney sends the medical forms along with the “Acknowledgment of Receipt” before transferring files to our office, so frequently the RFV letter will be the first and only correspondence sent by Dakar.
Current processing times for the Family Class exceed global standards. Delays incurred by the transfer of files from Abidjan to Dakar, verifications conducted at a distance, and difficulties related to contacting applicants are the cause. The goal is to reduce processing times to under one year. Refusal rates vary between 15-20% in the Family Class.
That said, document fraud is an important issue, particularly with birth certificates and other documents which could be used as proof of relationship (i.e.: between parents and children). Fraudulent marriage certificates are detected on occasion. Adoptions are often intra-family simple adoptions which do not severe the parent-child relationship with the biological parents. Child trafficking is also a concern and preoccupying cases are assessed with extreme scrutiny.
Other common issues to grapple with are is polygamy, and assessing the widespread ‘traditional’ definition of family (nieces and nephews, or even cousins considered as children). Proxy marriages also take place in the region, as civil or religious marriages. It is important to have a good understanding of the civil codes and legal frameworks for each country in the region in order to determine the validity of marriages for the purposes of immigration to Canada.
Many people in this region have children with multiple partners to whom they were never married. In many cases, women do not know who is the father (or who are the fathers) of one, some, or all of their children. It is common to see the indication “father unknown” on birth certificates. In some cases, the mother or father does not know where the other parent is and they may not be able to provide a notarized declaration authorizing the immigration of the child from them.
These complex family situations require a very thorough, time-consuming, review of the documents submitted in order to clarify family relationships, and often result in the removal of children from applications as they cannot be considered as dependent children, or require proceeding with DNA testing to verify relationships. A great deal of time and effort is also spent on drafting procedural fairness letters and assessing often complex responses received.
An important part of our FC clientele is illiterate and/or live in remote areas. We try to communicate electronically whenever possible; however, communication is often directed towards the sponsors in Canada, which results in additional delays in the transmission of th message to the applicants. Furthermore, computer proficiency in the region is quite low, and internet access is not widespread. Clients do not respond well to OCTEL voice message information systems, and many are simply not able to “visit www.cic.gc.ca to find answers” to their questions.
Nearly all of the Temporary Resident applications received by Dakar were sent through the VACs.
Satellite missions have retained the capacity for remote printings, but this is limited to applications for fee-exempt diplomatic partners, applications where Canadian interests are clearly in play or extremely urgent applications for which undue hardship would be incurred by delayed processing. At the beginning of the high season in 2012, Dakar implemented a formal visa referral systems (“Procedures d’appui”) for partners in other parts of the Embassy and satellite missions. These procedures have been helpful in allowing officers to quickly finalize applications where Canadian interests are important or where the applicant represents an important partner for the mission. They have also helped to reduce the number of visa referrals received where such criteria do not come into play.
Dakar saw a 24% increase in TRV applications in 2012. Volumes are expected to continue to rise. The approval rate is 67%.
Many people continue to see the Canadian visa program as rather restrictive and feel that it is difficult to obtain a visa for Canada, primarily due to the amount of documentation requested and what they consider to be high processing times, however, the increase in volume of applications received in 2012 shows that this image may perhaps be changing. Dakar has succeeded in not only regaining previous Abidjan processing times, but in reducing and maintaining them over the course of 2012. On average, Dakar has a 48 hour turnover forVAC files once received in our office; however, official statistics reflect an average 7 day processing time because of the delay between electronic file creation by the VAC/QRC and the arrival of the paper file in Dakar. As such, clients outside of Senegal typically have longer processing times as courier between the countries and the VACs generally adds two to three days each way. Once received in Dakar, the processing time for applications from all countries remains the same. VAC employees in the spoke offices continue to ensure that clients are aware that the delays caused by courier time is beyond anyone’s control and that applications are still processed on a first in, first out basis once received at mission.
The Study Permit approval rate is 45%. Many are repeat applicants who fail to submit supporting documentation. Processing times are slow because:
- Medical examinations are generally required, and some Panel Physicians send medical results by general mail, and often wait for there to be a batch.
- Many financial guarantors are reluctant to submit personal financial information.
- Bank statements require verification.
- Some countries release grades very late in the year, not leaving applicants with time to submit applications.
Work permit applications continue to decline.