The following is a summary of the Environmental Overview of the immigration functions at the Canadian High Commission in Accra (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.
The Canadian High Commission in Accra (“CIC Accra”) provides visa services to residents of Ascension, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, Nigeria (permanent residents only), Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, St. Helena, Togo, and Tristan da Cunha.
Contrary to popular misconception, CIC Accra has no role in managing the Lagos Visa Office. Notwithstanding that, since the fall of 2012, an officer from CIC Accra has assisted the Lagos Visa Office in processing temporary resident applications on two occasions for a total period of four weeks. Upon return from one visit, the officer brought approximately 200 Temporary Resident Visa files from the Lagos Visa Office to CIC Accra. Original passports were left in the Lagos Visa Office and visas were remotely printed there.
The last half of 2012 witnessed several changes to the Immigration Program at CIC Accra. All permanent resident visas are issued by the Immigration Program Manager to ensure procedures and decision-making are consistent and fair. Interview waiver citeria have been put in place to better triage and risk-manage Family Class cases and reduce processing times, when previously all cases were called to interview without exception. The use of DNA tests has been limited to the exception rather than the rule. Temporary resident processing times have been amended from same-day to five days.
[In 2013], Accra will implement two important quality assurance activities, as follows:
1) Our current inventory of refugee (CR) application is in disarray. A significant number of files have been in process for many years. A review of all CR cases in our inventory (approximately 170 persons) will be undertaken to determine if key processing stages were reliable, consistent, timely and procedurally fair. To this end, a detailed refugee processing checklist will be developed to assess files currently in process and get them back on track and assist staff in processing new applications.
2) Accra has a complicated and aging Business Class inventory of mostly Nigerian applicants (621 persons). Many of these cases have been or are currently the subject of litigation.
Permanent Resident Program
In 2012, CIC Accra issued 3,286 visas.
The officer/PA team structure that previously existed in the office has been dismantled, with all categories of permanent resident files being managed according to stage of process by a single team of officers, Case Analysts, and PAs, ensuring a degree of randomness in assigning files and better consistency in processing. All permanent resident visas are currently issued by the IPM to ensure procedures and decision-making are consistent and fair and to support shared workload in the office. Interview waiver criteria have been put in place to better triage and risk manage family class cases and improve processing times, when previously all cases were called to interview without exception. Currently, the FS01 CBS in Accra is supervising the processing of all economic and family class applications with the support of two LE06 case analysts and two LE04 program assistants; the DIO in Accra reports to the IPM; the FS02 CBS is managing the processing of all refugee classes.
Economic immigrants represent approximately 49% of CIC Accra’s inventory. Approval rates in 2012 were 75%. Processing times for 80% of the total economic class cases finalized in 2012 was 31 months.
CIC Accra’s overall approval rate for the total family class cases in 2012 was 59%. Processing times for 80% of all family class cases in 2012 was 12 months.
Temporary Resident Program
CIC Accra made changes to its temporary resident processing times in the fall of 2012.
Previously, applications submitted in person were processed on a same-day basis, leading to significant unpredictability in workload pressures and difficulty in prioritising files in other categories. Offering same-day service was out-of-sync with the standards of other missions in the region, where processing times range from eight to 11 days. As the implementation of a VAC in the region will ultimately put an end to same-day service, extending processing times now will smooth that transition for our applicants and help manage client expectations. Advertised temporary resident processing times are now seven to 14 business days for visitors and 14 to 28 business days for study and work permit applications. The additional processing window has provided officers with the opportunity to better triage high-risk files, identify trends, and target cases for anti-fraud verifications.
CIC Accra approved 52% of 5,162 Temporary Resident Visa applications that it processed in 2012. Applicants with connections to mining and other extractive industries, in particular, are brought to the attention of the Immigration Program Manager is a refusal is being considered so that additional information can be sought form the mission Trade Commissioner.
CIC Accra received 830 study permit applications in 2012, and approved 46% of them. Eighty percent of all cases were processed in 28 days or less.
Establishing that applicants have sufficient financial support to pay for their studies in Canada is one of the key issues of concern when assessing Study Permit applications submitted in Accra. Officers are beginning to recognise that family and affective bonds extend much further here than they do in the western context, and that it is not unusual for friends and extended relatives to sponsor young people to undertake their studies abroad. Officers have been directed to take this cultural element into account when assessing funding sources. We have also refined our Study Permit application checklist somewhat in the hopes that officers might be able to gather additional information that will boost their confidence when reviewing study permit files. In particular, we have asked applicants to complete a thorough study plan and submit it with their applications so officers can better understand their motivations and aspirations. Our hope is that a more detailed study plan will help officers understand better not only the applicant’s intentions but also the willingness of the extended family to lend support.
CIC Accra processed 217 Work Permit applications in 2012. The approval rate was 52%, with 80% of cases being processed in 46 days or less.