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Immigration, Processing Times

Where is customer service in the immigration process?

Last week, Citizenship and Immigration Canada sent out this announcement that essentially closes immigration offices in Canada to the public: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/manuals/bulletins/2012/ob431.asp. This announcement comes on the heels of other recent announcements in which Canadian immigration offices in a number of countries around the globe were closed. The reason for the closures is to save money as Canada faces increasing budgetary challenges.

While nobody can really argue that Canada, like many other countries, is facing financial challenges coming off the Great Recession, are these closures a case of Canada pinching pennies which may result in us missing dollars?

In the last few years, we have seen consumer backlashes against companies that fail to provide adequate, personal service. Banks, credit unions are other financial institutions are increasing their hours of operation and putting more live persons on the phones. While there is still internet banking that allows a person to conduct transactions without any person-to-person contact, the option of in-person customer service is increasing.

If Canada wants to grow its population through immigration, cutting back on customer service is not the answer. Not only will Canada be competing with countries such as the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand for the best the world has to offer, we are also competing with countries such as India and China who are aggressively trying to lure their ex-pats back home. As well, the trend of Canadians are being lured away by opportunities abroad has not abated.

Hardly a week goes by when I get a call from potential immigrants frustrated by the in ability to find a live person to ask a question to about immigration. Canada should appreciate that immigration is a life changing decision for virtually all immigrants. If a person wants to speak to a live person before making a decision about what paint is better for the wall of their house, certainly, a person who is looking to move their entire family across the world to a strange country and city may have some questions about the process.

Canada should stop looking at immigration to Canada as something that foreign nationals should be grateful for. Immigration will soon be a “buyer’s market” if it is not one already. Like any “buyer’s market”, customer service is important. If Canada cannot deliver quality customer service in the immigration process, immigrants will “buy” elsewhere.

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About Reis Pagtakhan

Reis Pagtakhan is an immigration law partner with MLT Aikins LLP. His extensive experience includes assisting businesses obtain temporary entry to Canada and permanent residency for their executives, employees and contractors from all over the world. Reis has lectured on and written papers on immigration law for the Law Society of Manitoba, the Manitoba Bar Association, the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and the Community Legal Education Association of Manitoba. He has presented position papers before the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Immigration Department officials and Manitoba Labour and Immigration. He has written articles on immigration for the CBC, the Winnipeg Free Press, trade, industry and ethnic publications.

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