The Vortex: PR Card renewals these days

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Hey, Canadian citizens, imagine this: Your passport is about to expire so you apply to renew it. It doesn’t arrive. Your calls and emails to the Passport Office to find out what’s going on are met with “It’s in process. Don’t contact us for another 10 months.”  So much for that trip to Cuba this spring.

This is what’s happening with Permanent Resident Card renewals these days.*

For example, there’s this family of five:  They applied to renew their permanent resident cards last June. As of February 2013, the CIC online tracking system shows this:

“We received your application for a permanent resident card on June 22, 2012 [in Sydney, Cape Breton].

We started processing your application on July 20, 2012.

We transferred your application to the local [Halifax] CIC office on August 16, 2012. The local CIC office may contact you.

We returned your application to the Case Processing Centre [Sydney, Cape Breton] on August 17, 2012. The Case Processing Centre will continue to process your application within the normal service standards.

We transferred your application to the local CIC [Halifax] office on December 18, 2012. The local CIC office may contact you.

We returned your application to the Case Processing Centre [Sydney, Cape Breton]. on December 18, 2012. The Case Processing Centre will continue to process your application within the normal service standards.”

If you lost count, I don’t blame you. That’s FIVE times the file has been transferred. For now, let’s just ignore the one-month gap between receiving the application and start of processing,

I just assumed it was a mistake.  There is no way the file has been shuttled back and forth between Halifax and Sydney FIVE times. So I called CIC. The good news: yes, the information online is a mistake. The bad news: it has actually been transferred SIX times. It’s back in Halifax now.  The agent had no idea when the cards will be issued.

How about this one: A man applies to renew his permanent residence card in the spring of 2012, two months before it was set to expire. He planned a business trip for two weeks in February 2013. He thought that would be plenty of lead-time to get the new card. No such luck.

By January 2013 he’s received nothing and CIC never responds when we contact them by fax and email to find out what’s going on.  The CIC Call Centre tells us nothing other than it’s still in process. Finally, it’s late January, his flight is booked for February 11, 2013. He needs his Permanent Residence Card to get back into Canada on February 28, 2013. Then we find this nifty link on the CIC website and follow the instructions:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/pr-card/apply-urgent-processing-already-submitted.asp

So we follow all the steps and send the email with the information as instructed. Two days later, we get this response:

“This message is to inform you that we have received your request; however, our unit is only able to help permanent residents inside Canada who urgently need their Permanent Resident card (PR card) for travel purposes.”

Awesome. I am beginning to wonder if CIC is just messing with our heads. He’s in Canada. He needs his card for travel. His travel is urgent. Is this CIC’s attempt at a Zen Koan?

And finally, the kicker. Another gentleman applies to renew his permanent resident card in late 2010. The online tracker says the card was issued in early 2011, and that he’d be called to come into the Halifax immigration office to pick it up. In 2011, he was called in. But the officer did not give it to him. Instead, he asked for more information to prove our client lived in Canada as he said he did. He gave the information to the officer. Still no card.  In the interim, at least four different immigration officers have been assigned to and then transferred off the file. No one has been assigned to it since October 2012. So he’s now in this crazy limbo where his card has been issued and has been valid for 2 years. But he can’t get it. At this rate, it will expire without him ever touching it.

We always hear how the old immigration system was slow and cumbersome. But this never started happening until 2011. If PR Cards took a long time, it was because there was a serious problem. Now it is just routine. People shouldn’t need a lawyer to help get their Permanent Resident Cards renewed. Permanent residents who need new cards are at the mercy, whim and budget constraints of an ever-elusive, obviously overworked and overstressed immigration department. If the immigration system is supposed to be fixed, what do you call this?

*Note: If you are a permanent resident of Canada, you need your PR Card to travel in and out of Canada, unless you are in a non-commercial vehicle coming through the US (and that’s another story as little industries are apparently sprouting up along the border to assist people in border crossings from the US into Canada). There is no Constitutional right to travel in and out of Canada for anyone other than Canadian citizens.