One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The PSAC Strike and Its Impact on Immigration Applications in Canada - Immigration Lawyer Vancouver, Canada | Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre

BlogOne Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The PSAC Strike and Its Impact on Immigration Applications in Canada

26 April 2023

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Federal employees of Service Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), and the Canada Border Services Agency (CSBA) are all members of the largest workers union in Canada: The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). Many of the non-essential workers of PSAC went on strike on April 19, 2023, which is expected to cause significant delays and disruption to immigration-related services across the country.

Over the past year and a half, the IRCC has been working diligently to reduce the backlog of over 2 million immigration applications that accumulated during the pandemic. According to the Minister of IRCC, Sean Fraser, the department was “getting very close to restoring service standards across all of their lines of business.” However, the recent PSAC general strike of more than 155,000 federal public servants, threatens to undo the progress made by the IRCC.

Here’s what you need to know:

Some immigration-related services will remain available during the strike, but many areas will be affected. Non-governmental organizations will still operate including visa application centres outside of Canada.

IRCC is suspending the processing of all application streams at present.  While they will continue to accept online filings of applications, you should expect delays in standard processing times for all types of immigration applications. Online applications can still be submitted but when those applications will be assessed remains to be seen.

Service Canada is also suspending processing of LMIA applications other than those deemed essential which include:

  • Primary Agriculture
  • Health-related services
  • Trucking
  • Food processing

Service Canada is also suspending the processing of passport applications other than those which are emergency applications made from within Canada.  Overseas passport applications are not being processed during the strike. Inland biometric centres appear to be closed and appointment booking is currently unavailable.

Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is the largest portion of the PSAC workforce but most of these workers are deemed essential and are therefore not in a legal strike position, however, various administrative staff may be. For new applications made at the Port of Entry (POE) and for those who already have a work permit or visa, the CBSA will maintain their usual operations. There may be longer wait times when requesting information over the phone or via email. It is unclear at this time whether flag-poling will still take place.

The IRB is canceling or rescheduling hearings across all divisions so be prepared for a delay.  If you have a hearing booked and have not been contacted to reschedule then you should still appear at the scheduled time. Detention review hearings will not be canceled or rescheduled. Access to Information and Privacy services are expected to have longer processing times. In general, the processing of files will be delayed as will all enquiries through phone or email.

While the Federal Court is still proceeding with hearings, there may be some delays in the processing of documents as well as email and phone response times. Unless otherwise advised, all parties are expected to proceed unless advised otherwise. Registry counters across the country will remain open however files are encouraged to be submitted electronically rather than physically. There also appears to be a delay at the Federal Court registry in Vancouver with approvals for documents transmitted for filing.

Expected delays for domestic passport services as well as passport services for Canadians living outside of Canada. Passports for emergency/humanitarian situations will still be available but only at specialized passport sites from within Canada.

The strike will very likely erase the gains made in reducing the pandemic backlog, severely affecting the lives of applicants who have been waiting for months and, in some instances, years. Expect the strike to not only impact the processing times for applications, but also the response times for inquiries.

Concern about the long-term consequences an extended strike would have on Canada’s immigration system are well placed. The progress made in clearing the pandemic backlog may be offset by the strike’s effects, leading to further delays and uncertainty for immigrants and applicants. IRCC will face an uphill battle to regain the ground it had recovered post-pandemic.

While negotiations between the federal government and the union continue, the future of many immigrants and applicants remains uncertain. The PSAC strike has come at a critical time when the IRCC was finally making headway in clearing the pandemic backlog of applications. Now, more than ever, it is crucial for new immigration applications to enter the process quickly to secure a place in the queue.

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