A group of lawyers have successfully negotiated a 90-day halt on a government plan to return some 280,000 Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) applications and $130 million in associated processing fees.
On March 29, 2012, it was announced that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) would be returning FSW applications that were submitted before February 2008. This action was taken in an effort to reduce a backlog in applications that was resulting in lengthy processing times. The proposal to do so was included in Bill C-38, which encompasses the Canadian budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The 90-day halt means that CIC will not be able to return or destroy applications, nor will they be able to initiate the issuance of refunds to applicants. In the meantime, negotiations between lawyers and government officials are said to be continuing, as further details of the case are discussed. Some expect that this is the beginning of a possible class-action lawsuit, which will attempt to reverse the decision in its entirety.
A spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, speaking to the Montreal Gazette, did not indicate that this temporary hold would change the government’s course of action. The spokesperson stated that “this process of refunds and backlog elimination will unfold over many months once Bill-C38 becomes law. This lawsuit will not affect that process.”
Applications received before 2008 were chosen to be returned for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, eligibility criteria for the FSW program have changed significantly since that time. Therefore, many individuals who applied under old criteria may now be ineligible for immigration to Canada through the FSW. However, the Gazette noted that only 6 percent of pre-February 2008 applicants were notified of eligibility changes and offered the opportunity to withdraw their applications and reapply under the new rules.
The lawyers representing disgruntled applicants feel that the government’s actions should be accounted for legally. “I feel strongly that abandoning the applications of some 280,000 individuals who applied in good faith and waited patiently all these years is both morally and ethically wrong,” said Attorney David Cohen, who is representing 200 litigants. “The question is whether it also legally wrong. For the answer to that, they are entitled to their day in court."
CIC news will be closely covering the ongoing legal developments of this case. Stay tuned for important announcements as they unfold.
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