|Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa, looking northwards towards the Parliament Buildings from Queen Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Ottawa’s plan to wipe out its immigration backlog will cost taxpayers at least $6.2 million more than the $130 million estimated by the federal government, says the immigration consulting industry.
When Ottawa announced in March that it would return files and processing fees to applicants waiting in the backlog, its estimate did not include administrative costs such as courier services to send the files back to 280,000 people, said the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants.
“The budgeted costs of a backlog wipeout are much higher than calculated and also do not include ... liabilities of lawsuits affecting the administration for years to come,” warned Gerd Damitz, the association’s co-founding and past president.
The industry’s own estimate of the processing fees amounts to $145 million. That’s because some applicants also paid landing fees — between $490 and $975 each — upfront.
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney confirmed the estimate did not factor in administrative costs, which will come out of the department’s operational budget.
The spokesperson said the department won’t return “physical” application files to affected applicants. The documents will be disposed of, in accordance with government privacy and audit rules.
While the industry appreciates the government’s attempt to bring in a “just-in-time” immigration system to respond to labour market needs, Damitz said the breach of contracts with would-be migrants will damage Canada’s reputation.
On Monday, immigration applicants affected by the decision will stage simultaneous protests in London, Hong Kong, Chandigarh, Karachi and Lahore to raise awareness of their plight and to condemn Ottawa’s plan.
“We want to warn any prospective immigrant of the dubious and uncertain Canadian policies,” said Preet Deep Singh, an organizer based in London.
Toronto immigration consultant Alli Amlani said Ottawa’s wipeout plan will force many in the consulting industry out of business.
More than 250 of Amlani’s clients have been stuck in the queue, some since 2004, and they are asking him for refunds.
Despite a $1,000 non-refundable policy, Amlani must still fork out at least $72,000 to clients for “incomplete work” caused by the government’s sudden change in policy.
“It will push a lot of us out of business,” said Amlani, who has been a consultant for 22 years and expects to cut his staff from eight to four as a result. “You don’t get new referrals if your old cases don’t go through.”
According to an internal survey by the regulator of Canada’s 2,000 registered immigration consultants, the government plan affects 63 per cent of its members.
Some 95 per cent said they would consider leaving the industry, while 58 per cent are pondering class-action lawsuits against Ottawa to recover alleged damages.
According to the industry, the backlog consists of about 100,000 files, representing both principal applicants and their dependants. It said it would take less than five years to clear for the backlog.