Citizenship applications mired with delays
Citizenship applications mired with delays
By Irish Mae Silvestre
The Philippine Reporter
Winnie Ordanza Marzo is a busy healthcare worker and mother. Along with her husband and two children, she took her citizenship test in Scarborough on February 10, 2020. After applying for their citizenship on August 2019, everything seemed to on track.
“We passed and the officer offered to have us do the oath taking the following day but we said no because we all had to go to work,” recalled Marzo. “We told the officer that maybe we could reschedule but that was the biggest mistake we made.”
What would normally have taken mere weeks to reschedule ended up taking six months.
But these days are certainly far from ordinary.
According to the Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada website, while they’re currently accepting permanent resident and citizenship applications delays are inevitable. It states, “Unfortunately, our ability to review and process them is being affected by COVID-19. We can’t currently estimate any processing times.”
Simiarly, Ysh Cabana passed his citizenship exam in February.
“After the exam, we had to do a verbal interview,” said Cabana, who works as a construction project coordinator. “On my turn, the officer asked me if I wanted to do the swearing in the day after. I refused and told them I would be out of the country until mid-April. I was told immigration will mail me the schedule at a later date.”
Until now, Cabana has yet to receive the new date.
He has contacted CIC twice and received the following email:
“Due to the ongoing situation related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), some IRCC offices are currently operating with reduced or critical staff only. We are working on processing applications as quickly as possible; however, processing times are affected and any disruptions caused by COVID-19 may not be reflected accurately on our website.”
Cabana, who sent his application in July 2019, said there’s nothing else to do except “wait indefinitely.”
“I’m vexed, to say the least,” he admitted. “It would be great if I get the citizenship this year, not anytime next year or so.”
Adapting to Change
Due to delays and restrictions, the CIC website also states that applicants will be automatically given 90 days to send in any additional documents requested.
And in an effort to adapt safety measures, CIC is now switching from in-person ceremonies to online.
Hazel Lyn Buenaventura also applied for her citizenship on July 2019 and took the citizenship test in February. After six months, she received an email notice to appear for her oath taking via Zoom.
She said that she almost overlooked the email since it was under an immigration officer’s name and not the usual CIC email.
“The email just said that if you’re going to take oath, send an email as soon as possible,” said Buenaventura. “If you’re participating then you have to bring the photographs and they tell you what’s going to happen in the oath taking sequence.”
But going virtual also has its drawbacks.
On the day of her oath taking, Buenaventura logged onto the Zoom link via one of the approved browsers and found herself waiting for fifteen minutes, unsure of how to proceed.
“I was scared I might miss the oath,” she said. “Then I logged into a different browser and the video popped up. They said they were calling me but on my old number. It was a good thing they waited for me because it said that if you miss it, the oath taking would have to be rescheduled.”
Buenaventura said that she received her citizenship certificate after two weeks and plans to apply for her Canadian passport.
On Being Canadian
As for Marzo, she said that she and her daughter kept checking their email for updates and had resigned themselves to a long wait time.
“We just waited because one of my friends got the oath taking after 10 months,” she said. “And that was during the normal no-COVID situation before, so I thought that would happen to us, too.”
After months of waiting, Marzo finally got the news: their oath taking was scheduled for August via Zoom.
While she had hoped to do the oath taking in court, she said that she’s relieved and the family plans to apply for their passports so they can travel in case of emergencies.
As for the ceremony itself, she observed that participants weren’t asked to sing ‘O Canada’ despite helping her husband to practice the national anthem.
“I noticed during the oath taking while the judge was talking, our answers weren’t all at the same time so if we sang ‘O Canada’ it won’t be at the same time,” said Marzo.
While it wasn’t the ideal situation she had in mind, she said that she made the most of it and bought a big Canadian flag and took a picture in front of it with her family to commemorate the occasion.
“I posted our picture on Facebook and my friend thought we were in court,” she said, laughing.