In recent years, the processing time for applications submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) have increased considerably. In particular, the average processing time for citizenship applications currently takes between 24 to 36 months.
The delays in the processing of citizenship applications continues to be a source of frustration for permanent residents in Canada, given that little explanation has been provided about why routine application with limited international travel are taking years to process. In 2008, citizenship applications took approximately 12 to 15 months to process. By 2012, the wait time was extended to 21 months.
In July 2014, the Toronto Star profiled the case of a professor from the University of Toronto who had been waiting for three years for his citizenship application to be processed. This applicant applied in February 2011, was required to fill out a residency questionnaire with detailed information and supporting documents to demonstrate his physical presence in Canada, and was given no explanation as to why this level of information was required. Unfortunately, this experience may sound all too familiar to many applicants who continue to wait for their citizenship despite having diligently complied with CIC’s requirements.
Although CIC offers urgent processing for citizenship applications, this procedure is only available if there is an emergency that requires that Canadian citizenship be granted immediately. For example, if an applicant would lose their job if they did not secure citizenship, if they could not attend school, or if there is a death or serious illness in their family that requires travel abroad, then a request for urgent processing can be made. In my experience, this remains a limited option for applicants who must meet strict requirements for urgent processing. In one exceptional case that I acted as counsel, citizenship was granted within 24 hours.
For the vast majority of citizenship applicants, the seemingly only available option is to wait for a decision. However there is a judicial remedy called a “writ of mandamus” that is available if an applicant meets the legal requirements. The purpose of this remedy is to compel CIC to make a decision on the application, including both immigration and citizenship files.
The starting point to determine if an applicant should use the remedy of mandamus is to look at whether the processing of their application exceeds the average processing time for similar applications. The Court will also look at whether an applicant has made inquiries into the delay in the processing of the application and whether CIC has provided a reasonable justification for the delay. The decision whether to pursue a mandamus depends on the unique facts of each application and must be assessed accordingly.
The reality is that many citizenship applications have been stalled for years with no reasonable explanation. The remedy of mandamus is an effective legal option for applicants who have been waiting to have their citizenship or other immigration applications processed and who meet the requirements. In my experience, this has been an extremely powerful and effective legal tool in speeding up the processing of citizenship applications that have surpassed the average processing time. In many of my routine mandamus cases, a decision is made on the application within a short period of commencing the litigation, depending on whether settlement is appropriate.
If you have any questions about speeding up the processing of your citizenship or immigration application, please contact me to discuss whether a mandamus is an appropriate remedy for your case.