Interview with Billie Young X-Immigration Officer

Get the Inside Story on the Inner Workings of Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Have you ever wondered what exactly happens with your immigration application after it is submitted? Are there certain things you can do to improve your chances of success? Are there things you can do to hurt your chances of success? In this episode, we are going to pull the curtain back on CIC and share insight on the application process from an X-Immigration officer’s perspective.  

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In this podcast I had the rare opportunity to interview Billie Young who worked within Citizenship and Immigration Canada for over 11 years before joining our office as an Immigration Technical Adviser. Billie has now completed her Immigration Consultant Certification and is expanding her practice within our law firm, Holthe Tilleman LLP.

Billie shared some phenomenal insight on what it was like working within the department in a variety of capacities. She also pulled the curtain back on the mindset of an officer when adjudicating applications at a number of different locations including the border, at the airport and at the inland offices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

In this podcast, we covered a number of areas including:

  1. A day in the life of an immigration officer.
  2. How entries are treated differently at the border versus the airport.
  3. An inside look at the inland immigration enforcement process.
  4. An immigration officer’s mindset when adjudicating applications.
  5. Tips on what an officer likes to see in an immigration application.
  6. Advice on what an officer does not like to see in an application.

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In this episode we mentioned the following resources:

Canadian Immigration Institute

We just completed our very first Pilot Course on how to submit your Express Entry profile (Phase 1). It was a resounding success. We will be releasing within the next two weeks,  Phase 2 of our Express Entry Pilot Course which will cover how to file your permanent resident application after receiving an ITA.

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Read the Transcript

You can read additional notes for this episode, [spoiler]

Mark’s Questions:

What got you into immigration in the first place?

Tell us a little bit about some of the different jobs you have had working within Canadian Immigration.

So what made you decide to leave your position with immigration to enter private practice within a Canadian law firm?

Tell me a little bit about the day in the life of an immigration officer processing applications?

I’d like to give some real value to our listeners today, so let’s dive into the actual adjudication process of assessing applications.

What were some of most common mistakes people made when submitting immigration applications?

Processing times tend to be quite lengthy when matters are referred to a local office, you must have had a lot of inquiries from people regarding their applications. People have a tendency to think the more you call and inquire, the more attention an officer will give to your application? How did you deal with people who made repeated inquiries into their applications?

Obviously, immigration applications are approved provided the foreign national meets the requirements of the visa category. However, can you give the audience some helpful tips on preparing their applications in a way immigration officers like?

Billie’s Show Notes:

I have worked for over 11 years within Citizenship and Immigration Canada in a variety of capacities. My career within CIC started as a summer student (1998) at the port of entry in Coutts, Alberta. I continued on as a senior immigration examining officer at the Edmonton International airport, then moved on to take up an enforcement officer role in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and continue providing services at the airport in Saskatoon as well. I recently completed my career with CIC as the admissions officer in the Lethbridge, Alberta office prior to its closing in 2012.

Now in the private sector I have acted as a strategic resource to the business immigration team in assisting clients in navigating the complexities that exist within the department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. I continue to utilize my past experience as an adjudicating officer to enhance the quality of immigration applications submitted by our clients and provide direct support to our staff in communicating with CIC when difficult and challenging situations arise. On October 22, 2015 I became a regulated Canadian immigration consultant.

Officer’s Thought process: 

Discretionary-An officer can look at the same case with the same evidence and come to different conclusions, with both decisions being right. As long as an officer can justify there decision, and there decision is based on fact not opinion they are good to go.

Threshold-With each officer they eventually determine their own threshold, usually applied to H&C’s and TRP so the very discretionary LOB. In most cases an officer knows what they will let go and approve in these cases, and what they will refuse. Again nothing you can do to change their mind in most cases and by arguing with them only makes them fight back harder as well since they often do not like to be wrong.

Policy based-Even though are decisions are based on IRPA, officers look at the policy manuals for direction and how IRPA should be applied in each LOB. I highly recommend when submitting applications and preparing your submission letter you reference the policy manuals to support your application because that is what an officer will do when making a decision on your clients file.

Dealing with lawyers and or Immigration Consultants-For the most part officers in the larger centers do not want to be bothered directly by the client or the lawyer in our case, unless again processing times have passed, or lines of communication have been opened by CIC, so they are requesting further submissions or interview. It is my understanding that within CIC Calgary for example (or at least it used to be) that all use of representative inquiries are mostly dealt with by the supervisors unless as stated previously the officer has reached out to the lawyer or super

For example in Lethbridge when I was admissions officer I dealt with all the lines of business (LOB) within CIC, from temporary residents VR,WP,SP,TRP, to PR applications, spousals, H&C, PR card investigations, criminality reviews,  and inland refugee claimants. However that was not the case in the Calgary office. Again it comes down to resources, they did not have enough. As well officers were assigned to specific LOB, which is good they become experts in certain areas, e.g. the former TFWU, but the problem is when you deal retirements, transfers, layoffs, and office closures, you now have officers that only are used to doing one LOB trying to learn multiple LOB with limited resources, and a backlog of files. I am telling you this so again you can see what an officer is dealing with, take a minute to see it from there perspective, and now use may be able to you this to your advantage when submitting your application.

Internal working

CIC/CBSA-The communication and partnership is not as close since CBSA came to be. CIC and CBSA are to separate departments even though they are intertwined.

O/S offices-It is difficult to be able to speak with an office within the visa offices even as an officer working for CIC in Canada it can be difficult to get a timely response from the visa office. The reality is they do not have the resources to keep up with the volume. Therefore it is not a priority to answer inquiries that are within the processing times. At the POE you will want to consider that with  new officers are not heavily trained in IRPA. As well at the POE they are not as familiar and often don’t  know the inland procedures regarding most LOB. They focus on clients that are coming into Canada for the fist time as visitors, or finalizing landings, or pre-approved applications from the visa office. I say this just to keep in mind if you are thinking about going to  the border  to have your application adjudicated unless it is very straight forward LMO based WP ect, you are taking a risk. You also want to make sure that you even are eligible to travel to the border and request your application be adjudicated upon re-entry.

Challenge-Challenge the cases you feel warrant it. This will govern the way CIC approaches cases in the future if cases are won in the federal court. Again make sure it is worth it because we all know it is time consuming and in the end if we lose will only hurt the client.

Likes and Dislikes when I was an officer:

  • • Keep the submissions short and sweet. For me I did not need to see a condensed version of the information already provided in the application. Submission should be brief, and used to provide clarification that the application may not allow, or that is required to help build a more sold case for your client when needed. Spousal’s for example-two step approach:
  • o First look at the sponsor, and sections of IRPA that apply. Does the sponsor qualify;
  • o Then look at the relationship between sponsor an PA-legal marriage, as to whether or not it meets common law;
  • o Now is it genuine this is all first stage review for an officer. Once the officer is satisfied the sponsor and PA meet the requirements they approve it at stage 1 and move on to the basic screening of inadmissibilities such as criminality, medical, security;

Again this is how I believe we should approach putting together an application for a client in these stages, they way an officer would review them. However, a safe way to put the application together is by following the document checklist.

  • • Inquiries, keep them to a minimum, make sure when calling in a favor it is warranted, urgent, and not simply just to fast track the processing times because the client is impatient .
  • • Do not approach an officer as if you are entitled, and you are a lawyer therefore you get special treatment. As it is splattered all over the provincial websites, and CIC’s a representative is not necessary.
  • • Exhaust all possible options, like contacting the call centre, before inquiring to the CIC/CPC office directly.
  • • Tell the truth.
  • • Do not abuse the CIC system, try to comply with the officers instructions, CBSA/CIC as it will only help to facilitate in the future, even if the desired outcome takes a little longer to get it is more likely to happen if the client cooperates.
  • • It is sometimes just best to comply with the officers request and accept the decision that was made if of course their was no error in law.

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