The head of Thunder Bay's Multicultural Association expects to see more clients when the local Citizenship and Immigration office closes at the end of May.
Cathy Woodbeck said her staff already works with newcomers who need help filling out application forms and navigating the immigration system.
"So I can see us being a bridge to a lot of services now and ... providing advice to newcomers that are trying to find out how they're going to get this service in the future," Woodbeck said.
She added that, although people will lose the face-to-face contact with local Citizenship and Immigration staff, many clients in dire need of one-on-one assistance (such as communication in English) often come to the Multicultural Association anyway — so the association will continue to provide that face-to-face help.
Improved online services
The Thunder Bay Multicultural Association receives funding and has a service agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as well as with the Ontario government.
A spokesperson for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said the department is reducing the number of small regional offices after improving its online system. The improved online services mean fewer physical offices are needed.
But the move has left Woodbeck with some questions.
"How will they do certain things, like interviews, or ... permanent resident cards," she asked. "How will those get to people that usually have to pick it up and verify that that's who they are?"
Woodbeck said she also wants to know what's happening with citizenship ceremonies that take place in the city.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada said permanent resident cards and citizenship ceremonies will continue to be delivered — but it has not specified how.
Woodbeck said she’s seen federal Citizenship and Immigration services centralized before, and then de-centralized again. But she also noted that, for some time, the department has been moving toward a centralized 1-800 and online system.
Woodbeck said, when the Thunder Bay office closes, the Multicultural Association will work with government staff elsewhere, likely in Toronto.
Details from the Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism:
The Department is moving toward a system that allows for the electronic application, payment and processing of files.
This modernized paperless system allows work to be done anywhere and means that less physical space is required.
As a result, CIC is restructuring, and will streamline by reducing the number of small regional offices across the country. CIC will maintain at least one office in each province.
Services such as renewal of permanent resident cards, and citizenship ceremonies will continue to be delivered in a timely manner.
CIC has made it easier to apply online and find relevant information on its website. A visa wizard, how-to video tutorials, FAQs, and proactive messaging are making it easier for applicants to get the help they need online. This is also more convenient as these online services are available 24 hours a day.
The Government of Canada will continue to take action to more efficiently process immigration applications in order to provide greatest value for money for taxpayers.
CIC positions will to be impacted include two in Thunder Bay, four in Sudbury, and two in Sault St. Marie.