(This was first published last Saturday – October 6 – in our print edition)
BY RATTAN MALL
A report published in Lexbase, Canada’s leading immigration publication under well-known lawyer Richard Kurland, states that some gurdwaras were suspended temporarily from the religious workers program because of non-compliance or refugee claim by the worker, revocation of the gurdwara’s Canadian charity number, or other concerns such as the reliability of invitations from that gurdwara.”
The report advised: “As the visa office processes applications based on the number of workers the gurdwara requires, it is not in the gurdwara’s interest to invite non-genuine applicants. The onus is therefore on the gurdwara to select qualified religious workers.”
The report on ‘processing of Sikh religious workers destined to gurdwaras in Canada’ states in its summary: “Chandigarh and New Delhi have longstanding procedures to manage the movement of genuine Sikh religious workers in response to persistent fraud. The procedures were designed, with input from the gurdwaras, to meet their needs for religious workers while ensuring the integrity of the visa program.
“The vast majority of applications from Sikh religious workers seeking to work temporarily at a gurdwara in Canada are initially processed at the visa offices in Chandigarh (over 80%) and New Delhi. General processing procedures for Sikh and other religious workers were first introduced in Chandigarh and New Delhi in 2004 in response to fraud in applications. These have been amended over the years as the missions identify trends in the movement and as a result of engagement by the missions with stakeholders in Canada.
“In April 2012, new procedures were introduced to encourage the Canadian gurdwaras to exercise tighter control over the issuance of invitations to better allow Chandigarh and New Delhi to track and maintain the number of Sikh religious workers at each gurdwara at a given time. This has enabled the visa offices in India to work cooperatively with gurdwaras in Canada to meet their needs for religious workers.”
Regarding procedures, it states: “Every April, the visa office in Chandigarh contacts the Canadian gurdwaras who hosted religious workers the previous year to obtain updated information on their operations and registration as a charitable organization, as well as an estimate of the number of religious workers required for the coming year. In 2014, Chandigarh contacted 115 gurdwaras, up from 61 in 2008. The office maintains a dedicated email address to communicate with gurdwaras. Chandigarh verifies each gurdwara’s Canadian charity number via the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website. Any group with a number that does not appear on the CRA site is not allowed to host religious workers.”
The report says: “Requests for an increased number of workers are examined carefully and are approved only if fully justified, based on information provided by the gurdwara and historical application numbers. A specific complement of workers for the upcoming year is then agreed upon by the visa office and the gurdwara. The list of gurdwaras is not closed. If a Sikh religious worker applies to work for a gurdwara not already in the manual database maintained by Chandigarh, then the visa office will contact the host gurdwara to confirm the invitation, and will process the application as usual. The gurdwara is then added to Chandigarh’s database. The visa office and host gurdwaras have an agreement that the religious workers will report back in person to the visa office upon return from Canada. Normally, the workers rotate through the gurdwaras on a six-month basis. When one returns, a space opens up for a subsequent worker.”
The report states: “There are three main grounds for refusal of applications of Sikh religious workers: Most commonly, the gurdwara has reached its full complement of temporary workers. In this case, the visa officer is not satisfied that the applicant has a genuine job offer. Accordingly the applicant is refused as not having met the requirements of Section 179 of the IRPR [Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations]; The invitation has not been confirmed as genuine by the gurdwara, in which case the application may be refused for misrepresentation as well as the applicant’s bona fides as a temporary resident; or The visa office is not satisfied that the applicant is a genuine visitor, based on standard processing criteria. If approved, the applicant receives a single entry visa coded WX-l (work permit exempt) for 6 months and is asked to report back in-person to the visa office upon return from Canada.”
Providing statistics, the report states: “In 2015, Chandigarh and New Delhi received 1665 applications from Sikh religious workers presenting invitations from Canadian gurdwaras. The visa offices issued a total of 869 visas, an approval rate of 52%. Since implementation of current procedures in 2012, the approval rate has risen from roughly one third of all cases in 2010 and 2011, to approximately half of all cases now submitted. With visas now being issued only after consultation with gurdwaras on overall numbers of religious workers required (over 90% of visa holders report back upon return to India, demonstrating the effectiveness of the current measures).”
Regarding Quality Assurance (QA) and Anti-Fraud measures, the report states: “Chandigarh and New Delhi share a detailed database, tracking the pre-arranged number of religious workers, visas issued, and returnee information for each gurdwara. Once the agreed upon complement of workers has been reached in a given year, no further applications are approved by either visa office until a space is opened up by a returning worker.”
(Originator: Lillian Zadravetz -International Region -19 February 2016)