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Midweek Exclusive – We are easing immigration processes, making system client-centric: Ahmed Hussen 

By Shazia Malik

Mississauga – We are trying to make people’s visit to the immigration department pleasant with simplified process. This was stated by Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during an exclusive interview with Yudhvir Jaswal, Group Editor and CEO of YMedia. He added that he wishes to make processes less complicated, with fast response time and client-centered. His focus, Hussen said is how to serve people better, make the online search easy to navigate, and fill out forms with ease. So he said his achievement would be to offer an all-encompassing client service at the ministry.

Talking of his own arrival in Canada Hussen said it has been a long journey but was made easier by the courtesy of Canadians and so this country is special to him. He said he was fortunate that he was helped along the way by generous Canadians. Hussen said going to any country at the age of 16 and then adapting to their ways is not easy in any circumstances. But as Canadians are very generous, they help new comers in acquiring a full-fledged citizenship, things get easier.

Thus the more he stayed in Canada after arriving here he took advantage of the community resources that were required to move ahead in life. Thus it was then that he thought of also giving back to the community and promised to do the best he could. That led him to enter politics. He got the chance to work with Dalton McGuinty as the opposition leader and then as the premier of Ontario. Hussen said McGuinty introduced many progressive policies especially in the realm of education and defending human right. Thus he also got involved in community work specially at the grassroots level which is reflected in McGuinty government’s public policy. Hussen said he was always running into politicians in that journey he got familiar with the system. He took the law degree and then an opportunity arose and he took advantage of it. But he never planned to be a politician

Hussen informed that being the immigration minister he feels great but that is a huge responsibility. He thanked Prime Minister Trudeau for trusting his abilities saying he is greatly honoured to represent a ministry of which once he was a client. So credit goes to this country that whoever comes here, he is integrated, and given the chance to move up in life. He also thanked his constituents for their generosity in getting him elected to the parliament and serving them. Hussen humbly thanked the people of his constituency and said as their MP he will always stay connected to them and represent their interest in the house.

Hussen said he agrees with Trudeau that Canadian society is traditionally viewed as great and Canadians have big hearts. So those who land here, do so for a better life, seeking security from their background, coming from wars and Canadian values are welcoming the. Also immigrants add to the economic growth of this country as is reflected in our policy. He said Canada is lucky to have a progressive approach to immigration because as Canadian we value public contribution. It is one of the few countries where if one follows its rules and work hard, one can become citizens which is a good thing for that person and for Canada as a society. In some other parts of the world even when three generations have lived there, no path leads to citizenship.

Speaking about the recent travel ban in USA, Hussen said every country has its own immigration policy. Ours is that of openness, focused on skilled immigrants, and for talent, who have come here for a better life. Canada values immigrants greatly and in 2017, the ministry plans to offer 300,000 PRs to immigrants landing in Canada. There is room for skilled people, people in family class, there is room for refugees both private and government sponsored and international students. He said his predecessor John McCallum did a lot in attracting and retaining students.  On the issue of security Hussen said Canada has a robust screening process for all classes, temporary or permanent visitors. So proper mechanism is in place and the government is greatly concerned about the security aspect of Canadians. And the ministry is trying to maintain that confidence by being open.

He said students studying in Canada are a priority as Canada is competing in a global marketplace for skilled students who come to Canada and if this country does not accommodate them, other countries will take. So the government continues to have a proactive approach by being open and share new ideas. He every organization has its own standards of evaluating the degrees of the skilled professionals such as the federal government has its own regulation body, provinces have their own independent bodies, then there is college of physicians, and other professional bodies. So the ministry is trying to ease the path to ensure their credentials are recognized and talents are not wasted in the same vein the previous government put in plans. So this ministry also continues to working with provinces to ensure that no individuals work outside of their expertise

Hussen also talked about 33% increase in international students, presenting the C-6 bill that he said is with pending with the Senate for approval, checking marriage frauds, repealing the law of the last government, and the issue of refugees. He said Canada continues to remain top destination for people from across the globe and several refugees, what he called, legacy refugees, are seeking refuge here. Their lives are in limbo but it is the immigration refugee board that determines their status not the ministry. However, he is trying to work with them and bring reforms. He is also trying to clear some of the backlog. Talking about processing time Hussen said the visa processing times have reduced and acceptance rate for the Indians at the Chandigarh office has increased from 43% to 60% that is a 20% jump. This is a progress but he said the ministry can do better.

Hussen informed that he is absolutely engaged with the Brampton MPs and working very closely with them who keep on alerting him on various issues. He said as summer is coming up, people would like to come to Canada for weddings, to meet family and friends, and so he advised them all to apply early and through trusted agents here and in India. The ministry is also trying to remove all the bottlenecks and resolve these issues. He said the ministry has successfully reduced processing time for spousal visa to 12 month from three years that is a cut by two thirds and is a huge change. Processing time for PRs has come down from 8-10 months to 50 days, applications of 3,67000 international students were processed last year, that is 22% more.  But still a lot needs to be done to take care of the backlog in caregiver files and privately sponsored refugees. He admired the Punjabi community saying he worked as young lawyer in the office of a Punjabi. Hussen concluded by saying he will keep on working for human relations, for peace, and prosperity.

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