As if June 2013, over four million people have been helped by CIC’snew online Help Centre since it was launched just six months ago. “The government is committed to improving service and the new online Help Centre is part of that plan,” said Minister Kenney. “People have questions about how to come to Canada and this new user-friendly and convenient Web tool provides the practical information that they need in a quick and effective manner.”

The Help Centre is a one-stop Web portal with an advanced search function where visitors can find quick and direct answers, including how to complete application forms, extend visas as well as other permits, and replace lost documents, such as permanent resident cards. The portal contains more than 600 commonly asked questions and answers as well as more than 200 glossary terms, which may be found easily by searching by keyword or simply by browsing. The Help Centre also enables people to easily access help tools, how-to-videos as well as application forms and guides.

The Help Centre registers more than 150,000 visits every week and the clear success of the tool is reflected in visitor feedback. One person comments that it is “a very useful site with lots of helpful answers” and another notes that the “easiest way to get quick answers to your questions is to use CIC’s Help Center.”

Where does this leave immigration lawyers? Although the Canadian government is trying to create a more user-friendly application process, we are finding that many cases still require the skills and advice of experienced immigration counsel. I don’t think we have yet reached the age where computers can replace common sense,” says NPZ’s Canadian Law Group manager VĂ©ronique Malka, “and some immigration cases need thinking that goes beyond filling in a form online.” Clients who may want to visit Canada can certainly apply online for their Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), but do they realize that the visa may get refused if they don’t provide the necessary evidence of proof of ties to their home country? Applicants also don’t realize that once an application is rejected, this affects their chances of coming to Canada in the future. While we do encourage those people to file on their own if the case warrants it, we also maintain that there is nothing better than a well-advised client filing on their own.

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