Canadian Citizenship application procedures: File Splitting and Retesting
Canadian Citizenship application procedures: File Splitting and Retesting
Operational Bulletins 529-A and 530-A – September 05, 2013
Scenarios for file splitting have been expanded to include cases where family members are held up in processing due to another member of the family needing a hearing.
One file is created for each family group that applies for citizenship at the same time. A significant source of delay in processing occurs when family members on the same file are held up in the process because one family member requires a hearing with a citizenship judge. Until that family member has had a hearing and joins the rest of the family at the Ready for Decision Stage in the Global Case Management System (GCMS), the rest of the family cannot move forward in the process. By splitting a file to allow other family members to proceed independently of the delayed family member, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will be able to process these cases more quickly and thereby improve client service.
It is estimated that nearly 85% of hearing referrals are for language, knowledge, or language and knowledge together.
On average there are approximately 1.4 to 1.5 cases on each file; thus, for every 100 cases in a local office’s hearing queue, there can be an additional 40 to 50 clients awaiting the conclusion of this stage. Lengthy processing times at this stage at this stage result in additional work for CIC staff, most commonly the need to rework clearances that have expired while awaiting a hearing. By splitting applications to facilitate the processing of family members who do not require a hearing, CIC can reduce wait times and delays for these clients. This must be balanced by the need to ensure that we maintain program integrity measures at all times in the process. We can therefore accommodate most requests to split files, with the exception of certain files where the splitting of a file can lead to program integrity issues.
The Citizenship Policy Manual gives separate guidance on splitting files in security cases. Other requests to split files under exceptional circumstances are considered on a case by case basis. This Operational Bulletin (OB) outlines procedures around splitting files prior to a hearing to facilitate operational efficiency and client service.
Use only in Certain Circumstances
This OB focuses on splitting files when one or more family members require a hearing for either language or knowledge, and other adult family members on file are thus delayed while they wait for the outcome of that hearing. As noted above, CIC conducts all of its business through the lens of maintaining program integrity. At the hearing stage of the citizenship process, the main program integrity focus is around residency issues and possible misrepresentation. Therefore, files should not be split where residency issues exist for any client on that particular file. In all other situations, where the client requests that a file be split (urgency, relationship breakdown etc.), requests should continue to be examined on a case by case basis.
Note: Files must not be split until expired clearances are reworked and updated for all family members.
This OB is linked to the procedures set out for conducting language and knowledge assessments, including retesting.
In cases where there is more than one applicant on file, if a CIC official is not able to positively assess language requirements or a client does not pass the written test, CIC staff will consider splitting the file to avoid unnecessary delays in the processing of other family members. The procedure is the same for any instance (language only, knowledge only, language and knowledge combined), although the timing of the file split is different in “knowledge only” cases. In cases where there are also minors on file, additional care must be taken to identify verified parentage.
Knowledge Only Cases
The decision to split a file will be made once the results of the second test are known. See OB 530-A below for retesting procedures.
- Before meeting with the clients, check for minor applications on file. If there are minor applications on the file, check to see if parentage was established only to the client who will require a second written test. If so, see Additional Procedure – Verifying Parentage, below. Otherwise, proceed with step 2.
- Meet with the clients to communicate results and inform the affected clients that they will have an opportunity to rewrite their test. If they pass that test, no further action will be necessary. If they do not pass that second test, they will require a hearing with a judge.
- Inform clients who passed their test and language assessment that, since their case is now ready for a decision, CIC will split the file to allow these family members to proceed through the rest of the process immediately, rather than waiting for the hearing of other family member(s) to be completed. CIC will do this automatically when and if the affected client does not pass the second test, unless the family requests to remain together as a family unit during processing. If applicable, explain how the minor children on file will be affected by the file split (i.e. either they will also be split from the file or they will remain with the parent who requires a hearing).
- If the clients do not wish to split their file, have them complete the Request to Maintain File form to confirm their choice.
- Explain that the decision to split or not split the file will be made once the results of their family member(s)’ second test is known. If the family members pass the second test, the file will not be split and all will proceed to final stage. If they fail, CIC would split the file.
- Once the results of the second test are known and are processed in GCMS, a CIC official will split all affected files.
- The files with no concerns are to be given to a citizenship judge for paper review and decision. Cases which require a hearing will be added to the local office’s hearing inventory according to local office procedures.
Language Only and Language and Knowledge Combined Cases
Clients who are referred for a hearing for language only do not require a retest. As of September 3, 2013, clients who have language issues and also fail the written test are eligible for retesting. File splitting should be considered for these clients as well, however, file splitting should not occur until the results of the retest are known for language and knowledge combined cases.
- Before meeting with the clients, check for minor applications on file. If there are minor applications on the file, check to see if parentage was established only to the client who will require a hearing. If so, see Additional Procedure – Verifying Parentage, below. Otherwise, proceed with step 2.
- Meet with the clients to communicate results of their test and of the language assessment and inform the affected clients that they will require a hearing with a judge.
- Inform clients who passed their test and language assessment that, since their case is now ready for a decision, CIC will split the file to allow these family members to proceed through the rest of the process immediately, rather than waiting for the hearing of other family member(s) to be completed. CIC will do this automatically, unless the family completes a written request to remain together as a family unit during processing. If applicable, explain how the minor children on file will be affected by the file split (i.e. either they will also be split from the file or they will remain with the parent who requires a hearing).
- If the clients do not wish to split their file, have them complete the Request to Maintain File form to confirm their choice.
- As test results are being processed in GCMS, a CIC official will split all affected files.
- The files with no concerns are to be given to a citizenship judge for paper review and decision. Cases which require a hearing will be added to the hearing inventory according to local office procedures.
Additional Procedure – Verifying Parentage
Clients must submit a birth certificate or other acceptable evidence to establish the parent-child relationship when submitting an application on behalf of a minor child. Refer to CP 4, Sections 2.13 to 2.17 for procedures. In some cases, the evidence submitted only establishes parentage to one parent. In these cases, where file splitting is being considered to move other family members through the process more quickly, additional steps may be required.
- When there are minor children on file and prior to communicating results to clients, CIC officials will have to consult the physical file to review evidence of parentage. In cases where parentage has already been established to the parent who is ready for a decision, follow the procedures outlined above.
- If evidence on file only establishes parentage to the one parent requiring a second written test or hearing, officials may have to request additional documentation to establish the link to the other parent to facilitate the file split. Otherwise, the minor applications would remain on the file of the client requiring further assessment.
- In all cases where additional documentation is being requested, the request should be made in written form, with a specific timeframe for the client to respond. Clients will be given 60 (sixty) calendar days to produce required documentation. Sixty days to produce documentation is being given to match the proposed maximum time limit for retesting. If they do not produce evidence to link the other parent to the minor children on file, CIC will proceed with the file split as is. Note: A CIC official can also verbally present re-test candidates the option of returning documentation on the date of their test, if this makes operational sense at their particular office.
- Cases falling under this exception will have to be BF’d for 67 days (60 calendar days for compliance, plus 7 days for mailing), or until documentation is returned, whichever comes first, before proceeding with splitting the file.
Be aware that additional documentation may not exist (in the cases of some Protected Persons or for children from a previous relationship) or be difficult to obtain. This should normally come to light when file splitting options are explained to the clients.
Transitional Measures – Cases Already in the Hearings Inventory
Cases that have already been referred for a hearing for language, knowledge or a combination of the two may also be split into separate files to allow other family members to proceed with their applications and avoid further delays.
For knowledge only cases, it is suggested that local offices link the file splitting option to the client’s retest. OB 530-A contains instructions for retesting clients already in the hearings inventory. Since an option to not split the file is being given to clients, the Request to Maintain File form should be mailed along with the Notice to Appear to Re-write a Citizenship Test and the Retest Special Notice (see OB 530-A).
In instances where a client has been referred for a hearing for language only or a combination of language and knowledge, local offices should mail the Request to Maintain File form to the clients, requesting that the forms be returned within 30 (thirty) calendar days. BF files for 37 days (thirty for compliance, plus seven for mailing). If the form is returned, do not split the file. If the form is not returned by the BF due date, proceed with splitting the file, as in the procedures outlined above.
For Itinerant Services – See OB 530-A.
Canadian citizenship knowledge test and retesting procedures
Operational Bulletin 530-A – September 5, 2013
Currently, the majority of the hearing inventory is comprised of applicants who have failed the knowledge test. In an effort to reduce the hearing inventory, to limit its growth, increase decision ready cases and improve processing times, the following measures are being introduced:
- Communicating results and next steps to applicants; and
- File Splitting – see OB 529-A.
In order to ensure procedural fairness, retesting will now be expanded to include applicants who have failed the knowledge test and also have any combination of other criteria that requires assessment by a citizenship judge.
From March 2010 to February 2011, re-testing was offered to citizenship applicants (see OB 244-B). This was a temporary measure aimed at mitigating the impact of the new citizenship test introduced following publication of the new study guide Discover Canada.
This Operational Bulletin replaces OB 244-B with respect to the retesting policy.
- Group 1: Applicants who fail the written knowledge test as of September 3, 2013.
- Group 2: Applicants who are in the hearing inventory queue for having failed only the knowledge test (status quo – see Phase 2).
- Group 3: Applicants who are in the hearing inventory queue for having failed the knowledge test plus any other combination of criteria that requires assessment by a citizenship judge who choose to write a retest (see Phase 3).
Retesting sessions must be scheduled and held as separate events from first time testers to allow for more accurate reporting. Two new test versions will strictly be reserved for retesting sessions. Offices are reminded to follow instructions on distribution of tests as per normal procedures.
Monitoring and reporting
Manual monitoring and reporting will be required and all local offices must complete a template(s) on test session performance (i.e. pass, fail, no-show etc.) distinguishing between first test, retest and retest inventory. Templates and instructions were sent separately along with the two new test versions.
See additional instructions under Phase 3 – Hearing Inventory Cases – Knowledge combined with any other criteria.
Communicating results of test and next steps to applicants
Moving forward, following all test sessions, local office staff will communicate to the applicant the results of their test. Staff must provide the applicant with the actual test score (no discussion regarding outcome per question). Providing test results will allow the applicant to gauge their performance, consider the option to withdraw and prepare in consequence for the retest. Officers are also to explain that clients can withdraw their application for citizenship. Officers are not to recommend withdrawal of applications, but rather inform the applicant that if they do not feel that they can meet the knowledge requirement that the option to withdraw exists. Offices are to maintain a supply of Discover Canada booklets and ensure applicants have a copy to study.
If officials encounter applicants with literacy issues, they should be advised that Discover Canada is available via the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website in e-book and audio-version formats.
It is strongly recommended that offices administer the written test as the first step in the testing session and conduct the usual interview process afterwards. This will reduce the number of times that officials are required to interact with applicants. Communicating results during the standard interview allows for all communication with the applicant to occur in one interaction and also reduces stress of applicants waiting to write the test.
If applicant passes
- Inform the applicant that, pending a final decision by the citizenship judge, they will proceed to the citizenship ceremony. Provide the applicant with the timelines for the ceremony. This can either be scheduled on the spot or a notice mailed to the applicant as per normal procedure.
Local offices may wish to consider providing applicants with their ceremony notice (Notice to appear – to take the oath of citizenship) immediately following the test session if this is operationally feasible. This measure will decrease the number of no shows at ceremonies, decrease enquiries to the Call Centre and improve client service. Furthermore, when offices are planning special enhanced ceremonies, applicants can be offered the choice to participate in the event or remain part of a standard ceremony. Offices that choose to implement this process will need do the necessary input in the Global Case Management System (GCMS) after the test event.
If applicant fails – First time fail
- Provide applicant with their test score and a copy of the information sheet entitled Notice – Results of Your Citizenship Test and Next Steps – Annex 1, indicating first time fail.
- Advise applicant that they can withdraw their application for citizenship.
- If client continues with processing, advise that they will be scheduled to rewrite the citizenship test in approximately 4 to 8 weeks. The retest can be scheduled on the spot or a notice mailed to the applicant as per normal procedure.
- Hand the applicant a copy of Discover Canada if the applicant requires a copy.
Note: Local offices may wish to consider providing applicants with the date of their retest immediately after the test session if this is operationally feasible. Offices that choose to implement this process will need to do the necessary GCMS input after the test event.
- Inform the applicant that they will only have one (1) opportunity to rewrite the test. If they do not appear for that appointment and we do not hear from them with an acceptable reason for not attending within 60 days from the date of the scheduled re-test appointment that their file will be closed and we will refund the $100 right of citizenship fee. They will need to submit a new application and any applicable fees in order to become a Canadian citizen. See OB 476B, Abandonment/Closure of applications.
- Advise the applicant that if they fail the test a second time they will be scheduled for an oral interview with a citizenship judge. Inform the applicant that wait times are very long.
Important Note: Applicants who received retest notices prior to September 3, 2013 will still be scheduled for a hearing with a judge if they do not appear for the retest as indicated in the instructions provided to them in the notice.
- If one or more applicants are part of the file, inform applicants who have passed their test and language assessment that, since their case is now ready for a decision, CIC will split the file to allow these family members to proceed through the rest of the process immediately, rather than waiting for the hearing of other family member(s) to be completed. CIC will do this automatically if and when the affected applicant is unsuccessful at the retest, unless the family requests to remain together as a family unit during processing. See OB 529-A File Splitting and associated Appendix A, Request to Maintain File form – to be completed at the interview. Do not split the file until the results of the retesting are known.
Note: A copy of Discover Canada will also be provided to applicants seen in person upon request.
If applicant fails – Second time fail
- Provide applicant with their test score and a copy of the information sheet entitled Notice – Results of Your Citizenship Test and Next Steps – Annex 1, indicating second time fail.
- Advise the applicant that they will be scheduled for an oral interview with a citizenship judge and that wait times for an interview are very long.
- For applicants who were in the hearing inventory, return the file to its original place in the hearing queue.
Phase 1 – June 3rd, 2013 – Launch of retesting in all offices with new applicants (first time testers)
Effective September 3rd, 2013, applicants will be informed that if they fail their knowledge test, regardless of any other issues with their file, they will be scheduled for a retest. This information must be delivered during the testing preamble.
Local offices are instructed to update their current preamble script with the paragraph below:
If you do not obtain a pass mark (15/20) on your test today, you will be scheduled to re-write the test in approximately 4-8 weeks. You will be notified by mail of the date and time of your re-test. Please take this opportunity to prepare accordingly using the Discover Canada study guide. If you do not pass your re-test, you will be required to attend an oral interview with a citizenship judge.
A period of 4-8 weeks between the first and second test should elapse before retesting failed applicants, which will allow additional time for them to study and prepare.
Local offices have the option of scheduling applicants for a retest without valid clearances. However, clearances must be valid before a file is referred to a judge. Field Operations Support System and GCMS checks must be conducted before retest as per normal procedure – see OB 263.
Effective September 3, 2013, local offices must use the new Notice to Appear – To Re-write a Citizenship Test, which is available in GCMS.
Proper identification of applicants as per normal procedure must be undertaken prior to the test session and a citizenship officer should be prepared to attend in the event that a specific issue arises (i.e. language screening issue).
The following instructions apply only to applicants who are served through itinerant service. Local offices have the flexibility to offer to applicants only those options that are operationally feasible.
Testing sessions only (no judge present)
Offices that deliver testing sessions during an itinerant service trip may present the following retest options to applicants:
- Wait until the itinerant service returns to that location and retest.
- As per OB 483 In-Canada Itinerant Services, an applicant can request to be scheduled for a retest at any CIC office if they do not wish to wait for the next planned itinerant service offering. If an applicant indicates that they prefer to travel to a different CIC office than the one performing itinerant services in that area and
- is aware that they will be travelling to a location where there is a test at a CIC office in six weeks or more, then the officer should facilitate the temporary transfer of the file to accommodate the applicant; or
- is unsure if they will travel to another CIC office, then the officer should instruct the client to contact the Call Centre if they choose to travel. A minimum of six weeks notice is required before a retest appointment can be scheduled. The Call Centre will send the referral to the appropriate office for action.
The office receiving the referral will arrange for the file transfer. Once the retest is completed, the file can be transferred back to the responsible office to be finalized. Receiving offices (whether the Centralized Processing Region or CIC office) will input case notes into GCMS documenting the applicant’s choice.
Note: Do not allow applicants to do a retest on the same day.
One pass sessions (judge present)
Offices that are scheduling a combination of tests, hearings and ceremonies during an itinerant service trip may present the following options to applicants:
- Wait until the itinerant service returns to that location and retest. If the applicant passes the retest, offices may consider scheduling the ceremony the same day (via one-pass).
- See option No. 2 above.
- If possible, offer the applicant the opportunity to waive the retest and proceed directly to a hearing with a judge. Depending on the number of failures in a given day and the need to manage judge’s time effectively, officers will need to allow for some flexibility in the judge’s hearing schedule to accommodate at least a couple of hearings, if required. If chosen, have applicant complete the Waiver of Retest for Adult Grant form – Annex 3.
Note: Please adjust the timelines accordingly for a retest session in your preamble script.
Split successful family files immediately after the test is failed at first attempt unless the applicant(s) are proceeding to hearing on the same day and are successful. This is an exception to instructions found in OB 529-A in order to avoid further delays to remaining family members who are part of the same file and can proceed to ceremony if application(s) is approved. However, local offices must still ensure there are no security concerns before initiating a file split.
Phase 2 – Reduction of hearing inventory – knowledge only
Knowledge hearing inventory applicants
Retesting sessions are to be scheduled for applicants currently in the hearings inventory for having only failed the knowledge test.
A triage of inventory applicants should begin as soon as possible.
- Identify files that are flagged for a knowledge hearing only.
- Ensure files are marked for place in the queue. Should the applicant fail the re-test, the file will need to be placed back in the hearing queue.
Note: Local offices have the option of scheduling applicants for a retest without valid clearances. As per normal procedure, clearances will need to be reworked if expired and a hearing cannot be scheduled until clearances are updated.
The following types of files in the knowledge hearing inventory will not be scheduled for a retest and will remain in the hearing inventory. Files:
- for which a hearing has already been scheduled;
- for which a hearing will soon be scheduled (length of time before hearing is scheduled is at local office discretion).
- where an applicant has failed the knowledge test and has a Residence Questionnaire (RQ), even if the review of the RQ indicates there are no concerns.
- for applicants who are 55 years of age or older.
Scheduling re-testers – hearing inventory applicants
Reminder: Retesting sessions must be held separately from first time testers to allow for more accurate reporting.
- For those local offices that have a small knowledge hearing inventory, please ensure that 4 to 8 weeks have lapsed since the applicant first wrote the test and the date they are scheduled for their retest.
- Include along with the Notice to Appear – To Re-write a Citizenship Test the following:
- the Notice – Rewriting the Citizenship Test – see Annex 2;
- a copy of Discover Canada;
- the Request to Maintain File form (Appendix A – see OB 529-A– File Splitting).
In order to be able to schedule applicants in the hearing inventory, all files must be reworked to the test stage.
Phase 3 – Hearing inventory cases – Knowledge combined with any other criteria
Applicants who are in the hearing inventory for having failed the written knowledge test and are also flagged for a hearing for any other issues (language, residency, criminality, security) must still be scheduled for a hearing with a citizenship judge.
Effective September 3, 2013, citizenship judges will assess all other criteria first and once completed will offer the applicant the choice of proceeding with the oral knowledge evaluation or being scheduled for a retest.
If the applicant chooses to proceed with the oral knowledge evaluation, the citizenship judge will have the applicant complete the Retest Option for Adult Grant – See annex 4 and attach it to the file. The citizenship judge will then conduct the oral knowledge evaluation and finalize the decision as per normal procedures.
If the applicant chooses to be scheduled for a retest then the citizenship judge will have the applicant complete the Retest Option for Adult Grant – See annex 4 and attach it to the file. Local office staff must rework GCMS and schedule the applicant on a priority basis or within a minimum of 4 weeks as the judge is now seized with the file. If the applicant is successful at the retest then the file is referred to the same citizenship judge to finalize the decision. Reminder: The citizenship judge has 60 days to render a decision. If this is not possible, a suspension of processing of the application must be completed.
If the applicant is unsuccessful at the retest they must be scheduled for a knowledge hearing with the citizenship judge.
Note: For monitoring and reporting purposes, applicants who opt for the retest will be scheduled in a retest session. If a local office is unable to accommodate a retest in a hearing inventory retest session then the applicant can be scheduled with regular re-testers (non-hearing inventory). In this case, local office staff will need to complete two test reporting templates for the test event in order to capture both categories of retesters, namely the Retest: Applicants who fail first test post June 3, 2013, and Retest: Knowledge Hearing Inventory.
Applicants Approaching 55
If during the triage of hearing inventory files there are files where the applicant has turned 55 years of age, the application can be removed from the hearing inventory and be referred to the judge for a paper review and decision if there are no other concerns with the file.
If an applicant will turn 55 on or before the date of the retest event, the client can be removed from the retesting process, and referred to the judge for a paper review and decision.