A new online platform aims to simplify the Canadian immigration process—with help from the new Liberal government.
While Caio Andrade was in the process of applying for permanent residency, he came across FastGate, an online platform designed to simplify Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) application process by condensing multiple paper forms into one single web form.
Andrade could be what many would consider one of the lucky ones when it comes to immigrating into Canada. Having arrived on a foreign student visa, he’s relatively young and boasts a solid grasp of the English language as we talk over the phone. Still, he found the process of applying for Canadian residency status daunting.
“It’s a long process,” Andrade remarks. “There’s a lot of repetition of details, and the formula itself is really outdated.” For immigrants with less education and language command than Andrade, such application challenges can pose massive obstacles to achieving a life in Canada. Even for Andrade, FastGate’s platform was appealing.
FastGate allows immigration applicants to enter all of their information—and just the information that applies to them—into the necessary forms just once. The website then distributes all of that information into the Citizenship and Immigration Canada database automatically.
The FastGate platform is the brainchild of law student Myles Kaufman and developer Cody Wong, born after Kaufman edited a colleague’s master’s thesis on immigration policy. He found it odd that there were so many potentially easy-to-solve application barriers in the Canadian immigration system.
“I started researching the process of how people make applications to come to Canada, and saw that it was incredibly difficult, even for a law student,” Kaufman said. “The questions were worded in such a way that you would almost need legal advice in order to know what to do.”
The difficulty that can come with filling out the CIC’s repetitive forms means that many applications end up with minor errors. These errors end up being the reason for prolonged application processes, and sometimes even outright rejections of immigration and citizenship applications.
One of Kaufman’s more ambitious long-term plans is to work in conjunction with the CIC to altogether improve the efficiency of the citizenship process. He wants to be able to directly send information from FastGate’s website to the CIC, the same way that tax software like Turbotax sends information directly to the Canada Revenue Agency.
When asked for comment on such a co-operation, the CIC was hesitant to jump to conclusions.
“While we won’t speculate on potential software, we can say that the objective of the federal government procurement and contracting process is to acquire goods and services in a manner that enhances access, competition and fairness and results in best value or, if appropriate, the optimal balance of overall benefits to the Crown and the Canadian people,” the CIC said in an email.
Melissa Kwok, a lawyer with Green and Spiegel LLP, a law firm that deals with immigration, said she could see why the CIC wouldn’t want to comment substantially. She notes that there are some hurdles for FastGate, namely the transfer of sensitive data.
“It is difficult for me to speculate on whether CIC will ever work with FastGate, as there are many variables,” she concludes in an email. “They have not paired with any third-parties this way before, but it’ll be interesting to see if they are open to help in this regard.”
Kaufman hopes the change in government will usher in a more progressive approach to the immigration process that, just maybe, includes the use of his software. But whether or not the CIC partners with FastGate, widespread use of the program could help expedite the application process on the government side simply by reducing errors.
In the meantime, Kaufman says that there have already been around 2,000 users for his condensed citizenship form and that the website has generated interest across the world. Despite that international interest, the only forms that FastGate currently offers support for are citizenship applications, which only affect people who reside in Canada. While it’s a smaller demographic, it’s also a demographic that Kaufman explains isn’t in urgent need of approval, meaning that it served as a perfect first try for the immigration software.
With the newly elected Liberal government planning to bring in another 25,000 refugees next year, Kaufman has now shifted the focus to creating a FastGate web form for the refugee application process. He hopes to have the fully-usable form available by Summer 2016.