I have read dozens of times in blogs and forums: “don’t waste money on immigration consultants or lawyers because everything you need to know is online and the government’s official websites have evaluations that tell you whether or not you can immigrate to Canada”. … Allow me to disagree. The two online evaluations I will comment about are Citizenship and Immigracion Canada’s Come to Canada wizard and Immigration Quebec’s Preliminary Evaluation for Immigration. Though they are beautifully thought and well intended, these online evaluations often have mistakes, updates are hardly ever up-to-date, information is difficult to understand and often incomplete, and in many cases those evaluations are unable to offer explanation or alternatives in case of a negative answer.

And how could it be otherwise? Canadian immigration is very complex, acts, regulations or ministerial instructions change every week, and immigration candidates have profiles and projects that are diverse and unique. Also, because federal and provincial programs respect distinct laws, regulations and processes, governments have no jurisdiction to assess a candidate in light of other provincial or federal programs. Therefore, how could we expect a computerized evaluation system to replace a human being when it comes to assessing a person’s immigration project and give sound counsel and advice regarding the best path to follow to accomplish that project?

Let us take a look at the first online evaluation, the Come to Canada Wizard, from the perspective of someone who wishes to immigrate to Canada permanently.

A question reads: “Do you have a written job offer from an employer in Canada?” In case the job offer would not be permanent and the candidate would note have worked in Canada for at least two years, the response to this evaluation would be negative. It would be a correct answer since, indeed, because having neither two years of recent work experience in Canada nor a permanent written job offer makes a candidate ineligible to permanent residence under a federal program. However, if that candidate would have had a job offer valid for 6 months, or 9, or more, many provincial programs could open doors to permanent residency. If that candidate would keep working for a few more months, she or he very well might qualify under a federal program in a near future. So there may be options at hand. But such as a robot, the online evaluation will say (within certain parameters) whether or not it is possible to qualify but in case of a negative answer, the system will not be capable of showing paths toward permanent residency.

Conversely, it is possible to receive a positive answer when doing this evaluation, without being eligible. For instance, if someone has worked in Canada 30 hours per week for two years, the result of the evaluation may be positive when in fact, such working experience would be insufficient to currently qualify under a federal program (this is true at the time of publication of this post, but it may change this July 1, 2012).

By the way, several indications lead us to believe that on July 1, in less than two weeks, the federal immigration programs will change drastically. I am curious to see how long it will take for the Come to Canada wizard to be adapted to those changes. Even when it will be, it will keep the flaws I refer to in this article.

The Quebec Preliminary Evaluation for Immigration also has some shortcomings, more so in light of the changes of the past months. Currently, if a candidate were ineligible under the new criteria of the Minister of Immigration, he or she would still have a positive answer when reaching a sufficient number of points in the Quebec selection grid. (“It seems that you meet the Québec selection criteria.”) A text informing about the decision of the Minister of Immigration will also show, but without any explanation adapted to the candidate who just completed the evaluation. That and a message saying that one seems to satisfy the selection criteria is confusing and contradictory.

Besides, important questions that help determine whether candidates may obtain a Certificate of Selection of Quebec (CSQ) would be to know if they have recently worked in the province in a technical, university or managerial level position, or if they are currently studying in the Belle Province. Questions related to stays in Quebec do not consider possible and important cases in the online evaluation, which was created at a time when some of today’s programs did not even exist.

And what about a person who could not reach enough points today, but for whom there might be different ways to eventually obtain a CSQ? If that person would complete the evaluation, the answer would be that “it is not recommended that you submit an Application for a Selection Certificate.” Such an answer would likely be correct, however an in-depth analysis may lead to counsel ways to obtain the CSQ, for example by improving their level of French, completing a diploma, or coming temporarily to Quebec to work or study.

In spite of their limitations, the online assessments of the Quebec and Federal governments have the merit to give immigration candidates a general idea of some options. Especially, programmers and designers of the governments’ IT departments who have created the online tools deserve applause. But let us recall that there are nearly 70 immigration programs that lead to permanent residency, that regulations, processes and criteria change constantly, and that an immigration application involves hundreds of details and subtleties. The task of determining whether points should be granted for the Area of training criteria under the Quebec selection grid, or if the work experience makes a candidate eligible under the regular federal skilled worker program, is hard work. And all that without even mentioning issues of inadmissibility for criminality, health grounds or illegal stays in Canada, among many other themes. A personalized assessment will allow you to have an answer to all your questions, something that cannot do an online evaluation.

It is simply impossible for a computerized system to provide a complete, adequate and personalized counsel based on your academic, professional and business profile, and to take into account your family situation, your particular needs, all that while respecting the whole human dimension of your immigration project.

In some cases, it may be possible for robots to replace humans. Canadian immigration is not one of them.

Please note that even though this article relates to Canadian immigration professionals, the opinion of this article implies only myself and the office of Martineau & Mindicanu.

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