CIC challenged over indirect information-gathering procedures

A Canadian citizen complained about the way Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) collected the personal tax information it required from him in order to process a temporary-resident visa application submitted by his parents in Colombia.

The complainant stated that CIC’s visa control office at the Canadian Embassy in Bogota required that Colombian applicants for a visitor’s visa furnish specific supporting documentation, such as tax statements from relatives living in Canada.

The complainant did not dispute CIC’s authority to collect information that established his financial solvency. However, he felt he should be able to provide the information directly to CIC, rather than by way of a third party, even if this was a family member.

The Privacy Act, in fact, backs him up. It states in Section 5 that the government must, wherever possible, collect personal information directly from the individual to whom it relates, unless the individual authorizes otherwise or disclosure is permitted under other provisions of the law.

This issue has come to our attention in previous complaints, dating back to 1998. Those complaints were determined to have been well-founded. However, our Office’s recommendations had been ignored.

CIC has agreed to review its current procedures concerning the application process for Colombia and all 110 of the other countries where a temporary residence visa is required to enter Canada. Where necessary, CIC will amend its documentation to indicate that applicants may choose whether they will supply the supporting documents on behalf of their Canadian hosts, or whether the hosts will forward the documentation directly to the department.

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