Do you know a Sehajpreet Singh Aulakh or Yelim Lee? How about Patricia Kaye Mendoza Castrence or Gurinder Singh?

If so, let them know that the immigration department has finally approved your work permit extensions. However, your confirmation letters, and personal information such as mailing addresses and application and client numbers, are in someone else’s hands.

As officials scramble to renew more than 93,000 expired and expiring work permits by the end of this year, some applicants are surprised to find documents belonging to someone they don’t know in their email and immigration accounts.

In addition, the department has explicitly warned in the letter and on its website not to “email us with questions” to avoid penalties. For this reason, some are turning to social networks to find the true owners of the documents.

“I am confused and worried at the same time that my document could be sent to someone else by mistake and I would never know,” said Dennis Dominique Maniquez of Toronto, who received an accompanying letter Wednesday addressed to Gurinder Singh in Surrey. BC

“I know how Mr. Singh feels now. We all know how stressful it is. We have all been waiting for this work permit extension for a long time.”

Due to skyrocketing backlogs that reached 2.7 million applications during the COVID-19 pandemic, officials suspended admission to some skilled immigration programs until last month.

This has left many qualified international students, who would have otherwise been able to apply for permanent residence, without status and with expired work permits.

On Tuesday, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser finally put in place stopgap measures to allow international students who have been caught up in this immigration limbo to stay and work legally in this country.

The special policy covers international alumni with expired or expiring post-graduation work permits, and those who applied under the “temporary to permanent resident pathway” last year but were left without work authorization or are staying without work authorization, while waiting for the update. from September 20, 2021 to December 31, 2022. Your work permits will be extended for up to 18 months.

However, a day after the August 2 launch, posts began to appear on social media groups from shocked and frustrated applicants seeking help returning documents to their rightful owners.

“If you are or know someone with the same name, please PM me: Name: SEHAJPREET SINGH AULAKH,” read a Facebook post that also included the person’s partially redacted application and client numbers.

Another read: “Hey guys, if you know the person! Please let her (sic) know about her/her! Applicant’s name: YELIM LEE”.

A third, attached with a copy of the government letter, said: “Looking for Patricia Kaye Mendoza Castrence. I received your OWP (open work permit) extension letter.”

The immigration department said it became aware of the privacy breach on August 3 and is investigating. Once all the affected people have been identified, an email will be sent to them with the correct information.

“A separate email will be sent to affected customers to inform them of the privacy breach. We advise customers NOT to share the incorrect email with others and to delete the email from their inbox,” a spokesperson for the department told Star in an email.

Vaibhavi Gaur, a Sheridan College graduate, was thrilled when she received an email on Wednesday from Immigration with an attached confirmation of the work permit extension. Only when her partner saw the name on the document did she realize that it was intended for a woman from Iran.

Gaur, originally from India, said she was shocked that the person’s name, application and client numbers didn’t even come close to her own.

And there is a line at the bottom of the document that says, “If you email this address for any reason, you will automatically be removed from our list of applicants who are eligible to receive a new work permit by mail. This will ensure that we can provide new work permits as quickly as possible.”

(The special policy webpage initially also said: “Do not email us to ask questions. If you email us for any reason, you will be removed from our list of applicants who are eligible to receive a new work permit.) in round 1. The line has since been removed.)

So rather than jeopardize his own case, Gaur, who works in advertising, took it upon himself to find and contact a person with the same unique name on Instagram.

“Immigration explicitly mentioned that you cannot contact us or we will remove you from the automatic renewal system (of the work permit). I am in this dilemma. What am I supposed to do?” asked the Toronto woman, who has yet to receive a response from the person she contacted.

It’s not known how many of the extended work permit confirmations were sent to the wrong people or how it happened, but migrant advocate Vilma Pagaduan has already received four such inquiries this week from members of her Facebook group.

She said they included intended recipients in British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan via email or direct delivery to people’s secure personal accounts with the immigration department. The applicants who contacted her were afraid of being removed from the automatic renewal system if they told immigration officials about it.

“It’s a threat. And it is very derogatory and discriminatory. It’s like, ‘Hey, I don’t want to see your face. I don’t want to hear any complaints from you. This did not come from a friend. He is on the government website and in the letter from him,” Pagaduan said.

“My concern is that to clear the backlog, the immigration department keeps opening new public policies but they are not addressing the issue. The issue is permanent residence for all. I have people waiting for PR since 2015 and they are still waiting for approval. To solve the problem, they open yet another program.”

Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan, an immigration critic for the NDP, said what happened is a serious violation of privacy and the government needs to know that these mistakes have serious consequences.

“Despite the immigration minister’s claim that the system is working, the department remains in complete chaos,” Kwan said. “They are putting people in perpetual anguish. I can’t believe the government has resorted to these kinds of scare tactics.

“With this type of communication, they are telling people that they are not important and that they are not welcome. Liberals are completely forgetting that immigration services can impact someone for the rest of their lives. They are endangering Canada’s reputation.”

Immigration officials said the department has established a process for clients to contact IRCC at the email address provided in the correspondence, only if they have opted out of receiving a work permit. The dedicated email address helps build a list of eligible candidates, so new work permits can be delivered quickly.

“The intent of the line, which has since been removed, was to ensure that customers do not accidentally opt out of obtaining a new work permit. It was removed in response to customer concerns,” the immigration department spokesman said.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto reporter who covers immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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