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Reschedule a citizenship appointment: Empowering applicants and frontline staff

The goal of our partnership with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is to make the process of rescheduling a citizenship appointment as convenient and stress-free as possible for applicants, whilst empowering frontline staff.

We started by doing research to understand the needs, hopes, and concerns of people applying for Canadian citizenship. Working closely with our operational delivery colleagues at IRCC, our aim is to identify opportunities to improve the service for both applicants and frontline staff.

In our previous blog post, we shared some of the field research methods used by the team. We’re now going to delve deeper into that research, and how we’re using what we learned to inform the next phase of our work.

Further research

Basing ourselves in the Vancouver citizenship office, we carried out short intercept interviews with applicants. Some had been successful rescheduling their appointment. Others had been too nervous to try, for fear of negative consequences. Frontline office and call center staff reported a high volume of enquiries from applicants waiting to be rescheduled, who were worried about the status of their citizenship application. It was clear that anxiety and uncertainty were having a negative impact on the client experience and placing an unnecessary burden on IRCC staff.

What we learned

Currently, applicants need to write a letter or send an email asking to reschedule their appointment. Our colleagues at IRCC gave us access over fifty of these letters and emails, which helped us understand what applicants were thinking and feeling.

Applicants need more control over scheduling

When an applicant is notified of their test or ceremony appointment, they’re worried about having to rearrange other commitments so they can attend.

  • Should they cancel that important business trip?
  • Will they be able to move their long-awaited medical appointment?
  • What about the family members they had hoped could attend their ceremony?

Having to rearrange personal and professional commitments can be tricky. In some cases, this can come with serious financial and personal costs. Helping applicants plan appointments around their existing schedule gives them a greater sense of control.

Applicants are worried about the implications of rescheduling

People fear that interrupting a government process could put their entire citizenship application at risk. In particular, the potential impact of not attending can cause high anxiety:

An excerpt from the notification to reschedule a test

As a result, many applicants completely avoid rescheduling, even if it means missing important life events such as weddings or graduation ceremonies. For those who do decide to reschedule, they enter the process already anxious about the outcome of their decision.

Applicants are unclear on the process

Once applicants send their request to reschedule, it’s not clear to them what happens next. There may be no indication that their request was received, and they can start to worry about still having to attend the original appointment.

As applicants grow more concerned about the status of their request, we see a spike in inquiries to the IRCC call centre and local offices. By providing applicants with clearer advice on what to expect, and keeping them updated on progress, we can reduce anxiety and minimize the need to contact IRCC.

Applicants aren’t sure what counts as a “valid reason”

The appointment notification states that applicants should have a valid reason to reschedule. However, it’s not clear what this means. We read many long letters and emails from applicants, which surfaced three common themes:

  • an expression of how honoured they feel to be on the path to Canadian citizenship
  • a sense of embarrassment and shame in asking to reschedule
  • lengthy explanations of their reasons

Together with our colleagues at IRCC we’re looking at ways to reduce ambiguity for applicants and make the conditions for rescheduling clearer.

Next steps

The Citizenship product team are working closely with our colleagues at IRCC to incorporate these insights into the design of the service. During this Alpha phase, we will be:

  1. Designing and building prototypes
  2. Testing prototypes with real applicants and staff
  3. Iterating designs based on what we learn
  4. Identifying and understanding the biggest risks to delivery of an improved service

By continuing to conduct on-site research and usability testing, we can support the broader drive towards more user-centric service delivery at IRCC. Together we share their vision for a clear and simple service that allows future citizens to reschedule their interview for a time that meets their needs, with minimal intervention by staff.

Follow our Twitter accounts and keep an eye on our blog for updates as we progress.