5 Steps You Can Take To Get Answers
Without a doubt, you have heard about Canada’s immigration backlog. You may have applied to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or know someone who is painstakingly waiting for an answer that could change the course of their life. You might even be far removed from Canadian immigration matters altogether, but it’s unlikely you’ve missed the outcry in national and global news headlines.
How did we get here?
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, most government employees were working from home. Local immigration offices were vacated and visa posts around the world emptied. The exodus of immigration processing officers left in their wake thousands upon thousands of paper-based applications. At the time, in 2020, most applications for permanent residence (except those submitted in Express Entry system, which, for reference, only includes 3 of over 100 different PR programs). These applications began collecting dust while IRCC scrambled to adapt to lockdowns and the new work-from-home norm.
At the same time, applications for permanent and temporary residence continue to soar. The constant barrage of temporary policy changes and special measures to address the impacts of the pandemic and events in Afghanistan and Ukraine all played a role in exacerbating the backlogs.
As of November 30th 2022, more than 2.1 million applications were in IRCC’s system. Over half of them had exceeded the processing service standard.
IRCC has taken many measures to address the backlog, including acquiring additional office space and hiring additional staff. To speed up the process, IRCC is moving most paper-based applications to online submissions. Visa offices around the world are staffed and IRCC resumed invitations to Express Entry after months of hiatus.
In a recent memo, IRCC acknowledges that the backlogs are eroding public trust and have suggested a willingness to take “aggressive matters” to reduce or eliminate backlogs. Proposed measures include processing applications in bulk and waiving some eligibility requirements.
What can you do with your Canadian Immigration application still in process?
You may be thinking, this is great, but what can I DO to find out what’s going on with my application? Here are our tips!
Check your immigration application status online
You can check the status of applications submitted online (like work, study and visitor permits, Express Entry permanent resident applications, and temporary resident visas) by logging into your MyCIC account. Go to “View my submitted application or profiles” then click “Check status and messages”.
Applications submitted by mail or non-Express Entry online applications for permanent residence can use the Client Application Status Tool.
Submit a webform
Next, you can contact IRCC via their webform to request an update on the status of your immigration application if it has exceeded the standard processing time. Processing times are posted on IRCC’s website.
Often, IRCC will send a pretty generic response, especially if your application is within standard processing times. Sometimes their replies can shed some light on the status of the application.
File an access to information and privacy (ATIP) request
First, it’s important to mention that you must be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Canada or an individual or corporation currently in Canada to send a request. If you do not meet these criteria, you can authorize someone who does to submit the request on your behalf.
Request the Global Case Management System (GCMS) notes; this will give you access to the immigration officer’s internal notes on your file, as well as detail on documents requested and received. This should provide you with insights if the officer has any concerns. Depending on the results of the ATIP, you can submit additional information to IRCC by webform.
Contact a Member of Parliament
Members of Parliament (MP) can request updates on the status of an immigration application on behalf of their constituents. If you’re in Canada, you can contact your MP directly. Locate your MP using your postal code here.
File a mandamus
A “mandamus” is an order from the Court requiring the visa office to make a determination. Depending on your circumstances, such as the processing time significantly exceeded, there may be a compelling to open a case in Federal Court for “mandamus”. This process can take as little as 6-8 weeks before a settlement is agreed to, at which point the visa office prioritizes the case, or several months, if a settlement isn’t reached and the case is granted leave for judicial review.
Light at the end of the tunnel
IRCC is investing significantly in smart technologies, like cloud, advanced analytics, and automation, in order to improve efficiency and maintain integrity and security. Inevitably, we’ll continue to face frustrations along the way, as is inherent with any change. Overall, IRCC has accelerated its digital transformation. We are looking forward to ongoing improvements and efficiencies that enhance the user experience, streamline and simplify processes and reduce processing times.
Written on January 20, 2023 by Brooke Finlay