Posted on - Nov 10, 2015

by Victor Ing

Victor Ing

For many years it has been possible to submit immigration applications online as an alternative to the traditional method of submitting paper applications. Only recently, however, has Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) begun introducing applications that can only be submitted online. This online trend affects many programs, including CIC’s Express Entry System. Introduced in January 2015, the Express Entry System now covers most types of skilled worker permanent residence applications which can only be submitted online. There is no paper trail! Most recently, CIC introduced the Employer Portal this past October for employers who wish to hire foreign nationals but do not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment to do so. Once again, this new system is only available online. What does this mean for applicants?

Online applications have gained popularity over the years with end users for a number of reasons. They can be completed quickly, provide for electronic payment of any applicable fees, and applications are considered submitted the moment you click the ‘transmit’ button. This is a particularly attractive reason to apply online for those who have very little time to renew a permit that will soon expire. Online applications may also be processed faster than a traditional paper application for those who need to have a decision made as quickly as possible. However, before considering an online application you should be aware of potential drawbacks.

The biggest drawback to CIC’s online application systems is technical in nature. CIC’s online systems are not “one-size-fits-all”. Few immigration applications are straightforward or routine. There are often times when an application should include more information than the user is able to easily provide using CIC’s online systems and its automatically generated checklists. Be prepared for inexplicable rejections.

First, although an application is submitted online by uploading documents, there is no way under the current systems to see what has been uploaded for submission, other than to see the filename of the document submitted. This limitation is particularly important if you are not completing your application in one sitting, and you might not remember what you did the last time you logged in or if have re-uploaded documents to replace old ones. Furthermore, unlike paper applications it is very difficult to keep an accurate record of what you have sent to CIC.

Due to these limitations, it is suggested that you avoid uploading files with generic filenames. Rather, by using unique filenames related to your application you will be confident you have uploaded the right documents and will be able to more easily find the documents after submission if you need to refer to them later.

Second, once an application is submitted online it is very difficult to correct any mistakes in your application or to add any new documents, such as a copy of a new passport you recently received but did not have at the time of submission.

Lastly, it is important to know that online applications can affect how you work with your immigration representatives. Traditionally, most immigration forms require an applicant to sign and submit the document. With online applications, it is now possible for your immigration representative to submit a form or other information on your behalf that does not bear your signature. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you know exactly what information is being submitted on your behalf. As the applicant to CIC, you are responsible for the accuracy and completeness of everything submitted. It is therefore always recommended to obtain a copy of any application that is submitted on your behalf. CIC will always consider an application the responsibility of the individual applicant, even when working with an immigration representative.

Though online applications have been available for quite some time, it appears that CIC is pushing to digitize as much of the immigration application experience as possible. Therefore, it will continue to be important to understand how and when to make online applications and their limitations.


Victor Ing is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada, and provides a full range of immigration services.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Victor Ing or call him at 1-604-689-5444.

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