Posted on - Mar 12, 2018

By Victor Ing

Victor Ing

At the end of February 2018, the Canadian government announced its commitment of $440 million to help Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) fulfill its goal of increasing overall immigration levels over the next three years. These funds will be used, among other things, to improve IRCC’s capacity to process more applications per year. In recent years, IRCC has invested in improving online applications and streamlining application checklists to give clients a better user experience and to improve standard processing times. This trend is expected to continue. For example, IRCC has already announced that later this year it will introduce a new online system to file Permanent Resident Card applications. However, despite these welcomed improvements, there seems to be little desire to help clients answer a frequently asked question: What’s happening on my file?

As a Vancouver immigration lawyer, I frequently meet clients who do not understand why their application is taking so long to process or why their case was refused. This is completely understandable. Once a client makes an application for Canadian immigration with IRCC they are generally left in the dark until a decision finally arrives. In the case of a refusal, clients are almost always given a generic refusal letter that fails to explain in a meaningful way why their case was not approved. There is a lack of transparency throughout the application process for clients who want to better understand what has happened, and it often leads clients to make multiple status update requests to IRCC or to make multiple failed applications because they were not fully informed why their last application was not successful. These actions can be counterproductive and delay or harm your case.

Currently, clients have very few traditional and easily accessible options to get more information about their file. IRCC posts standard processing times for various application types on its website to help clients understand whether their applications are being processed in a timely way. There are online options through the IRCC website to check on an applicant’s file status, as well as a Call Centre for in-Canada applicants to phone if they have the time to wait to speak to an agent; however, the information available from these sources is not always up-to-date and is often limited to simply saying that their application is under review.

In addition to these options, there are other avenues to get information about client files. One example is to request the notes of the immigration officer(s) that are working on the file. Immigration officers are required to log the activity that takes place on a file, including when documents were sent or received and to record their reasoning for refusing a case. These notes are recorded in IRCC’s Global Case Management System or “GCMS”.

If you are finding that your case has been unreasonably delayed or has been refused without clear explanation, then requesting these GCMS notes will likely help you understand what has happened and plan for what to do next. Canadian immigration lawyers are familiar with making these types of requests and, in cases of extraordinary delay in processing, can even intervene on your behalf to expedite a decision. This may be preferable to taking action on your file without having all the facts.

In the past several years IRCC has touted its goal of improving the customer service experience for clients who make immigration applications. For the most part, these improvements have resulted in faster decision-making on the premise that better customer service means speedier processing. However, it is equally important to offer transparency to clients to help them get meaningful information about what is happening on their file and why a decision was made. Clients should always understand whether they are eligible to make an application, what information they should provide in the application, how long they should expect to wait and, finally, be told what went wrong if their cases are refused. Immigration applicants will be best served if IRCC also looks to improve its processes to help them answer that elusive question: what’s happening on my file?


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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