Strategies for making progress on a delayed immigration application

Navigating Canada’s immigration system can bring exciting new opportunities but also frustrations – particularly when faced when an application stuck in processing. Delays, lack of updates and prolonged waiting are not only stressful but may result in missed job and academic opportunities, or family separation. In today’s processing landscape, delayed applications are not only common, but broadly felt by applicants across all application categories.

So, what recourse do you have with a delayed application? Thankfully, there are several different strategies available. Each option has its own advantages and drawbacks, requiring careful consideration based on your specific circumstances and often, a multi-faceted approach. Although no single approach guarantees success, these options may resolve your delayed application or at the very least, provide insight into the root cause of the delay.

Check processing times and application status

Although it may be months or even years since you applied, your application might still be within IRCC’s standard processing times. Consult IRCC’s Check Processing Times tool for the estimated processing time for your application type. If your application is still within the standard processing times and you haven’t received a decision, there’s no need to panic. Waiting is often the best course of action at this stage. You can also check your application through IRCC’s Client Application Status tool or your online MyCIC account for status updates.

Review your initial application

If beyond the standard processing time, review your initial application to identify potential reasons for the delay. One common issue is incompleteness or errors, such as incorrectly signed forms or missing documents. Another factor could be complexities in your personal history, such as previous visa refusals or a criminal record. In these cases, it may take IRCC longer than usual to make a decision on your application. Finally, missed correspondence from IRCC can also contribute to delays as IRCC typically pauses processing until they receive requested items. If you identify any errors, missing documents or complicating scenarios after reviewing your initial application, consider seeking legal advice for how to best proceed.

Submit a case specific enquiry through IRCC’s webform

One of the most convenient ways to connect with IRCC about a delayed application is through the IRCC Webform. You can use this tool to enquire about a submitted application that has exceeded regular processing times, to update IRCC regarding your information or add documents. For status updates, IRCC typically responds to enquiries within 30 days, but only if your application has exceeded normal processing times. This option is also limited as IRCC may only give a generic response that offers little insight into the delay or when a decision will be made.

Call IRCC’s support centre

You may also phone IRCC for a status update. IRCC offers both an automated phone line and a human-operated one, each with its own availability and conditions. The Client Support Centre is IRCC’s human-operated phone line, which assists applicants with general and case-specific enquiries. However, this service is only available to in-Canada applicants, and you can anticipate long hold times. In addition, while agents can give you application updates and offer limited guidance, they cannot make decisions on applications or expedite processing unless urgent eligibility criteria are met.

File an access to information request

Applicants may also request application notes from the Global Case Management System (GCMS), the software used by IRCC and CBSA to process applications. These notes include vital information such as an application’s receipt date, current status and the reviewing officer’s comments. Ordering GCMS notes can also be particularly useful for those with previous delays or refusals, as the GCMS notes may offer insight as to how past applications were evaluated. To obtain GCMS notes, applicants must file an Access to Information and Privacy request, which is typically processed within 30 days.

Contact your local member of Parliament

Another valuable resource for obtaining assistance is contacting your local MP’s constituency office. MPs have the authority to request information regarding immigration cases on behalf of their constituents and maintain direct communication with IRCC. IRCC must respond to any MP inquiry within 48 hours, making it an efficient method for obtaining timely updates on your case. To take advantage of this option, you need to schedule an appointment with the office corresponding to the MP in your riding.

Apply for a writ of mandamus

The final option is applying for a writ of mandamus. A writ of mandamus is a legal remedy used to compel a public authority to fulfill its legal obligations. In an immigration context, it is pursued when faced with unreasonable delays or when there is an implied refusal to process an application. Before seeking mandamus, applicants must typically exhaust other avenues and make formal requests for the performance of the legal duty. As such, a writ of mandamus should not be an applicant’s first course of action but can serve as a highly effective last resort. The process involves filing an application for leave and judicial review at the Federal Court of Canada. Given its complexity, seeking the guidance of an immigration lawyer is strongly recommended.

-Canadian Immigrant

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