Canadian Immigration Processing Times: Seven Factors

Canadian Immigration Processing TimesShyaka is a Rwandan citizen. He submitted his immigration application to Canada more than fifteen months ago. Shyaka was hoping to land in Canada a few weeks after applying, but to his surprise, the application is still in process. He has been in constant contact with the immigration office, but no clear response yet. Shyaka wonders what does affect the Canadian immigration processing times.

I filed my immigration application in 2001, but I received my landing papers in 2003. I remember how anxious I was to find out the outcome. But I had no choice to wait. Of course, nowadays, as a regulated Canadian immigration consultant, I regularly deal with clients who are impatient, disturbed, or even angry about waiting for the outcome of their application. Needless to say, I understand the pain you are experiencing.

The statistics do not help either. For example, look at my personal experience for different types of applications. My federal self-employed applications have experienced wait times between seven and 50 months.  Imagine you wait 50 months for the processing of your application. My TRV applications have taken anywhere between less than a day to nine months to reach the decision point. As another example, my experience with the spousal sponsorship applications reflects a range between three to 22 months. Probably the most time-consuming applications for me are the business PNP applications which have taken a processing time of 24 to 60 months so far. I have seen the immigration authorities finalize study permit and work permit applications between less than a week to almost one year.

Why Such a Wide Range?

You may ask, why so much difference in the processing times? Why does it take them such a long time to review an application and make a decision? Well, I have five main reasons for you. Let’s take a look!

Factor # 1: The IRCC Policies

The Minister of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) posts a report to the Parliament of Canada every year. He dedicates part of that report to annual targets under each immigration program. For example, he may decide to accept 5,00 to 1,500 immigrants under federal business immigration programs (i.e. start-up visa and self-employed class). IRCC distributes this target between different visa offices.

Imagine the visa office in Paris receives a target of 100 to 200 applications for the upcoming year. Let’s assume this office has 300 applications in the waiting list. They also receive 100 more applications this year. In other words, they have a total of 400 applications waiting for the processing. Assuming the visa office in Paris meets its target of 100 to 200 applications, a total of 200 to 300 applications will remain in line for the next year. Simply put, many of the applications in this example have to wait more than one year for processing. Yikes!

How Do They Come up with the Targets?

You may ask, how do they come up with these targets? Well, the answer is not that simple, but it is a combination of politics, feedback from the public, feedback from the visa offices, and general policies of IRCC. For example, they prefer to get most of their immigrants under the Express Entry system, nowadays.

Factor # 2: The Specifics of an Application

Sometimes the specifics of an application affect the processing time. For example, changes to the family structure could affect the processing time. I have had clients who got married, got divorced, had a new baby, lost a baby or even lost a dependant while they were waiting for the processing of their application. No doubt, such changes affect the processing time. Whenever something like this happens, we have to communicate with the immigration officer and submit new documents, pay the processing fee, or request refunds. Unfortunately, every glitch in the application results into weeks and sometimes months of delays.

The immigration authorities won’t admit it, but depending on which country you are from, the processing of your application could be different. I’ve had clients from almost 40 countries so far, and I see the difference.

Factor # 3: The Office that Reviews the Application

Each immigration office has a program manager who acts like the managers of the immigration officers. Of course, the officers are the Minister’s delegates. They have significant authorities and for the most part extremely autonomous. However, some internal policies in a visa office could affect the processing times. For example, if the program manager advises they need to spend more time on temporary visas, the permanent residency applications may face delays.

Factor # 4: The Immigration Officer

IRCC trains their immigration officers vigorously. Regardless of their visa office or the application types they review, officers need to follow the standards of procedural fairness. Some important court decisions such as Baker v. Canada and guidelines by IRCC define such standards. Consequently, you expect all immigration officers review a similar case similarly and come to the same conclusion. Well, this is a naive expectation. In real life, officers have some level of freedom in their decision making, and they are not afraid of using it. You may see an officer review an application in a few minutes while the other takes an extended period to review it.

A Real-Life Example of the Role of an Officer

I had a sad case, in which an officer had almost finalized my clients’ application. However, the officer left that visa office and then another officer replaced the first one. The new officer delayed the processing by another 12 months or so. They asked for more documents and put several hurdles toward my clients. Eventually, they issued the permanent residency visas but forced some members of the family to stay behind.

Factor # 5: The Applicant

Don’t you ever forget your role in the processing time of your application! Sometimes, applicant delays the process by not providing the necessary documents in a timely fashion. I had a PNP case, where it took about 18 months for my client to submit some missing documents. Luckily, the immigration authorities didn’t refuse the case. In another example, my client who was from Hungary did not produce a police clearance report. The officer was genuinely patient, but even after about a year, we didn’t receive the document. It was a conjugal relationship application. If you are curious, the relationship fell apart eventually.

Delays in submitting the documents are not the only reason for extending the processing time. Think about errors in translation, the low quality of scanned documents, and not responding to the officer’s questions truthfully.

Factor # 6: The Role fo the RCIC of the Immigration Lawyer

They say an immigration consultant or an immigration lawyer has nothing to do with the processing time of the application. They couldn’t be farther from the truth. In theory, officers neither give favour nor oppose an application that has a representative. However, an immigration representative could ruin an application by their mistakes or enhance them significantly by their professional approach to the case.

Factor # 7: Other Issues

Some unforeseen issues could affect the processing times as well. For example, I had many applications waiting for processing in the visa office in Damascus. Due to the Syrian internal conflicts, IRCC decided to transfer packages to the visa office in Ankara. Therefore, those applications ended up waiting several more months for processing.

In another circumstance, IRCC had forgotten to transfer six packages from the Central Intake Office to the local visa office. I realized that by sheer luck. They eventually moved the applications to the local office, but the whole incident resulted in several months of delays.

Once I submitted a sponsorship application to the Central Processing Centre in Mississauga. They transferred the application to the pilot office in Ottawa, but for some reason, they lost track of the package. Again, I guessed the transfer of the package and eventually managed to locate it. They finally processed the application but several weeks more than the reasonably expected time.

I can go on and on about the delays, but at the end of the day you need to keep in mind, IRCC is not a perfect organization. No wonder why you could locate more than 73,000 immigration-related court cases online. When you submit an immigration application, consider all these seven factors. Also be ready for the unexpected and be prepared for delays. If you face significant delays, you may ask a lawyer for help. They can file for something called a “writ of mandamus.” Simply put, it means they ask the Federal Court to force IRCC to do their job in an acceptable time frame.

Relevant articles:

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Al Parsai, MA, DTM, RCIC
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting

This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not give legal advice nor should you rely on it as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions, you should consult a lawyer. If you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment. All the characters in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Any resemblance in names, dates, and places (whether individuals, organizations, regions, or countries) is coincidental.

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Al Parsai

This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.