Time zone for immigration applications

Time zone and immigration to Canada

Raheela, an RCIC, applied on behalf of a client on Nov 13th. However, to her surprise, the Acknowledgment of Receipt letter shows Nov 14th as the submission date of the application. Raheela wonders how come the registered submission date is different. Is it because of a particular time zone IRCC uses for immigration applications?

Understanding Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)

Unlike the Flat Earthers’ beliefs, the earth is round. Consequently, when one side of the planet is the day, the other is the night. Each area of the world has its time zone to reflect the time differences. For example, when the time in Toronto is 2 pm, it is 11 am in Vancouver. We calculate time zones based on the meridian that passes through Greenwich village in the United Kingdom. Consequently, up until 1972, countries calculated their time zones based on the Greenwich Mean Time or GMT. While the base for the time zones remains the same, we now call it UTC, which could stand for both Coordinated Universal Time or Universal Time Coordinated.

A sample UTC vs other time zones


To avoid confusion, IRCC does not use local time zones for online applications. They instead use UTC for this purpose. Let’s say you are in a time zone that is UTC-5. When your time is 5 pm, UTC is 10 pm (i.e., your local time plus five). Furthermore, when your time is 8 pm, UTC is 1 am the next day. In this situation, you must apply before 7 pm to ensure the submission day is the same day you are observing locally.

The submission times, based on the time zone

If you want to see the exact date on the AOR letter as the date you submitted the application, use the following table.

Local TimeSubmit beforeSubmit after
UTC-1212 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-111 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-102 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-93 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-84 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-75 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-66 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-57 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-48 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-39 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-210 pmDoesn’t matter
UTC-111 amDoesn’t matter
UTCDoesn’t matterDoesn’t matter
UTC+1Doesn’t matter1 am
UTC+2Doesn’t matter2 am
UTC+3Doesn’t matter3 am
UTC+4Doesn’t matter4 am
UTC+5Doesn’t matter5 am
UTC+6Doesn’t matter6 am
UTC+7Doesn’t matter7 am
UTC+8Doesn’t matter8 am
UTC+9Doesn’t matter9 am
UTC+10Doesn’t matter10 am
UTC+11Doesn’t matter11 am
UTC+12Doesn’t matter12 pm

Sometimes the time zone has a half-hour. The above table could still assist you. Look at the current suggested time and subtract or add 30 minutes. For example, if the time zone is UTC-3:30, the submission time must be before 8:30 pm. However, if the time zone is UTC+3:30, the submission time must be after 3:30 am. Of course, don’t leave the submission time to the last minute due to potential technical issues. Also, consider daylight saving time (DST).

Why could submission time be significant?

Sometimes, you must meet a strict deadline as an immigration lawyer, an RCIC, or an applicant. Here are some examples:

Of course, these are some examples. Unfortunately, missing a deadline could have serious consequences, such as application refusal, becoming inadmissible, or facing a removal order.

Time zones and calculating the submission date

When you mail an application, the submission date is when the mailroom receives and stamps the package. However, if the immigration authorities receive the package past the deadline, they usually backdate it by seven days. The practice is to cover for Canada Post or courier delays. Nonetheless, please do not risk it and mail the package a few days in advance.

IRCC uses UTC for online submissions. Therefore, consider the table above while applying. As I mentioned, leaving at least several hours of a buffer is best practice. Technical issues could ruin your submission date.

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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.