How Long Does The Immigration Process Take? (6/10)

The Canadian Parliament In Ottawa

The Cana­dian Par­lia­ment In Ottawa

Wel­come to my new series, “How to immi­grate to Canada“!

I recently received quite a lot of emails, ask­ing me ques­tions about the immi­gra­tion process. So I decided to explain the whole process in 10 posts, which will be pub­lished every Saturday.

I also encour­age you to ask any ques­tion you may have. I’m not an immi­gra­tion con­sul­tant, but from expe­ri­ence, I may be able to point you to the right direction!

In the series, we will see the dif­fer­ent options you have to come to Canada, as well as your rights and duties as a Per­ma­nent Res­i­dent, what hap­pens after you arrive etc.

Appli­cants main con­cern is often on how long the whole process takes. Unfor­tu­nately, there is no rule and no one can know for sure. How­ever, there are some tricks to make sure your appli­ca­tion is processed as fast as it can be!

How long does the immi­gra­tion process take… roughly?

  • Most per­ma­nent res­i­dent appli­ca­tions, no mat­ter in which cat­e­gory you apply, take from 6 to 12 months to be processed.
  • That said, some appli­ca­tions are processed much faster… I was one of the lucky appli­cants, I received the per­ma­nent res­i­dent in only 4 months!
  • On the other side, some appli­cants will wait for a few years.

Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion pro­vides tables indi­cat­ing how many months were nec­es­sary to approve or refuse appli­ca­tion at var­i­ous visa offices around the world. You can check the pro­cess­ing time for appli­ca­tion in Canada, out­side Canada, and by cat­e­gories, such as the skilled worker cat­e­gory or the fam­ily class cat­e­gory.

So, what’s tak­ing so long?

Approv­ing or refus­ing a per­ma­nent res­i­dence appli­ca­tion is a long process. Immi­gra­tion agents must check all doc­u­ments and make a life-changing decision!

But many other fac­tors affect the aver­age appli­ca­tion pro­cess­ing time:

How busy the local visa office is: some regions of the world receive more appli­ca­tions. For exam­ple, visa offices in Africa and the Mid­dle East cur­rently have the longest pro­cess­ing time for skilled worker appli­ca­tions. Not every coun­try has a Cana­dian visa office and as a result, a cen­tral visa office may be respon­si­ble for sev­eral coun­tries or region. For exam­ple, the Paris visa office is respon­si­ble for immi­gra­tion appli­ca­tions for Alge­ria, Bel­gium, Libya, Liecht­en­stein, Lux­em­bourg, Por­tu­gal, Spain, Switzer­land and Tunisia! Same goes for the Lon­don office which is respon­si­ble for Den­mark, Fin­land, Green­land, Ice­land, Ire­land, Nor­way, Swe­den, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia, UAE and Yemen…!

The dif­fi­culty of the secu­rity check: there is a manda­tory secu­rity check on all per­ma­nent res­i­dent appli­cants to pre­vent indi­vid­u­als who pose a risk to Canada’s secu­rity from enter­ing the coun­try. Its dura­tion can be affected by such fac­tors as mil­i­tary ser­vice, for­eign trips, mem­ber­ship in polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions etc. Some for­eign coun­tries coöper­ate bet­ter with Canada than oth­ers and some­times, back­ground checks can be quite dif­fi­cult to conduct.

What you can do to ensure your appli­ca­tion is processed as fast as it can be

  • Fill up your appli­ca­tion prop­erly: it sounds obvi­ous, but a lot of peo­ple think “oh, I’m not sure what to say here… they will fig­ure it out”. No, “they” won’t. Your appli­ca­tion will be sent back and your will waste time. It may take you a week or two months to com­plete your appli­ca­tion, but do it seri­ously. It pays out.
  • Send all the doc­u­ments required: it should go with­out say­ing. If for some rea­son, you really can’t pro­vide a doc­u­ment, send a let­ter explain­ing why. I did that for our mar­riage cer­tifi­cate, after learn­ing it would take as long as 6 months to receive it. I send my appli­ca­tion and explained why I would send the cer­tifi­cate later and it was no problem.
  • Inform your local office or any change: if you move, don’t for­get to inform your visa office! Some appli­ca­tion take years to be processed and appli­cants’ lives can change a lot mean­while: some get mar­ried, some have kids. Inform your visa office fast because they will know anyway.
  • Choose your immi­gra­tion cat­e­gory wisely: do the online test to make sure you have enough points to apply in the skilled worker cat­e­gory. If you apply in the spon­sor­ship cat­e­gory, make sure you have enough proof that the rela­tion­ship is gen­uine. Basi­cally, make your choice obvi­ous, clear and back it up by send­ing all the sup­port­ing doc­u­ments needed.
  • If you can, choose your visa office: as I men­tioned above, some visa offices are much busier than oth­ers. If you apply out­side Canada, unfor­tu­nately, you must apply in the coun­try you live in. But if you are already in Canada, you may apply from within Canada, or from out­side Canada. I had the choice for exam­ple between apply­ing in Buf­falo NY or in Paris. At the time, Buf­falo was extremely busy and I was advised to apply in Paris, which paid off since my appli­ca­tion was processed really fast!
  • Only con­tact your visa office when you are past the aver­age pro­cess­ing time: when­ever CIC com­mu­ni­cates with you, it always indi­cates the aver­age length of a step (for exam­ple 3 to 6 months, 5 to 7 months etc.). If you are past the aver­age pro­cess­ing time, you are wel­come to con­tact them. I per­son­ally did it twice, once in per­son at the Cana­dian embassy in Paris (for my per­ma­nent res­i­dence appli­ca­tion) and once on the phone (for my cit­i­zen­ship appli­ca­tion). Both times, my appli­ca­tion sta­tus was checked and I received news shortly after. On the other side, don’t con­tact visa office and com­plain if you are not past the this aver­age pro­cess­ing time: it’s a waste of immi­gra­tion offi­cers’ time and you won’t get any spe­cial treat­ment, no mat­ter how loud you complain.

Two myths…

Immi­grat­ing through Que­bec is faster: as I explained in If You Immi­grate to Que­bec, the process to set­tle in the province is slightly dif­fer­ent. A lot of French-speakers think it is always faster and eas­ier to go through Que­bec. The truth is, it really depends. Going through Que­bec means an addi­tional step (the CSQ) and there are back­logs. It all depends on when you apply and your per­sonal sit­u­a­tion, but it is not nec­es­sar­ily faster, espe­cially that now, immi­grat­ing to Que­bec is quite popular.

Immi­gra­tion con­sul­tants can speed up my appli­ca­tion: no, they can’t. A good and hon­est immi­gra­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tive will always tell you that they can­not speed up the process, so be very care­ful with those who claim they can. The only thing they can do is make sure your appli­ca­tion is filled up prop­erly, that no doc­u­ments are miss­ing… etc. Basi­cally, things you can do by yourself.

Good luck!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


    • You should look at the CIC’s pro­cess­ing times for each visa office.

      But most of time, you don’t have the choice: you have to apply where you live. I.e you can’t ask your file to be processed in Paris if you live in China.

  1. hey i was con­tacted by a cic offi­cer she asked me ques­tions about my h&c appli­ca­tion for fch and i responded and then she wrote me again and said that she would send the RESPONSE through mail. she will be send­ing it from canada to colom­bia.
    any clue of how long it will take and if the responce is neg­a­tive or positive????????????????????

    • Sorry, I have no idea, I’m not famil­iar with the refugee sys­tem if that,s what you are talk­ing about. You should ask on a forum such as

  2. Hi, actu­ally i have been applied for immi­gra­tion pro­gram (per­ma­nent res­i­dent) fed­eral skilled worker class on 15 Feb 2007n from Pak­istan, but i didn’t get visa still yet ? and i am just wait­ing for my visa ! So, will you please advise me the best trick for get­ting visa soon.
    i already wait too much for my visa but i can’t wait any­more , and i dont have nay idea what should i do ? my visa appli­ca­tion was sub­mit­ted before 28 feb 2008 new pol­icy ? So, kindly please tell me the best advise on this issue ?
    please reply a.s.a.p
    i shall be very thank­ful to you

    • This is a really long time. Have you con­tacted CIC? You should ask them what’s going on with your visa appli­ca­tion. In my opin­ion, your wait­ing time is unusual.

  3. Victoria Lambe on

    You have been very help­ful in explain­ing some of the seemimgly long and con­fus­ing process, how­ever, I still have some issues I’ll like to know more about.

    I applied for Cana­dian immi­gra­tion in 2005 under the Fed­eral Skilled Worker and my appli­ca­tion is being processed at the Accra office in Ghana. My appli­ca­tion is still being processed after almost 5 years!! I really wish to know what is involved in the process that takes about 5 years to sort out. Thank you.

    • It could be a num­ber of fac­tors. Most of time, it’s a com­bi­na­tions of the office being very busy and the back­ground check tak­ing a lot time. Have you trav­eled a lot? Did you work in “sen­si­tive” fields such as energy etc.? It could explain your appli­ca­tion being delayed.

      You should con­tact the CIC office and ask them what is tak­ing so long. You should have received a let­ter stat­ing roughly how long the process was going to take. If it has been long than that, by all means, con­tact the CIC.

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