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

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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 cooperate 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!

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About Author

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

138 Comments

    • 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 settlement.org.

  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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