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!


About Author

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


  1. I am a Nigerian, do not know anyone in Canada but I sincerely want to migrate to Canada how do I go about this without connecting through an agent. Can the procedure be done single handedly?

  2. Nour EL Din Megahed on


    It is very kind of you to share your experience and give that much of insightful information and recommendation to others.

    I would like your advice please as I have applied for a Permanent residence through the skilled worker program before the express entry program was introduced. Unfortunately, my application was being processed at that time and I was told that Express entry applicants will be given more priority over skilled worker programs. My application was received on December 2014 and the CIC sent it to the London visa office in 29 of Jan 2015 to be validated.

    Till now my application is showing as in process and being processed by the london visa office. I definitely sure that I exceeded the average waiting time. Therefore, I tried to contact the visa office in London through their email many times but I didn’t receive any answer on the status of my application

    I was hoping if you can provide any useful information why applications take that much time and in my situation how can I get any response from the visa office in london responsible to processing those applications?


    • Hi,
      I’m sorry to hear that but I can’t add anything helpful. Processing times are only average and I’m guessing the London visa office is busy. There isn’t much to do but wait.

  3. I’m an American citizen and Canada is one of my choices to move. I filled out a survey and some lawyer from a website not connected to the CIC informed me that my best bet would be to have a job lined up first. If I do that, since I’m an American can I apply for things when I get there? Would that NAFTA allow that?

    Of course, I have other options opened.

    • I don’t know much about the specific of NAFTA regarding immigration, but as far as I know, unless you are invited to come over for a specific job or role, Americans apply for permanent residence like everybody else.

      I would disagree with the lawyer, it’s incredibly difficult to secure a job if you aren’t always in Canada with a work visa or the permanent residence. This doesn’t apply to a few specific fields though, I’m talking in general.

      Your best bet is to see if you qualify as a skilled worker and all the info is online,

  4. hi,

    I applied for Canadian study permit. the average processing time for London office is 2wks. mine will be 1month next week. should I contact them?

    • Depends on your visa office but yes, as a general rule I do find processing times are on average longer than they used to be. More applicants too, I think…

  5. Hi zhu

    Im from Philippines and im working here in taiwan, actually my mom is in canada right now and she want me to go there too, actually i already done my medical last APRIL 2016 and im waiting for my visa request from immigration, and my question is how long is the processing time?


  6. Hi Zhu!

    Thanks for this informative blog. I just want to ask, I’m waiting for my Canadian visa to arrive and it really takes so long. I’ve been waiting for 6 months already while my friends who process the same date as mine got their visas in just 2 weeks! I sent an email (on the 5th month) about the whereabouts about my visa and they answered me to wait for another 90-120 days , OMG! So, that would be around 10 months of waiting for eternity! If they would release that long, why don’t they have alternatives in which they would return my passport, because in this case, they took me my privilege to travel because my passport was stock in the embassy! Can I file a complain after this?

    • I don’t know the complaint process so I can’t advise you. I don’t even know what kind of visa you applied for, but generally, timelines depend on your specific application so as tempting as it is, you can’t really compare yours to other people. Keeping your passport for 10 months wouldn’t make any sense though, and I’ve never heard of this happening. Is that for a tourist visa?

  7. Hello,

    The current status of mon projet quebec after payment processing is showing as “WAITING FOR TREATMENT”. I am submitted my file on 13th june 2016. what does it mean? Should I start gathering documents according to the list available on immigration website or should I wait for the PERSONALISED CHECKLIST? how much time do they take to send checklist? anybody who got his checklist ?

    Your help will be highly appreciated.

    Thank you

    • I have no idea. I think it means just that, your file hasn’t been processed yet. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to start gathering the documents you know you will need!

  8. Hi,
    I have applied under Canadian Express Entry and i received my PR invitation. On that , there are certain documents to submit ,such as medical report, police clearance etc. I have submitted all requested documents along with the processing fee. My question how is, how log it will take to Scrutinize my application and offer the PR letter.


    • What do you mean by “PR invitation”?

      You can check average processing times online, they depend on your application and on how busy the visa office is.

  9. Hi, I’m from Philippines. My dad is in Canada and when he asked for an update in our papers, the embassy told him that our papers are now in Canadian embassy in manila, philippines. We’re just waiting for passport request, but until now there is no any update. But before they sent our papers in manila, philippines they said that they will review our papers and if there are missing papers they will refuse our application, but they found no missing paper that is why they sent our papers in philippines. I’m worried because until now there is no any update.

  10. Hi
    Im from canada. I applied for permanent residency on february 26 2016 under skilled category. Im still waiting for medical request. Do u have any idea hlw long will it take.

    • Usually, the PR process takes months, or even years. If you applied earlier this year, it’s still relatively early in the process. But process times depend on your visa office and you can check the average online.

  11. Hi am from Nigeria am processing migrant visa, to Canada and the process start on 1st October, and my agent told me that processing will take 7to8 weeks , and I have not head anything from him again, and last time I called him he told me that it will be ready soonest,i don’t know wot to do,to me is like he is take a lot of time / and I want to know if the migrant visa is coming with working permits?? Tnks

    • What visa did you apply for? There is absolutely no way you’d get permanent residence status in a matter of weeks. It takes months, or years. A tourist visa, maybe but then you wouldn’t be able to work in Canada.

      I’d advise you to make sure your agent isn’t a scam…

  12. Okay, but if I can be able to enter Canada with the tourist visa. Can I be able to apply for permanent residence??
    Or is there anything else I need to do?

    • It just doesn’t work like this. You should follow the normal process and do it alone, without an agent. Start by researching your options on the website of Citizenship and Immigration.

  13. My husband is in Canada and he applies for a permanent resident for us in 2013. We are in Swaziland our nearest Canadian embassy is Pretoria . We had our medical may 6,2016 which was for the second time. June we we submitted our passports after the embassy request for them . It’s been 6months now still waiting for our passports. Nov 2 I was called for an interview with the visas officer who told me that i should wait for 60 days. I wish to know how long it will take to bring back our passports

  14. Hi
    i am a Lebanese citizen , my wife is a Canadian citizen from Alberta, we applied for a Family spouse sponsorship to sponsor me to live with her in Canada.
    we applied in November 2015, i got an email from the Canadian embassy in Lebanon telling me that my file was lost, they apologized and asked me to do an interview, the interview according to the officer was positive, i was required to resend some of the lost files that i have previously send , which i did..
    this month my wife emailed the embassy in Lebanon asking them about any news about the processing time ( its been already 12 month and next week it will be 13 month since processing time started )
    the embassy emailed us back saying ” Kindly note that the below mentioned file is under security verifications . we are unable to provide you with a specific time frame for processing as verifications are conducted by Canada Border Service Agency.”

    my question is how long approximately does security verification take ? and is it normal to take so long ?


  15. Dear ZHU,

    First Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    I am also a Lebanese Citizen, and my case is exact as Bilal case in the previous comment. Really we are confused by what called regular security check from Canada border agency and no one knows about its time frame, till now our file reaches 13 months long and we don’t know what to do…it really hard to decide…I don’t know if it is better to wait a little time or better to decide living in Lebanon if it will take a long time because we are really facing problems if we have to expand our work here or there.


    • I understand that waiting isn’t easy but unfortunately, it’s part of the immigration process. Since you are already in the process and dedicated time and money to it, I’d suggest to just wait and see. Everybody goes through the background check process, the time frame depends on many factors, some personal (i.e your personal history, trips abroad, etc.) and some are external (i.e. some countries can be slow to cooperate to give out info like police clearance).

  16. Hi Azu,
    I wanted to sponsor my mother from India and i we have applied in jan 2015. what is the process and how long will it take? Please tell me is there any other faster way she is alone in India


  17. Hi, I’m from Nigeria processing working visa is more than 3months I haven’t received any response from my agent. ,, my question is how long does working visa take?

  18. I’m an egyptian citizen i have a deportation order and currently i live in USA but i have sometimes before i live based on my immigartion status the country but i have very clean record can i apply for express entry if it applies to me from USA or i have to apply from my home country


  19. Hi Zhu, i got my Quebec selection certificate & i submitted, now my question after i submission that when i will get my Visa? how long it will take? now what is the processing is going on please reply?

  20. Hello ZHU,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with CIC, I am writing to check if you have any advise for me regarding a visitor visa application that I submitted over a month ago to VFS office in Algeria as I am a Libyan citizen working here in Algeria oil field, but as per the CIC website processing time should be only 15 days, and obviously my application passed that already, I contacted the embassy already , and all they said is your application is still under process, we will contact you when finalized, that was Paris office I believe.

    the problem is that I need to have at least a time line for me to know what to do, as I need my passport to leave Algeria and go to Libya.

    what could be the max for visitor visa in Paris office ?!


  21. Hi,am in nigerian and i applied for canada permanent residence 3years ago and i havent heard anything up till u think i should contact to find out what is happening.thanks

  22. Hi,

    I am a Bangladeshi Citizen and applied for Quebec immigration back 2013 and i got the Quebec confirmation in April 2016. After that we again applied for federal as you are well aware that Federal also need to be accepted for Quebec as well.

    Now, we last submitted documents in 31st October’2016 when they asked to provide the intention of staying at Quebec. We can see only its “in process” status in Canadian website. My question is how long will it take more as we are already in 5th year of total processing time. Its in now Singapore office so far we know form our agent.
    Can u comment on my situation?

    • There isn’t much I can say. This is a very long processing time for you, I rarely see it that long. I’m not sure why… would it be because it is processed in Singapore? The CSQ adds an extra step as well, making the process longer.

      • R u still waiting or migrated please update me because I am also waiting my federal application submitted March 2017 still no update in process

  23. Good Morning Ma,

    I am a citizen of Canada and i mailed my application in sponsoring my spouse on the 2nd of March. I haven`t heard from the immigration to know if they have received it. Do you know how long it takes to hear back from them after the application is mailed?

    Kindly advise me and your answer and response will be well appreciated.


    • Hi Kay, Just wondering how long it ended up taking? I sent mine from Australia about 2 months ago and still have not even received a confirmation that they have it! I know it was delivered to Canadian Immigration by the Australia Post tracking ability… but nothing else!

  24. Hello,
    My wife and I applied for QSWP in febuary 2014 with her being the principal applicant. We both work in the telecommunication industry am an Engineer and she is a roaming coordinator. We applied through an agency in Abijan (Access Canada) and its been three years now. Access Canada is mainly in the francophone countries in West Africa and my wife is Ivorienne so she is fronting the application process. We have met all requirements, my wife past all exams and interviews and we have been prompt with every payment. The reason why am writing you is that am a little worried about the pace and progress so far. I mean i hear you say the time it takes depends on the visa office and so on, however i still think the process is really slow considering the fact that our application is formidable. Can you advise me?

    • Even if your application is strong, there could be dozens of reasons why it takes so long, including background checks and the fact your visa office may be very busy. That said, I’m a bit concerned to hear you applied through an agency. I don’t know whether it’s legit but I would advise you to communicate with them if they acted on your behalf.

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