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BP101: Studying in Canada

How long does IRCC take to review additional documents?

Understand IRCC's review times for additional documents, exploring the process, factors affecting timing, and tips for a smoother immigration journey to Canada in this guide.
Written by: BorderPass Corp.
Last updated:  
April 2024

The Canadian immigration process can be confusing and varies depending on an applicant’s circumstances and the immigration pathway.   

Gain a clear understanding of how long it will take IRCC to review documentation by reading this article because it provides an extensive overview of procedures and factors that affect processing times. 


We’ll explore how to prepare for and potentially expedite your journey to Canadian residency through the following topics:

  • Overview of IRCC duties in processing additional documents
  • IRCC review time for additional documents
  • Steps involved in the review process
  • Factors that affect review time
  • Frequently asked questions

Let’s get started!

Role of IRCC in immigration and document processing

Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) processes and reviews immigration applications and documents. IRCC is the Canadian government body that handles all things immigration for all provinces - Ontario, Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, and more. IRCC determines whether individuals and dependents are admissible and meet the specific program eligibility requirements.

IRCC handles all immigration-related matters and concerns. These matters include visitor visas, study permits, student direct stream, work permits, jobs immigration, and workplace immigration.

Importance of additional documents in the immigration process

Your personalized document checklist will include additional documents you need to submit. Submitting additional documents plays an important role in the immigration process. Additional documents verify if you meet the requirements of the specific program you are applying for. 

How Long Does IRCC Take to Review Additional Documents?

Since each application differs, the time IRCC takes to review additional documents and get the receipt of confirmation varies. Our findings show that review times take approximately six months for 80% of cases. You can check your application status for specific details if you have already applied.

If you are experiencing a wait time of over six months, you can contact the IRCC using their webform. You can use this webform or contact the help center to query any mistakes or problems you think have arisen. 

You can also use these avenues if you are not making any progress with your application. You can check for updates, check on your rights, what resources are helpful, and what files you need for each process.

Steps involved in the review of additional documents

It’s important to understand how applications are processed under ministerial instructions and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Let’s explore the following stages: 

Completeness Check

The initial stage of the application review is the completeness check. Drawing from our experience, most applications are processed within a six-month wait or less. This time frame for review starts once your application meets the IRCC standards for this stage.

Remember, filling out all mandatory fields on all documents and forms is essential. Pay any processing and biometrics fees, and include clear scans of all documents.  

Review of Eligibility

In this stage, a case analyst, case processing agent, or program assistant will review your application and provide a recommendation. Then, a visa officer or decision-making authority will review it and give a final determination. 

They will send an application for further review if there are any issues or concerns. Some common reasons for this are issues with proof of funds, work experience, employment verification, or reference letters.

Review of Medical Results

In most cases, medicals are valid until the final review stage once they are passed. The date a panel physician submits the medical results to IRCC is what is considered. This is opposed to the date of the medical exam or exams themselves. 

Review of Additional Documents

IRCC will inform an applicant if additional documents are needed. They can request any documents up to when the application is approved. Although, keep in mind that most of these requests are sent during the eligibility review stage. 

Interview

IRCC will inform an applicant if an interview is required. Typically, interviews are more common for spousal sponsorship applications. If you're eligible, you can sponsor your spouse, partner, or dependent children to become permanent residents of Canada.

IRCC may still request an interview for any application type. In most cases, this is because the visa officer needs to verify certain information from the applicant. 

Biometrics

Before security checks or the final stages of approval can start, applicants must complete their biometrics - their fingerprints and photo. You may have previously given your biometrics, and they remain valid. In this case, you still need to provide them in every application for permanent residence that you submit. 

Background Check

This procedure verifies applicants' security or criminal background to ensure they are admissible to Canada. Immigration officers are responsible for denying entry to people who may threaten the safety of Canadian citizens. Strict compliance with these security screening checks is required to help promote international order.

Criminality checks may include police certificates and checking through your criminal record from another country. Other background checks, for example, an employment record check, can take place.

Employment records can typically include a few documents that prove your history as a worker. For example, an offer of employment from an employer, a contract, reference letters, pay stubs, or an employee list.

Final Decision

If an applicant is outside Canada and not from a visa-exempt country, they must submit their passport to receive their visa. During this step, IRCC will also check the validity of your passport and medicals. Once your Global Case Management System (GCMS) Notes indicate your application has been approved, you have passed all stages.

Steps involved in the review of additional documents

It’s important to understand how applications are processed under ministerial instructions and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Let’s explore the following stages: 

Completeness Check

The initial stage of the application review is the completeness check. Drawing from our experience, most applications are processed within a six-month wait or less. This time frame for review starts once your application meets the IRCC standards for this stage.

Remember, filling out all mandatory fields on all documents and forms is essential. Pay any processing and biometrics fees, and include clear scans of all documents.  

Review of Eligibility

In this stage, a case analyst, case processing agent, or program assistant will review your application and provide a recommendation. Then, a visa officer or decision-making authority will review it and give a final determination. 

They will send an application for further review if there are any issues or concerns. Some common reasons for this are issues with proof of funds, work experience, employment verification, or reference letters.

Review of Medical Results

In most cases, medicals are valid until the final review stage once they are passed. The date a panel physician submits the medical results to IRCC is what is considered. This is opposed to the date of the medical exam or exams themselves. 

Review of Additional Documents

IRCC will inform an applicant if additional documents are needed. They can request any documents up to when the application is approved. Although, keep in mind that most of these requests are sent during the eligibility review stage. 

Interview

IRCC will inform an applicant if an interview is required. Typically, interviews are more common for spousal sponsorship applications. If you're eligible, you can sponsor your spouse, partner, or dependent children to become permanent residents of Canada.

IRCC may still request an interview for any application type. In most cases, this is because the visa officer needs to verify certain information from the applicant. 

Biometrics

Before security checks or the final stages of approval can start, applicants must complete their biometrics - their fingerprints and photo. You may have previously given your biometrics, and they remain valid. In this case, you still need to provide them in every application for permanent residence that you submit. 

Background Check

This procedure verifies applicants' security or criminal background to ensure they are admissible to Canada. Immigration officers are responsible for denying entry to people who may threaten the safety of Canadian citizens. Strict compliance with these security screening checks is required to help promote international order.

Criminality checks may include police certificates and checking through your criminal record from another country. Other background checks, for example, an employment record check, can take place.

Employment records can typically include a few documents that prove your history as a worker. For example, an offer of employment from an employer, a contract, reference letters, pay stubs, or an employee list.

Final Decision

If an applicant is outside Canada and not from a visa-exempt country, they must submit their passport to receive their visa. During this step, IRCC will also check the validity of your passport and medicals. Once your Global Case Management System (GCMS) Notes indicate your application has been approved, you have passed all stages.

Factors Affecting the Review Time of Additional Documents

Based on our first-hand examination, a few primary factors affect additional document review and processing times. 

Volume of Applications

A high volume of applications can lead to lengthier processing times. Longer processing times are especially likely in peak application season and for popular programs.

Peak application seasons and their impact

There is an increase in visa applications during peak travel seasons, special events, or holidays. These periods of interest can lead to longer processing times as immigration authorities exceed their reviewing capacity.

Number of applications in queue

Popular programs such as family sponsorship and Express Entry have longer application queues. Higher application volumes lead to longer review periods because of the increased workload for IRCC. 

Complexity of the Case

Cases with multiple immigration pathways

Individual circumstances can influence the review time of your application. Such events include your previous visa history, nationality, and purpose for obtaining a Canadian visa.

Applications with prior immigration history or issues

An applicant with a history of criminal activity may encounter many obstacles and a longer review time frame. A criminal record may even become grounds for the rejection of their application at the discretion of IRCC.

Quality and Completeness of Submitted Documents

Impact of missing or incomplete documents

Ensuring you submit accurate and complete information in your visa application is vital for timely processing. Missing documents, pages, and sections of information can cause delays because immigration officials may ask for additional information.

Because you can create an online account with IRCC, providing documents and remedying mistakes is quick and easy. Confirmation letters, messages, updates for candidates, and scores can all be handled through IRCC’s online portals. Gone are the days of sending mail and waiting to receive the news, good or bad.

Delays due to unclear or ambiguous information

Inconsistencies or errors in your application can also cause delays. The process will be prolonged since immigration officers may request clarification or verification.

External Factors

Impact of global events, such as COVID-19, on processing times

Many applicants can experience delays due to reduced staffing from global crises such as COVID-19. The recent pandemic is reported to have caused a backlog of applications as high as 2.7 million. 

Changes in immigration laws or policies

Changes in immigration procedures can also influence visa application processing times. These factors include a shift in political leadership, national security issues, and more. 

A shift in political leadership can lead to changes in immigration policies, affecting the processing times for visa applications. Additionally, national security issues can also impact visa application processing times. 

For instance, there may be a perceived threat to national security. In this case, visa application processing times may increase as authorities conduct more extensive background checks on visitors and immigrants.

Technological and Operational Factors

System outages or technical glitches

A wide array of software, systems, and other technical components are used to facilitate the processing of visa applications. Any error or malfunction that needs to be addressed by the immigration office can influence review time.

Staffing levels and training at IRCC

The amount of available immigration officials can also affect processing times. Factors such as retirements, strikes, or other unforeseen instances may affect staffing levels. These disruptions can lead to delays in the review and processing timeline.

Applicant's Response Time

Time taken by the applicant to respond to IRCC's requests

If an application is unable or takes a long time to respond to requests from immigration officials, it may jeopardize the processing period. To prevent this, applicants must diligently coordinate and comply with all requirements from IRCC.

Accuracy and completeness of an applicant's response

Incomplete or inaccurate information can cause processing delays for your application. Providing thorough and complete information is crucial to avoid extended processing times.

Security and Background Checks

Time taken for security clearances

Comprehensive security checks can significantly add to visa processing times. The extent of these clearances may vary based on an individual’s case and visa category. 

Delays due to background checks in multiple countries

Security screenings and background checks can add more time to the processing period. These screening and checks largely depend on an applicant's personal history. Specific visa categories may require extensive background checks, which can lengthen the review time.

Inter-departmental Coordination

Time taken for coordination between different departments or agencies

The promptness at which each department coordinates and responds to each other may lead to processing delays. Their level of operational efficiency at any given moment can directly influence review time for additional documents

Impact of inter-agency communication delays

Document and information verification from another agency may be required. In this case, a visa officer may need to contact another agency to verify specific information.

Addressing these visa application concerns involves an extensive communication process. As such, the time taken for processing and review of additional documents may be delayed. 

Country-Specific Factors

Processing times in the applicant's home country

The country from which applicants submit their requirements can affect the overall processing time. Some countries may experience higher volumes of applications. This higher volume can increase the workload for immigration officials and the visa office.

Diplomatic relations and information-sharing agreements

The processing time for visa and immigration applications can be affected by diplomatic relations.  When evaluating applications, immigration officials may consider the current political climate. They will also consider the relationship between the applicant’s country and their destination. 

Security concerns about the applicant's background or risks associated with their country may lead to a more thorough screening process. This more thorough process may result in a longer processing time.

Key Takeaways

Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) processes and reviews immigration applications and documents. Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores, Canadian Experience Class (CEC) Express Entry or Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR). Any and all Canadian immigration matters - IRCC has you covered.

Since each application differs, the time IRCC takes to review additional documents varies. IRCC will inform an applicant if additional documents are needed. They can request any documents up to when the application is approved.

The processing time is not fixed because each application is different and takes specific assessment times. Our findings show that review times take approximately six months for 80% of cases.

Based on our observations, various factors need to be considered by IRCC before granting a visa to an applicant. Many factors can influence the processing time of an application, which we explore above. The variation and complexity of these factors are why the review time for additional documents varies for each case. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can applicants expedite the review process of additional documents?

Those applying for a visitor visa or citizenship in Canada can expedite the review process by a few methods. Follow instructions carefully, submit your documents early,  and track your application status. Moreover, seek professional assistance where needed.

What are the common reasons for delays in reviewing additional documents?

A few significant factors lead to longer review times and extensions of waiting times. These factors include application volume, background and security clearance, individual circumstances, availability of immigration officers, document verification, and many more. 

How can applicants ensure they've provided all necessary documents to IRCC?

Applicants can take steps to ensure the correct and complete submission of all necessary documents. Undertake detailed preparation and stay updated on immigration procedures and policies. Ensure you double-check all documents from the checklist provided by IRCC.

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