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Up to five months of waiting to be able to visit Canada

Canada is facing unprecedented delays in allowing visitors in need of a visa, taking up to five months to process an application in some countries, shows a compilation of the To have to. Ottawa is also said to have quietly abandoned, without refund, visitor visa applications submitted during the pandemic.

“It’s really frustrating. I can’t explain why it’s taking so long,” says Patricia Nwobodo, contacted in Nigeria.

The real estate and technology entrepreneur has a relationship of delays and disappointments with Canada. She has been waiting for almost seven years for the final approval of her permanent residence file under the Quebec Investor Program.

In the meantime, she came to discover Montreal and meet potential business partners with the help of a first visitor visa obtained in less than a month in 2015. Then, in November 2020, she wanted to do the same by filing another visitor visa application. She is still without news after almost two years of waiting.

According to data compiled by The dutyNigeria is among the countries with the most disastrous records when it comes to delays, with a wait of 156 days for a visitor visa.

Many applicants for temporary residence permits must be patient, because in addition to having difficulty issuing passports for its own citizens in a timely manner, the federal government is struggling to issue immigration documents to foreign nationals.

Canada requires a visit visaeur for 147 countries. Excluded from the list are European countries, the United States, certain rich countries such as Australia or Japan as well as countries in Latin America. However, the national of a country for which Canada requires a visa can apply in the country where he is, like an African residing in Europe. In some parts of the world, the average administrative processing time is skyrocketing. Saudi Arabia wins the prize for the worst delays with 219 days of waiting. Benin (177 days), Pakistan and India (152 days) follow not far behind.

“Waiting for more than three or four months for a visitor’s visa is unacceptable,” denounces Stéphanie Valois, president of the Association of Immigration Lawyers (AQAADI).

Unacceptable delays

For 105 countries, i.e. the majority of states in the world, the administrative processing times are more than two months, according to the compilation made by The duty in July based on the estimate published on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. In contrast, applications filed in the UK, Norway, Suriname or Finland were processed in a record 10-20 days.

This country metric is measured based on the time it took to process 80% of applications filed in the past two to four months. The time displayed does not take into account the time it takes for an applicant to assemble their file or provide other documents, such as their biometric data.

“Other countries manage to deliver [leurs visas] In a week. It is this order of magnitude that we are talking about, ”says indignant immigration lawyer Benjamin Brunot, who nevertheless warns that the deadlines displayed do not always match what he observes in reality. In general, the problem of long delays in immigration does not date from the pandemic, he says. “But COVID-19 has amplified a chaos, an inefficiency that has existed for years. »

Vishal Basra, who has permanent residence in Canada, was stunned by the delay his parents experienced in obtaining their visitor visas after they applied on Jan. 16 from New Delhi, India. “At first, the time estimate on the website [d’IRCC] said 100 days. But then it went up and up, ”says the 28-year-old software engineer, who helped them.

It finally took four months for his parents to obtain their visas, at the beginning of July, after taking their biometric data at the end of February.

“This delay surprised me, it was a shock,” he said. My parents have a long history of travel, to the United States, New Zealand, Australia, the Middle East or Singapore. And it has never been so long. We would not have expected such a delay. »

Files in limbo

The posted deadlines would be partly inflated by the informal abandonment of a large number of visitor visa applications submitted before September 7, 2021, say the To have to two sources working in the Canadian diplomatic network. The backlog, caused by the administrative chaos of the pandemic, would be impossible to catch up.

While waiting for her visitor visa applied for last year, Patricia Nwobodo was surprised to learn that the embassy was inviting everyone who applied during the pandemic to reapply. “I had to start all over again,” laments the Nigerian.

Officially, the Canadian government instead invites these applicants to reapply, without refund, if “ [leur] situation has changed” for a whole list of reasons, listed on its website.

“It makes no sense,” says a Canadian diplomat posted abroad, who requested anonymity since he is not authorized to speak publicly on the issue. “When you look at the website, it’s not clear. They don’t treat them [vieilles] requests. Let them say it! »

Although IRCC manages immigration files independently, embassies receive “a large number of complaints” from foreign nationals who have not received any news of their application after months of waiting.

Federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser denies the practice of discontinuing processing of older applications.

“We continue to process requests in inventory. Older applications may take longer to process due to their complexity, due to potentially outdated documents and information, and changes in applicants’ personal circumstances,” its press officer, Aidan Strickland, said in an email. .

Impacts for a conference

This situation compromises the arrival of 600 African specialists at an important international conference on AIDS organized in Montreal, starting on July 29, who had still not obtained their visas this week.

“For AIDS, a lot of participants come from Africa, which is the center of the epidemic,” explains Dr.r Jean-Pierre Routy, professor of medicine at McGill University and co-chair of the conference.

“If people don’t meet in person, if we talk about it less, if we don’t have political pressure, the funds given for AIDS by the big international organizations can go elsewhere,” he fears.

The federal government now says it is prioritizing visitor visas for conference attendees.

In the first four months of 2022, IRCC approved over one million applications for temporary residence out of the 1.4 million applications received. In the case of visitor visas, the department promises to take steps to reduce processing times, such as hiring about 500 officials to process, digitize applications and reassign work between its offices around the world. entire.

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