With over a year into the grip of a global pandemic, and no

clear ending in site, immigration applicants to Canada are facing

delays due to general closures and other COVID-19 related issues.

It is certainly difficult to gather all necessary documents in

support of a candidate's application if the institutions and

public offices who would normally be issuing them are closed until

further notice. Equally frustrating are irregular operating

schedules and in some cases, full closures of consular services and

VAC offices, which make it impossible to send a passport for visa

stamping, or submit biometric information, and thus complete

application processing.  

The problem is particularly stark in India, where the recent

drastic increase in COVID-19 cases has forced the Canadian High

Commission to announce the closure of all but most urgent consular

services on May 3. Consequently, VFS centres closed for regular

services indefinitely. This echoes similar measures last year, when

VFS centres in India were closed during the beginning of the

pandemic [in March 2020], only to finally reopen in late November.

Although there are no official directives on when the centres will

reopen, and thus many people are left with no concrete idea of how

long they will have to wait for the processing of their

applications, there are some positive developments that should at

least alleviate some concern. When services resume, VFS centres

will waive deadlines for passport submission and biometric

collection (30 days and 90 days respectively). This means that no

further action is required from applicants presently, and the

letters they have received will be valid despite expired dates once

things get back to normal.

This scenario does not apply to all countries. In countries

where VACs have already reopened, there is no longer a blanket

waiver of deadlines and candidates are expected to produce the

required documents on time. In those circumstances, IRCC will

contact each candidate to request the required documents if

available or give them an opportunity to provide a reasonable

explanation of how COVID-19 related disruption prevents them from

obtaining the required information. IRCC will try to be as flexible

as possible in granting extensions of time, but they will be

looking for explanations like “city-wide pandemic lockdown

forced closures”, or “temporary closure of regional

VAC” in order to grant the request. Requests that IRCC

determines are reasonable will receive an additional 30-day

extension. If IRCC does not deem the justification reasonable, they

will finish processing the application based on information they

have on file, which may likely result in a refusal.

Best advice to applicants affected by this situation is to keep

consulting IRCC's website for current information. If unsure of

how to proceed, consult an immigration lawyer who can help you

identify and navigate the rules that apply to your situation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general

guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought

about your specific circumstances.

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