IRCC expects India visa processing to return to normal by early 2024

In a press conference held on October 19, 2023, Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller revealed the potential impact of an ongoing dispute between Canada and India on the processing times for Indian visa applications.

Minister Miller, however, emphasized the significance of newcomers from India in Canada and assured that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) would continue to welcome them.

The Expected Backlog and Return to Normalcy

Senior officials from IRCC, who briefed Canadian stakeholders, anticipate a backlog of 17,500 “final decisions” across Canada’s global immigration system over the next two months due to the reduction of staff in India. Despite this challenge, the government aims to restore normal processing by “early 2024.”

This optimistic timeline aligns with the expected re-establishment of the 22 immigration staff who were temporarily withdrawn from India, allowing them to resume their duties in Canada and the Philippines.

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Causes of Slower Visa Processing

The root cause of the delayed visa application processing lies in India’s decision to revoke immunities for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and their dependents in New Delhi by October 20, 2023. This means that 41 Canadian diplomats and 42 dependents face the possibility of losing their diplomatic privileges.

According to IRCC’s official statement, India’s move to strip diplomatic privileges and immunities contradicts international law and is viewed as an unreasonable and escalatory action. It’s worth noting that India had initially accredited each of the Canadian diplomats they are now expelling, despite the ongoing dispute.

IRCC attributes these mass expulsions as the primary reason for the operational impact and potential disruption of client services.

Impacted Operations

To cope with the challenges, IRCC is compelled to temporarily suspend all in-person services at Canadian Consulates until further notice. Nevertheless, they will continue to accept and process applications from India. However, certain application requirements will need to be fulfilled locally or on-site within a secure environment.

As a result of the reduction in the size of the IRCC team in India from 27 to just five members, service standards for residents of India may be affected. The remaining IRCC staff in India will focus on tasks that necessitate an in-country presence, such as urgent processing, visa printing, risk assessment, and the oversight of key partners, including visa application centers, panel physicians, and clinics responsible for immigration medical exams. The rest of the work and staff will be reassigned across IRCC’s global processing network.

Nonetheless, IRCC remains optimistic that India’s visa operations will return to normal in the early part of the New Year.

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Impact on Visa Application Centres (VACs)

IRCC is actively working to minimize the impact on Visa Application Centres (VACs) by redistributing the workload to those VACs that already handle the majority of applications from India.

Since VACs are operated by third parties, they will continue to function as usual. Applicants will still have access to administrative support, passport transmission, and the submission of biometrics at one of IRCC’s ten centers in India.

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