Canadian Immigration – A Nuanced and Lengthy Process for all Parties Involved


Canada has always been a desirable destination for people around the world looking for a new home country to call their own. With various economic crises plaguing Europe and a less immigrant-friendly climate brewing in the United States, Canada’s popularity among emigrants continues to grow. Fittingly, Canadian demand for immigrants is also growing due to declining birth rates and increased labour needs, especially in the Province of Alberta. As the continued success of the Canadian economy depends on the inflow of immigrants, Canadian immigration has become a paramount facet of government policy. Consequently, Canadian immigration officials must be trained accordingly and made aware of Canada’s current and future labour market needs. In their assessment of applicants, Canadian immigration officials must also be mindful of the particularities of the region they are working with, in order to properly select those best suited for Canada.

In Pakistan, cultural differences pose an additional challenge for the immigration officers processing applications. For instance, marriages are typically pre-arranged by the parents in Pakistani culture, meaning the bride and groom may only meet for the first time on their wedding day. It is also common for first cousins to be matched together. These cultural norms make it difficult for officers to determine what relationships are legitimate, as in other contexts, a lack of a relationship history or marriage within the family, could be flagged as signs of fraud. Determining a relationship’s sincerity is crucial when assessing eligibility for spousal sponsorship, thus giving Canadian immigration officials in Islamabad an added challenge.  

Additionally, Pakistan, like its neighbor Afghanistan, has notoriously corrupt state-regulated institutions which create additional concerns when assessing civil status documentation. A report commissioned by the Canadian Council for Refugees also noted the common practice of bribing officials in order to obtain required documents, such as police security clearances or doctor medical examinations. The high frequency of bribing necessitates that visa officers scrutinize each application in greater detail, thus increasing processing times.

Processing times may also be longer in regions which lack infrastructure. The visa office responsible for 19 different African nations located in Nairobi, Kenya faces such a challenge. The processing of applications can be hindered due to the lack of functioning communication systems, poor quality of roads, dangers stemming from political instability, limited courier services and in some cases, laws which prevent using the mail to send passports across borders. These logistical factors pose significant challenges in application assessments as travel, obtaining documents and arranging candidate interviews become all the more difficult.

Irrespective of region, visa offices are also subject to the realities of government budget cuts and reforms, which can lead to office closures. This was the case on April 30th, 2012 when the federal government announced the closures of visa offices at the Canadian embassies of Germany, Japan, Iran, Malaysia and Bangladesh. With visa offices closing and sending their files elsewhere, applicants are left to wait until their new designated office makes first contact, while receiving very little information in the intervening period. This is the case for those who sent visa applications to the Canadian embassy to Iran in Tehran. Whether seeking Canada travel visas, study or work permits, applicants must wait for their new designated office in Ankara, Turkey to reach out to them first, with little success in having their calls or e-mails returned.

Even the United States is not immune to visa office closures, as made clear with the government’s recent decision to close the visa office of the Buffalo consulate. Applications for Canada study permits or work permits are now being processed by the visa offices of Los Angeles and New York while applications for temporary resident permits and criminal rehabilitation are being processed by Los Angeles and Washington D.C. As these Canadian immigration officers are being inundated with new cases, applicants for Canadian immigration visas and permits are left frustrated with the increasing wait times.

Exact processing times and statuses of particular applications may be unknown but what is clear is that while immigration benefits all parties involved, the amount of laborious detail-oriented work required on both sides of the process, can make Canadian immigration a nuanced and lengthy process.

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