IRCC Anticipates a Return to Normal Visa Processing for India by Early 2024


In a press conference held on October 19th, 2023, Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller unveiled that the ongoing tiff between Canada and India is set to throw a wrench into the gears of Indian visa application processing, leading to some sluggish times.

Yet, Miller made it abundantly clear that newcomers from India are integral to Canada, and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) remains open-armed to welcome them.

But here's the big question looming: just how massive is this looming backlog, and when can we expect visa processing to regain its usual speed?

High-ranking IRCC officials, in their briefings to Canadian stakeholders, have foreseen a staff reduction in India that's bound to create a backlog of approximately 17,500 "final decisions" within Canada's global immigration system over the next couple of months. However, the government's optimistic goal is to steer back to business as usual by "early 2024."

This optimism isn't baseless; it's grounded in the return of the 22 immigration staff who were called back from India, ready to roll up their sleeves in Canada and the Philippines.

Now, what's causing this frustratingly slow processing of visa applications in the first place?

India, in a formal move, has decided to strip diplomatic immunities for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and their dependents in New Delhi, effective by October 20th, 2023. This puts 41 Canadian diplomats and their 42 dependents in the uncomfortable spotlight of having their immunities snatched away.

According to IRCC's official statement, this revocation of diplomatic privileges goes against international law, and Canada views India's action as both unreasonable and an escalation of tensions. It's worth noting that India had previously accredited each of the Canadian diplomats they are now expelling, despite them carrying out their duties in good faith, ultimately serving the mutual interests of both nations.

The mass expulsions by India, as clarified by IRCC, are the root cause of the operational disruptions and the expected impacts on client service.

Speaking of impacts, which operations will feel the heat?

IRCC is in a tight spot, having to temporarily suspend all in-person services at Consulates until further notice. Nevertheless, the silver lining is that IRCC will still continue to accept and process applications from India. Although certain application requirements will now need to be managed locally or on-site within a secure environment.

The downsizing of the IRCC team in India is bound to influence service standards for Indian residents, with the team shrinking from 27 members down to just five. The remaining IRCC personnel in India will concentrate on tasks necessitating a physical presence in the country, such as urgent processing, visa issuance, risk assessment, and overseeing crucial partners, including visa application centers, panel physicians, and clinics handling immigration medical examinations. The remaining workload and staff will be redistributed across IRCC's global processing network.

Despite these hiccups, IRCC remains hopeful that visa operations in India will bounce back to normalcy in the early months of the New Year.

So, what about the Visa Application Centers (VACs)? How will they be affected?

IRCC is putting in the effort to cushion the blow by redistributing the workload for Visa Application Centers (VACs), which are already the primary processors of applications from India. These VACs are operated by third parties, ensuring they can continue their regular operations. Applicants will still have access to administrative support, passport transmission, and the submission of biometrics at one of IRCC's ten centers in India.