During a press conference on October 19, 2023, Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller disclosed that the ongoing dispute between Canada and India would result in extended processing times for Indian visa applications. Nevertheless, Miller stressed the importance of newcomers from India to Canada, reaffirming that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) would continue to welcome them.
Backlog and Expected Recovery: Senior officials from IRCC have briefed Canadian stakeholders, indicating that the reduction of staff in India is likely to create a backlog of approximately 17,500 “final decisions” within Canada’s global immigration system over the next two months. However, the government aims to return to normal processing by “early 2024.” This recovery is anticipated as the 22 immigration staff withdrawn from India will re-establish themselves and resume work in Canada and the Philippines.
Reasons for Slower Processing: The slowdown in visa application processing is primarily a result of India’s decision to remove immunities for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and their dependents in New Delhi by October 20, 2023. This move puts 41 Canadian diplomats and 42 dependents at risk of losing their diplomatic immunities.
According to IRCC’s statement, the revocation of diplomatic privileges and immunities is considered a violation of international law, and India’s actions are perceived as unreasonable and escalatory. The fact that India had accredited each of the Canadian diplomats they are expelling, despite their dedicated service to both countries, has further exacerbated the situation.
Impact on Operations: IRCC has been compelled to temporarily suspend all in-person services at Consulates until further notice. However, applications from India will continue to be accepted and processed. Certain application requirements will now need to be completed locally or on-site in a secure environment.
As a result of the reduction in the size of the IRCC team in India, service standards for Indian residents will be affected. The team is shrinking from 27 to just five members. The remaining IRCC staff in India will concentrate on tasks that necessitate an in-country presence, such as urgent processing, visa printing, risk assessment, and oversight of key partners, including visa application centers, panel physicians, and clinics responsible for immigration medical exams. The remaining work and staff will be redistributed across IRCC’s global processing network.
Despite the challenges, IRCC expresses optimism that Indian visa operations will return to normal in the early part of the New Year.
Impact on Visa Application Centres (VACs): IRCC is actively working to mitigate the impact by adjusting the workload for Visa Application Centres (VACs), which currently 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 submission, and biometrics processing at one of IRCC’s ten centers in India.