The following article appeared in the November 2014 edition of The Canadian Immigrant.
People wishing to immigrate to Canada have traditionally had to submit paper-based applications, and communicate with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) by regular mail. CIC, however, is modernizing its processes. An increasing number of applications can now be uploaded to CIC’s online portal, and visa offices regularly communicate with applicants by email.
Indeed, visa officers frequently send important emails to applicants that contain requirements for the applicants to provide specific documentation within strict deadlines. Unsurprisingly, many emails from CIC to applicants appear to go missing, and both CIC and the Federal Court have had to determine what procedures are fair when applicants miss deadlines contained in emails that they allege they never received.
You get to decide how to communicate
You, the applicant, has the ultimate choice of when to communicate by email with CIC. CIC will initiate email communication with you if you submit a completed application form, which includes an email address, if you provide a signed Use of Representative form that includes an email address, or if you initiate email communication with CIC. At any point, however, you may request that CIC communicate only with you by regular mail.
If you miss a deadline and claim that you never received CIC’s email, then you or your representative is responsible for emails that CIC can prove were sent even if they were not received.
When a communication is correctly sent by a visa officer to an address (including email) that has been provided by an applicant, and where there has been no indication that the communication may have failed (for example, if CIC receives a “message failed” bounce-back email), then the risk of non-delivery rests with the applicant.
In other words, if the visa officer can prove that the email was sent to the correct address, then it does not matter if the email was sent to spam, junk or mysteriously vanished in your server. You are responsible for the missed deadline.
Risk mitigation tactics
Generally speaking, email communication with CIC is preferable to regular mail as it is faster. However, as the risk of non-receipt lies with you, you should have systems in place to ensure that emails do not go astray.
There are various steps that you should take to try to prevent the loss of emails from CIC. First, carefully review your junk mail filters and any possible spam filters or firewalls that may contain emails from CIC. Once one email from CIC has been received, it is important if possible to mark CIC as being a preferred sender so that future emails do not wind up in spam or junk folders.
It is also important to constantly update CIC with any changes in contact information. For example, if you change your email address, then tell CIC immediately.
A note on reconsideration requests
It is inevitable that an individual can take extensive precautions, yet emails from CIC will still go missing. CIC is generally very flexible about sending follow-up reminders, however, this does vary from officer to officer. Hence, applicants whose applications are refused because of a deadline contained in an email that they never received should immediately contact CIC, provide the required documentation, and ask for reconsideration.
Indeed, the Federal Court has stated that it in such circumstances it would be highly unfair and unjust for CIC to simply close a file, require that an individual pay another processing fee, and suffer unnecessary delays simply because of a missed email.