Last Updated on July 6, 2015 by Steven Meurrens

The following article appeared in the July edition of The Canadian Immigrant.

A person whose visa, permit or immigration application has been refused needs to understand two things.

First, when Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) refuses an application, it does not necessarily provide the full reasons for the refusal to the applicant.

Second, it is possible for an applicant to apply for and receive the full, internal reasons for CIC’s refusal. Applicants should do so before either resubmitting an application to CIC, or throwing in the towel.

Not the whole story

CIC’s refusal letters are generally extremely vague. They typically consist of generic letters stating that applicants did not meet the requirements of Canadian immigration legislation. As well, the refusal letters typically contain a list of all possible reasons why CIC may refuse an application, with a checkmark or an X next to the reason(s) applicable to the applicant. Possible reasons include “lack of funds,” “travel history,” “purpose of visit,” etc.

What most applicants whose applications have been refused don’t realize is that behind these decisions are additional, often very detailed reasons that aren’t provided in the refusal letter. These internal reasons can range from a few short sentences, to sometimes even more than a page of reasoning that CIC does not share with applicants.

Although this may seem unfair to applicants, the Federal Court of Canada has consistently ruled that there is no requirement for CIC to provide the detailed reasons for refusal in its refusal letters. There is also no requirement that CIC inform applicants that if they want to obtain detailed reasons for the refusal that it is possible to do so.

Getting the reasons from CIC

 There are several ways for an applicant whose visa has been refused to obtain CIC’s detailed, refusal reasons. If the applicant is outside Canada, then he or she can file an Access to Informationrequest. If the applicant is inside Canada, then he or she can file a Privacy Actrequest. Both of these requests can be submitted online. CIC is legally obligated to provide the full reasons within 30 days of receiving the request, which it typically does by e-mail.

Another way is to commence an Application for Leave to Commence Judicial Review. However, because doing this actually launches a Federal Court action, it is typically only done when an applicant is appealing CIC’s refusal, and where judicial deadlines do not permit waiting 30 days while you wait for the detailed reasons.

Next steps after refusal

It is important that anyone whose application has been refused receive the detailed reasons before they consider next steps.

For example, our office recently consulted with an individual whose temporary resident visa was refused. The refusal letter stated that the reason for the refusal was his insufficient finances. She was flabbergasted, as she had included in her visa application a bank statement showing more than sufficient funds for her trip in Canada. We advised her to wait until we had applied for and received the internal CIC reasons before she took any further steps.

CIC’s detailed reasons contained the detailed reason, which had an obvious solution. The internal reasons stated that CIC did not consider the bank statement to be reliable because the bank statements did not have the applicant’s name. It was easy for the applicant to correct this when she reapplied.

Given how easy it can be for applicants to remedy mistakes in their visa applications once they see the detailed reasons for refusal, the obvious question that has to be asked is why does CIC not provide more detailed reasons in its refusal letters?

I am not the first person to ask this. Indeed, during every legislative session, Don Davies, member of Parliament for Vancouver Kingsway, introduces a private member’s bill to amend Canadian immigration legislation to require visa officers to provide the detailed reasons for refusal. Davies’ proposal has never made it past first reading in the House of Commons, which is a shame. Refused applicants should know why their applications were refused without them having to apply and wait for detailed reasons.