Understanding R(11): Which visa office do I submit my application for Canadian permanent residency?
It is quite common for individuals to submit their applications for Canadian permanent residence to the wrong visa office, resulting in the return of the applications without processing. This mistake can be avoided by understanding which visa office is right for your application.
Most applications for Canadian permanent residence are first submitted to an immigration office within Canada and then transferred or submitted to a visa office outside of Canada for final processing and visa issuance. It is usually the responsibility of the applicant to select the correct visa office. Sending an application to an incorrect visa office can cause significant delays, and can also be detrimental to the outcome of your immigration plans as the application will likely be returned without processing.
How do you know which visa office is the correct or appropriate one?
Section 11 of the Immigration Regulations (commonly referred to as R11) specifies which visa office can accept and process an application for permanent residence. According to R11, a visa office can accept a permanent residence application from:
• A citizen of a country that is part of the visa office's area of responsibility;
• An individual who is currently residing in a country that is part of the visa office's area of responsibility, as long as that individual was granted legal admission to that country for at least 1 continuous year.
This means that you can always submit a Canadian permanent resident application to the visa office responsible for your country of citizenship, no matter where you are currently living. If you are living in a country that is different from your country of citizenship, the facts relating to how you arrived in that country, whether you had or have a visa or residence permit, and what is your status under that country's immigration laws will determine whether you can apply to the Canadian visa office responsible for that country. This analysis can be quite complicated.
Here are a few examples that will clarify how the second provision of R11 as noted above is interpreted under Canadian immigration laws:
• You are a Nigerian citizen currently studying at a university in Australia. You arrived just one month ago and your study permit is valid for 3 years. As a citizen of Nigeria, you always have the option of indicating that you want your application processed at the Canadian visa office in Accra, Ghana (which is responsible for processing permanent residence applications from Nigeria). You also have the option of selecting the visa office in Sydney, Australia, because you have been granted legal status in Australia for more than 1 year and you are currently living there. It does not matter that you have not lived in Australia for one year.
• You are a citizen of India who initially entered the United States on an H1-B work permit valid for two years. After your work permit expired, you remained in the US without valid status and never left the country. As usual, you can select the visa office in New Delhi, India for the processing of your application. Given your circumstances, you can also choose the visa office in Buffalo, New York. This is because you were initially granted legal immigration status in the United States for more than 1 year and you never left the country.
• You are Jordanian national who was admitted to the United States on a visitor visa for 6 months. After your visa expired, you left the US for 2 months. You have now come back and again you have been admitted for 6 months on a visitor visa. You cannot have your application for permanent residence processed at the visa office in Buffalo, because you have not been granted 1 year of continuous legal status in the US. You can only choose to have your application processed at the visa office in Damascus, which is responsible for processing applications for Jordanian nationals.
It is important to note that once your file has been accepted by a visa office for processing, it will continue to be processed at that visa office even if you leave the country. This can be a problem if a visa office calls you for an interview and you are not able to return to that country. Failure to attend an interview can result in the refusal of the application. In such a case, visa offices are not obliged to transfer applications. Visa offices will usually only transfer applications to maintain "program integrity." This usually means that they will only transfer applications when they feel they are unable to effectively evaluate the supporting documents.
R11 can be a complicated issue. Even a small error can result in the return of your application. Sometimes, this can prove fatal to an application, as in the case of an eligible occupation under the Federal Skilled Worker program that reaches its cap limit before you have a chance to resubmit your application. Be sure to verify that you are selecting the correct visa office before submitting your application for Canadian permanent residence!