Canadian immigration: What we know about the strike so far

Edana Robitaille
Published: April 21, 2023

On April 19, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a union which represents over 155,000 public servants in Canada, began a strike.

Update: The strike ended on May 1. Please click here to learn more.

PSAC says it is one of the largest strikes in Canadian history.

Throughout the strike, there will be disruptions to various public services in Canada, including those provided by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

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At a press conference on April 19, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the impact of the strike could be “severe depending on the length of the work stoppage”. Fraser went on to say, “The full scale of the disruption has certain unknown facts that make it difficult to assess with certainty the precise timelines or delays an applicant may face.”

IRCC, Service Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) have made information available regarding the disruptions that both Canadians and newcomers can expect as a result of the strike.

As of April 26, the two sides say some progress is being made but negotiations will continue until an agreement is reached on some key outstanding issues.

Here we answer some of the questions that you may have about the strike's impact on Canada’s immigration system.

Will IRCC process my application?

IRCC says it has limited capacity during a strike, so delays in processing applications are expected. This includes delays to applications currently being prioritized.

Minister Fraser said the length of delays will depend on the nature of the labour disruption. He said IRCC agents in international offices are still working to process what they can, with a priority on emergency situations where a person's life may be threatened.

What if my work/study permit is about to expire?

You can apply online to extend your stay in Canada during the strike. You must meet the following conditions to maintain your status and remain in Canada until a decision is made on your application:

Your extension application must be submitted online (unless you are exempt).

The application must be complete by including:

You must submit your application before your temporary residence status expires.

Can I still apply to live/work/study in Canada during the strike?

It is still possible to apply online or mail an application to IRCC. However, there will be processing delays.

Additionally, ESDC says there will be delays or disruptions in the collection of biometrics. Foreign nationals who apply for a visitor visa, a work or study permit (excluding United States nationals), permanent residence, or refugee or asylum status are required to submit biometric data (fingerprints and a photograph). An application without biometrics is not complete and may be rejected when IRCC resumes processing applications at normal service levels.

Are settlement services still available?

These services offered by non-governmental organizations are still available:

  • settlement services from IRCC partner organizations
  • health care through the Interim Federal Health Program
  • visa application centres outside of Canada

Will there still be citizenship ceremonies?

Citizenship events scheduled while the strike is ongoing will be rescheduled. IRCC says some urgent applications may still be processed.

Is my in-person appointment with IRCC still happening?

Clients in Canada with immigration-related appointments will be contacted to re-schedule or cancel appointments.

Overseas interviews are proceeding as scheduled, unless advised otherwise by the IRCC office abroad.

Can I contact IRCC?

The IRCC Client Support Centre is experiencing service delays. The department says you can expect longer response times. This also applies to the IRCC webform.

IRCC is not answering social media enquiries.

Can I still access my online account?

Yes. You can still access online self-serve tools for application status tracking for:

Can I still apply for an LMIA?

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is advising that there will be service disruption within the department.

Specifically, there will be disruptions to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which means that the department will be delayed in reviewing Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs), a mandatory document for Canadian employers who wish to hire workers from abroad.

Can I get a Canadian Passport?

During the labour disruption, Service Canada is only processing domestic passport applications for emergency and humanitarian situations. Passport services are available only at specialized passport sites.

What if I am abroad and need consular or passport services?

You may experience delays with citizenship or passport services outside of Canada. You can still access your passport applications and submitted documents.

What is the strike all about?

The PSAC says it is seeking fair wages, a better work-life balance, more workplace inclusivity, and reduced layoffs through the creation of more jobs, rather than contracting positions to private organizations.

One of the key issues is that Union members want to continue to work remotely. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, 75% of PSAC members moved to remote work (working from home). The PSAC says public service workers were as effective working remotely as when they were in the office and that 90% of workers want to continue working remotely.

They are also seeking a wage increase that better reflects the high cost of living in Canada as interest rates remain high and inflation is higher than the Bank of Canadas targeted 2% per year.

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