India visa processing will slow, according to Canada’s Immigration Minister

Julia Hornstein, Kareem El-Assal
Published: October 19, 2023

The ongoing diplomatic dispute between Canada and India will result in slower visa processing of Indians looking to come to Canada.

Update: IRCC has said it expects its processing of India visas to return to normal by "early 2024".

This was just confirmed by Canada's Immigration Minister Marc Miller in a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday October 19.

The reason for the slowdown is India's request that Canada reduce the number of diplomats it has stationed in India.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Mélanie Joly has said that 41 of Canada's diplomats have left India. This leaves Canada with just 21 diplomats remaining in India.

The dispute from the two countries follows a September 18 announcement by Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accusing India of murdering a prominent Sikh activist in Canada, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

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Miller stated that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will be significantly reducing the number of Canadian employees in India. IRCC staff is being reduced from 27 to just 5, according to an IRCC statement.

Miller wants to reassure clients in India and Canadians with family and friends in India that Canada will continue to accept and process all temporary and permanent resident applications. However, the lower number of staff will have short term repercussions. IRCC is trying to mitigate the impact by adjusting the work load for Visa Application Centres (VACs) that already process the majority of the applications from India, but some work will have to be done by email.

Therefore, later processing and slower services will be expected from India, said Miller. Clients might see that their applications are taking longer to process, questions may take longer to answer, and visas may take longer to be put in passports.

VACs are operated by third parties and therefore will continue to operate as normal. Applicants will still be able to receive administrative support, transmit passports and submit biometrics at one of IRCCs ten centres in India.

Miller stressed that newcomers from India play a vital role in Canada and IRCC will continue to welcome them. Canada's Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) will continue to welcome students and new applications will be processed, but unfortunately more slowly than before.

The IRCC statement notes the majority of applications from India are already processed outside the country. It states 89% of India’s applications are processed through IRCC's global network. The 5 remaining IRCC staff who remain in India will focus "on work that requires an in-country presence such as urgent processing, visa printing, risk assessment and overseeing key partners."

In line with Miller's comments, the IRCC statement notes Indian clients can expect delays in:

  • overall processing times
  • responses to their enquiries
  • getting their visas or passports returned

India is by far Canada's leading source country of newcomers. In 2022, over 118,000 Indians became Canadian permanent residents, which was 27% of the over 437,000 new permanent residents welcomed by Canada. In addition, Canada welcomed over 226,000 Indian international students last year, or 41% of the over 551,000 new international students admitted by Canada. Nearly 60,000 Indians became Canadian citizens in 2022.

Canada offers over 100 different economic class immigration pathways. Indians are well-positioned under Canada's immigration system due to their English-language proficiency and high levels of education, work experience, and skills. Many Indians choose to study in Canada first, before deciding whether to apply for permanent residence. Canada offers a fast-track study permit pathway, called the Student Direct Stream (SDS), which is a popular option for Indians. IRCC data indicates over 95% of SDS applications originate from India.

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