What do I do if my immigration application is returned as incomplete? 

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: December 6, 2023

This article will explain the steps that Canadian immigration applicants must take if they have their application returned by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) because it was incomplete.

Every incomplete application will be returned to the appropriate applicant alongside a letter of explanation and a document checklist. These two pieces will outline why the application was returned and exactly what is missing.

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In addition, IRCC notes that applicants who do have their application returned for incompleteness will receive a refund. IRCC states that “refunds can take up to eight weeks to complete [and] those who have waited longer can submit a refund request.”

Note: At the time of writing, IRCC’s help centre still indicates that incomplete applications – that the immigration department has created a digital copy of – will be returned by email. If no digital copy has been made, applicants will receive the return in the mail.

Steps required after receiving your incomplete application back from IRCC

Upon receiving your incomplete application, read the accompanying letter and review the included document checklist to understand why you received the return and what exactly was omitted.

At this time, when preparing to send your application back, be sure to add any document or information that was missing from your initial application. Resubmitted applications can include all the same documents and payment receipts from the initial application, provided that all signatures are still valid. If necessary, because of outdated signatures, applicants can fill out, sign and date new forms.

Next, write a letter to IRCC that explains why you are changing/updating your information.

Note: If your application was missing documents when returned as incomplete, and you cannot provide the initially omitted documents requested by IRCC, the reasons for this must be explained in the letter.

Applicants re-submitting an application that was returned to them as incomplete must also include the explanation letter and document checklist that they received from IRCC with their resubmission.

Key notes about resubmitting an incomplete application to IRCC

The following outlines important things that applicants must remember when re-submitting an incomplete immigration application.

1. Recipients of an incomplete application should be sure to re-review the application guide in case anything has changed since their initial submission

2. Paper applicants who received their returned application by email can review the steps to resubmit their documents here

3. Resubmitted applications must be received by IRCC within 90 days of when it was signed; it is important to know that the date of the signature on the new application can’t be in the future (postdated)

Note: Processing time for resubmitted applications only starts the day IRCC receives the newly completed application

The importance of submitting a complete application to IRCC

IRCC provides applicants to all programs with a completeness checklist to ensure that every application they receive is finished and ready for processing. This checklist emphasizes why it is so important to submit a full and complete application to IRCC.

Additionally, certain programs – including the three programs* contained within the popular Express Entry application management system – do not accept resubmissions and instead require applicants to restart their process all over again.

*The Express Entry system manages immigration applications for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)

Note: IRCC policy outlines that the department will, under no circumstances, accept the same application back after it was returned due to incompletion. Therefore, Express Entry applicants must submit a new profile and re-enter the Express Entry pool in the hopes that they once again receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Canadian permanent residence (PR).

Submitting an incomplete application to an Express Entry program, therefore, can mean losing out on a first opportunity to apply for Canadian PR after receiving an ITA. As receiving an ITA for Canadian PR at all, let alone for a second time, is nowhere near a guarantee, submitting an incomplete application could be detrimental to your prospective future in Canada.

Whether there is a sudden change in the standard for Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores – used to rank candidates against each other for standard Express Entry draws – or a candidate later becomes ineligible for a given program under Express Entry, there are many factors that can make it difficult to get a “second chance” at PR in this country.

Appropriately, it is vital to do everything in your power to ensure your application is complete, as this would go a long way toward making sure you do not need to restart the Express Entry process with a brand-new Express Entry profile after your first application was returned as incomplete.

Click here for more on the importance of submitting a complete electronic application under Express Entry.

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