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The top three reasons your immigration file is stuck in IRCC’s ‘review required’ and how to get it out

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A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern and a skilled litigator, Lev focuses exclusively on immigration and refugee law. His immigration practice is focused on complex corporate and personal immigration and refugee law matters.

As Canada’s massive immigration backlog continues to spiral out of control, applicants may have to take matters into their own hands to stop their files from becoming lost and forgotten in the Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) bureaucracy.

Months of silence on the status of your permanent residence application can feel almost as bad as a refusal, which is why many of our clients order Global Case Management System notes to get insight into the status of their file. The notes offer an overview of the processing details of your immigration/visa application and can be obtained by sending a request to IRCC under the Access to Information Act either by mail or online.

These notes give candidates access to details of IRCC’s assessment of their specific case. The assessment examines areas such as eligibility, human or international rights violation, medical, criminality and other concerns that will be covered in greater detail in a future blog.

Next to one or more of the assessment criteria, some of the more unfortunate applicants will find two dreaded words: “review required.”

In theory, “review required” is a way for a junior IRCC analyst to flag a particular issue for the attention of a more senior visa officer, who can make a decision, such as refusing the application or requesting additional supporting documents. But in practice, it means that your file is more likely to be stuck at the bottom of the pile as IRCC slowly works to clear its application logjam.

Anyone who has ever drawn up a to-do list can understand why “review required” files are more likely to get lost in IRCC bureaucracy: it’s human nature to gravitate towards the simple items that can be quickly completed, giving you a sense of accomplishment. Anything that requires more thought or extra steps gets pushed down the priority list — and often forgotten.

The problem for the IRCC is that — with an astonishing 2.7 million people across all immigration categories waiting for a decision on their application as of the middle of July — visa officers are buried under a mountain of simple items, often leaving nobody with any capacity to handle the more challenging “review required” queries.

How you can get out of “review required”

When applicants find out that their file has been flagged with a “review required” tag, we recommend that they proactively address the issue, rather than waiting for IRCC to get back to them.

The information you send will differ depending upon which category of assessment the review requirement has been placed.  For example, where proof of funds is in issue, applicants should provide new statements from their banks, preferably with enough extra cash in the account to absorb any further currency fluctuations.

Below I discuss some of the steps you can take to address a “review required” problem, as well as how the writ of mandamus can help you get your application moving. A writ of mandamus is a Federal Court decision on an immigration application it has been pending for an unreasonable amount of time.

In this unique form of judicial review, the Federal Court is asked to direct IRCC to issue a decision on a particular case. We specialize in mandamus proceedings: most of our clients see a decision being issued within 60 days of proceedings being commenced, with many of our mandamus clients being “review required” files.

Unfortunately, IRCC’s chronic lack of transparency and accountability makes it virtually impossible to get more information about the precise details a visa officer requires to clear a “review required” hold, or to confirm receipt of further documentation. But in our experience, here are the top three reasons files get stuck.

Reason 1: Proof of funds

Candidates in several permanent resident streams are required to prove they have enough funds for settlement in Canada. IRCC officers may flag a file for review if they suspect fluctuations in currency exchange rates have caused a drop in the value of money held by an applicant below the required Canadian-dollar threshold. Issues may also arise if improper supporting documents are used or the value of non-liquid assets such as bonds or real estate is included to meet the requirement.

Issues related to currency fluctuations generally trigger a procedural fairness letter, putting the applicant on notice and allowing an opportunity to respond. An applicant’s failure to meet proof of funds requirements at the outset will lead to a rejection without an opportunity to respond.

Reason 2: Employment records

Eligibility for skilled workers is often tied to employment offers in certain National Occupation Classification (NOC) jobs, but visa officers may flag the file for a review if they are concerned that the work experience cannot be validated or if there is a discrepancy between the employment confirmation documents and the qualifying NOC description.

Address the issue pre-emptively by providing further supporting documents, including a sworn declaration explaining the potential issue.

Reason 3: Inadmissibility issues

Foreign nationals can be deemed inadmissible to Canada for several reasons, including for criminality outside or inside Canada, on health grounds, or for misrepresentations in their application. IRCC officials will often require a review when a person has been previously refused entry to Canada or any other country, to assess whether the refusal raises further questions about their current admissibility.

It is very important to disclose previous visa refusals and/or immigration issues. Failure to do so could amount to misrepresentation. With issues like this, it is particularly important to contact a lawyer. Even if you submitted additional information after the dreaded response that review is required, your file will still likely be at the bottom of the pile. And that’s where a court order through a mandamus application becomes very helpful.

Some prospective immigrants who have already waited an unacceptably long time for a decision on their file will find that the only way to hold IRCC accountable and get that file out from the bottom of the pile is by seeking a writ of mandamus at the Federal Court of Canada. Most cases are resolved without a hearing as a mandamus often wakes up IRCC officials.

At Abramovich & Tchern Immigration Lawyers, our team has helped more than 300 people launch mandamus applications in the last year, with most being issued decisions within 60 days of commencing court proceedings. Feel free to contact one of our lawyers for more information.

This information is intended to bring insight into the issues and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

Lev Abramovich

A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern and a skilled litigator, Lev focuses exclusively on immigration and refugee law. His immigration practice is focused on complex corporate and personal immigration and refugee law matters.