Refused a Visitor Visa?

How visitor visas are rejected and what you can do about it

A visitor visa is a document issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that authorizes a foreign national to enter and remain in the country. A visitor visa has a validity period including a date when it comes into effect and a date when it ceases to have effect.

A visitor visa application involves, either by oneself or with the assistance of a licensed immigration representative or lawyer, assembling and submitting various official and supporting documents. An employee of the IRCC known as a visa officer is responsible for deciding it.

Visa officers, for the most part, decide visitor visa applications based on an assessment of all of the submitted documents as opposed to conducting an interview. Although, in certain circumstances, such as in questioning the authenticity of documents, an interview may be held.

The final decision to either grant or refuse a visitor visa is conveyed to the applicant in the form of a decision letter. In addition, the visa officer records more detailed reasons in the IRCC’s electronic database, the Global Case Management System, the relevant portion of which can be acquired.

Some broad grounds of refusal that might be invoked by the IRCC include:

● Purpose of Visit – Reasons for visiting Canada can range from family reunification – such as visiting a sibling who had become a Canadian Permanent Resident a long time ago – to business trips – such as visiting existing or prospective business colleagues. Proof of a valid purpose can be confirmed by appropriate documentation; for example, by way of supporting letters from the persons that the applicant intends to visit.

●Intention – An applicant must prove that they will leave Canada at the end of their period of authorized stay.[1] A visa officer may conclude that the applicant’s intention is to stay in Canada illegally. Factors considered include family, social and economic ties to Canada and to one’s country of residence. A family tie can be shown by the existence of close family members living there; an economic tie, by one’s employment there demonstrated by way of an employment letter.

●Inadmissibility – An applicant may be refused based on criminal inadmissibility, such as if they have a record of criminal convictions, or due to medical inadmissibility, such as if they have a medical condition that is designated as a danger to public health.

Applicants have the following available options if they receive a refusal:

1- improving the application and reapplying; or

2- appealing (referred to in legal terminology as judicial review).

Reapplying may be a good option, for instance, if the visa officer misunderstood the applicant’s information or documents (such as documents related to the areas of consideration outlined above); and this defect can be fixed by clarifying the misunderstanding. However, if the IRCC continues a pattern of rejecting the applications despite sufficient evidence, and the visa officer’s refusal is unreasonable or not in accordance with rules of procedural fairness, judicial review may be the more appropriate procedure.

Judicial review is started by filing an application with the Federal Court. There is a limitation period within which an application must be filed, beginning at the date of refusal, and ending depending on if the matter arises inside or outside Canada. An application is perfected by filing an applicant’s record; afterwards, the Court decides whether to grant leave. If leave is granted, a hearing is scheduled. At the court date, both sides contest whether the refusal was reasonable and whether the process in which the decision was reached was procedurally fair. The most that can be achieved is to have the refusal decision quashed and the application sent back by a different visa officer to redecide it. Judicial review takes an average of a year.

Azimi Law has a track record of helping applicants obtain visitor visas after an initial refusal. At a first meeting, we can help you review the options open to you. We also offer legal representation in pursuing these legal pathways.

[1] Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227, s. 179(b) (“IRPR”). (

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