Refusal management: what to do if your visa is rejected

What is Refusal Management?

Refusal management is the complex professional strategy used to rectify consequences of a refused application and to strive for reaching a positive decision.

Refusal management is not to be confused with simple application resubmission, which is widely adopted by low-end immigration representatives. According to the core principle of procedural fairness similar applications must end up in similar outcome. In other words, simple resubmission just won’t work, because same (or similar) initial conditions will inevitably lead to the same result.

Any application submitted to CIC can be either approved or refused. It equally applies to permanent resident, or immigration applications, applications for temporary status in Canada including applications for study permits, work permits, extension of stay, applications to change status and others.

CIC does not assume obligations to approve an application, to get in touch with an applicant if some pieces of submitted information and/or documents are missing, conflicting or inconsistent, to request additional documents and explanations, or to get deep into details about the reasons that led to a refusal.

When paying your processing fee you are paying not for a visa, but for the costs Canadian government bears when reviewing your application. In most cases there are no refunds when an application gets refused.

Refusal management is based on current immigration legislation, regulations, legal practice and so called case law, i.e. cases tried by courts of various levels. It is not pure magic – it’s rather efforts of professionals concentrated on researching each particular refused case, understanding officer’s logic, reasoning and decision-making process within the scope of current immigration legislation and legal practice – all for the sole purpose of identifying flaws and weaknesses in the applications, as well as procedural errors that can potentially be made by an officer.

There is a tricky question in many application forms: Have you ever been refused a visa to Canada? The answer in many cases is not as obvious as it seems.

If an application is submitted, accepted, processed and refused, it means just that – a refusal. The answer will be “Yes”.

If an application is submitted, not accepted and returned, it is not a refusal – it’s just a returned application, with no whatever decision made about the content and substance of it.

Refusal management process assumes thorough case analysis and subsequent re-building with the view to address officer’s concerns by supplying more information, explaining essential matters and bringing to light appropriate provisions of law.

In any case, it ends up in submitting new application – be it an application of the same type as a refused one, an application to the case management office to reconsider the case or an application for judicial review submitted to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Based on our experience about 2/3 of all refusal cases can receive final approval, given that they are handled by an experienced specialists.

The rest 1/3 of all cases are mostly abandoned by the clients, who lose their patience, change their plans or otherwise decide not to continue with their applications, since it can be a stressful, time- and effort-consuming process not everyone can stand till the very end.

Unfortunately, we often see applications that have absolutely no chance for success. Almost always such applications are prepared by an applicant himself, without basic understanding of requirements, eligibility criteria or applicable law; often with gross errors that exacerbate the overall situation. If an applicant has had no chances for approval a priori, further efforts to remedy the situation will be wasted.

Only in the situations with non-zero chances to succeed refusal management can potentially help.


Obtaining information

Understanding is the key word for professional refusal management. As we mentioned above, CIC does not take obligation to explain in details why a refusal has been made and how an officer came to a negative decision in each particular case.

The refusal letter included with every rejected application is nothing more than a boilerplate, that is included as is in an operation manual each officer has in front of him or her.

Processing numerous applications every day, an officer is physically unable to provide clear detailed reasoning of a decision; instead, he or she just uses the boilerplate by inserting applicant’s name, date and file number in the standard document and checking one or more checkboxes beside generic refusal reasons applicable to 99 per cent of all cases.

In very rare cases an officer may add a line or two to the standard text, but even then he only provides general information that is not suitable for the purpose of case analysis.

Now we came to a very important step in the process of refusal management: all information pertaining to the refused case must be requested from the office in charge of application processing. According to the current law any government body must provide such information following the prescribed procedure. Information and/or documents received from CIC form the fundamental for further work with a refused case.

The important part of all information received during this process is a so called GCMS file – essentially a database printout containing all case notes, including immigration officer’s remarks that play crucial role in subsequent process.


Addressing the issues

When all source information is at hand, professional immigration specialists come into play. Their task is to carefully examine every single piece of information and every document before them. Their job resembles job of forensic experts, reconstructing past events using pieces of evidence in their possession. Similarly, immigration specialists try to understand the reasoning of an immigration officer, who, given the same information and documents, came to a conclusion that an application must be refused.


Given that officer’s notes are usually extremely brief, they have to put themselves in his shoes in all respects. Relying on the same legislation, same operation manuals, same legal practice and examining the same documents submitted by an applicant they have to find out what could raise suspicion or led to a negative decision otherwise.

Immigration officers are humans, too; as such they have right to make human mistakes. This is not the most common scenario, but if a mistake is found, it should be appealed in order to receive a positive decision.

If based on the analysis of case materials it becomes clear that an application has sufficient chance for success, new application is to be prepared.

There are several possibilities – an application of the same type can be submitted again, with all officer’s concerns fully addressed in hope to convince him to make a positive decision. Or, if there are mistakes of the processing office found during case review, an application can be submitted to the appropriate office to reconsider the case. In some cases an application can be filed with the Federal Court of Appeal, which has powers to revoke any decision made by CIC.


What should I do if my visa to Canada is rejected?

Now, is it really very bad if an application is refused? First of all, it’s very stressful. Travel plans are also often ruined, and if an applicant is not wise enough to foresee a negative decision, financial losses can be very tangible – non-refundable air tickets, hotel bookings, travel insurance etc. can really hit the wallet.

However, though stressful and disappointing, the refusal itself does not mean anything irreparable. It’s just a decision of the particular officer in the given scenario. Learn the lesson, improve the scenario, try again, and hopefully your application will get favorable review by another officer.

You must remember two important things. First, a refusal is not a sentence. If you got refused, this fact will be reflected in your personal file maintained by CIC, but this very fact will never be the primary reason for a refusal next time you try – it’s the law. Second, learn from the fortunate ones: we have had clients who received positive decisions and came to Canada after as many as six refusals. Yes, it takes time, mutual efforts, money and nerves, but a determined applicant almost always wins in a scenario with non-zero possibility of approval.

Here’s the first thing to avoid if your application is refused: never try to fix the situation yourself by re-applying. Based on our experience such attempts end up in much worse situation than it was before, because an inexperienced applicant continues to make more mistakes, exacerbating his situation to the point where nothing can be done at all.

Instead, you should begin by receiving your visa file from CIC. Fortunately, Canadian law provides for such possibility. You may request official notes from CIC, from Provincial authorities with documents and descriptions of what went wrong. Most importantly, you also request professional advice from a licensed immigration expert on what to do next.


Please feel free contacting our team and we will gladly help you with refusal management procedures.

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