The summer months are an interesting time at Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (“CIC”) case processing centre in Vegreville, Alberta. As you may know, CIC Vegreville is responsible for processing applications to extend temporary status in Canada. All work permit, study permit and visitor record extension applications are processed by this office.
An already busy office gets even busier in the summer because of a number of factors. Many foreign students in Canada extend their study permits in the summer months between semesters, while at the same time, many visitors wish to extend their status so as to enjoy what this beautiful country has to offer when it isn't covered in six feed of snow and ice. At the same time, CIC staff, just like the rest of us, tries to take some time off over the summer. The consequence of this perfect storm is longer processing times for extension applications.
According to CIC, as of 22 June 2009, visitor extensions are taking 111 days to process, work permits are taking 108 days and study permits are taking 60 days. Notwithstanding these lengthy service times, CIC encourages applicants to file extension applications a mere 30 days prior to the expiration of their current immigration document. The natural question to follow is, what rights does an applicant have while their extension application is in process? The answer is found in current immigration regulations and a recent policy update.
Regulations 183(5), 186(u) and 189 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPR”) each offer solutions for visitors, workers and student respectively. The common theme between these three regulations is what is known as “implied status”. Basically if a worker, student or visitor files an application to extend their status in Canada, they may remain in Canada on the terms of the original status until a decision is made on their application to extend. That is, a worker can continue to work, a student can continue to study and a visitor can continue to visit until they get an answer on their extension application, so long as they remain in Canada.
Note that two items are absolutely imperative. First, it is a deal-breaker if the applicant does not file their extension application before their current immigration document expires. This means that the application to extend must be post-marked at least the day before a given permit expires. While I know that the CIC website says you have to file at least 30 days prior to expiration, they will accept applications postmarked as late as the day prior to expiration. The better practice is to extend as early as possible.
Second, an applicant will lose the benefits of implied status if they leave the Canada while their application is in process. Despite this requirement, if an applicant does leave the country, immigration officers at the ports of entry do have some discretionary tools to either allow an applicant to re-enter Canada as a temporary resident, pending a decision on the renewal of their application to study or work in Canada, provided they have a temporary resident visa, are visa exempt or have a multiple-entry visa. However, even if granted re-entry, an applicant may not resume work or study in Canada until their application for renewal has been granted. For those not able to resume work, they must satisfy the officer that they have sufficient funds to support themselves until their new permit is issued. Alternatively, an immigration officer at the port of entry may allow an applicant to apply for a new work or study permit at the port of entry provided they have a right to do so under law.