Guide to the Immigration Appeal Process

What You Need to Know About Appealing an Immigration Decision in Canada

When an immigration officer’s decision is not in your favour, it can be an incredibly stressful and at times, difficult to understand the officer’s reasons. Sometimes, you only receive a decision letter and have to request the reasons through an access to information and privacy request. However, it’s important to know that many immigration decisions are not final and can be appealed.

To help you better navigate Canada’s immigration system during this time, we’ve broken down the basics of the immigration appeal process, including what types of decisions can be appealed, who can appeal, what to expect, how to prepare, and how long the process takes.

What Kind of Decisions Can Be Appealed? And Who Can/Cannot Appeal?

Typically, only permanent residents of Canada are able to appeal an immigration decision. However, in some cases, foreign nationals may have a right to appeal a removal order.

The following are immigration decisions that you can appeal.

Sponsorship Appeal

Permanent residents or Canadian citizens who have made an application to sponsor a family member to immigrate to Canada that was rejected by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) may be able to appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD).

The most common reasons IRCC rejects sponsorship applications are:

  • If you are attempting to sponsor your spouse and they believe that the relationship is not genuine and that your spouse entered into the marriage for the sole purpose of immigrating to Canada
  • You do not meet the minimum income requirements for sponsoring a family member
  • The family members you are trying to sponsor are unable to financially support themselves in Canada and will need to rely on social assistance
  • The sponsored family member has a medical condition that immigration believes will cause an excessive demand on Canadian society

It is important to note that you will be unable to appeal an IRCC sponsorship decision if your family member or spouse has been found to be inadmissible due to:

  • A serious criminal offence punishable in Canada by a prison term of 6 months or longer
  • A conviction of a crime outside of Canada that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or more in Canada
  • Involvement in organized crime
  • Violations of human or international rights
  • Misrepresentation (unless the person is your spouse, common-law partner, or child)

If you are able to file a sponsorship appeal, you must do so within 30 days of receiving a copy of the decision from the IRCC.

An appeal can be filed by printing and filling out an appeal form that can be found by visiting the IAD website. A copy of this form will also be sent to you along with your refusal letter. Once completed, the form can be mailed or delivered to an IAD office person.

Removal Order Appeal

Permanent residents with removal orders issued against them can also appeal this decision to the IAD in most cases.

However, you may not appeal if you have been found to be inadmissible to Canada due to:

  • A serious criminal offence punishable in Canada by a prison sentence of 6 months or more
  • Conviction of a crime outside of Canada that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or more In Canada
  • Involvement in organized crime
  • Violations of human or international rights

If you plan to appeal a removal order, this must be done within 30 days of the order being issued. After your appeal is filed, a hearing before an IAD member will take place in to determine if the removal order is valid.

Residency Obligation Appeal

Permanent residents that have been unable to meet their residency obligations can lose their permanent resident status.

Fortunately, you are able to appeal this decision to the IAD and explain why you should keep your permanent resident status considering your humanitarian and compassionate factors.

This is known as a residency obligation appeal.

However, those who have received a removal order while in Canada because they failed to meet their residency obligations will need to file a removal order appeal.

What Should I Expect from An Appeal Hearing?

During an IAD appeal hearing, you will be given the opportunity to present your version of events and evidence that supports your case.

If you have hired an immigration lawyer, your lawyer will ask questions relevant to your appeal.  Your lawyer may also make humanitarian and compassionate submissions in support of your case.

The Minister’s Counsel will also question you on what you have presented if he/she appears in person.

The IAD rules allow you to bring witnesses who you feel could help support your case. This could include family, friends, co-workers, or business partners.

A highly important note about appeal hearings is if you fail to show up to your hearing, the IAD can declare your appeal “abandoned.” This means your appeal is essentially cancelled.

How to Prepare for An Appeal

Well before your hearing is set to take place, start to gather evidence that can help strengthen your case. This can include:

  • Documents
  • Letters
  • Photos
  • Information about the relationship between you and your family members
  • Information about your children
  • Information about yourself such as income and employment information

For any documents you plan to present during your hearing, you must make two copies of each, one of which has to be sent to the IAD, and another to the Minister’s Counsel.

These documents must be received by the IAD at least 20 days before your hearing, or else you may not be able to use them during your appeal hearing.

Also keep in mind that if your documents are not in English or French, they must be translated into one of these two languages. The translated copies must be sent along with one copy of the original documents to both the IAD and the Minister’s Counsel. The person who translated these documents must also provide a written statement that the translation is accurate.

How Long Does an Appeal Take?

Due to administrative delays and backlogs, it can take several months or possibly more than a year for your case to be heard in front of the IAD.

During this time, you should be preparing for your hearing by gathering evidence and preparing your legal argument that you plan to present.

What Happens If an Appeal Is Dismissed?

Should your appeal be dismissed, unfortunately, you will lose permanent resident status, and may receive a removal order.

However, you are not out of options just yet.

If your appeal is dismissed, either yourself, or Minister’s Counsel, can apply to the Federal Court of Canada for judicial review of any IAD decision. The Federal Court of Canada will either dismiss your application or return your case to the IAD to be re-determined.

Hiring an Immigration Lawyer

Canada’s immigration system can be highly complex and navigating the appeals process on your own can be challenging and stressful without the help of an experienced and skilled immigration lawyer.

With an immigration lawyer by your side, the stress of trying to fill out all the correct paperwork and meeting deadlines is out of your hands, improving your chances of being granted an appeal.

So, if you find yourself in the position where an immigration appeal is justified, consider hiring an immigration lawyer to help guide you through this difficult time.