Calling an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly CIC) office from outside of Canada is often a frustrating exercise. That’s because IRCC does not want you contacting their call centre if you live outside of Canada. Call centre agents may refuse to provide information if they ascertain you are calling from abroad. IRCC only answers enquiries by email or mail on an application’s status if you are outside of Canada, and only then if the average time for processing has been exceeded, or if there is a specific problem. It is clear that with the number of applications IRCC handles from around the world, they have decided to restrict phone calls from abroad in order to avoid being swamped with requests on how the caller’s application is doing. As IRCC’s own website points out:
- Call centre agents cannot answer questions about an application once it has been sent to a visa office outside of Canada.
- They cannot make decisions on applications.
- They cannot help applications be processed more quickly.
In other words, they don’t want you calling unless there is a substantial delay or a problem involved with your application, and even then they want you to contact them by email. And they especially don’t want you calling from overseas. With all that in mind then, how can you manage to call IRCC from overseas to get a quick update on your application?
This number will not work outside of Canada
The IRCC Call Centre toll-free number is 1–888–242–2100 and it does not work if you try dialing it from outside Canada. However, there are work-around solutions as they say. But these are not guaranteed to succeed and have more to do with understanding the international phone system and how to take advantage of certain features than with IRCC policy on international callers.
The Government of Canada have changed the below number from an IRCC number to a Foreign Affairs number, so it no longer works as an option for calling IRCC from overseas. You can try using some of the below tricks to call IRCC's main number, 1-888-242-2100 or you can try other alternatives not currently listed here. We will update this article if we discover another non-800 number you can use.
- The local Ottawa area phone number for IRCC is 613 944 4000, and if it was a normal local number you would be able to dial 001 613 944 4000 from abroad and reach the call centre. However, controls have been put in place to detect calls from abroad at IRCC and you will not get through dialing 001 613 944 4000. One trick that has worked in the recent past is to dial *67 613 944 4000. This blocks caller ID at the receiving end but works only for calls coming from the US, so you might as well call the toll free number. It also works in Canada but that’s a moot point. There are other prefixes you can dial to block caller ID depending on what country you are dialing from:
- From the UK and Ireland dial 141 before the number.
- On a GSM phone from any country dial #31#613-944-4000.
- In Argentina, dial *31# from a landline, and *31* or #31# for mobile phones.
- From Hong Kong dial 133 before the number.
- From South Africa dial *31* (Telkom) before the number.
- From cellphones in Asia and elsewhere dial +1 613 944 4000.
- Callers using Skype have encountered problems, but other VOIP providers may offer number portability, like Voip.ms, that allows you to port toll free numbers to your Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, service. You can attempt to use this feature to call IRCC from abroad.
- In all the above, you will eventually be directed to a menu where you have to work your way through the options by choosing 1, then 1 again on the next menu, and then option 2.
- The IRCC Call Centre will see ‘blocked number’ on the caller ID and your call should be put through. But now comes the tough part. You will be talking to a suspicious call centre agent who may become even more suspicious if there is echo or delay. You will have to convince them that you are not calling from abroad and remember that they will try to ascertain your current location. Some callers have admitted to calling from abroad and despite an angry reaction on the part of the agent, they were able to glean some information. That may not be your case, as agents are under orders not to talk to you. In other words, if you are going to use these type of tricks to get through, you better have a good reason to convince the person at the other end of the line that they should not hang up on you. It also appears that now agents are merely polite and tell you they cannot give you any information on any matter you may ask them about. There seems to be a running battle between international callers to the IRCC and IRCC policy directives meant to discourage them, and this does not bode well for you being able to get any useful information on the status of your application by phone.
In summary, unless your application is delayed by more than a few days or there is an urgent problem you must take care of, think twice about attempting to call IRCC from abroad. They will be sending you your acceptance or refusal in due course, and there is little a phone call to them can do to change that. If you do feel you have to call, then you can try some of the tricks listed above and any others you come across, such as VOIP services. You will have to trust, however, that the agent at the other end is willing to help you. And that likely will not be the case.