• IRCC is allowing Venezuelans to use expired passports to renew visas and permits
  • But one PhD student has his passport lost in the mail

Back in August IRCC decided to extend the validity of Venezuelan passports under strictly defined conditions to allow Venezuelan nationals to avoid having their work, study, or travel plans disrupted by the extreme difficulty in renewing documents at Venezuelan embassies and consulates around the world. Venezuelans living in or visiting Canada can use their current Venezuelan passports subject to the following conditions:

  • Their passport must be about to expire or have expired within the past 5 years. A valid Venezuelan passport with an expiry at some future date is of course acceptable as well.
  • Venezuelans residing in or visiting Canada can use their passports (subject to the first condition) to:
    • Apply for a visitor visa, a study permit, or a work permit
    • Apply for permanent residence
    • Apply to extend their visit to Canada.
  • Any Venezuelan who does use their passport to apply for any of the above must comply with all other rules and regulations and be otherwise eligible and admissible to Canada.

This is good news if, for example, you’re a post-graduate student from Venezuela studying in Canada. Visa renewals for Venezuelans in Canada have become much tougher due to what appears to be a fear on the part of IRCC that large numbers of Venezuelans fleeing their home country will be incentivized to head to Canada as refugees if IRCC shows too much flexibility.  

However, the above change in policy is of no help to Brian Villamizer, a PhD candidate studying in London, ON, who is a Venezuelan national. What you are about to read is a true bureaucratic horror story and one that does not offer any easy solutions – mainly because the exact source of the problem seems to be in doubt.

 

The Problem: Passport Lost in the Mail

Venezuelan Passport by Osmar Rodríguez [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

by Osmar Rodriguez / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

In August, after having successfully obtained a 2-year extension to his study visa and his temporary resident visa, Brian Villamizer – a geophysics doctoral candidate – sent in his passport and his study permit to get his new visas stamped in the passport and on the permit. That’s where the trouble began.

He used Xpresspost along with a pre-paid envelope in which the updated passport and permit were to be returned. Unfortunately, the package never made it back from IRCC to Canada Post. According to Villamizer:

The first thing Canada Post does when they received a pack is just to scan them. There are no records whatsoever in the Canada Post system, so it means the package was never delivered to them in the first place.

 

What Went Wrong?

While it is hard to determine if Villamizer is right, if there is no record of this documents being returned to Canada Post this could indicate one of the following:

  • The documents are still at IRCC, sitting in some misplaced file, or perhaps have been mistakenly disposed of.
  • The documents were delivered to Canada Post, which promptly failed to scan them and lost them. Or Canada Post failed to scan them but did send them to the wrong address.
  • Someone at IRCC notified CSIS that a Venezuelan PhD candidate in geophysics was asking for a visa extension and sent the documents to Canada’s intelligence agencies for clearance. Where they were promptly misfiled and/or disposed of.

The last possibility is, of course, hardly likely, but you can imagine poor Brian Villamizer getting just a little frustrated and even a touch paranoid at how a best-in-class country like Canada could mishandle his documents in this way.

 

How Could This Happen?

Unfortunately, this does happen from time to time with both Canada Post and IRCC. Remember that IRCC continually deals with tens of thousands of complex cases involving documentation pouring in from around the world. It’s unfortunate and even unacceptable, but the odds are that there will occasionally be misplaced documents.

So, the question becomes: how do you best deal with important documents that must be sent to IRCC for validation and/or updating?

  • If a Canadian immigration document is lost or stolen, there is a process you can apply for called: Verification of Status or Replacement of an Immigration Document. Unfortunately, this does not apply to your foreign passport which, in this case, is the Venezuelan government’s responsibility. While Brian might be able to obtain a new copy of his study permit through this process, it would be next to impossible to replace his Venezuelan passport, given the current chaos in Venezuela and the fact that he would have to do so through the Venezuelan embassy or consulate in Canada.
  • You cannot hand deliver your foreign passport for a visa stamp when you apply online as in the case of Brian Villamizer. If you are overseas you can bring your passport to the Visa Application Centre (VAC) nearest you, but you still must trust both the privately-owned VAC and the Canadian immigration authorities to mail your passport to Canada where it will be stamped and then sent back to the VAC or to your home address abroad.

In other words, unless his passport and study permit miraculously turn up either at IRCC’s offices or at a Canada Post centre, there is little Brian can do.

 

Will this Happen to Me?

Some day, instead of your passport being sent to Canada, Canada will electronically send the “stamp” to a super-scanning-machine in a secure and guarded location at your VAC nearest you in your home country; where it will then electronically stamp your passport after you have signed in with multi-factor authentication and have been successfully interviewed by an official at the VAC as a final check.

Until then, Brian Villamizer will have to hope that his lost documents turn up. Or apply for permanent residence in Canada. (And that will be tough without a Venezuelan passport.)


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