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Common Mistakes When Filling Out a Canadian Immigration Application on Your Own

Many individuals decide to complete their immigration applications on their own. While the option of not having a legal representative can save you money, it’s important to be aware of the common mistakes people make, as having a refused application on your record could mean a harder time down the road when applying for immigration status (in Canada or any other country you may want to travel to).

In order to avoid a refused or denied application, I’ve pulled together a list of 20 common (and even silly mistakes) that you should be aware of below:

  1. Not reviewing the application checklist AND country-specific checklist

Checklists can be long and intimidating, especially when it comes to deciding which items apply to your case, such as country-specific documents. At the end of the day, they are there to guide you through the application package and to prevent anything from being left out, so make sure you check off every applicable item on both checklists.

  1. Missing supporting documents

If the application checklist, lists a document that you must include, that is it – you must include it or provide a reason as to why it’s not included.

Example: If you are bringing your spouse and children with you to Canada, you must provide proof of your relationship (i.e., marriage certificate, birth certificate, proof of adoption, etc.).

  1. Providing expired (or almost expired) documents

Make sure your supporting documents are valid! Providing an expired document is equal to providing no document at all. And if it’s a required document, such as a police certificate, your application will be considered incomplete. So, make sure you are aware of the validity of the documents you are providing.

For example, a work permit will not be issued for longer than the validity of your passport. If your passport is only valid for one (1) more year, but you are asking for two (2) years, your work permit will only be issued for one (1) year and you will have to obtain a new passport and submit another application.

  1. Not updating the application throughout the processing period

If your documents expire while the application is still under review, you must send updated versions. Same point as above, an expired document is like having no document at all.

For example: If your police certificate becomes outdated before the immigration officer gets to your application, it will be considered “expired” and therefore your application will be rejected. Some immigration officers will reach out and ask for a new one, but this does not always happen, so don’t rely on the kindness of the immigration officer to oversee weaknesses in your application.

  1. Not including all passport pages

Some applications may require photocopies of every page of your passport, not only the “important” ones (such as the biographical or stamped pages). Each and every page of your passport needs to be accounted for if, for example, you’re asked to provide your travel history over the last 10 years. Since officers will cross-reference your passport with your submitted travel history (Form IMM5562), even a single missing page could cause your application to be refused or returned.

  1. Not translating all supporting documents

All documents must be in English or French (ideally one or the other), therefore you may need to translate some of your supporting documents such as your police certificates, National IDs, or educational documents. If they are not translated, your application will be considered incomplete (as the officer is unable to read your application) and it will be either sent back to you or you could receive a refusal. This is easily avoidable. More information on the translating of supporting documents, such as who can translate a document, can be found in the link below:

  1. Not meeting the photo specification

There are specific requirements for photos included with an application, and different requirements based on the type of application. I’ve seen applications be rejected for being off by millimeters. Print the photo requirements webpage for your application, get photos done by a local photo shop or photographer, don’t smile, and don’t wear a white shirt!

  1. Submitting the wrong forms

There are hundreds of immigration application forms that are updated often. Moreover, there are different forms for applications made from within Canada versus outside of Canada. One of your first steps in the application process should be to get your hands on the correct forms. From there you will know what information you need to provide and what supporting documents you will need to include. These forms are also updated often so download the forms right from the Canadian government website, and once you go to submit, double-check they are still the right versions!

To keep your application forms up to date, save this link in your bookmarks: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/application-forms-guides.html

  1. Submitting incomplete forms

Once you have chosen the correct forms, make sure you are taking the time to fill them out correctly. While it can be tempting to skip sections that do not apply to you, it is necessary to write “N/A”, “Not Applicable” or “None”. The form will tell you which of the three to include… yes, N/A does not work for all forms. Otherwise, immigration officers reading your application have no way of knowing whether a section or field was skipped because it did not apply to you, or because you forgot to fill it out.

  1. Mistakes within the forms

Application forms can make for long and repetitive work. It is not uncommon to make spelling mistakes, invert numbers or confuse fields. For this reason, it is extremely important to proofread your application at least once. Two eyes are better than one and don’t try to complete all the forms in one sitting. Take your time and go back to them multiple times before submission.

  1. Relying on advice from online forums

There are several online forums where people going through the immigration process help and support each other. While these can be great resources for coping with the stress of immigrating, it is important to avoid following legal advice from unlicensed persons, even if done with good intentions. Remember that applications are different for everyone. They change according to one’s personal conditions and country of origin, and the right answer for one person might lead to a refusal for another.

  1. Not signing and dating the forms

This is a silly one but it still happens often.

One of the last steps of submitting your application is signing and dating the forms. Not all forms require a signature, but if they do and your application is submitted without one, you risk having your application refused or denied. It is surprising how easy it can be to skip a signature field in a hundred-page-long application.

  1. Missing important information

It is very important to make sure you include all relevant and requested information in your application. You cannot leave out any necessary details or miss important facts, despite it being a lot of work. If there is not enough space in a form, attach an additional sheet and include all the information that is required.

For example, missing important information could look like:

  • Not providing your complete travel history.
  • Not listing all family members. In the Family Information form, you must include ALL siblings and children. If there is not enough space, continue a list of your siblings and children on a sheet of paper and attach it to the form. If you have not spoken to a sibling in years, or if your children are adults and not accompanying you, you still must name them in the Family Information Form.
  • Not listing your common-law partner. You must include your common-law partner or spouse in your applications. And, if you don’t include your common-law partner, you will likely be unable to sponsor them in the future.
  1. Including false information (intentionally or unintentionally)

Even more important than making sure you include all relevant information, you cannot include any false information, as this could lead to serious consequences. The use of false information in an application may lead to a finding of misrepresentation, which carries a five (5) year ban on entering the country.

For example:

  • You apply for an Ontario PNP, but you intend to live in Alberta.
  • Listing educational credentials, you did not receive or exaggerating your work experience.  
  1. Falling for trick-ish questions

While no form is built with the intention of tricking applicants, some questions can be a little ambiguous and confusing. It is important to read questions multiple times and follow the instructions to the letter. Also, if two forms are asking the same question, it means you have to provide the answer twice. Don’t assume since you’ve answered a question in one form, that you don’t have to repeat it in another. Look at the forms individually and answer ALL of the questions being asked of you.

  1. Not meeting eligibility requirements

Before submitting any application, it is important to make sure that you meet all the requirements. The process of filling out an application can sometimes be so long that, by the time the application is ready to be submitted, circumstances might have changed and you may no longer meet all the requirements.

  1. Submitting your application incorrectly

There are a few ways to submit your application; online, in-person at the port of entry, or by mailing in a hard copy. If it needs to be submitted by mail, pay close attention to finding the correct address. There are several mailing addresses listed on the government website, and even a perfectly completed application could be sent back if you mail it to the wrong address.

  1. Not leaving enough time for mailing in a hard copy application

This is a specific one, but important nonetheless. It’s important to factor in the time it might take for your application to arrive at a processing center.

For example, if you mail in your application to extend your temporary resident status just before your status expires, but due to Canada’s snail mail it arrives late and after your temporary residence expires, this means your application did not get submitted in time. Your application submission date is based on the day they received it, not the date you put it in the mailbox. Give yourself plenty of time!

  1. Not being mindful of application processing times

Be mindful of how long processing times are for your application. Even before COVID, Canadian government processing times can directly impact your life and ability to move freely. If you have implied/maintained status, when you leave Canada that status is terminated and you have to apply for new immigration status, so be extra mindful of your status document expiration date and processing times as well.

To check processing times, click on this link: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/check-processing-times.html

  1. Not paying the right fees

There are hundreds of different applications, all with different costs, and not all applications require online payment of fees. Double-check you are paying the right fee, and paying for it the correct way.

If your application does require a fee to be paid online, make sure you are on the official government website, that you select the correct fee and quantity, and that you print the receipt.

To pay for your application online, click on this link: https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/fees/pay.asp

To check the application fee list, click on this link:

Final, some bonus Quick Tips:

  • Always include a Letter of Explanation (also known as a Submission Letter)
    • Explain who you are, what you are applying for, and how you meet the criteria of the immigration status you are applying for.
    • If there are any possible concerns the officer may have with your application, just address them in the letter of explanation (hence the name).

This is your chance to speak with the immigration officer, so take advantage of it!

  • Please don’t print out the forms and fill them out by hand. Yes, I’ve seen this happen. Fill them out on your computer and print them once they are complete (verified with barcodes if it is that type of form you are filling out), and make sure to sign and date them before submission.    
  • Have someone else read through your application before you submit it. By the time you are ready to send it in, you have likely been working on it for weeks (if not months) and might be too close to the project to see the errors. As said early, two sets of eyes are better than one!

In conclusion, all of these common/silly mistakes are easily avoidable if you are just aware and mindful of them. The Immigration and Paralegal Law Office of Rebecca B. Tripp offers Immigration Coaching for those wanting to self-represent and can do a complete review of your application in as little as three business days! For more information, reach out to me directly through my CONTACT page. 

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post were accurate at the time of publication. Changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information provided above. This blog post is not updated on a regular basis.

Co-written by Lucas Wynheart and Rebecca Tripp

Originally posted on May 6, 2022

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