Guide to re-applying after a visa rejection

Generic refusal letter from IRCC
Generic refusal letter from IRCC
Refusal letters from IRCC are generic form letters, they only provide general reasons for the refusal and lack any substantive details. Request your GCMS notes to get the full details.

Visa applicants often look for advice on how to overcome a refused visa application; in some cases even two or more refusals. You might be wondering why someone would wait to ask for advice after receiving a refusal or why they would make repeated unsuccessful applications expecting a different result.

This frequently occurs when there is a lack of understanding about the visa application process and how an initial application might have been deficient. Below are some tips you may find helpful to get your application approved if you are planning on re-applying for a visa.

If you have ever had a visa to Canada refused or know someone who has, you are probably familiar with these words found at the end of a refusal letter:

You are welcome to reapply if you feel that you can respond to the concerns that are listed in the letter

Applicants are often genuinely surprised to learn that their application was refused and are anxious to act on this instruction to re-apply as quickly as possible. This is not advisable and can be a big mistake. Submitting several applications over a short period of time can severely hurt your chances of ever being approved for a visa!

Unclear reasons for visa refusal

After being refused a visa, the most common mistake applicants make is to re-apply without fully understanding the reasons why they were refused in the first place. IRCC refusal letters are generic template letters that offer only general reasons for the refusal and no substantive information.

If you have received a generic refusal letter and do not understand the specific concerns of the visa officer, it may be worthwhile to delay any further application until you can learn more so that your next application can address the visa officers’ concerns.

It is essential that you obtain the notes of the officer who refused your application in order to properly understand the reasons for the rejection. That way you will have access to the detailed reasons for the refusal and can address the visa officers’ concerns in a subsequent application.

The officers’ notes can be accessed by requesting the Global Case Management System or “GCMS” notes. These notes cannot be changed once they are entered into the GCMS system, and they offer the most insight into what the officer was thinking when refusing the application.

You can see a sample GCMS file here and the most important and interesting part of the file is usually at the very end in the Notes section. It is here that the immigration officers’ observations and reasoning for decisions made are noted. Such notes are easy to understand and you don’t need to pay someone to help you understand your GCMS notes.

What do refusal reasons by an officer look like?

The notes made by an officer in GCMS notes vary; in some cases it can be a few sentences long and in some cases it can be a page long or several pages long. As noted in a Federal Court decision; “Visa Officers face a deluge of applications, and their reasons do not need to be lengthy or detailed. However, their reasons do need to set out the key elements of the Officer’s line of analysis and be responsive to the core of the claimant’s submissions on the most relevant points.”

Below the top reasons for Study Permit refusals;

  • Financial Insufficiency
  • Choice of Program
  • Letter of Acceptance
  • Dual Intent
  • Intent of Return to Home Country
  • Insufficient Family Ties to the Home Country
  • Lack of Job Prospects in Home Country
  • Incomplete Travel or Identity Documents
  • Inadequate Travel History

Re-applying takes more effort

When re-applying for a visa that has already been refused it’s always advisable to supply more information instead of less, but you want to also lookout to make sure that any new information you provide is consistent with past application materials. If you don’t have access to all the information that was submitted with your prior application you can request that from IRCC or CBSA by ordering the Entire File. The Entire File includes copies of all the documents from your prior visa application PLUS the GCMS notes.

Since applicants are too focused on resolving the particular reasons for the initial rejection rather than strengthening the overall application, many applicants make the mistake of presenting less or even contradictory details in a subsequent application.

This approach is not correct since each new application is evaluated on its own merits. Moreover, it’s unlikely that the visa officer who refused your prior application will also review the subsequent application.

As a result, it is not unusual for a first application to be denied for one set of reasons while a second or subsequent application is denied for another set of reasons. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that each application submitted is accurate, complete and provides all the relevant information necessary for a visa officer to approve the application. A visa officer is under no obligation to tell you what information you need to submit in order to be approved.

As noted in a Federal Court decision; “The onus is on the Applicant to satisfy the Officer that they meet the requirements of the law that applies to consideration of student visas, including that they will leave at the end of their authorized stay.”

If your visa application has been refused multiple times, it is advisable to obtain the GCMS notes for each refusal. Ordering the GCMS notes multiple times has no negative impact. See the official response from IRCC

Official response from IRCC on Twitter
Official response from IRCC on Twitter @CitImmCanada

Preparation is the key to success

Applicants frequently wonder what sort of documents they need to submit to support their visa application. They often do not see the value of providing corroborating documents because they believe that some facts about their case are obvious and wonder why a visa officer would not just believe them when they say something. Sometimes applicants think that certain matters are private and do not need to be explained.

What is apparent to you might not be obvious to a visa officer who has never met you and is only familiar with your paperwork. When you can back up your claims with independent, corroborating evidence, they become even more convincing. Similarly, most claims would have more weight and credibility if they include as much information as possible.

There is never any guarantee that a subsequent application for a visa or permit is going to be successful. Conversely, simply because you’ve been refused before doesn’t mean you’ll not achieve success if you re-apply. Preparation is the key to success. Before re-applying for a visa you have to make sure that you understand the explanations for the initial refusal and gather additional supporting documents to reply to the visa officer’s concerns. In the re-application process, you need to ensure that all your new information is consistent with prior application materials and make sure that you provide sufficient details to make your case for why you meet the criteria for your application to be approved. That is why GCMS notes and Entire File are essential to successfully re-applying.

Case notes in Global Case Management System

According to IRCC; the visa officer should ensure that case notes in Global Case Management System (GCMS) are complete and accurate. The officer should do all of the following:

  • outline the circumstances of the application
  • outline the process followed in coming to or making the decision
  • note the presence and identity of an interpreter, if applicable
  • take into account any representations made by interested persons (or counsel) and make note of the nature and content of these representations
  • detail the reasons for the refusal

Note: Refused applicants may seek redress from the Federal Court of Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. If applicants choose this recourse, officers will have to provide their notes.

What is Application for Leave and Judicial Review (JR)?

An individual who has received a decision from IRCC, and who thinks that an error was made in that decision, can generally apply to the Federal Court of Canada and ask that the Court review the decision. Making an application to the Court for a review of the decision is called an Application for Leave and Judicial Review. A review means that the Court will read the decision and decide whether an error was made or not. If the Court decides that IRCC made an error, it will usually mean that IRCC has to make a new decision.

If you are considering applying for Judicial Review (JR) then it is important to review the GCMS notes first and then determine whether an error was made in the decision from IRCC. GCMS notes are more than just a refusal letter, they contain the officers’ detailed reasons for the decision. The strength of a JR depends on the strength of the underlying visa application, so it’s important to have in possession copies of all the supporting documents submitted along with your application. If for any reason you don’t have these documents then the Entire File can be requested which will include the GCMS notes + copies of all the supporting documents.

If you have filed for Judicial Review it will also be noted in your GCMS notes like in the example below.

Judicial Review comments in GCMS notes.

Thank you for reading!
Canada Visa Status - The only way to know the most detailed information of an application is by requesting GCMS Notes. GCMS is the most comprehensive and up-to-date information that can be obtained to understand the status of a visa application or to learn the details about a visa refusal.  It offers far more detail than IRCC’s online system and you can order your GCMS Notes online
Disclaimer - Material contained within this website is intended for informational purposes only and is provided as a service to the Canada visa applicant community. These materials do not, and are not, intended to constitute legal advice.