How to read, interpret and understand GCMS Notes

GCMS status Approved

Decoding your GCMS notes is not complex!

The vast majority of GCMS notes are not complex to understand, despite the abbreviations & codes used in them and what many immigration professionals have to say about reading these notes. Many times GCMS files contain hundreds of pages and it can be a daunting task just to find the information that really matters, let alone trying to understand the information you waited so long to receive. This article will show you exactly where to find the relevant information and make the most of the notes and your time.

How to read information in a GCMS file?


Start with Page #2 of your GCMS notes and look for the ASSESSMENTS section, this is where your application is summarized. It will look similar to this example. To understand the various stages of an application review this write-up.

GCMS status Approved


What does disclosed in part and s15, s16 & s19 mean?

Also, on Page #2 if Security is redacted (blank) and you also see s15/s16 mentioned in the top right corner of the GCMS notes (as in the example above) then it means that information has been withheld from disclosure. Read this blog article to see What does disclosed in part and s15, s16 & s19 mean?


If Security screening is in progress then all related information is redacted from the GCMS notes. To understand how Security Screening is done review this in depth article; All about Security Screening


Now review the last few pages of your GCMS notes under the “Notes” section. These “Notes” are numbered and dated from the most recent to the oldest. Interpretation service is NOT necessary to understand GCMS notes and is explained next.

As part of IRCC’s Management Action Plan and in order improve the clarity on reasons for refusal, a pilot was launched in February 2022 to proactively release officer decision notes to some temporary resident visa applicants at the time of an application decision. These notes provide clients with detailed information as to why their application was refused, including a breakdown of the officer’s rationale when finalizing the application. Once the pilot has concluded, IRCC will analyze the outcomes to determine whether this initiative should be implemented more widely.

Is interpretation service necessary?

🚫 No, interpretation service is not necessary to understand your GCMS notes. 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. If the visa was refused then the GCMS notes will contain in-depth reasons as to why the refusal decision was made. Such notes are easy to understand and you don’t need to pay someone to help you understand your GCMS notes. Review this sample interpretation if you would like to see what an interpretation service may look like.

What about abbreviations?

GCMS notes are full of abbreviations and acronyms which may be difficult to interpret. That’s why at we have compiled a Coding Aid to help you interpret your notes. Below is a sample and you can find this Coding Aid and more at

ADRAdditional Document Requirement
AFUAnti Fraud Unit (used to verify applicant’s employment, family relationship etc)
AIPApproval in Principal
ALAuthorization Letter
AORAcknowledgement of Receipt
AUTHORITYOfficer’s name
BELABatch Email and Letter Application (used by visa officers to send messages to applicants)
BGCBackground Check (includes criminality, security and info sharing)
BILBiometrics Instruction Letter
CIBIDSCanadian Immigration Biometric Identification System
CMAUCentralized Medical Admissibility Unit; located in Ottawa, Canada
CORCountry Of Residence
COICountry Of Origin
EDEExcessive demand exempt
EE MIExpress Entry Ministerial Instructions
EE EconExpress Entry Economic Class
EIODEnforcement and Intelligence Operations Directorate (at CBSA)

What are some other status updates in GCMS?

Below are some more examples of an application status in GCMS

Passed Security Not Started
Met Security Not Started
Recommend Passed
Recommend Interview
Review Required
Eligibility Review notes entered by a Case Processing Agent. Recommended Pass
Eligibility Review notes entered by an Officer. Conclusively Passed
Allowed to leave.

The GCMS notes are structured in a specific order, with each category assigned a page or multiple pages. Depending on whether the notes are from IRCC or CBSA and the type of visa application, certain categories may not be applicable to your situation. In such cases, the related page will not be included in your report. Here is an example of the different categories outlined in the GCMS notes.

APPLICATIONCreated DateDate application was received by IRCC
APPLICATIONCreated byCode of immigration officer who created the application
APPLICATIONUpdated DateLast date/time the application had an update
APPLICATIONUpdated byCode of immigration officer who last updated the application
APPLICATIONPrimary OfficeOffice that will issue your passport request (PPR), usually local visa office (LVO) if applying outside Canada
APPLICATIONSecondary OfficeOffice that will assess your application
APPLICATIONApp#Application file number, starts with a letter followed by 9 numbers
APPLICATIONApp StatusApplication status, either “Open” or “Closed”
APPLICATIONApp Status ReasonReason explaining application status above, either “In Progress”, “Approved”, or “Refused”
APPLICATIONReceived DateDate of receipt of application by the Primary Office
APPLICATIONReceived ViaHow the Primary Office received the application, either “Online” or “Mail”
APPLICATIONLock-In DateDate of opening of application by IRCC
APPLICATIONCategoryCode for category of immigration: “FC1” for Family Class, “SW1-FED” for Federal Skilled Worker, etc.
APPLICATIONSub-CategoryFurther details within the main immigration category (if applicable)
APPLICATIONGroup NameName of the application group, if applicable (used for processing multiple applications together)
APPLICATIONGroup#Number assigned to the application group (if applicable)
APPLICATIONSpecial Program(s)Any special immigration programs included in the application (if applicable)
APPLICATIONCorrespond LangCorrespondence language, either “English” or other language
APPLICATIONInterview LangLanguage of the interview, “English”, other language, or blank if no interview is required
APPLICATIONCost RecoveryStatus of immigration fees payment: “Complete”, “Deferred”, etc.
APPLICATIONRPRFRight of Permanent Residence Fee status: “Complete”, “Deferred”, “Not Applicable”, etc.
APPLICATIONOverpayment“Yes” if there was an overpayment of fees, “No” otherwise
APPLICATIONLoan Warrant#Loan warrant number used for fee payment (if applicable)
APPLICATIONRestricted Notes“Yes” if there are restricted notes in
APPLICATIONProspective App Delete DateDate of application withdrawal, if applicable
APPLICATIONPreferred Correspondence Channel“Online”, or “Mail”
APPLICATIONNameName of principal applicant
APPLICATIONDOBDate of birth of principal applicant
APPLICATION# of ClientNumber of applicants, including principal applicant and dependents
APPLICATION# of Potential VisasNumber of visas to be issued depending on number of applicants
APPLICATIONProvince of DestinationAs declared in the application
APPLICATIONCity of DestinationAs declared in the application
APPLICATIONCSQ File#Certificat de Sélection du Québec (CSQ) file number, if applicable
APPLICATIONFOSS Doc#FOSS or Field Operations Support System for applications prior to 2010
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsEligibility“Not Started”, “Calculate”, “Calculation In Progress”, “Review Required”, “Met”, or “Passed”
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsSecurity“Not Started”, “In Progress”, “Passed” or blank
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsHIRV“Not Started”, “In Progress”, “Passed” or blank
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsCriminality“Not Started”, “In Progress”, or “Passed”
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsOrg Crime“Not Started”, “In Progress”, “Passed” or blank
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsMedical“Not Started”, “Passed”, or “Failed”
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsMisrepresentationusually blank
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsInfo Sharing“Not Started”, or “Complete”
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsOther Reqs
APPLICATION →️ AssessmentsFinal“Approved”, “Refused”, or blank

Haven’t requested your GCMS notes?

If you haven’t requested your GCMS notes as yet and wondering about the status of your application then you can make the request right here. The only way to know the most detailed information of a visa application is by requesting 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.