Categories
Frequently Asked Questions

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

When you receive your GCMS notes you may see that some sections of the file are blank. What does it mean and should you be concerned about it?

GCMS Notes disclosed in part due to s15, s16 and s19.
Disposition of your GCMS records: Disclosed in part. What does that mean?

When you request your GCMS file from IRCC it goes through various stages of processing. After about 30 days when you receive your file you may see that some sections or even entire pages of the file are blank. When this happens it means that certain information has been redacted from your file. In such cases you will see s15, s16 or s19 in the top right hand corner of the file. This article explains what it means and if you should be concerned about it.


Table of Contents


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

When you request your GCMS file it goes through these stages for processing at IRCC. As part of this process IRCC may refuse to disclose some information prior to releasing it. Such actions are often taken under sections 15, 16 or 19 of the Access to Information Act, this is the act under which the GCMS notes are requested.

Flow chart of how GCMS notes are processed by IRCC
Flow chart of how GCMS notes are processed by IRCC

If you notice the words s15, s16 or s19 in the top right hand corner of your GCMS notes then it means that your GCMS file has been “disclosed in part”. s15, s16 or s19 correspond to the respective sections of the Act. The majority of the exemptions invoked by IRCC fall under these sections of the Act:

  • Subsection 15(1), covers international relations, defence and subversive activities
  • Subsection 16(1), addresses law enforcement and criminal investigations
  • Subsection 19(1), protects personal information
    More than 1 section of the Act can be applied to a specific GCMS request.

The above are just the common exemptions seen on a GCMS file. For the full list of all the exemptions see the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act Exemption Grid


Should an applicant be concerned when information under these sections is redacted from the GCMS notes?

Applicants should not be worried about this. Unless, the applicant did not disclose something that he/she was aware of. Redacted information in most cases does not impact the processing of your visa application. How IRCC determines what information should be withheld is an internal process which the department does not disclose to the general public. In some cases the visa application processing may get delayed if IRCC is seeking information from foreign governments and agencies.

To find out if this applies in your case, order your GCMS notes to get the details.


Why only some applicants have this and others don’t?

All visa applications are verified against a large number of datasets and this process is not disclosed to the general public. Data analytics is also a key verification tool which is used to make connections and identify trends that are not otherwise possible through traditional methods of verification. Additionally, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has something called the “lookout” report which is intelligence on actual or suspected infractions or criminal activities that may result in the interception of inadmissible people. A lookout “hit” will “flag” or identify particular individuals. Since each visa applicants situation differs that is why some have this and others don’t.

Usually, information redacted under sections s15, s16 or s19 is application specific and will differ from application to application. To know if this has happened in your case, order your GCMS notes to find out. If you have already received your file then know that  Your GCMS Notes contains sensitive information, keep it secure!


What does invoking exemptions and refusal to disclose information under these sections mean and how does it impact your application?

  1. Section 15 International affairs and defence

The information not disclosed will be under a specific subsection of section 15. Section 15(1) states as follows:

  • The head of a government institution may refuse to disclose any record requested under this Part that contains information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities, including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, any such information
    • (a) relating to military tactics or strategy, or relating to military exercises or operations undertaken in preparation for hostilities or in connection with the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities;
    • (b) relating to the quantity, characteristics, capabilities or deployment of weapons or other defence equipment or of anything being designed, developed, produced or considered for use as weapons or other defence equipment;
    • (c) relating to the characteristics, capabilities, performance, potential, deployment, functions or role of any defence establishment, of any military force, unit or personnel or of any organization or person responsible for the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities;
    • (d) obtained or prepared for the purpose of intelligence relating to
      • (i) the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada, or
      • (ii) the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities;
    • (e) obtained or prepared for the purpose of intelligence respecting foreign states, international organizations of states or citizens of foreign states used by the Government of Canada in the process of deliberation and consultation or in the conduct of international affairs;
    • (f) on methods of, and scientific or technical equipment for, collecting, assessing or handling information referred to in paragraph (d) or (e) or on sources of such information;
    • (g) on the positions adopted or to be adopted by the Government of Canada, governments of foreign states or international organizations of states for the purpose of present or future international negotiations;
    • (h) that constitutes diplomatic correspondence exchanged with foreign states or international organizations of states or official correspondence exchanged with Canadian diplomatic missions or consular posts abroad; or
    • (i) relating to the communications or cryptographic systems of Canada or foreign states used
      • (i) for the conduct of international affairs,
      • (ii) for the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada, or
      • (iii) in relation to the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.

Information under section 15 is withheld when IRCC or a Canadian agency has requested information from a foreign government or agency. This may be anything from checking your record in a foreign country to verifying the information you have provided in your visa application. Most applicants who see this in their GCMS file should not worry. This is a routine check and does not impact the processing of your visa application.


  1. Section 16 Law enforcement and investigations

The information not disclosed will be under a specific subsection of section 16. Section 16 states as follows:

  • 16 (1) The head of a government institution may refuse to disclose any record requested under this Part that contains
    • (a) information obtained or prepared by any government institution, or part of any government institution, that is an investigative body specified in the regulations in the course of lawful investigations pertaining to
      • (i) the detection, prevention or suppression of crime,
      • (ii) the enforcement of any law of Canada or a province, or
      • (iii) activities suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada within the meaning of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act,if the record came into existence less than twenty years prior to the request;
    • (b) information relating to investigative techniques or plans for specific lawful investigations;
    • (c) information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the enforcement of any law of Canada or a province or the conduct of lawful investigations, including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, any such information
      • (i) relating to the existence or nature of a particular investigation,
      • (ii) that would reveal the identity of a confidential source of information, or
      • (iii) that was obtained or prepared in the course of an investigation; or
    • (d) information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the security of penal institutions.
  • Security (2) The head of a government institution may refuse to disclose any record requested under this Part that contains information that could reasonably be expected to facilitate the commission of an offence, including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, any such information
    • (a) on criminal methods or techniques;
    • (b) that is technical information relating to weapons or potential weapons; or
    • (c) on the vulnerability of particular buildings or other structures or systems, including computer or communication systems, or methods employed to protect such buildings or other structures or systems.
  • Policing services for provinces or municipalities (3) The head of a government institution shall refuse to disclose any record requested under this Part that contains information that was obtained or prepared by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police while performing policing services for a province or municipality pursuant to an arrangement made under section 20 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, where the Government of Canada has, on the request of the province or municipality agreed not to disclose such information.

Section 16 of the Act refers to refusal to disclose based on information prepared by a government institution which investigates to detect crime, threats to Canada, investigation reports by federal and provincial agencies. When an applicant has information redacted under this section, it usually refers to information sought from investigation agencies about the applicant. This could range from investigations by CSIS, verification of RCMP reports or verification of all places an applicant has lived in Canada and ensure that the applicant has no pending cases or arrests.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is Canada’s primary national intelligence service. It is responsible for collecting, analysing, reporting and disseminating intelligence on threats to Canada’s national security, and conducting operations, covert and overt, within Canada and abroad. It also reports to and advises the Government of Canada on national security issues and situations that threaten the security of the nation. You can also request your CSIS report from GcmsNotes.com


  1. Section 19 Personal information
  • 19 (1) Subject to subsection (2), the head of a government institution shall refuse to disclose any record requested under this Part that contains personal information.
  • Marginal note:Where disclosure authorized(2) The head of a government institution may disclose any record requested under this Part that contains personal information if
    • (a) the individual to whom it relates consents to the disclosure;
    • (b) the information is publicly available; or
    • (c) the disclosure is in accordance with section 8 of the Privacy Act.

Access to Information Act and Privacy Act Exemption Grid

Access SectionPrivacy SectionSubjectComments
n/a18(2)exempt bank informationinformation contained in a personal information bank designated as an exempt bank
13(1)19(1)information obtained in confidenceobtained in confidence from a foreign, international, provincial, municipal or aboriginal government
1420federal-provincial affairsinjurious to the conduct of federal-provincial affairs
15(1)21international affairs and defenceinjurious to the conduct of international affairs, defence of Canada
16(1)22(1)law enforcement and investigationinformation obtained/prepared by a government institution that is an investigative body; information relating to investigative techniques or plans for specific lawful investigations; injurious to enforcement of any law of Canada; injurious to the security of penal institutions
16(2)n/asecurityreasonably expected to facilitate the commission of an offence
16(3)22(2)policing services for provinces or municipalitiesinformation obtained/prepared by the RCMP while performing policing services for a province or municipality
16.122.1relating to investigations, examinations and auditsinformation obtained/created by the Auditor General, Commissioner of Official Languages, Information Commissioner or Privacy Commissioner in the course of an investigation, examination or audit
16.2n/ainvestigationsinformation obtained/created by the Commissioner of Lobbying in the course of an investigation
16.3n/ainvestigation, examination or reviewinformation obtained/created by a person who conducts an investigation, examination or review in the performance of their functions under the Canada Elections Act
16.422.2investigation or settlementinformation obtained/created by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in the course of an investigation or in an attempt to reach a settlement pursuant to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
16.522.3disclosure pursuant to the Public Servants Disclosure Actinformation created for the purpose of making a disclosure under the Public Servants Disclosure Act or an investigation into a disclosure under that Act
1725safety of individualsdisclosure could reasonably be expected to threaten the safety of individuals
n/a23security clearancesinformation obtained/prepared by an investigative body in determining whether to grant security clearances
n/a24individuals sentenced for an offenceinformation collected/obtained by Correctional Service Canada or the National Parole Board while the individual was under sentence for an offence
18n/aeconomic interests of Canadatrade secrets/financial/ commercial/scientific/technical information belonging to the Government of Canada; information that would prejudice the competitive position of a government institution/interfere with contractual or negotiations; scientific or technical information obtained through research by an employee, the disclosure of which could deprive the officer or employee of priority of publication; information the disclosure of which could be materially injurious to the financial interests of a government institution
18.1n/aeconomic intereststrade secrets, financial, commercial, scientific or technical information that belongs to and is consistently treated as confidential to the Canada Post Corporation; Export Development Canada; the Public Sector Pension Investment Board; or VIA Rail Canada Incorporated
19(1)26personal informationpersonal information about an individual other than the individual who made the request
20(1)n/athird party informationinformation belonging to a third party that contains trade secrets, financial, commercial, scientific or technical information; information that could result in material financial loss or gain to, prejudice the competitive position; information that could interfere with contractual negotiations
20.1n/athird party investment informationinvestment information received in confidence from a third party by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board
20.2n/athird party investment informationinvestment information received in confidence from a third party by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board
20.4n/adetails of a contract or the identity of a donorcontract details for services of a performing artist/the identity of a donor who made a donation in confidence to the National Arts Centre Corporation
21(1)n/aadvice etc.Advice/recommendations, consultations/deliberations, positions/plans for negotiations, or plans about personnel management that have not yet been put into operation
22n/atesting procedures, tests and auditsinformation relating to testing or auditing procedures or techniques or details of specific tests to be given or audits to be conducted
22.1n/ainternal auditsdraft report of an internal audit of a government institution
2327solicitor-client privilegeinformation subject to solicitor-client privilege
24n/astatutory prohibitionsinformation the disclosure of which is restricted by a provision set out in Schedule II
n/a28medical recordsPersonal information that relates to the physical or mental health of the individual
This chart is meant for general reference only. The Acts should be consulted for more specific details concerning the exemptions

Posted by GcmsNotes.com
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.