In May 2009, Zare’s application, amongst others, was transferred to our embassy in Warsaw for final processing. In June 2009, Warsaw sent Zare an email asking for more information. Even thought Zare had been waiting for five and a half years for an answer to his application, on August 27, 2009, Warsaw refused his application because it didn’t receive a response to its email. The embassy did so without even checking with Zare to see if he had received its email and without enquiring why he had not replied to it.
In fact, Zare never received the email. When he learned of the refusal he appealed.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada informed Canada’s Federal Court that when its officers send an email they automatically receive a Delivery Status Notification confirming delivery. However, Zare hired an expert in computer science armed with a Ph.D. and 17 years of experience in computer sciences who provided an expert opinion that such a notice may prove delivery but not necessarily receipt of the email. The court ruled that it was “beyond coincidence” that it had received nine appeals from applicants who all claimed not to have received emails from our embassy in Warsaw.
Almost seven years after Zare submitted his application, in October 2010 the Federal Court set aside the refusal and ordered CIC to reassess the application.
As a consequence of this and other court cases, CIC issued an Operational Bulletin on January 21st setting out its “Interim Procedures for Email Communications with Clients”.
This bulletin makes it clear that CIC may communicate with applicants by email if the applicant included an email address in their application, if the applicant’s representative supplied an email address in his/her Use of Representative Form, or if the applicant initiates an email communication with CIC.
Accordingly, it’s important for applicants to monitor their email accounts regularly, advise of any changes in email addresses, white list CIC’s domain “international.gc.ca” on their spam software, and make sure that their representative does the same.
The bulletin authorizes visa officers to consider all of the circumstances of the case where an applicant seeks a re-consideration of a refusal on the grounds of non-receipt of an emailed request for information.
Interestingly, nowhere in this three-page bulletin does it require officers to attempt to contact the client again using the same or other means of communication to ensure receipt of the contents of the initial email.
I strongly advise those seeking a reconsideration of a refusal from a visa post in similar circumstances not to allow their appeal rights to lapse while they are awaiting a response from CIC.
Applicants can seek a judicial review in the Federal Court within 15 days after the day on which they became “notified” or otherwise became “aware” of the refusal with respect to a decision made inside of Canada, and within 60 days, if the refusal was made outside of Canada.
This right of appeal may be the only way to ensure an assessment of the application under the criteria that existed at the time the application was originally filed and which may no longer apply.