Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller said that visa processing in India will be “inevitably impacted” after Ottawa evacuated 41 of its diplomats following a diplomatic spat with New Delhi over the killing of pro-Khalistani hardliner Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
With India maintaining that it seeks parity in diplomatic presence, Canada said that only 21 Canadian diplomats and dependents would be stationed in India from now onwards.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday alongside Foreign Minister Melanie Joly in Ottawa, Miller said the move will result in slower visa processing of Indians looking to come to Canada.
“Processing times will inevitably be impacted by this unacceptable and unilateral decision by the Government of India, but we will strive to minimize the impact on people looking to come to Canada,” he said.
Following Miller’s remarks, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued a statement saying that its staff in India is being reduced from 27 to just five.
Miller, however, reassured that the lower number of staff will have short term repercussions, and that Canada will continue to accept and process all temporary and permanent resident applications.
According to CIC News, IRCC is trying to mitigate the impact by adjusting the work load for Visa Application Centres (VACs) that already process the majority of the applications from India, but some work will have to be done by email.
The Canadian immigration body said in a statement that a large majority of applications from India are already processed outside the country, with 89 per cent of India’s applications processed through the global network.
“The five Canada-based IRCC staff who remain in India will focus on work that requires an in-country presence such as urgent processing, visa printing, risk assessment and overseeing key partners,” the IRCC said in a statement released on Thursday.
According to IRCC, clients from India can expect to see some delays over the next few months in overall processing times, responses to their enquiries, and getting their visas or passports returned.
“Canada has a strong connection with Indian citizens, and will continue to welcome them, whether they wish to come here to visit, work, study, be reunited with loved ones, or live permanently in the country,” the IRCC said.
Acknowledging that newcomers from India play a vital role in Canada, Miller said the country’s Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) will continue to welcome students and new applications will be processed, albeit slowly.
More than 118,000 Indians became Canadian permanent residents in 2022, which was 27 per cent of the over 437,000 new permanent residents welcomed by Canada, the CIC News reported.
Canada opened its door to more than 226,000 Indian international students last year and nearly 60,000 Indians became Canadian citizens in 2022.