In-person operations halted, application process normal, delays expected, ET TravelWorld
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In-person operations halted, application process normal, delays expected, ET TravelWorld

Picture used for representation.

In a development with far-reaching consequences for Indian travellers planning trips to Canada, the Canadian government has announced a reduction in visa and consular services in India. This move comes amid an ngoing diplomatic standoff between India and Canada. The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has declared that visa and consular services in several key Indian cities will be affected due to a significant number of Canadian diplomats departing the country. This departure is a result of the Indian government’s call for parity in Canadian diplomatic presence in India. As a consequence, Indian travellers seeking Canadian visas may experience substantial delays in their applications and processing. The reduced diplomatic staff, now numbering only 21 diplomats after the recalibration, has led the Canadian government to impose a temporary halt on all in-person services at Canadian Consulates across India until further notice.

This pause will affect the overall visa processing, response to inquiries, and the issuance of visas and passports due to the diminished diplomatic workforce. Nonetheless, Canada will continue to accept and process visa applications from India.

VFS Global, the entity responsible for handling Canadian visa applications in India, has confirmed that Canada Visa Application Centres in ten Indian cities will continue to operate as per IRCC’s instructions. They assured that Canadian visa applicants can still receive administrative support and submit their biometrics at these centres.

The IRCC has stated that five of its staff members will remain in India to focus on tasks requiring an in-country presence. These include urgent processing, visa printing, risk assessment, and the supervision of key partners such as visa application centres, panel physicians, and clinics conducting immigration medical exams. Other tasks and staff members will be reallocated across the IRCC’s global processing network.

Widespread panic among Indian travellers ensued when certain media reports suggested that Canada was suspending visa and consular services at Canadian Consulates in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chandigarh. However, it is crucial to note that only in-person operations are impacted, and visa applications will continue to be processed.

The High Commission of Canada in India has also confirmed this situation and clarified that “The Consulates General of Canada in Bengaluru, Chandigarh, and Mumbai are temporarily suspending in-person operations. You can obtain consular assistance and further information from the High Commission of Canada in New Delhi. Consular services in person remain available at the High Commission of Canada in New Delhi.”

With India not issuing visas, passengers from Canada in a fix

The strategy to bag economical fares has backfired on passengers planning to fly from Canada to India this winter. Passengers who have booked international flights between Canada and India in advance are now facing issues due to the non-issuance of visas by both countries. Passengers with airline tickets but no valid visa or travel document cannot travel on the given date.

IRCC has revealed that 41 Canadian diplomats and their dependents were at risk of having their immunities revoked post-October 20. This is why the Canadian government facilitated their safe departure from India. Notably, India had requested Canada to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country last month.

IRCC expressed its view that India’s call for diplomatic parity is “completely unreasonable and escalatory” and considered it a violation of the Vienna Convention. In response, Canada updated its travel advisory for India on October 19, urging its citizens to exercise increased caution while in the country.

Conversely, the Indian government strongly rejected allegations against it and refuted attempts to portray the implementation of parity as a violation of international norms. The Ministry of External Affairs asserted that the state of bilateral relations, the notably higher number of Canadian diplomats in India, and their continued involvement in India’s internal affairs justified a parity in mutual diplomatic presence in New Delhi and Ottawa.

In terms of visa applications, Canada witnessed a substantial surge of 55 per cent in comparison to 2019. Of particular note is the fact that Indians topped the list in all categories of Canadian visas, including those for students, tourists, business, work permits, and permanent residency applications. This suggests the robust demand among Indian travellers for Canadian visas, despite the current diplomatic challenges.

  • Published On Oct 20, 2023 at 05:49 PM IST

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