The Gap between Approval and Confirmation

Happy Family Day! Hope you’re getting to spend it with your loved ones.

Now that the dust has settled, so to speak, from getting my permanent residence, I wanted to talk about the timing of the very last step: getting confirmation of my PR status. Which I found out, to my confusion and — I’ll confess — frustration, is not the same as approval.

You see, I got an email from IRCC on the 22nd of December saying my PR application had been approved, and that because I was already in Canada, I’d be allowed to use the online portal to confirm my permanent residence. It asked me to reply with some basic information about my wife and I (another form!) and then they’d create an account for me in the portal, where I could upload a recent photo (yet another form!) and then they’d send me my PR card.

At first I was ecstatic. Here I was, barely four weeks into waiting for my PR to be processed, and they’d already approved it?! And right before the Christmas holidays as well. What a present!

I dutifully sent off the requested info that very day, and settled in to watch my inbox, waiting for the account creation email.

And waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

Weeks went by. I started to wonder if I’d replied to the wrong address. When I’d reassured myself that I’d replied correctly, with the right info, to the right address, my mind next turned to fraud. Maybe I’d been too hasty to reply, and had accidentally sent my info to some kind of identity thief? All sorts of scenarios went through my head.

Because throughout this time, when I logged into the ExpressEntry site, and checked my application status, it still said they were reviewing my information. Not “approved” or “waiting for confirmation.” It was basically in the same state it’d been in since I first applied.

Finally, on 10 January, I got the email from IRCC with account credentials (username, temporary password) for logging into the account they’d created for my in the PR confirmation portal. Again, a celebration on my part; this was the last step! I logged into the portal — using Firefox, because IRCC does not support Safari — filled out the deceptively simple web form (“just a checkbox, an address field, and a passport-style photo? easy!”), and sat back, expecting to hear something within the week.

…yeah, that didn’t work out. Over the next four weeks (!), I got in the habit of logging into the portal every day to check its status, because I encountered a bug (though I didn’t know it was a bug at the time) in the web portal: periodically, when I logged in, my photo would vanish.

I mean really gone, like I’d log in, go to my status page, and it would just have a blank entry where my uploaded photo was, and it’d be asking me to upload one. But when I did try to upload a new photo (I had three separate sets of photos taken, because at one point I thought this was IRCC’s subtle way of rejecting my photo as unacceptable), I got an error: “File Did Not Upload”. And then I’d refresh the page, and there my photo would be, as if nothing was wrong!

This bug drove me absolutely batty. Because there was no way to get feedback on the status of my confirmation. Calling into IRCC got me automated responses. Checking my ExpressEntry profile showed it as still under review, as if the confirmation process hadn’t started. Emailing IRCC meant a response might come in three weeks, if ever.

And this whole time, I was in a legal limbo. You see, I had a new job lined up after getting laid off, but because my work permit was tied to Elastic, I couldn’t start the new job without some proof of the legal right to work in Canada.

Originally they were just going to get a new work permit for me, so I could start on 17 January. But as a theoretically approved permanent resident, I wasn’t eligible for a work permit anymore. Meaning I had to wait for the entire PR process to complete, so I could get my confirmation of PR status, and then give that to my new employer as proof of the legal right to work.

Which meant every week in January I had to call the (incredibly patient) onboarding person at Cisco at tell them that no, I hadn’t heard anything from IRCC yet, so can we push back my start date another week?

Every week.

I got so worked up I paid for a phone chat with an immigration consultant, to get some advice on what to do here. He’s the one that told me what I was experiencing was a bug. He also said I wasn’t the only one to have these kinds of frustrations, but that however long it took, once I was in the confirmation stage, I was almost certain to get my eCOPR (electronic confirmation of permanent residence). I just needed to be patient.

He also explained a very important distinction that I’d missed: that I wasn’t yet a permanent resident, even though I’d gotten notice of approval. Until very recently, what would happen is a PR applicant would get notice of approval, while outside of Canada. Then they’d have to let IRCC know when they were coming across the border, and at the border they’d have to talk to an IRCC agent and get their official PR papers there. That date would be the date that they became a PR.

Since I was doing everything electronically, I wasn’t technically “landed” even though I was already in the country. So my PR wouldn’t officially start until I had my confirmation in hand; the date they issued that would be my equivalent “landed” date.

Once he’d explained things to me, I calmed down. I stopped trying to contact IRCC. I still checked my status every day, and re-uploaded a photo when it vanished, but I stopped worrying about whether it might affect the process.

Still, the day (3 February) I got the email that my permanent residence was confirmed was a huge, huge relief 😅 I was finally done!

Now, I'm not writing this to complain about IRCC, who have been put under a lot of pressure to admit more immigrants while dealing with a massive shift in how they operate due to the pandemic. I’m writing all this down in the hopes that it helps someone else keep their cool when going through this last bit of the process. For basically two months I had no feedback on what my PR application’s status really was, or how long each step would take, or what to expect. If I’d known on 22 December that I was looking at six weeks or more of waiting, I would have been a lot less frustrated.

So if you fall into the same legal limbo that I did, just hang in there! You’ll get through it, eventually.

Ron Toland @mindbat