Flagpoling,” known as the term used when individuals with temporary status in Canada exit the country by crossing the border into the United States and promptly re-entering Canada visa to avail of same-day immigration services, is a lawful practice. While flagpoling can be conducted at any point of entry, it is commonly done at land border crossings, particularly in Ontario’s Niagara region.
The primary advantage of opting for flagpoling when applying for a visa is the ability to bypass potentially lengthy processing times associated with traditional application routes. When flagpoling, your visa application is processed immediately on the spot, eliminating the need for waiting to receive the application’s outcome.
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Moreover, during the flagpoling process, you directly submit your required documents to an immigration officer in person. If any issues arise with the application, the officer can inform you promptly, allowing for the necessary corrections. In contrast, errors or mistakes made during the regular application process can result in delays.
According to data from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), approximately 21,452 people engaged in flagpoling in 2022. While CBSA encourages individuals to apply online through the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website to avoid flagpoling, as immigration applications are not their primary focus, the practice has become so prevalent that CBSA has designated specific dates and times at certain border crossings to accommodate flagpolers.
This practice has gained even more popularity due to the persistent backlog at IRCC. The IRCC service standards outline the expected processing times for applications; however, these standards differ from the actual processing times implemented by IRCC. Applications that exceed the service standard timeframe are classified as part of the backlog.
IRCC’s service standards and backlog
IRCC aims to process 80% of applications across all categories within a reasonable time frame, varying depending on the type of application. For instance, the processing time for spousal and family class sponsorship is set at 12 months, while applications through Express Entry should be processed within six months.
As of March 31st, the backlog of applications at IRCC reached approximately 2 million across all immigration, work, study, and sponsorship categories. Within this figure, around 1.1 million applications are within the service standards, while nearly 900,000 are part of the backlog.
Regarding temporary and permanent residence applications, approximately 50% of them adhere to the service standards, whereas 75% of citizenship applications do so.
IRCC has stated that they are taking measures to reduce the backlog and process 80% of applications within their service standards. CBC’s article on flagpoling mentions that IRCC is implementing strategies such as “digitizing applications, hiring and training new staff, and leveraging automation technologies” to expedite the reduction of the backlog.
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