Canadian Visa Offices Shut Down – Serious Implications for Foreign Nationals with Upcoming Travel Plans to Canada
Starting July 29, 2013, foreign service officers will be withdrawing all services at Canada’s 15 biggest visa processing centres abroad. The federal government and the union representing immigration officers abroad, Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), have been locked in a contract negotiation battle for months culminating in a failed attempt at arbitration and the union’s decision to strike.
Over the course of the last few months, the union began staging rotating strikes at different embassies and visa processing centres at different times as part of escalating job action measures. This has slowed down work, resulting in fewer visas being issued and a growing backlog. The strike will further delay visa processing times, leading to longer wait times and an expected delay in the arrival of foreign nationals to Canada. In addition, those visa offices not engaging in the full withdrawal of services will continue to be involved in abrupt rotating strikes, without prior notice to the public.
In a statement issued by PAFSO, they state that “… PAFSO members will withdraw all services until further notice at Canada’s fifteen largest visa processing centres abroad.” The centres are:
• Abu Dhabi
• Hong Kong
• Mexico City
• Sao Paulo
The union is advocating for “equal pay for equal work,” asking for salary increases to keep foreign service officers on par with other public servants who do comparable work. Meanwhile, the Treasury Board, the department responsible for contract negotiations, says the government has put forward a fair offer, one that is “fair to employees and fair for taxpayers,” according to a spokesman for Treasury Board President Tony Clement. The two sides have been unable to come to a meaningful resolution, and after the last round of negotiation broke down with no resolution, they were also unwilling to enter into a binding arbitration process.
There is no indication of any planned negotiations, and how the government expects to proceed with so few resources devoted to the processing of visas.
Applications for visas and work permits may still be submitted to Visa Posts, however limited or no processing will take place until the strike is resolved. Companies who require foreign nationals to enter Canada in the next few months should file new applications as early as possible but plan for application delays and prepare to make arrangements for alternate resource solutions, if necessary. Foreign nationals with applications already in process at Canadian Visa posts should be prepared to postpone travel.
For more information on this or other Canadian or US immigration matters, please contact PricewaterhouseCoopers Immigration Law LLP – Immigration Lawyers at 1-800-993-9971 or firstname.lastname@example.org.