September 23, 2023
Visa backlogs drive Canadians to cancel journeys to India

It is 8:30 a.m. on a cold Friday morning in Surrey, B.C., and a queue of individuals snakes round a strip mall within the Metro Vancouver suburb.

They don’t seem to be right here for the mall’s candy store or the Filipino fusion restaurant. Most of them have been ready hours for an Indian visa on the BLS Worldwide Visa Utility Centre.

A lineup of people snaking around the block of a strip mall.
Dozens of individuals lined up exterior the BLS Worldwide Workplace in Surrey, B.C., on Friday, Nov. 18. It comes amid widespread reviews of delays within the Indian visa processing system. (Lyndsay Duncombe/CBC)

Arminder Bajwa is considered one of a whole bunch of Indian visa candidates who say backlogs within the system are leaving individuals like him in limbo as visa purposes have spiked amid a drop in world journey restrictions. He is been right here since 5:30 a.m. when temperatures had been close to zero.

Indian visa candidates are calling for the return of an digital visa program that allowed on-line purposes and was in place in Canada earlier than the pandemic, in addition to extra staffing to handle reported processing delays throughout the nation.

“I’ve spent like $8,000 on tickets,” Bajwa says from the queue, surrounded by dozens of others attempting to maintain heat. “For my sister’s marriage … that is my sister, and I’ve to be there as a result of that is like a practice.

“That scenario, inflation and all the pieces … $8,000,” he repeats.

A Sikh man wearing a turban looks at the camera.
Arminder Bajwa is considered one of dozens of candidates, a few of whom had been lining up exterior the visa workplace since 3 a.m. He is already booked tickets, which price him 1000’s of {dollars}, so he and his household can go to India. (CBC)

However Bajwa’s passport has been with authorities contained in the BLS workplace for over 17 days, and he is getting determined. 

One other individual in line mentioned that they had been ready over two months — regardless of the Indian consulate’s said timeline of 30 days for a visa.

Earlier than the pandemic, candidates like Bajwa had entry to an digital visa software that was fully digital, a program that was delivered to a halt amid journey shutdowns.

And although this system has been restored to over 156 international locations, it hasn’t been restored but to Canada, regardless of India’s standing as the biggest supply of latest Asian immigrants to Canada since 2016.

The Indian excessive commissioner-designate, Sanjay Kumar Verma, mentioned that visa purposes have spiked to dramatic ranges however denied widespread delays.

However a voicemail from BLS Worldwide, to which the Indian Excessive Fee has outsourced its visa purposes, says that “processing occasions have been elevated.”

The corporate didn’t return a request for remark. However an acknowledgement of delays is little comfort for Bajwa and others in his scenario.

“The inhabitants in Surrey, Metro Vancouver, is ballooning. It is, like, rising day-to-day,” he mentioned. “They want extra workplaces. They want extra individuals.”

Journey agent says e-visa needs to be restored

Manpreet Grewal, the supervisor of the My Dream Traveler company in Mississauga, Ont., says that BLS ought to think about opening extra workplaces throughout Canada and Ontario. 

She says she’s been listening to of delays within the system for months and has even revealed a number of TikToks for visa candidates in search of recommendation.

“Nowadays, there’s solely one location in Brampton for the entire GTA,” she informed CBC Information in an interview.

Presently, there are 9 BLS Worldwide workplaces throughout the nation — the one centre that processes purposes for Indian visas in Canada. They’re concentrated within the largest city centres, at the same time as extra immigrants make their approach to smaller communities. This implies those that dwell away from city centres both must mail the BLS centres their paperwork, or make their approach there in individual.

Grewal, and the Indian Affiliation of Tour Operators, have referred to as for the e-visa program to return. This system permits these in qualifying international locations to fill out the appliance and get an digital journey authorization (ETA), earlier than having their e-visa stamped on their passport at their vacation spot.

A brown woman types on a computer.
Manpreet Grewal, a journey agent in Mississauga, Ont., has made various TikToks with recommendation for individuals needing Indian visas. She says it is troublesome to get appointments, even for individuals who want them instantly as a result of their Indian kin have died. (CBC)

If candidates have Canadian citizenship, even when they’re born in India, they must get a visa to return, as India would not enable twin citizenship.

“The primary motive [for] the delay for the visas is as a result of they don’t seem to be opening e-visas,” she mentioned.

Excessive commissioner cites strained sources

The excessive commissioner-designate denied there have been vital delays occurring throughout the system, although he conceded there have been large will increase in software volumes that had tightened sources.

“If I take a look at Ottawa … October 2022 [visa] submissions as in comparison with October 2021, submissions have elevated by 605 per cent,” Verma informed CBC Information in an interview.

He mentioned the comparisons had been related for Vancouver and Toronto, with respective will increase of 203 and 188 per cent since final October.

A Zoom screenshot of an Indian man in a suit framed by an Indian and two Canadian flags.
Sanjay Kumar Verma, the excessive commissioner-designate, mentioned candidates ought to use the drop-off service at BLS Worldwide websites — that are solely positioned in Canada’s largest cities — to keep away from lengthy queues. (CBC)

Verma inspired candidates to take a look at visa software timelines on the fee’s web site and mentioned that these ready in queues at BLS workplaces had been walk-ins with out appointments.

“So far as we’re involved, we’re processing the visa purposes and granting the eligible candidates’ visa a lot, a lot quicker than individuals in any other case notice,” he mentioned.

As for the e-visa program, Verma mentioned this system was being restored “nation by nation, wanting on the constraints on sources.”

“There are discussions. There are concerns. There are actions in that path. When it’s lastly determined by the 2 governments, then, in fact, we’ll hear the end result,” he mentioned.

A request for remark from Overseas Affairs Canada was not returned by deadline.

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