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Visa officers’ strike in Canada to hit Indian students

world Updated: Jul 17, 2013 01:49 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

Canada may have issued a record number of visas to Indians, but the figures could dwindle due to an ongoing strike of visa officers since April.

With India being home to Canada’s largest overseas visa office, the strike by a union of Canadian foreign service officers may affect the plans of thousands of Indian students Chrystiane Roy, an Ottawa-based spokesperson for the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers(PAFSO) said, “In Delhi, all Foreign Service officers have at one time or other since June 6 withdrawn services.”

The Canadian government maintains its facilities are open for business. Nancy Caron, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said, “CIC is closely monitoring the situation. All visa offices, including the one in Delhi, remain open and continue to provide service to clients. Every visa office maintains a core number of staff that has been deemed ‘essential’.”

While the extent of delays is unclear, PAFSO has claimed that these are fairly significant. Roy said visa issuance “dropped by nearly 25%” over the month of June and that the drop was “especially severe in largest centers such as Canadian missions in India, where services have been withdrawn, at 60 – 65 per cent.”

While not commenting on the figures provided by PAFSO, the CIC spokesperson stated the department was “providing training on an urgent basis so that more staff can process applications”. It is also moving more work to Canada and to offices at other centers with additional capacity. But Caron did have some advice for visa-seekers: “Anyone applying for a visa should submit their application as far in advance as possible.”

She also urged them to submit temporary visa applications online and to use Visa Application Centres or VACs. Canada has a network of 80 such VACs in 55 countries, including centers in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata.

PAFSO began the strike on April 2, protesting what it described as a wage gap compared to other federal officers. Work-to-rule followed a week later. Officers at missions around the world have withdrawn various services; in India, immigration services have been withdrawn in Delhi and Chandigarh.