Emailing with CIC: Who is responsible for lost or failed email messages?

2015-04-06

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If you provide an email address in your application form, you are allowing CIC to communicate with you by email.

Generally speaking email is a great thing for any immigration application.  Email is instant, and letters from CIC can take days to weeks depending on which country you are in.

However, what happens if an email message gets lost in the web?  What if it fails to deliver?

There have been some devastating cases of this happening.  An applicant is patiently waiting for CIC to respond to an application.  One day they receive an email (or a letter) saying the application was rejected because the applicant failed to respond to previous requests for information.

Requests that were never received from CIC.

Horror!

Thankfully a recent court case decided in February of this year – Asoyan v. Canada –  has summarized the law on email communication between CIC and applicants.

In that case, Ms. Asoyan applied for permanent residence in November of 2012.  CIC sent her an email in February of 2013 asking for updated forms to fill-in some gaps in information.  Ms. Asoyan had 30 days to comply.

She didn’t receive that email.

In March of 2013 she requested an Acknowledgement of Receipt.  CIC emailed this in the same month.

She didn’t receive that email, either.

In November of 2013 she did receive an email from CIC – a refusal of her application!  CIC stated she had not provide the information and as a result, her application was rejected.

Even after two requests for a reconsideration, CIC refused her application.

The issue the court dealt with was if the visa officer failed to provide Ms. Asoyan with proper notice and a meaningful opportunity to respond to the request for information.

The court found that the visa officer did not provide such an opportunity.

The court stated that CIC can presume an email has been sent to an email address provided by the applicant (which has not been revoked or revised), and where there has been no indication that the email may have failed.

Recall that in this case, Ms. Asoyan emailed in March 2013 asking for an Acknowledgement of Receipt.  The court found that this was an indication to CIC that she had not received the February 2013 request for information.  As a result, CIC should have made enquiries to ensure Ms. Aroyan had received that February 2013 email.

The court also stated that it would be “unduly harsh” to place the responsibility for failed emails on applicants, especially when CIC had no process to ensure emails had been received.

The court accepts the general fact that there is no way to reliably determine if an email has been delivered (as opposed to a fax message for example, where the fax machine can confirm the message was received).

The court also accepts that unlawful hacking and email interception are unfortunate facts of life, which undermines the reliability of email communication.

Given this state of affairs, the court states that CIC should exhaust all “reasonable mechanisms” available to ensure email is received (such as asking the applicant to acknowledge the email was received).  The court decided CIC’s email protocol was not sufficient and thus not fair to Ms. Aroyan.  The court allowed Ms. Aroyan’s appeal.

What you can do when CIC sends you email

How can you protect yourself against lost emails from CIC?

Based on the above case, you should do the following:

  • Check your spam or junk email box, and don’t have it set to automatically delete contents.
  • If you don’t receive a communication from CIC in a timely manner, email them and ask for an update, stating you have not received any communication (and save a copy of that email!). This will give CIC the message that any email they send failed to reach you.
  • Write a letter (and keep a copy) stating you have not received communication from CIC.
  • If you are rejected, ask for a reconsideration and state that no emails from CIC were received. Refer to the court case described in this blog that the onus of proof lies with CIC, and provide copies of the emails you sent to CIC asking for an update. Those emails gave CIC notice that you did not receive a communication from them.

What you can do when you send CIC email

How can you ensure that your email reaches CIC?  Remember, now the onus is on you to ensure it is received.

  • Be careful to send the email to the correct CIC address.
  • Check to see if that the email was actually sent properly.
  • Ensure there was no “bounce back” or other indication that the email didn’t get received.
  • Ask CIC to acknowledge receipt of the email. In my experience, CIC rarely acknowledges receipt, but it is important to include it in your email in case you end up in court one day.
  • After a certain amount of time, send the email again if you didn’t get an acknowledgement of receipt, and state that you are sending it because you haven’t heard from CIC.

In all cases, it is important not to bombard CIC with email messages – this can be annoying to visa officers and perhaps be detrimental to your application.  Only send communications after a certain amount of time passes when you expected to hear from CIC and haven’t.

If you found this article useful, please feel free to provide a link to it on your website or social network.  Thanks!

 

About the author

Gianpaolo Panusa Gianpaolo Panusa is a Canadian immigration lawyer, writer, and founder of the PanCanadian Immigration Law Group based in Vancouver, Canada. Google+ Profile

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