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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Elizabeth Eberly

Peeling back the layers of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website

The website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has many different layers, each of which provides different information and levels of detail, intended for different purposes and audiences.  When I first started practicing immigration law, I found IRCC’s website confusing and dizzying.  Overtime, I have developed strategies for finding the information I am looking for on IRCC's website.  

Today I would like to talk to you about where I look for more information on IRCC’s website when I am assisting a client with temporary residence, permanent residence and citizenship applications.  Although I hope that this may help you with finding the information you are looking for, this blog post is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of IRCC’s website - or legal research more generally - and does not constitute legal advice.  

Application Overview

Typically, IRCC’s website provides a general overview of the application process that’s easy to read, which I call the application overview.  Here’s an example overview for how to extend or change the conditions of a study permit: Extend your study permit or restore your status: About the process -  Application overviews are a good place to quickly confirm very basic information about the application, like how to apply, the associated fees and the estimated processing time, if available.  Application overviews also provides helpful links to other relevant information.  However, I do not find these overviews particularly helpful beyond a quick reference point because they are not very detailed.

Application Guide

Typically, IRCC’s website provides a detailed application guide, which provides helpful information about what needs to be included in the application and information about how to complete the application forms.  Here’s an example for how to extend or change the conditions of a study permit: Guide 5552 - Applying to Change Conditions or Extend Your Stay in Canada - Student - online application.  When I am working with a client to prepare an application that I haven’t done before, my first step is often to review the application guide in full in order to confirm of the contents of the application, how to fill-out key application forms, and to review some helpful guidance on related issues, like restoration of status.

Help Centre

If you’re the kind of person who likes information provided in a question and answer format, then you may benefit from referring to IRCC’s Help Centre: IRCC Help Centre - Featured Topics.  The Help Centre is broken up into types of applications, including a section on Studying in Canada.  I find that the Help Centre is a useful resource for technical questions having to do with IRCC’s many online portals and how to use them.  The Help Centre sometimes provides answers to frequently asked questions that are not addressed in the application overview or the application guide.  

Program Delivery Instructions and Manuals

As an immigration lawyer, I spend most of my time on IRCC’s website referring to the program delivery instructions and manuals: Operational instructions and guidelines — Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.  This section of the website contains a range of IRCC’s policies, procedures and guidance that decision-makers use when assessing applications. Reviewing this section of IRCC’s website can make the difference between knowing what the application must include and knowing how the application will be assessed by the decision-maker.  If, for example, you are looking for clarification on whether you need a study permit, you can find more information on that topic here: Study permits: Who needs a study permit.  If, for example, you are looking for more information on how decision-makers assess whether applicants have sufficient funds for their studies, you can find more information on that topic here: Study permits: Assessing the application -

IRCC Newsroom

Canada’s immigration system is often in the news because it is always changing and evolving.  I read the media coverage of changes to Canada’s immigration system in order to get a sense of how these changes are being received and how they are anticipated to impact Canada and beyond.  However, I also refer to the IRCC Newsroom to confirm the details of any changes that have been reported in the media. For example, just a few weeks ago, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced a cap on the number of study permits to be approved in 2024.  While the media covered this announcement extensively, IRCC’s Newsroom provides the news release and the backgrounder which confirmed the details of this announcement and the cap.

Sticking to

Oftentimes, I know the webpage that I am looking for and I will use Google search as a shortcut to find it.  However, I mainly stick to search results which point me to the website, and the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in particular, to ensure that I am referring to the official website of the Government of Canada.  From time-to-time, I refer to other online sources that provide helpful context or analysis, but I do not rely on the information provided therein unless I can otherwise confirm its accuracy.

IRCC’s website has a lot of valuable and useful information to assist individuals with a wide range of immigration applications.  However, IRCC’s website can also feel like a labyrinth, and it’s sometimes hard to know whether there’s another place where you should look.  I hope that this blog post will help you with finding what you’re looking for.  If you have any questions, you should consider speaking with an immigration lawyer and I would be happy to speak with you.

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