After an application is submitted in Canada, it is sent overseas to be processed. This processing time can vary between one and several years depending on where the refugee is living. It may be necessary during this time for sponsors to update the file. 

File numbers are assigned to applications before they are sent overseas. They are essential for being able to do follow-ups as well as to make any changes or updates to a file. 

Files submitted in Québec:

Files submitted in Quebec receive two file numbers; one assigned by the provincial government and another assigned by the federal government.

The Quebec government assigns the provincial file number only if the application is complete for both the sponsors and the refugee. This provincial number is included in the first confirmation letter sent to the sponsors, and should only be used in communication with the Quebec government. The application is then transferred to the Centralized Processing Office – Winnipeg (CPO-W). CPO-W assigns a file number on behalf of the federal government. A second confirmation letter with the federal file number is sent to the sponsors. This file number should be used in all communication with the federal government, including the visa office overseas. 

Files submitted in the rest of Canada:

Files submitted in the rest of Canada have only one file number: the federal file number. Applications are sent directly to Centralized Processing Office – Winnipeg (CPO-W). CPO-W assigns a file number only if the application is complete for both the sponsors and the refugee. A confirmation letter is sent to the sponsors.


Receiving a file number is not the same as having the application accepted. The decision about whether a refugee is accepted or refused rests with the visa office overseas.  

It is important to keep the  application up to date at all times. This means updating both the sponsor’s and the refugee’s information.  

When to make an update

For the sponsors:

  • Change of mailing address, email address or phone number
  • Group member withdrawing from the group

For the refugee:

  • Change of mailing address, email address or phone number
  • Adding new family members (e.g.. if someone marries or enters into a common-law relationship, or has a new baby), or removing family members (e.g. if someone passes away, or decides to return permanently to their country of origin, or a child marries)

Not updating a file can have serious consequences. A refugee can miss important communications from the visa office (e.g. date of their interview) if the message was sent to an old address, or email address.

If family members are not declared in a timely way, it can cause delays. If the new family members are not declared before departure, they will be “excluded family members” under Canadian immigration law and will be barred from sponsorship.

How to make an update

Applications submitted in Quebec:

Changes to a sponsor’s or refugee’s information should be communicated to the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion (MIDI) of Quebec. The MIDI Client call centre can give instructions. If the change concerns the refugee applicant, it may also be necessary to advice the visa office overseas. For instructions about emailing a visa office see the question below called What happens if the processing time passes and there is no news from the visa office?. 

Applications submitted in the rest of Canada:

For changes to the sponsors, or refugee’s information, follow the instructions provided here, as well as the Section 2.12 of the Guide to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. For questions contact the RSTP.


Processing times are calculated based on the processing times of applications in a specific country that were finalized in the previous year. Because published times are backward-looking (in other words they tell us about processing times last year), they are not necessarily helpful for knowing how long it will take to process an application received today.

Processing times are available here

If you are not sure how to use this tool, consult the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program’s detailed instructions.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's website has an online tool called the Client Application Status (e-CAS) which allows sponsors and refugees to check the status of immigration files overseas. The information posted on this service is very minimal, so don’t be surprised if there are very few updates (also, occasionally, the computer system will replace the word 'application' with the word 'null').

To check on the status of an application see here

If you are not sure how to use this tool, consult the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program’s detailed instructions.

Refugees often wait one or several years before they are called to an interview. During this time, it may be necessary to update the file. The sponsors and refugees can also use this time to make sure that they have the greatest chance at success once they are called for an interview. 

Sponsors should maintain contact with the refugee

It is important for sponsors to maintain some contact with refugees during the processing time. Even if it is several years long, sponsors should be up-to-date about the situation of the family and inform the visa office of changes to a refugee’s contact information or family composition (see previous question When and how should an update be made on a sponsorship file).

Refugees must continue to meet the refugee definition

During the processing time, the principal applicant must continue to meet the definition of a person in need of protection (Convention Refugee Abroad Class, or Country of Asylum Class). Returns to the country of origin, even brief visits, may call into question whether the person continues to need protection and can be grounds for a refusal. 

Refugees can continue to collect evidence

Refugees can continue documenting their case by collecting relevant documents and noting evidence (personal encounters, news articles, etc.) which support their need for protection. Some suggestions are included below:

  • Building on the evidence of persecution

The refugee or sponsors can look for human rights reports or cases of people in similar situations who have continued to face problems to show that the refugee still faces a risk in their home country. 

  • Keeping proof of residence outside of country of origin

Receipts such as utility bills or rental agreements (even if informal) can be used to show that the refugee was not in the country of origin. This should be communicated to the refugee early on as these receipts can be very hard to get after the fact.

  • Noting incidents that show the country of asylum is not a durable solution

The refugee can keep note of instances which show they lack a durable solution (for information about durable solution see here and here). The focus should not be on general violence, but rather on incidents that are targeted towards the refugee themselves, or people in a similar situation. 

Read over the RSTP interview guides

The Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) has created a very helpful guide for interview preparation. The guides are available in many languages. For more information about preparing for an interview, see the section Interview.  

If the application has exceeded the processing time and there has been no news, the sponsor or refugee may ask for a follow up. The current processing time will apply to the application, even it if is higher than when the refugee application was submitted.

A follow up can be done in one of two ways: 

Option 1: Request a follow up through a Case Specific Enquiry

It is possible to contact a visa office overseas through the online portal system of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website. To find the visa office managing the file see here. Once the visa office is selected, the information provided will include a link to make a Case Specific Enquiry (through a Web form). It is required to provide information about the principal applicant (ex. file number, name, date of birth, etc.). If a sponsor in enquiring on behalf of a refugee, it is necessary to attach a scanned copy of a Use of a  Representative (IMM 5476) form to receive information about the file.

For questions contact the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program. 

Option 2: Follow up with your MP

Members of Parliament (MP) have the ability to look into immigration cases.  To locate an MP using a postal code see here. It is possible to request a meeting. Bring with you the name of the principal applicant, their date of birth, their application number and a confirmation letter to show when the file was submitted.  


It is best to pursue only one option at a time.