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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott

VACs and Visitor Visa Application

By Michael Scott

The first time I heard about VACs I thought someone was selling vacuum cleaners, but I now understand that the acronym if for private Visa Application Centres and they are all the rage with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. In point of fact, the visa post in Manila has just announced the opening of two new CVACs (Canadian Visa Application Centre) in Manila and Cebu on July 3, 2013.

Federal immigration officials encourage applicants back home to apply for temporary resident visas (or visitor visa) online or through one of the two new centres, owned and operated by VFS Global. The CVAC in Manila is located at 6F Unit 608, Ecoplaza Bldg, Chino Roces Ave Ext., Pasong Tamo Ext., Makati City. The centre in Cebu is located at the 9th Floor Keppel Center, Unit 905, Samar Loop corner of Cardinal Rosales Ave, Cebu Business Part, Cebu City. Applicants may still drop off applications by mail, courier, or drop-box at the visa post but are forewarned, “that in this case there may be significantly longer delays in processing times.”

The Canadian Embassy in Manila is using the two CVACs to expedite the process for the following applications: Visitor Visa; Study Permit, Temporary Work Permit, Live-in Caregiver Work Permit, Re-entry Visa for returning students, workers or live-in caregivers; and Permanent Resident Travel Documents. The purpose of the CVAC is not to assess or adjudicate the applications, which remain the responsibility of visa officials in Manila. The CVAC staff can answer questions in Tagalog and some local languages; make sure that applications are complete; transmit application documents and passports to the visa post securely; return passport and decision documents securely; offer a tracking service; schedule interviews as well as provide other services; provide access to a computer for online submissions; and in future collect biometrics. Change is in the air in terms of identification documents and Canada Immigration will be introducing biometrics (fingerprints and a photograph) and other requirements by December 2013.

There are alternatives to the CVACs but the processing times will be much longer. Applicants can still drop off applications at the Drop Box located in the Basement 4, RCBC Plaza, 6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Philippines. Or, you can mail in your applications or documents to the Embassy of Canada, Immigration and Visa Section, P.O. Box 2168, Makati Central Post Office, Makati City 1200, Philippines, however, it is not advisable given security concerns back home. A better alternative is to use your choice of a courier and make arrangements to have the application delivered to the Embassy of Canada, Level 6, Tower 2, RCBC Plaza, 6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Philippines.

The instructions provided by federal immigration appear to be quite clear. If you want your application to be processed quickly the first choice is to send it online, the second is through the two private CVACs, and the third is through a paper submission. The least attractive option, considering the problems with security and mail service, is through the mail.

It is important to be aware of the changes that are now upon us. It seems like just weeks ago I was discussing the former process of calling a designated courier to pick up temporary resident visa applications and now that has stopped. The idea of contracting out services to private companies is favoured by the current government who have been coming up with creative ways of cutting the size of the federal civil service. I have no problem with online applications, which are a gift to the computer literate, but what about the contracting out of immigration services? Are the VACs are good idea? Can they ensure the same level of professionalism and integrity we expect from Canadian civil servants or even locally engaged staff? I have my own reservations but am prepared to defer judgment to a later date.

Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: mscott.ici@gmail.com

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