Opening Visa Application Centres in Iran

Al Parsai
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The Honourable John McCallum, P.C., M.P.
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1L1

RE: Opening Visa Application Centres in Iran

Dear Minister:

Iranians who apply for a temporary residence visa need to give biometrics within 30 days of submitting their applications. Visa Application Centres (VAC) or Visa Support Centres normally conduct biometric tests. Because there aren’t any VACs in Iran, most of the Iranians have to travel abroad to give their biometrics. Such travels are problematic for the applicants, especially those of older age or those suffering from certain diseases that limit their mobility. It can also cause hardship for Canadian citizens whose families want to travel to Canada from Iran. Consequently, we request opening five VACs in Iran to address these issues and make the visa application process more convenient for the applicants.

Background

Since 11th of December 2013, citizens of Iran who plan to travel to Canada need to give biometrics within 30 days of submitting an application for a temporary residence visa, study permit, or work permit. The government of Canada has outsourced this task to VFS Global, which opens and manages Visa Application Centres or Visa Support Centres for this purpose. VACs also,

  • answer questions in local languages and make sure that applications are complete,
  • transmit application documents and passports to the visa office securely,
  • return passport and decision documents securely,
  • offer a tracking service,
  • schedule interviews and provide application photographs and photocopies for a fee, and
  • provide access to a computer to apply online.

As a result, applicants of this type of visas have to go to a VAC to give their biometrics or take advantage of the services mentioned above.

Issues

Since there is no VAC in Iran, the Iranian citizens who want to give their biometrics have to travel to a country where there is a VAC. Unfortunately, the current situation causes trouble for the applicants, namely:

  • Since the Ankara Visa Office processes the majority of the Iranian applications, the primary VACs for the Iranians are the ones located in Turkey. According to travel advisories by the Government of Canada, travellers may face many problems such as terrorism, kidnapping, petty crime, muggings, physical and verbal harassment, and road unsafety in Turkey. Needless to say that closeness to the Syrian border could also be a potential threat to the lives of travellers. Moreover, on April 9, 2016, the U.S. embassy in Ankara sent a security message to U.S. citizens, indicating “there are credible threats to tourist areas, in particular to public squares and docks in Istanbul and Antalya.”
  • The elderly and handicapped may not be able to travel outside of Iran alone. Therefore, the companionship of another family member may become necessary which incurs extra costs and inconvenience. For instance, the companion might have to use his or her limited annual leave, or suspend his or her business for this purpose.
  • In some cases, Canadian citizens have to face hardship. If the parent of a Canadian citizen decides to travel to Canada, the said Canadian citizen might have to go all the way to Iran just to assist and accompany his or her elderly parent(s) to the VAC located outside of Iran. Clearly, this may expose the said Canadian citizen to the dangers he or she might face in Turkey or elsewhere.
  • There are citizens of other countries who reside in Iran. These citizens may require a visa to travel to another country for the purpose of giving their biometric at a VAC.
  • If the visa is issued, the applicants have to travel a second time to collect their visas. Some applicants leave their passports to strangers for the purpose of collecting the visas. This common approach is not safe and may compromise the Canadian visa counterfoils.

A large group of Iranian-Canadians and Iranian nationals (i.e. students and workers) live in Canada. Consequently, a great number of Iranian nationals request temporary visas to Canada every day. The current arrangements negatively affect both groups directly or indirectly.

The lack of VACs is disrespectful to a community that has been a significant minority in Canada in the past few years.

Request

Opening multiple VACs in Iran can make the whole visa application process more convenient and less costly or dangerous for Iranian citizens or citizens of other countries who reside in Iran.

Furthermore, there are already VACs established in Iran by VFS Global in partnership with the UK Visa & Immigration. Clearly, these centres can be expanded or rearranged for the purpose of providing services to people seeking temporary visas to Canada.

We request VACs for the following major cities in Iran:

  • Tehran
  • Isfahan
  • Tabriz
  • Mashhad
  • Shiraz

In the light of the issues above, we, the undersigned, strongly urge the opening of Visa Application Centres in Iran.

Sincerely,

The undersigned

CC:

1. The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P. (Prime Minister of Canada)

2. The Honourable Stéphane Dion, MP (Minister of Foreign Affairs)



References:

http://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/iran/visa_application_center.html#1

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/biometrics.asp

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/offices/vac.asp

http://travel.gc.ca/destinations/turkey

Text prepared by the Parsai Immigration Services team.

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