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The Gap Between Principle and Practice: Unpacking a Flawed Visa Decision

Jan 25, 2024 6:11:40 PM • Written by: Soheil Hosseini

"The Gap Between Principle and Practice: A Closer Look at IRCC's Visa Decision Post-Vavilov"

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Canada's pivotal ruling in the Vavilov case, which set a new standard for the reasonableness of administrative decision-making, we come across a decision by a visa officer in RC Iran that starkly contrasts with these established principles. The ruling in Vavilov emphasized the need for clear, intelligible, and justified reasoning in administrative decisions. Yet, the refusal notes for a visa applicant, seeking to visit family in Canada, reveal a worrying disconnect between this judicial mandate and its practical implementation.

The Case at Hand

The applicant, who approached Immigratic for assistance post-refusal, experienced firsthand the consequences of what appears to be an automated, impersonal decision-making process. The refusal, dated November 16, 2023, states that the applicant's purpose for visiting Canada is inconsistent with a temporary stay. However, it fails to elaborate on how this conclusion was reached or to engage with the specific details of the application.

Screenshot 2024-01-25 at 6.02.01 PM

A Disregard for Judicial Standards

The Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision in the Vavilov case was a beacon of hope, setting a precedent for reasonableness, transparency, and justification in administrative decisions. However, the visa refusal notes from RC Iran starkly deviate from these standards. The decision is laconically justified with vague statements about the applicant’s purpose of visit and likelihood to leave Canada, without any substantive engagement with the specifics of the application or the applicant's circumstances. This lack of detailed reasoning not only undermines the Vavilov framework but also reveals a concerning indifference to the judicial guidelines intended to foster fair and equitable administrative practices.

Chinook's Shadow: The Impersonal Touch

Compounding this issue is the involvement of Chinook, an automated system used by IRCC. The notation "File processed with the assistance of Chinook 3+" raises serious concerns about the extent to which the application was subjected to human review and consideration. It appears that the decision may have been influenced, if not determined, by an algorithm, lacking the human touch necessary for a fair and reasoned evaluation.

Screenshot 2024-01-25 at 6.03.18 PMVavilov's Unheeded Call for Reasonableness

The Supreme Court's decision in Vavilov was supposed to usher in an era of reasonableness, transparency, and justification in administrative decisions. Yet, the visa officer’s notes in this case are remarkably sparse, offering no insight into the reasoning process behind the decision. This approach stands in stark contrast to the expectations set by Vavilov, which demands that decision-makers provide adequate explanations for their conclusions, especially when these decisions have significant impacts on people's lives.

A Reflection on Systemic Issues

This case is not just a reflection of a single decision but hints at deeper systemic issues within Canada's immigration system. When a decision as crucial as a visa refusal is reduced to a few lines without substantial reasoning, one must question the effectiveness of our commitment to the principles laid out by our highest court. 

The Need for Change

The juxtaposition of the Supreme Court's guidance and the reality of this visa refusal paints a concerning picture. It underlines the need for a systemic review and potential overhaul of decision-making processes within IRCC to align with the principles of reasonableness, transparency, and justification as mandated by the Vavilov ruling.


At Immigratic, we continue to advocate for fairness and transparency in immigration decisions. For more insights into Canadian immigration law and how it affects you, stay connected with us. #VavilovStandard #ImmigrationFairness #VisaRefusal #CanadianLaw #ImmigraticAnalysis

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Soheil Hosseini

Soheil Hosseini is a Canadian Immigration and Citizenship consultant. He represents Immigratic, a data-driven Immigration platform based in Ottawa, Canada.