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A Message from the ICA Executive Director regarding Visa Applications for ICA23

  • 1.  A Message from the ICA Executive Director regarding Visa Applications for ICA23

    Posted 27 days ago

    Headquarters is very aware of the issues with certain visas being delayed and denied by the Canadian immigration authorities despite our having followed all guidelines including acquiring a special event code for our conference and writing personalized, bespoke support letters for hundreds of attendees, many of whom we have worked closely with to build their application packets as well and advise on what their letters should say. We've had many, many successes, and people are still getting approvals every day, but there are still rejections and delays that remain beyond our control.

    After months of sending letters to various global consulates with no response, we escalated this concern to not only the central Canadian immigration authority (which governs all the Canadian consulates around the world), and I issued official complaints through the Tourism Bureaus for Canada as a whole, Ontario generally, and Toronto, as well as looping in the international corporate offices of our hotel partners as often, these large, monied corporations have more "pull" with governments than relatively small nonprofits like ICA. This issue is not isolated to Canada, but it's an important one on which we are doing our best to effect change. We demanded a re-review of all denied applications under our event code, in addition to pushing for faster (immediate) processing on the remaining applications that haven't yet been reviewed. Again, we are not a large, influential organization with global name recognition outside the communication field, so we have no power to force things to speed up or get decisions overturned, but we are doing everything we can do to continue to advocate on behalf of our members.

    This morning, we met with the Canadian immigration office and came to an agreement with them on some next steps.

    According to the immigration office, there are 269 applications for Canadian visas that have come in using the special event code (assigned to us by the Immigration authority) which we provided to attendees in our letters. Of those 269, 133 have been approved; 15 were refused for various reasons (that cannot be disclosed to us for privacy reasons); three withdrawn; and 118 are still in progress. 
    The immigration office has sent out a bulletin to all Canadian consulates globally to put a rush on all remaining applications containing our special event code. If your application letter did not mention the special event code (you would have had to remove it, as every letter we issued contained it), you will not be part of this rush order. We cannot get more information on denied applications due to privacy concerns, so the delayed 118 applications are the most concerning issues at the moment, as our conference is less than two weeks away and therefore these are the ones on which I am concentrating at this time. If you are a PRESENTER at ICA23 and you still are waiting for a reply to your visa application, please check your email inbox for instructions from headquarters on next steps to get your application "flagged" to be reviewed in a timely fashion. We are not putting those instructions here, as this is only available to verified presenters per the immigration office.

    Hopefully, the majority of these delayed applications will be cleared in the next few days and those attendees will be able to make travel arrangements in time. We sincerely hope that all of you are able to make it to the conference in Toronto to present your work; it is important to us that your voices are heard and that we do everything we can to preserve your in-person participation.

    Laura Sawyer
    ICA Executive Director

    Tom Mankowski
    Washington DC
    United States