Follow-up Open Letter re: Refugee Travel Document Processing

November 25, 2022
The Honourable Sean Fraser
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Minister Fraser,

We wrote to you on June 15, 2022, to bring your attention to the lengthy processing times constituents across the country are facing in obtaining refugee travel documents and Certificates of Identity. We have yet to receive a response, and the situation has only worsened.

For protected persons and convention refugees who cannot obtain a passport from any other country, these documents are their only means of traveling internationally for any reason, including visiting family. Timelines for processing these documents—for both urgent and non-urgent cases—remain unacceptably long, with some applicants waiting more than a year.

While the option for in-person express pick-up has been reinstated for passports, it remains unavailable for travel documents, including urgent cases. Mailing paper applications to the Gatineau office remains the only option. This office is still unable to meet the need, resulting in waits of many months, even when there is documented proof of urgency.

This continues to have serious consequences for people separated from their families, over and above the distress of separation. In some cases, people have been unable to provide care for loved ones who are ill, or to say goodbye to a dying family member before it is too late. Children who have never met their grandparents (or in some cases, even a parent) are growing up while waiting for travel documents. Others have been unable to attend their own wedding ceremonies.

Furthermore, there are still no publicly available processing times, and it is extremely difficult for constituents to get through to IRCC to enquire as to the status of their applications. IRCC officers cannot provide caseworkers with estimates, even when an application is in its final stages. People are stuck in limbo, unable to make travel plans or other arrangements, while their family members wait in the dark, with no idea when they will see their loved ones again.

Your department's publicized service standards for travel documents are 2 to 9 business days for urgent cases, and 10 to 20 business days for non-urgent cases, and issuing these documents is a part of our responsibilities under Article 28 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Refugees must be able to access travel documents in a timely manner and those with emergency reasons for travel must be able to do so urgently.

This critical issue requires your immediate attention. We look forward to your response.


Leah Gazan

MP for Winnipeg Centre

NDP Critic for Women and General Equality

Jenny Kwan

MP for Vancouver East

NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship

Jennifer Black

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