The Core Application

Now that you’ve read our previous blog post and perfected the refugee narrative, it’s time to put all that hard work to use, and move on to the main show: the core application.

Head’s up: by the time you’re done reading this, you may wonder what the heck you’re getting yourself into. “Really? So much effort?”

Yes it’s hard work but you’ll get through it, and feel a great sense of pride when you do. Keep the focus on the people you are helping, and the amazing hope and opportunity you are helping create – together. Because it takes a lot of work from everyone involved, and it is worth it.

Back to the task at hand. The 3 big documents are:

There are already plenty of great guidelines on how to fill out these forms properly – such as this one from the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program. We’ll let them do the explaining for you. What you’ll find here are some tricks to avoid the mistakes that people often make the first time, and hopefully make the process easier.

Here are two guide to make the work easier. The one on the left is a checklist, and the one on the right is a Google docs that helps you collect everything you need for the application - handy for those who cannot open the PDFs.

Application checklist.docx
Worksheet for online applications - 2.docx

Downloading the Forms: the Curse of the PDF

The first thing you may notice if you clicked on the links above to Generic, Schedule A and Schedule 2, is that you can’t actually see the forms. You’ll get a “Please wait” message, and guess what? You’ll be waiting forever.

What you need to do instead is to hit control/right click on the page, choose “save as”, and save a local copy of the document to your computer.

The next fun part is when your computer doesn’t know how to open the PDFs, because it doesn’t have the right version of Adobe software to do so. And as you try to open them, Adobe might try to sell you some bells-and-whistles version of Adobe Acrobat: don’t fall for it. The free version of Adobe Reader is good enough and you can download it here.

And whatever you do, make sure you download the newest versions of the forms, straight from the Canadian immigration website. The saddest thing is filling out a form and realizing too late that Immigration released a very subtle update, and now you have to redo the whole thing.

After each new release, you have something like 6 months to get on board with the update or have your application sent back to you to redo. Check out the helpful video for tips on how to download and open the PDFs.

The Document First to Tackle: Generic

Note that since January 2024, the Generic is not actually a PDF you need to submit to immigration. Thanks to the online portal, you type the information directly into the website. Same with Schedule A. But the PDF is still handy for collecting the facts. Or you can just use the worksheet - in Word or Google docs - that our friend put together, and is posted above.

Generic, otherwise known as IMM0008, exists to establish the basics of who the person is. There is only one Generic form needed per family unit, so if you are dealing with a married couple, choose the person who has the stronger case. Either the applicant with the proper refugee paper, or with the more horrific, well-documented history of persecution – and greatest reason to fear being sent back to their country.

Good news – Generic is the easy of the three main documents, and is pretty self-explanatory. Since this is going to be a long post, let’s just touch upon a few main tips:

Let’s just say: don’t sign anything now, until the application is perfect. Because you can only edit it before the signature goes on.

Video Break!

Tired of reading? Here's a how-to video by the ever-helpful Refugee Sponsorship Training Program on filling out the application documents. Note that the video is from 2016, and the 'Generic' form doesn't really look like this any more!

Schedule A: Strictly the Facts

Note that since January 2024, Schedule A (like the Generic form) is not actually a PDF you need to submit to immigration. Thanks to the online portal, you type the information directly into the website. That said, it's handy for capturing information. And also, you'll be asked to submit an updated Schedule A in a year or two from now, in your last stages of your process of coming to Canada. So might as well fill it in now!

The strategy of these documents is interesting. Schedule A and Schedule 2 get at a person’s life story in two different ways. Schedule A is all about facts and spreadsheets, whereas Schedule 2 covers much of the same ground but in narrative or sentence form.

Since much of what is being stated on these applications is hard to independently verify – at least at this early point – internal consistency is important. If you say on Schedule A that you were in Kuala Lumpur in December 2016, you better say the same thing in Schedule 2. More tips:

Why don’t you want to leave any gaps in time? Because it sets off alarm bells with Immigration. “OMG those three months in 2013 (when he was actually hiding in a basement), maybe he was secretly fighting in a war!”

And if there’s not enough room to list every activity from the past 10 years, add an addendum, which is basically the personal history in the form of a Word doc.

Hacks and Tips for Schedule A

Schedule A: Questions 7, 8 and 12, here's a way to make sure you haven't left any blanks in the record. Fix this by scanning the lines to make sure the final date on one matches the starting date on the next. Let your eyes move diagonally - does the date on the right column match the date on the left column above? If it's 2017-02 in column 2, then it should be 2017-02 in column 1 of the line above. 

Why bother: applicants often skip months when they weren't doing anything. This is a big deal, because immigration insists: "There can be no gaps in the record."

Schedule 2: The Life Story

This is the longest form to fill out, and in some ways, the toughest. Especially question 1 and 2, which require you to summarize the applicant's life story in as succinct-yet-compelling way possible.

If you've written the narrative (step one of this guide), you're already well on your way, since it's basically the same thing.

As always, every claim should come attached to a place, date and sometimes a name.  So if they "ran to a cousin's house because the Taliban were chasing them",  what date did this occur? Which city? And ideally, what was the cousin's name? And how did they know it was the Taliban (because of their dress and long beards).

Pro tip: If you don't know the street address where you stayed, list the nearest landmark, such as a mosque or a hospital.

These are often the details people skip over for the sake of finishing the application, because it all happened so long ago. But these details are needed - now and later, when you do your embassy interview. So take time to get them right. 

Check old Facebook posts for dates. Check old emails from airlines. And if all else fails, ask your mother, if you're lucky enough to still have one. Mothers remember everything.

Hacks and Tips for Schedule 2

Emotive language: One thing you may find, while editing someone's narrative, is that there are a lot of emotive or subjective phrases. "It was the most terrifying journey of my life, and I wondered when we would ever arrive." Editing is needed here. The style of these narratives is supposed to be "strictly the facts, ma'am". So rather than talking about how an event made you feel, better to describe the facts of the event itself - objectively - so that the feelings are inferred. 

Pinning down details: The applicant is unlikely to remember their flight number, years later, though it doesn't hurt to ask. As for place names, many countries in the Middle East and definitely Afghanistan are notoriously off the map. Streets don't have names, sometimes people refer to the district where they live, rather than the town, and so on. When the geographical details are murky, one thing to do is ask the applicant to try to remember the nearest landmark, which is usually a school, mosque or hospital. Just to provide at least a sense of factual detail. 

Pinning down dates: Some countries in the Middle East and definitely rural Afghanistan are also places where people don't use calendars (and definitely not Western calendars), which is why it sometimes seems like half the population was magically born on January 1. When dates are missing, encourage your applicant to make their most educated guess - at least to nail down the month and year. But for Schedule 2, Question 2 (the journey out of the home country), real dates are needed. This is where you check old emails and Facebook posts, and the other tricks described in "Section One - Writing the Narrative."

All Three Docs: Hacks and Tips for Proofreading

It's good to cross check your application forms for internal consistency. And why not? It's what the visa officers do, and which is why they build in the repetition. Since a lot of these facts are hard to confirm, at this point, the visa officers are looking for internal consistency to show that the person's story and facts line up. That's why a lot of the same information is listed in different ways on different forms - generally in table form in Schedule A, and in text form in Schedule 2.

If you're editing an application, you can use the same trick to help in your proofreading. For example, make sure the facts line up in these overlapping areas: