WRITING THE APPLICATION
The Moment Arrives
After weeks or months of working on your application to privately sponsor a refugee to Canada, you are near the final goal of submitting the files to Canadian immigration. Who knows, maybe you even followed the other steps (one, two, three and four) of this handy guide, and are ready for post #5 – this one!
But wait: is it really ready? First, it’s always good to use an extra pair of eyes to read it over. You may ask a friend who has done it before to help. Or consider reaching out to the experts at the RSTP.
If you are indeed happy that the application is as strong as it can be, it’s time to package it and get it ready for sending. And that itself can be a pretty involved job – it takes 3 hours minimum. So let’s begin.
Packaging the documents: mail vs email
The first big question when it comes to finalizing your document is to decide: mail or email. Since the advent of the covid-19 pandemic, this decision is easy, since only e-submissions are allowed.
That said, if the rules change again and you do want to submit the application by snail mail, packaging is relatively easy. Just make sure the documents are printed and signed. And the passport-style photos are stamped, signed and dated by a photo studio (more on the photo requirements below).
By the numbers
The goal is to send the application in the form of 7 PDFs.
Each individual PDF can be no larger than 5 megabytes.
And each email to immigration cannot be above 10 megabytes - but even emails of 9 megabytes in size will be rejected automatically, so aim for 8 megs maximum.
That means you'll probably have to send 2-4 emails ("Email 1 of 4") to submit the application. But more on that below!
Turning images into scans: fun with Photoshop
There’s a certain art to scanning and packaging the IDs and translations that make up the bulk of the supporting documents. The final product should be:
on a white background
in a PDF that’s 8.5 x 11″ in size
at 200 DPI
In other words, they should be properly scanned – which may be difficult for some applicants. It’s tough to find a Kinko’s store when you’re living in detention on a tropical island.
If someone is detained or has left their key documents back home, we may be stuck with poor quality images taken on a cell phone, with a Persian rug or kitchen table as the backdrop. In that case, time to start Photoshopping. Here’s a typical process of turning a bad cell phone image of an ID into the semblance of a scan:
Crop the image to get rid of the Persian rug or kitchen table in the background. Hopefully the edges of the ID are showing – all four of them
Use the ‘free transform tool‘ to restore the document to right angles, if it has been taken from the side.
Use the eraser or paint tool to get rid of any remaining bits of Persian rug in the background.
Recrop the image, with the crop set at 8.5 x 11, so that it now sits on a white page, at lifelike size.
Add a helpful title at the top to explain what this document is
Resave the resulting image at 200 DPI, at 8.5 x 11″
The result is something like this (with a grey border added for your own viewing clarity):
And then you'll probably want to compress the documents to keep them under the file size limit. If you use this handy file compression tool, select a DPI of 400 or 500, and an image quality of 50, which produces the best results. Or you can try this other compression tool and try your luck.
In a perfect world, you would send the final application to the applicant to sign when the documents are all good and done. Since that's often hard to pull off, we often ask people to take pictures of their signatures and apply them to the documents ourselves in Photoshop.
Getting the signature: Ask the applicant to sign his or her name on a piece of white paper. If possible, use black marker, since these signatures tend to be hard to read when shrunk down to the small size required by the documents.
Cleaning it up: Once you have that image, you may need Photoshop (cropping, paint bucket to add pure white, changing the contrast and brightness to sharpen the image) to turn an image like this:
Sponsor documents - the settlement plan
One of the biggest things that Canadian immigration wants to know when assessing an application, is the legitimacy and capability of the settlement team. The point is to make sure that the refugees will be properly cared for when they arrive in Canada, and for the first year after that. The sponsor documents required to establish this are:
The settlement plan or undertaking: these take different forms depending on the type of sponsorship it is, whether SAH - which separates the Undertaking from the Settlement Plan - or if it's Community Sponsor or Group of Five.
Note that in recent months, Group of Five applications are getting approved faster than CS submissions. Even though the G5 route requires more upfront paperwork, it may be the better way to go.
The settlement plan and undertaking really involve a lot of careful thought. You're probably smart to look at a successful settlement plan / undertaking that someone else has written, and use that as your inspiration.
For the financials section of the settlement plan, use this handy RSTP costs table to get the basic numbers right.
The rest of the settlement plan is there to help you prove that you have your s*** together when it comes to helping the newcomer get settled. That includes stating who on your team is taking on which settlement responsibilities, and which local organizations you will use if needed.
Section D, Question 3 (on the G5 settlement plan): As sponsors, you must plan and make arrangements for any additional needs of the refugee(s)....
This question is important! One very important - and often overlooked - thing you should add here: briefly list the members of your settlement team, what they do in life ('retired teacher') and how they are uniquely suited for taking on settlement duties ('strong experience in accounting and the banking sector').
Also how you know the refugee, and how you involved the refugee in the settlement planning. "Person X has indicated they prefer to live in this neighbourhood, since it is close to a cultural centre for his community / soccer pitch / settlement services.
The immigration officer reading your file wants to know that you have a real connection to the person you're sponsoring - and have the capacity to settle them.
Bonus tip: You are more than welcome to use settlement and career services to help the person you're sponsoring. You are not expected to do it all yourself!
Sponsor documents - for the individual co-sponsors
As part of the sponsor package, there are the documents that the individual team members need to fill out. These are the standard docs:
The sponsor assessment: A simple form listing your name and a checklist establishing that you aren't a murderer. Make sure you type this out (rather than using handwriting), sign it and scan it.
Passport or PR card: Yes, you can sponsor someone with just a PR card - no passport needed - as long as you're not in the first year of your own sponsorship to Canada. Aim for a clear scan on a white background.
Police check: These are fairly easy to order and pay for. In Toronto they look like this- and note that you just need 'level one'.
Making it transparent: Now use a basic photo manipulation software like Microsoft Paint (built onto every Windows machine) to resave the image as a PNG. And then using this handy website, convert the PNG to a transparent image. Now it's ready to be added to the document - once you have converted the document to an image. More on that below.
Signature sizes: If you've been keeping the documents at 200 DPI and 8.5 x 11 inches, you'll want the signatures also at 200 DPI. Here is the height of the boxes for some of the main documents. But if you have made the signatures transparent, you can safely go bigger:
Generic: 48 pixels high
Schedule A: 95 pixels high
Schedule 2: 70 pixels high
Sponsor assessment: 82 pixels high
Getting documents ready for the signature
Is the document really done? Have you had a friend - who knows how to write these things - look it over, and maybe even shared it with the experts at the RSTP? Great! Now it's time to get the documents ready for the last step, which is to apply the signatures of the applicants and sponsors.
Here's how to do it:
Print the document
Scan it, so it gets emailed to you as a PDF, with the last (signature) page as one PDF, and the rest of the document as another
Convert the PDF of the signature page to a JPEG using this nifty program
Open the JPEG in Photoshop and resize the document at 8.5 x 11", 200 DPI
Open the signature which should be transparent at close to the sizes listed above.
Put the signature in the right place
Merge the layers, so the signature is part of the image
Resave the image as a PDF
Combine the (now signed) signature page with the rest of the document using this same nifty program
Compress the (now huge) resulting PDF using this nifty program. Choose DPI 500, image quality 50. Or you can try your luck with this one. The key is to make the file small enough to send, but not so compressed they look crappy.
Important fact: No single attachment can be bigger than 5 megs in size, and the entire email cannot exceed 10 megs.
Putting it together
Once you've combined the documents, open the PDF to make sure it looks okay. One classic mistake you'll notice is that it jumps around as you scroll, from big to small pages and back again. That means you saved one of your documents at varying sizes. If you stick to the same specs (we usually use 8.5 x 11" at 200 DPI), you should avoid this problem.
The final package
Now you need to recombine the documents in the way that immigration likes. You even have to name the files in them strange and specific ways. Namely, "PA" + LAST NAME IN CAPS + first name = name of file type. So the result would be:
PA SMITH, John - IMM0008 Signature Page.pdf
PA SMITH, John - IMM0008.pdf
PA SMITH, John - Schedules.pdf
PA SMITH, John - Supporting Documentation.pdf
PA SMITH, John - Refugee Photo.pdf
PA SMITH, John - Sponsor Documents.pdf
PA SMITH, John - Proof of funds.pdf
Remember, no single attachment can be above 6 megs in size.
Once the package is done and done, it's ready to send! If you're writing up an email, here's one way to write it:
Note that the whole weird "PA LAST NAME, First Name" convention is still in effect - in the subject line and in the email itself. Make sure your emails don't exceed the 10 (actually 8) megabyte limit.
Are you ready? Hold your breath. Finger shaking. Send to...
If you're mailing it, here's where the Community Sponsor applications go:
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Resettlement Operations Centre in Ottawa (ROC-O)
Community Sponsor Unit
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1A 1L1
Same address for the other types of sponsorships, just swap out the bold line for this:
Sponsorship Agreement Holder Unit
Group of Five Unit
The first thing you'll get is an automatic response indicating that your file has been received. That should come quickly.
As for the next steps, they are fodder for another post. Let's just say this much now:
G number - these take anywhere from a day to a year to arrive. They're a tracking number that allows you to check the progress of your application.
Bonus tip: Remember to select 'Application number/case number' in the dropdown menu, and have the applicants' date and country of birth handy as well.
You can overuse this website - some people drive themselves crazy by checking their online status daily. No need! All the important updates will be sent by Immigration via email - both to the refugee and their sponsors.
Milestones you can expect to find in this tracking website:
We received your application for permanent residence on x date.
We started processing your application on x date.
Your application has been sent to the overseas embassy.
Medical results have been received.
Check here for more details on typical timelines.
For now, let's just take a break, and appreciate all the hard work we've done this far.
We've come a long way!