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Procedural Fairness Letter 

A procedural fairness letter, also known as a right to be heard letter, is an important document issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). It is sent to applicants who are undergoing an immigration process, informing them of their rights to be treated fairly and given the opportunity to make their case. This letter is crucial for ensuring that all applicants have the opportunity to make a fair and equitable case for their application.

What it is a Procedural Fairness Letter?


A Procedural Fairness Letter (PFL) is a formal document issued by IRCC, giving the applicant the opportunity to respond to a concern about the documents that have been submitted in their visa application.

This letter is part of the administrative fairness process and is used in situations where the IRCC has concerns or issues with an application that may lead to its refusal. Here are some key aspects of a PFL:

  1. Notification of Concern: A PFL is sent to notify the applicant of specific concerns that IRCC has identified with their immigration or visa application. These concerns could relate to eligibility, admissibility, or the integrity of the information provided.

  2. Opportunity for Response: The primary purpose of the PFL is to provide the applicant with a fair opportunity to respond to the concerns raised. This is in line with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness, ensuring that applicants have a chance to rectify or explain any issues before a final decision is made.

  3. Details of Concerns: The letter typically details the specific aspects of the application that are problematic. This could include issues like discrepancies in the application, insufficient evidence, concerns about credibility, or possible misrepresentation.

  4. Time Frame for Response: The PFL will stipulate a deadline by which the applicant must respond. This time frame is crucial, and failing to provide a response within this period could result in the application being refused based on the information available.

  5. Potential Outcomes: Depending on the response and the information provided by the applicant, the IRCC will make a final decision. A satisfactory response can lead to the approval of the application, while an unsatisfactory response or no response can result in refusal.

  6. Legal Implications: Given its significance, responding to a PFL often requires careful consideration and, in many cases, legal advice from professionals knowledgeable in Canadian immigration law.


In summary, a Procedural Fairness Letter is a critical step in the Canadian immigration process, serving as both a warning of potential issues with an application and an opportunity for the applicant to address those issues before a final decision is reached.

Why is a procedural fairness letter important?

A procedural fairness letter is an important communication tool used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). It is sent to applicants when an officer detects an issue that may lead to a refusal but deems it necessary to put the applicant on notice of this specific concern. By providing a procedural fairness letter, IRCC is ensuring that all applicants are given an opportunity to explain their case, as well as to provide additional information or documents that could support their application. A procedural fairness letter is a crucial step in ensuring that the immigration process is fair and transparent for all applicants.

In a nutshell, a procedural fairness letter (PFL) is a final opportunity the visa officer has given you to clarify any concerns they might have regarding your application. If you do not respond to it properly, your application will most likely be refused.

Why is a Procedural Fairness Letter (PFL) issued?

Applicants have the right to a decision that is fair and impartial. The courts have stated that even the possibility or perception of bias must be avoided. 

When a decision affects an individual, that individual has the right to know the facts of the case and must be given a fair chance to respond.

The "right to be heard" requires that the applicant be informed of significant facts that are likely to affect the application's outcome. For example, if a decision-maker relies on extrinsic evidence (evidence obtained from sources other than the applicant), the applicant must be informed and given an opportunity to respond to such evidence.

To ensure that the applicant has a meaningful opportunity to participate, decision-makers must provide adequate notice of any process or interview that may result in a decision on their application, as well as a reasonable opportunity for the applicant to bring evidence or make arguments in support of their application. Decision-makers should inform applicants about any documents that may be required to address concerns. Interview invitation letters should include enough information to allow applicants to prepare. If any additional concerns arise during an interview, decision-makers should give the applicant an opportunity to address those concerns, either during the interview or afterward, via a procedural fairness letter.

The right to be heard does not always imply the right to an interview, though in some cases, an interview may be the best way to proceed. If an applicant is interviewed, he or she should be allowed to bring an interpreter or, in some cases, should be provided with one.

A Procedural Fairness Letter - PFL is issued so that the applicants: 

  • receive a fair and unbiased evaluation of their application

  • are made aware of the concerns that the assessing officer has;

  • are given a meaningful opportunity to respond to concerns about their application

Here are some examples of why a procedural fairness letter may be issued

  • Spousal Sponsorship - Genuineness of relationship or marriage of convenience under subsection 12(1) and subsection 4(1)

One of the most common reasons a couple may receive a PFL is when an assessing officer is not certain whether the couple meets the eligibility requirements of the spousal sponsorship application for a spouse, common-law partner or a conjugal partner. 


For example, your marriage is not recognized in Canada. You did not declare your or your partners' dependents on the application. You did not provide substantial proof of relationship. Another reason could be that you are presently not living inside Canada and have stated otherwise when applying for an inland spousal sponsorship. A major factor that contributes to receiving a PFL is the fact that you and your partner have not submitted enough proof of trying to cohabit if you are in a conjugal relationship and have applied for outland sponsorship.


  • Misrepresentation - subsection 40(1) of IRPA

40 (1) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible for misrepresentation

(a) for directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of this Act;

(b) for being or having been sponsored by a person who is determined to be inadmissible for misrepresentation;

(c) on a final determination to vacate a decision to allow their claim for refugee protection or application for protection; or

(d) on ceasing to be a citizen under

(i) paragraph 10(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act, as it read immediately before the coming into force of section 8 of the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, in the circumstances set out in subsection 10(2) of the Citizenship Act, as it read immediately before that coming into force,

(ii) subsection 10(1) of the Citizenship Act, in the circumstances set out in section 10.2 of that Act, or

(iii) subsection 10.1(3) of the Citizenship Act, in the circumstances set out in section 10.2 of that Act.


(2) The following provisions govern subsection (1):

(a) the permanent resident or the foreign national continues to be inadmissible for misrepresentation for a period of five years following, in the case of a determination outside Canada, a final determination of inadmissibility under subsection (1) or, in the case of a determination in Canada, the date the removal order is enforced; and

(b) paragraph (1)(b) does not apply unless the Minister is satisfied that the facts of the case justify the inadmissibility.


Section 40 applies to the following immigration applications whether they are made abroad, at a port of entry or from within Canada:

  • Applications for permanent residence

  • Applications for visas for permanent resident status

  • Applications for temporary residence

  • Applications for work and study permits, and for

  • Renewals and extensions of status

Under subsection 40(1) of IRPA, if IRCC believes the applicant was not accurate in their application, they may decide the applicant misrepresented themselves. This might happen if someone purposefully (or unintentionally) put inaccurate information on the forms or fake documents. Inadmissibility for Misrepresentation and a 5-year ban from Canada may occur from a simple failure to declare a prior visa refusal for the USA, Australia, or another nation on an application. When evaluating an application, IRCC occasionally errs on the side of caution. To avoid the application being rejected and being barred from Canada, this issue must be stated sufficiently.

  • Medical Inadmissibility - If IRCC determines that a person's medical condition will result in a disproportionate demand for health care or social service costs that exceed $20,517 CAD annually, the person may be deemed medically inadmissible to Canada. Due to the age of the elderly parents, this occurs frequently on applications for parental sponsorship and occasionally on other petitions for permanent residence. The Procedural Fairness Letter requires a proper response, as well as a secondary opinion or diagnoses, a medical plan, and other supporting documentation.

  • Criminal Inadmissibility - An applicant may be found to be criminally inadmissible to Canada if they have a criminal history from Canada or another country. This can prevent them (and other family members included in the application) from obtaining permanent resident status or a temporary resident visa, and the application may be rejected. People frequently are unaware that if one non-accompanying family member (such as a husband) has a medical or criminal concern, it could hinder the complete family (the other spouse and children) from acquiring permanent residence.

  • Express Entry or Skilled Immigration - IRCC may issue a PFL for an Express Entry application for a variety of reasons. Most problems stem from inadequate documentation of work experience (using the wrong NOC, employment letter not listing duties). Other explanations could be due to medical conditions, criminal activity, fabrications, or problems with dependents on the application (proving the relationship of spouse or children).

Responding to a Procedural Fairness Letter

Responding to a procedural fairness letter is essential for any application for immigration to Canada. The officer may give a specific amount of time, such as seven days or 30 days, to respond to the letter. It is important to take full advantage of this opportunity to address the officer’s concerns. Here are some guidelines on how to respond:

  1. Understand the Reason for the Letter: Procedural fairness letters are issued for various reasons, including concerns about the genuineness of your marriage, admissibility to Canada on criminality or medical grounds, or potential misrepresentation in your application. These letters provide a crucial opportunity to submit detailed explanations or evidence in support of your application. 

    • Dispelling or refuting the officer's concerns - When you receive a PFL for misrepresentation, there is no room for error. At this point, the officer usually has enough evidence to support their decision for refusal. However, if you truly believe they are incorrect, present documentation to back up your claims. In most cases, the standard of proof is reasonable grounds to believe. As a result, please do your best to persuade the officer that their concerns are unfounded. However, maintain a professional and respectful demeanor at all times. DO NOT disrespect the officers knowledge and concerns.

  2. Provide Detailed and Factual Responses: It's important to submit a detailed response with strong factual arguments. This is your chance to clarify or respond to any concerns applicable to your file. The response should be sufficiently detailed and thoroughly address the concerns of the officer, including potential concerns that have not been identified. 

    • Accepting responsibility for your mistakes - Honesty is your best policy. Admit that you made mistakes and clarify why you did what you did (knowingly or unknowingly). However, don't expect a happy ending in these situations. When you agree with the officer's concerns in a procedural fairness letter, your best bet is to offer alternative options. Consider hiring a licensed practitioner to help you handle these issues professionally and truthfully.

  3. Address Specific Concerns Raised: The letter will outline specific concerns that the officer has with your application. It's important to directly address each of these points in your response. 

  4. Include Supporting Documents: Where applicable, include any additional documentation that supports your case and addresses the concerns raised in the letter. 

  5. Respond within the Given Deadline: Procedural fairness letters usually require a response within a set period, often 30 days. It's crucial to adhere to this timeline to avoid negative implications for your application. 

  6. Consider the Potential for Requesting an Extension: In complicated cases, you might be able to request an extension of time to provide a response. However, this should be considered carefully and done only if necessary. 

  7. Withdrawing your application - Most of the time, a request to withdraw after getting a PFL is too late. The officer might not consider it. But the complexity of the case may make you decide to go this way. Rarely, they will agree to what you want and close your application. The information in your application will still be there, though. So, you'll have to address the problems in future applications. No matter what, be honest and forthcoming. 

  8. Seek Professional Assistance: Given the seriousness of the situation and potential consequences, such as being barred from entering Canada, it is often recommended to seek professional help in preparing your response. Legal professionals experienced in immigration law can provide valuable assistance in ensuring that your response is comprehensive and addresses all concerns raised by IRCC.

A properly composed response, which cites relevant laws and case precedents, and is supported by evidence, may help prevent the application from being refused. It may also increase the chances of success if an applicant seeks redress in venues such as the Federal Court.

Anonymized Examples: Responding to Procedural Fairness Letters in Canadian Immigration Law


Case Study 1: Effective Response to a Procedural Fairness Letter

Scenario: Emma, a skilled worker applicant, received a Procedural Fairness Letter questioning the authenticity of her work experience. The letter noted discrepancies in her employment dates and job duties.

Response: Emma promptly gathered additional evidence, including detailed employment letters, pay stubs, and reference letters from her supervisors. She provided a clear explanation for the discrepancies, which were due to a clerical error in her initial application. Emma submitted this information well within the deadline.

Outcome: After reviewing her response, IRCC accepted the clarification and additional documents. Emma's application proceeded without further issues.

Lesson Learned: Timely and thorough responses with adequate supporting documentation can effectively address the concerns raised in a Procedural Fairness Letter, helping to clarify misunderstandings and move the application process forward.

Case Study 2: Ineffective Response to a Procedural Fairness Letter

Scenario: John, applying for family sponsorship, received a letter expressing concerns about the genuineness of his marriage. The letter cited limited evidence of cohabitation and shared financial responsibilities.

Response: John provided a brief letter asserting that his marriage was genuine but failed to submit additional evidence. He missed addressing specific concerns about cohabitation and financial interdependence.

Outcome: Due to the lack of substantive response, IRCC concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove the genuineness of the marriage. John's application was refused.

Lesson Learned: Merely asserting the genuineness of a relationship is not sufficient. A response must directly address each concern raised and be supported by relevant, concrete evidence.

Case Study 3: Successful Clarification of Misunderstanding

Scenario: Sarah, a student visa applicant, received a Procedural Fairness Letter questioning her intention to leave Canada after her studies. The concern was based on her previous travel history and family ties in Canada.

Response: Sarah responded with a detailed letter explaining her strong ties to her home country, including her career plans, family obligations, and property ownership. She also clarified her travel history, emphasizing the temporary nature of her previous visits to Canada.

Outcome: IRCC was satisfied with the response, which demonstrated Sarah's intent to return to her home country after her studies. Her student visa was granted.

Lesson Learned: A well-reasoned and detailed response, addressing specific concerns and supported by evidence, can dispel doubts about an applicant's intentions.

Sample PFL for Misrepresentation

PFL - Misrepresentation

Response to Procedural Fairness Letter - Analysis and Draft

1. Acknowledgment of the Letter

  • Opening: Acknowledge receipt of the PFL and express your intent to address the concerns raised.


2. Addressing Concerns About Visa and eTA Refusals

  • Clarification: Provide a clear explanation as to why the previous refusals (TRV and eTA in 2022) were not disclosed in your application. If it was an oversight or misunderstanding, state this explicitly.

  • Documentation: If you have any documentation regarding the previous refusals, such as refusal letters or emails, include them. This will demonstrate transparency and willingness to rectify the oversight.


3. Clarifying Employment History Discrepancies

  • Detailed Employment History: Present a complete and accurate account of your employment history. If the discrepancies are due to errors or misunderstandings, clarify these points.

  • Supporting Evidence: Attach any supporting documents, such as employment letters, contracts, pay slips, or tax documents, that can verify your employment history.


4. Assertion of Honesty and Integrity

  • Statement of Integrity: Assert that there was no intention to misrepresent or withhold information in your application. Emphasize your commitment to honesty and compliance with immigration procedures.


5. Conclusion and Request for Reconsideration

  • Summary: Summarize your responses and reiterate your request for the officer to reconsider your application in light of the provided explanations and documents.

  • Thankfulness: Express gratitude for the opportunity to clarify your situation.


6. Attachments

  • List of Enclosures: Clearly list all the documents you are attaching with your response.


Draft Example


[IRCC Officer’s Name]
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada


Subject: Response to Procedural Fairness Letter regarding Temporary Resident Visa Application


Dear [IRCC Officer’s Name],


I am writing in response to the Procedural Fairness Letter dated [Date of PFL], concerning my application for a Temporary Resident Visa. I appreciate the opportunity to address the concerns raised in the letter.


Regarding the non-disclosure of my previous TRV and eTA refusals in 20XX, this was an unintended oversight and not an attempt to misrepresent my application. I have enclosed copies of the refusal notifications for these applications for your reference.


As for the inconsistencies in my employment history, I have provided a detailed account of my employment history with supporting documents. These include employment letters and other relevant proofs that accurately reflect my work experience.


I assure you that it was never my intention to misrepresent any information in my application. My goal has always been to provide accurate and complete information to the best of my knowledge.


I respectfully request that you reconsider my application for a Temporary Resident Visa in light of this additional information. Thank you for considering my response.



[Your Full Name]
[Your Contact Information]
[Application ID]



  1. Copy of TRV Refusal Notification - 20XX

  2. Copy of eTA Refusal Notification - 20XX

  3. Detailed Employment History Documentation


Q: Who typically issues a Procedural Fairness Letter?

A: A Procedural Fairness Letter is typically issued by a government agency or a regulatory body. It is often used in immigration matters and is issued when the decision-making authority is considering a negative decision based on information that the applicant may not be aware of.


Q: When can one expect to receive a Procedural Fairness Letter?

A: A Procedural Fairness Letter is usually sent when the decision-making authority has concerns about an application or a case, and the applicant or the person involved is given an opportunity to respond to these concerns before a final decision is made.


Q: What should be included in the response to a Procedural Fairness Letter?

A: The response to a Procedural Fairness Letter should address all the concerns raised in the letter. It should provide detailed and factual information, and may include supporting documents or evidence to substantiate the claims made in the response.

Q: How long does one have to respond to a Procedural Fairness Letter?

A: The time to respond to a Procedural Fairness Letter can vary depending on the issuing authority and the nature of the case. However, it is generally a short period, often around 30 days.

Q: What happens if one does not respond to a Procedural Fairness Letter?

A: If a Procedural Fairness Letter is not responded to within the given time frame, the decision-making authority may proceed with making a decision based on the information they have, which could potentially be unfavorable.

Q: Can a Procedural Fairness Letter be challenged?

A: A Procedural Fairness Letter itself cannot be challenged as it is not a decision but a part of the decision-making process. However, the final decision made after the response to the letter can be challenged or appealed.

Q: Is it necessary to hire a lawyer to respond to a Procedural Fairness Letter?

A: While it's not mandatory to hire a lawyer to respond to a Procedural Fairness Letter, it can be beneficial due to the legal complexities involved. A lawyer can help articulate a response that adequately addresses the concerns raised in the letter.

Q: Can a Procedural Fairness Letter be issued more than once in a case?

A: Yes, a Procedural Fairness Letter can be issued more than once in a case if new concerns arise during the decision-making process that the applicant needs to be made aware of and respond to.

Q: What is the purpose of a Procedural Fairness Letter?

A: The purpose of a Procedural Fairness Letter is to ensure that the decision-making process is transparent and fair. It gives the person involved an opportunity to respond to any concerns or adverse information that may affect the outcome of their case.

Q: What should one do upon receiving a Procedural Fairness Letter?

A: Upon receiving a Procedural Fairness Letter, one should carefully review the concerns raised in the letter, gather any necessary information or documents, and prepare a detailed response addressing each concern. It is also advisable to seek legal advice if needed.

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