Document retention/digitization and disposition

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

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Principles guiding the retention and disposal of documents

When deciding whether to retain or dispose of a document related to a permanent or temporary residence application, migration offices should consider:

Migration offices should review the documents that clients submit with their applications to ensure that only documents that are relevant to the processing of the application are included in the application package. Migration offices should look for administrative opportunities to dispose of unneeded documents. Where possible, decisions on retention or disposal of documents should be made only when an application is finalized.

Retention periods vary depending on application outcome. Consult the relevant retention and disposition schedules (available internally only) to determine the relevant retention period and/or contact IM-Operations for repatriation assistance.

Documentation such as permanent resident counterfoils, confirmation of permanent residence, temporary resident permits, Quebec Acceptance Certificates (CAQs) and Quebec Selection Certificates (CSQs) should not be retained on finalized files. Relevant details from these documents should be recorded in the Global Case Management System (GCMS).

Migration offices should digitize documents where possible. Digitized documentation on approved and refused files is only admissible if the documentation has been digitized in accordance with IRCC’s Digitization Framework. Original copies of documentation can only be disposed of if proper digitization procedures are followed. Please consult the Digitization Manual for IRCC (available internally only) for detailed requirements. If digitization procedures are not followed, the scanned documentation is inadmissible in court proceedings under section 31 of the Canada Evidence Act.

Library and Archives Canada requires that the paper file be retained where an applicant might have been involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Guidelines for the retention and disposal of documents

During processing

Documents that support routine processing are not to be filed.

Examples of such documents include:

The date of receipt and nature of contents, where applicable, are to be recorded in GCMS notes.

The officer’s record of information from returned or discarded documents must be sufficiently detailed to permit another officer to continue processing the application or to respond to representations. Officers must also ensure that GCMS notes record any relevant information that may be used in administrative or judicial proceedings should a refusal be appealed. After their receipt has been recorded, the documents are either discarded or, if they are originals, they are returned to the applicant.

Officers may keep contentious or questionable documents on file during processing. If officers rely on a document to refuse an application, they must digitize it and save it in GCMS.

Officers must retain all evidence of an applicant’s involvement in war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Following finalization

For those migration offices that have the capability, contents of files may be digitized, except for documents relating to an applicant’s involvement in war crimes or crimes against humanity. These documents are to be kept for 5 years and then forwarded to Library and Archives Canada. The IMM 0008E form may be digitized, except in the case of applications by persons involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Where appropriate, digitizing of documents should immediately follow finalization.

Information management will contact them for details and provide the required support. Migration offices should be prepared to provide the number of files, types of files and status of files. Information management will provide guidance, including templates to be used to list files returning to Canada. Information management will also provide proper box sizes to use and instructions on how to organize files in those boxes.

Information management can provide guidance regarding digitization standards to help offices officially transform the file from physical to digital and ultimately destroy the paper copy. If the digitization standard has not been applied while the file was scanned, the physical file remains the original and must be kept to be managed throughout its lifecycle.

Digitizing versus scanning

Digitization is IRCC’s certified process by which a physical document of business value is transformed into a digital image. A digitized image mirrors the physical document’s reliability, integrity and authenticity. Therefore, if the document is required for legal purposes, it is admissible as evidence as the official document. Also, in following the digitization process, you are able to destroy the source document. If a document is scanned, you cannot destroy the source document.

Scanning is a non-certified process where the physical document is converted to a digital image. It is essentially just making a copy of the original. Creating a digital image by scanning is not permitted for transforming any IRCC documents of business value.

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