Understanding the importance of submitting translated documents with an immigration application 

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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) requires that all foreign language documents submitted in support of applications for immigration and citizenship must be accompanied by an official translation in English or French. The translation of these documents must also be completed by a certified official translator.

An applicant who fails to have their documents officially translated and certified may have their application refused or be considered incomplete.

The Case of Hasan Gorgulu

The case of Hasan Gorgulu is a worthwhile example of why it is important to ensure full accuracy and completion of foreign language document translation alongside an immigration application. Mr. Gorgulu’s case was brought before Federal Courts in January 2023. Gorgulu, a citizen of Turkey, applied for a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) to IRCC. A PRRA is an application a person may submit if they are being removed from Canada and going back to their country will put their life in danger or be at risk of persecution or cruel punishment. In support of his application, he provided three documents written in Turkish. However, although he provided copies of these documents translated to English, they were not certified.

Gorgulu’s application was therefore refused because the IRCC officer stated that the English documents were not correctly certified and were therefore not considered in his application.

Gorgulu applied for judicial review of this decision, stating that the officer’s treatment of the English documents was unreasonable, and so too was the decision to refuse his application.

The outcome of Hasan Gorgulu’s case

The Federal Court outlined that Guide 5523, created as a guide for PRRA applications states that written application submissions and any supporting documents must be provided in English or French. Any documents submitted in a non-official language must be accompanied by an official language translation, complete with a translator’s declaration. The Guide also states that documents submitted only in non-official languages will not be considered.

Additionally, the federal court states that IRCC personnel cannot be required to understand documents written in non-official languages, because IRCC personnel will not be able to assess the value of the information in the document if it isn’t in English or French.

However, the court also contends that Guide 5523 does not outline any legal requirements for IRCC. Consequently, PRRA-assessing officers are not prevented from telling applicants about issues with their documents, thereby providing them with an opportunity to fix the mistake before a decision is made. Instead, bringing an issue of this sort to the attention of an applicant is within the IRCC officer’s discretion.

Accordingly, the federal court concluded that the officer’s decision not to bring the mistake to Gorgulu’s attention was unreasonable. A reasonable officer would have concluded that this document translation issue was likely due to an oversight on the part of the translator or the lawyer who submitted the documents. In addition, the stakes for a PRRA applicant are very high, and the decision had a significant impact on the applicant’s rights and interests. Therefore, the officer’s decision failed to consider the consequences of the decision and what was at stake.

What Canadian immigrants can learn from Hasan Gorgulu’s case

Gorgulu’s case can be a lesson for all current and future Canadian immigration applicants.

Failing to provide a complete, accurate and certified translation of foreign-language documents into English or French can have dire consequences for one’s immigration application.

Any current and all prospective Canadian immigration applicants would benefit greatly from fully understanding the Canadian government’s requirements with respect to document translation prior to submitting foreign-language documents as part of their progress towards a new life in Canada.

The Government of Canada provides many online resources, including this webpage, to help Canadian immigrants fully understand their obligations with translating documents to one of Canada’s official languages before submission.

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