Fri | Jun 2, 2023

Immigration Corner | What are GCMS notes?

Published:Tuesday | March 21, 2023 | 12:14 AM

Dear Miss Powell,

I was recently refused a permanent visa and I would like to know how to order the notes and see the detailed reasons for the refusal of my application. Someone said I should request the GCMS and CSIS notes. Can you tell me how to request this? What if I do not agree with their findings? Can I appeal the case?


Dear HN,

When a visa officer reviews your file, his observations or notes about your case are placed in the Global Case Management System (GCMS). This is an electronic data management system used by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Canadian Border Services Agency to manage and keep track of various immigration applications. Immigration officers enter their notes and concerns about applications in GCMS. These notes usually form a part of an officer’s decision.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) main responsibility is to investigate activities and individuals who are suspected of being a threat to the national security of Canada. Their main responsibility is to protect all individuals who are in Canada and take steps to reduce any potential dangers to Canadians. The electronic notes kept by this department are called CSIS Notes. They refer specifically to information related to your immigration or citizenship application that is collected by CSIS.

The GCMS and CSIS notes are made up of confidential information from your application and falls under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Acts in Canada. These laws are there to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to their personal information. They govern the basis on which the government is authorised to collect, retain, use, and disclose the information that individuals have provided them, or which they may have collected from other third parties concerning the individual. These laws also outline that an individual has a right to access the personal information kept by these government institutions.


Since the GCMS notes are governed by the Access to Information Act, also known as the Privacy Act, only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and visa applicants who are in Canada can request information about the application.

You did not say what type of application was rejected. If you are outside of Canada and it was a sponsorship application for permanent residence, you should ask your sponsor to request the information on your behalf. You will need to provide a consent form called the Authority to Release Personal Information to a Designated Individual form, or a recent Use of Representative form, which can be found on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website. Your sponsor or legal representative in may then request the information on your behalf.

When requesting the information from the IRCC, the Citizenship and Immigration Department of the Canadian government, your sponsor will need to indicate their personal information, method of delivery of the notes (email/mail), and that the information is being requested under the Privacy Act/Access to Information Act. There is a fee of CDN$5.

The person applying will need to provide proof of right to access this information by providing a copy of his passport or permanent residence card. You should note that a Canadian citizen or permanent resident does not need to be physically present in Canada at the time of requesting the notes, if he has valid documents to establish his status in Canada. The application may be submitted via mail or online via website.


Under Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a foreign national may petition the Federal Court of Canada and request a review of a decision issued by the IRCC or the Immigration and Refugees Board. This can be a lengthy process, and so I recommend that you retain an immigration lawyer to assist you with obtaining the notes. Once you have the notes, discuss the merits of your case to ensure that you are able to meet the requirements for bringing a case before the Federal Court of Canada, or simply reapplying and addressing the concerns as outlined in the notes.

Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public in Canada. Send your questions and comments via, or find her on Facebook for more information about Canada’s immigration systems.