Immigration, Credibility & Contemporaneous Notes

Recent case-law highlights how contemporaneous notes aid in showing credibility

Case: Wei v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 982
Court: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Date of Hearing: 2019-04-01
Date of Judgment: 2019-07-24


Zhiming Wei (“WEI”) was denied permanent residence in Canada based on evidence, in part the contemporaneous notes, of an Immigration Officer (“Officer”) from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

WEI applied as a member of the Self-Employed Person class, stating that he had a net worth of approximately $20 Million dollars. WEI noted that he was an experienced television producer, publisher, and director in China and planned to establish a company in Vancouver based on this experience.

WEI was denied permanent residence.


The “Officer found that the Applicant did not have a concrete business plan regarding his self-employment in his intended destination of Vancouver to meet the definition of a Self-Employed person.”

Also, the Officer was not satisfied that WEI “had relevant experience or that he had the ability and intent to make a significant contribution to specified economic activities in Canada”.

Being able to contribute significantly to economic activities in Canada is required by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) to be granted permanent residence under the Self-Employed Person class.

Instead, the Officer “noted that it appeared that the Applicant would rely on assistance from friends and liaison companies to conduct his self-employment in Vancouver.”

WEI challenged this decision in court. However, Justice Annis dismissed the application.

Of significance was the justice’s consideration of the Officer’s notes in the decision.

Key Insights:

Here are some key insights on why you should be keeping contemporaneous notes.

Courts rely on Contemporaneous Notes

When a dispute arises between parties, contemporaneous notes detailing what happened will be relied on.

It is also important to remember that in many occupations, contemporaneous notes are expected and required.

These notes are often required since disputes can often end in court, and the court expects to be able to rely on the notes taken during or shortly after an event.

If challenged in court, one of the highest compliments you would want to hear would be the words of Judge Peter Annis in this ruling:

“[28] I completely reject any suggestion that the Officer did not appropriately discharge her duties in an independent and unbiased fashion interviewing the Applicant, or fail to take down accurate contemporaneous notes of the meeting upon which the Court may rely with confidence.”

Testifying in Courtroom

Detailed Contemporaneous Notes are vital to be seen as Credible

As mentioned numerous times in this ruling, the Officer in question took very detailed contemporaneous notes.

It is essential to realize there are two key elements in good notetaking.

There are being:

  1. Detailed
  2. Contemporaneous

Having detailed notes, in this case, was vital in supporting the conclusion of the immigration officer.

As written in this decision:

“[23] Generally, it is a very rare case where a highly self-interested applicant will be able to convince the court that a trained visa officer falsified records in his or her contemporaneous notes without very clear evidence to support the allegation. The court must defer to an employee who has developed an expertise in assessing these types of economic claims in terms of determining that there is insufficient persuasive evidence to conclude that there is a likelihood that the applicant will follow up on his business plans after obtaining permanent residency. To do otherwise would involve the court reweighing the evidence.”

The above excerpt clearly shows the value courts place on the testimony and evidence of the Officer. It also shows how the credibility of the Officer is essential to a smooth and efficient court system when dealing with immigration matters.

In this case, the Officer followed her training and produced detailed Contemporaneous Notes clearly outlining the reasons why WEI should not be granted permanent residence.

A key element to proving that notes are contemporaneous is proving when they were written.

However, PROVING when a note was written is not possible unless:

  1. An independent person witnesses the written notes, or
  2. It is saved in a system designed to timestamp the creation of the note.

This is why MS Word and OneNote should never be used to write Contemporaneous Notes.

Woman Keeping Digital Notes
Play Video

Failing to provide contemporaneous notes hurts your case.

Both sides should have their own documented evidence.

Professionals and government employees are expected to keep proper documentation; those who find themselves in court should have documentation to help bring credibility to their claims.

In this case, WEI failed to provide documentation on the work he completed in Canada to support his application for Permanent Residence. Then in the courtroom, he only offered an affidavit of his recollections of the discussion with the Officer, which were not detailed.

In the decision, it was noted that:

[26] As well, the length and detail of the Officer’s notes, most of which related to the Applicant’s failure to provide responses to questions, none of which has been provided in the aftermath, suggests that the notes properly represent the contents of the interview, such as to question the Applicant’s credibility, not that of the Officer.

Unfortunately, keeping detailed contemporaneous notes is not something most people think of doing until it is too late.

With Forensic Notes mobile (for iOS, Android, and web browsers), you can easily keep detailed contemporaneous notes while on the go.

Add documents, emails, photos, videos, or dictate or record audio notes at the time or shortly after any 

critical life event.

Detailed Contemporaneous Notes = Credibility

Forensic Notes is easy to use and ensures you can PROVE your detailed notes are contemporaneous.

Learn more at

Convinced Contemporaneous Notes Matter?
Now Read Our Best Practice Guide on Documentation.

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