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If you are preparing an online application for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), you will be asked to upload supporting documents as a part of your application. This guide explains which file formats are accepted, what limits IRCC has on file size, and what to do if your files are too big.

These guidelines apply to all IRCC online applications, including temporary permit applications like International Experience Canada (IEC) or study permits, as well as permanent resident applications like Express Entry.

What file formats can I upload for my IRCC online application?

IRCC accepts the following file formats: .pdf, .tiff, .jpg, .png, .doc, and .docx. If you try to upload any other document format, the system will not allow you.

While there is no preferred file format, if you have to stitch multiple pages together, or combine Word documents and images into a single file, you might find it easiest to convert your files to PDFs and stitch them together in that format. More on stitching PDFs later.

Is there a size limit on the files I can upload to my IRCC online application?

Yes. All files uploaded must be less than 4MB in size. If you have high resolution images, you’re probably going to encounter some problems.

IRCC will often expect you to bundle multiple documents together into a single file. For example, if you are applying through Express Entry and you need to provide proof of work experience for one of your past periods of employment, you will have to provide all the documents related to that period of employment as a single file. This means that job reference letters, pay stubs, tax forms, etc., related to that one period all have to be combined into a single file.

Be sure to prepare your application in advance, as you might be surprised at the file requirements when you arrive at the uploading stage. This will give you enough time to address any issues and still submit your application before your deadline.

What if my file size is above the limit for my IRCC online application?

If your file size is above the 4MB limit imposed by IRCC, then you have to find a way to reduce the size of the file. IRCC does not allow any alternatives, so it’s up to you to figure out a solution.

There are a few ways you can reduce your file sizes. This depends on which type of file you’re working with:

PDF format

  • Create your PDF using the “lowest file size” option available.
  • If you have images, save them with a resolution of 96 DPI (dots per inch).
  • Remove unnecessary images.
  • Look below at our software recommendations for reducing PDF file size.

JPG format

  • Scan at a lower resolution (96 DPI).
  • Remove empty space around images.
  • Shrink the image.
  • Reduce the JPG image quality.
  • Look below at our software recommendations for reducing JPG file size.

TIFF and PNG format

  • JPG files are often smaller file sizes than TIFF and PNG, so try saving your image as a JPG instead.
  • Scan your document at a lower resolution (96 DPI).
  • Crop the image to remove any empty space around it.
  • Shrink the image.

DOC and DOCX format

  • Remove unnecessary images, formatting, and macros.
  • Reduce the file size of any images before they are added to the document.
  • If it is still too large, save the file as a PDF.

What software/programs can help me reduce file size for my IRCC online application?

Yes. One free software that is highly useful for this is called PDF24. PDF24 allows you to convert other file formats to PDF, stitch documents together, and reduce file size. There is an online version of the tool, as well as a free software that can be downloaded by Windows users.

The Adobe Creative Cloud, a suite of editing programs, is particularly useful in this process as well. However, the Adobe Suite is not free, so you would need a membership to use these programs.

  • Adobe Acrobat allows you to edit PDFs, altering individual pages, stitching documents together, and changing file size.
  • Adobe Photoshop will allow you to save and resave images (TIFF, PNG, JPG) as different file formats with different sizes, so this can be useful for reducing the size of your images.

Can I upload an excel file (xls, xlsx) as a part of my IRCC online application?

No. At this time you cannot upload excel documents as a part of your IRCC online application.

If at any time you are concerned about your application, consider reaching out for expert advice, especially if you’re at the final stages of a big application. We recommend a handful of excellent Canadian immigration consultants who have experience preparing and submitting applications. We suggest contacting one of the consultants listed here to help you.

About the author

Rebecca Major profile picture
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Rebecca Major

Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (R511564) with nearly 15 years of licenced Canadian Immigration experience, gained after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in the UK. She specializes in Canadian immigration at Moving2Canada.
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