As part of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) recently released strategy: An Immigration System for Canada’s Future, IRCC says it plans to get application processing times back to service standards for key programs and re-evaluate them.
Part of this will involve aligning application intake with available admission spaces.
The Strategy says that aligning application intake with available admissions spaces will prevent years-long waits that applicants may experience when demand for a program exceeds available spaces.
It notes that reducing wait times through admissions intake management will allow applicants and their support networks to better plan for their arrival, making it easier for them to settle and integrate in Canada.
Too many applications for certain programs
The Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) is dealing with a backlog of applications that goes back three years to the onset of the pandemic.
IRCC continued to accept applications for the PGP throughout the pandemic when the department was dealing with border closures, travel restrictions and the inability to process applications due to temporary office closures.
This was despite a limited number of visas issued through the program each year. A recent IRCC memo showed that there is currently an inventory of nearly 100,000 persons for the PGP and, as of 2023, IRCC is still working through the 2020 pool of applicants.
The PGP allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their parents and grandparents so they may live in Canada.
Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026
IRCC sets immigration targets for up to three years in its annual Immigration Levels Plan.
The most recent plan was released on November 1st and sets targets for the number of permanent residents Canada plans to admit for 2024 (485,000) to 2025 and 2026 (500,000 both years).
Canada’s immigration minister, Marc Miller, has said that the current plan aims to strengthen Canada’s economy and workforce through sustainable population growth. This is another consideration in application intake.
Most permanent resident programs, such as the PGP or the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), have a cap on the number of applications that can be submitted to IRCC and these are reflected in the Levels Plan targets.
Temporary resident programs, such as work or study permits and visitor visas, do not have a limit on the number of applications that can be submitted each year, which can lead to a backlog of applications and slower processing.
In reference to a limit on the number of study permits issued, the Minister has said that he is not in favour of caps on the number of international students in Canada.
Auditor General report
Adjusting application intake is one part of IRCC’s Strategy to improve processing times. It builds on a recent report by Canada’s Auditor General (OAG) that also examined IRCC processing times and found that they were frequently too long. It recommends that IRCC should create achievable and reliable service standards for all permanent residency programs.
It also recommended that IRCC evaluate backlogged applications to identify and act on processing delays within its control. It says the department should prioritize the finalization of older backlogged applications.
Further, the Strategy explains that IRCC plans to embrace digital tools that allow officers to process requests from global offices more effectively. The OAG report suggests that adjusting workload in regional offices to reflect capacity will also play a part.
Finally, the IRCC Strategy says it will increase the use of Advanced Analytics to automate some determinations for routine cases while ensuring there is no built-in bias.
This part of the Strategy is already in motion. In September, IRCC announced it would increase the use of Advanced Analytics in processing Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) and Work Permit Extensions.
The tools are meant to take on “clerical and repetitive tasks” involved in sorting applications by priority, which could make application intake easier to deal with. Further, these tools should give immigration officers more time to devote to applications that are deemed urgent or more complicated.
IRCC aims to process 80% of all applications within service standards, or the time that the department believes it should take to process an application.
The service standard varies depending on the type of application. For example, Express Entry applications should take no more than six months to process while family class sponsorship applications can take up to a year.
The latest data from IRCC shows that, as of September 30, there were 2,194,900 applications in inventory with 928,000 considered to be backlog (not processed within service standards).
This is a slight decrease from the 2,198,000 applications in inventory at the end of August.
The highest number of backlogged applications (585,700) in September was for temporary residence visas such as work permits, study visas and visitor visas. The number represents an 18% increase over the August data.