Since mid-March 2020, critical operations provided by IRCC employees have continued as much as possible both remotely and in our offices.
While none of IRCC’s in-Canada processing centres have completely shut down, many Visa Application Centres and IRCC offices around the world have had to temporarily close. In many countries, these have now reopened to the public or have restarted limited processing.
IRCC has made great efforts to adapt to these challenging circumstances and continue to deliver timely services to our clients. We have ensured priority processing for vulnerable people, those seeking to reunite with their family, and people who perform or support critical services.
Despite limitations in many of our offices, we are processing applications as quickly as possible. We are also making great strides in processing more applications virtually, while emphasizing safety and security.
Thanks to our virtual citizenship ceremonies, over 43,000 clients have become new citizens between April 1, 2020 and November 4, 2020. We’ve also implemented virtual interviews in key areas for permanent resident applications, such as the in-Canada Spouse and Common-Law Partner stream.
As of October 2020, while continuing to follow guidelines and recommendations set by the Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial and local public health authorities, we have made great strides with business reintegration efforts, by gradually increasing access to worksites for employees whose work cannot be done remotely. This also allows for the distribution of files to remote workers for processing.
We are catching up to pre-COVID processing rates. In October, we completed 28,000 final decisions across all business lines, compared to 31,000 in February 2020.
Many factors remain beyond IRCC’s control. To address some of these, we have extended deadlines for clients who face delays in providing information, to ensure no application is refused due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Department has an agile and nimble workforce, which has quickly adjusted in the face of COVID-19 processing challenges. In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the Department responded by prioritizing delivery of critical services, such as:
Temporary Residence including in-Canada extensions, seasonal agricultural workers, essential and vulnerable workers.
Permanent Residence including Express Entry (Canada Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Program), spousal (in-Canada and those who are travel ban exempt), Permanent Resident Travel Document and Humanitarian and Compassionate.
Refugee/Asylum including asylum claims received by email, Privately Sponsored Refugees and Urgent Protection Program.
Citizenship including urgent proofs of citizenship and the implementation of virtual ceremonies.
Passport including urgent travel documents.
Over the spring and summer months, IRCC equipped its officers with the tools to support remote processing where possible, partially reinstating our operational capacity both in-Canada and abroad.
As of October 2020, while continuing to follow guidelines and recommendations set by the Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial and local public health authorities, the Department has moved forward with business reintegration efforts in all lines of business by gradually increasing access to worksites for employees whose work cannot be done remotely, and to support file distribution to remote workers. We are also offering limited in-person services for Citizenship, Permanent Residence, and Asylum lines of business (as of October 2020).
We have implemented adaptive measures to extend submission deadlines for clients who face delays due to COVID-19 restrictions. In other words, no application in progress will be closed or refused as a result of ongoing service disruptions related to COVID-19. While an important step in supporting our clients, this measure will further extend our processing times.
In the context of Hong Kong, our office has remained fully operational throughout the pandemic and is well positioned to continue to provide critical services to Canadians, Permanent Residents and those who will to travel or immigrate to Canada when borders reopen.
Our panel physicians in Hong Kong have also remained available throughout the pandemic to complete immigration medical exams (IMEs) for our clients.
At the outset of the pandemic, processing offices were closed and staff who were able to work remotely were focused on critical lines of business.
Currently, a portion of staff are able to work in the office to address paper caseloads, while business resumption strategies are in place to support working remotely for the majority of departmental staff.
We continue to process permanent residence applications, to the extent possible.
IRCC is working with CBSA to facilitate travel for PR applicants who are not able to travel to Canada before their confirmation of permanent residence (CoPR) expires. Clients can travel to Canada using their expired CoPR document, along with an authorization letter from IRCC advising that the CoPR validity has been extended in GCMS, but not reprinted.
From January to September 2020, IRCC has issued over 127,600 Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPRs). This is a decrease of 53% from the same period in 2019.
On March 16, 2020, landing appointments were cancelled in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. In order to continue to grant permanent residence to clients, the Department has implemented alternate procedures to enable permanent residence to be granted without the need for an in-person interview for in-Canada cases, starting April 20.
On May, 2020, an alternate method of permanent resident travel document intake, processing and document issuance was implemented. Clients are now able to email their complete applications to a designated inbox. IRCC is also working with CBSA to leverage a similar process for those requiring TRV counterfoil-less visa issuance to travel back to Canada.
Protected Person permanent resident processing was deemed a critical function early in the pandemic. As new tools and processes are introduced to facilitate remote processing of paper applications, Protected Person processing has increased.
Since the beginning of COVID-19, processing times have increased and are expected to increase further, depending on how long it takes to return to full production to ‘business as usual’.
Shortfalls from 2020 Levels are planned to be made up across the recently tabled Multi Year Levels Plan (MYLP) (2021-2023). Canada will welcome 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023.
From January to September 2020, IRCC received 19,700 Spousal Sponsorship applications. This is a decrease of 61% compared to the same period in 2019. (Note that due to COVID-19, there is a lag in PR application intake reporting).
For overseas spouses and partners, our service standard is 12 months processing. For the 12 month period ending in September 2019, the Department met its service standard in 77% of cases. For the 12 month period ending September 2020, the adherence rate was 43%.
With that said, IRCC has increased the number of decision makers on spousal applications in Canada by 66%, to process spousal applications more quickly and reduce couples’ wait times.
IRCC aims to accelerate, prioritize and finalize approximately 6,000 spousal application decisions each month from October until December 2020. Combined with processing to date, this rate will lead to about 49,000 decisions by the end of this year.
IRCC continues to accept and process temporary resident applications, though we recognize that service disruptions and travel restrictions due to COVID-19 may have an impact on processing times.
From January to September 2020, IRCC has received 216,000 initial study permit applications. An intake drop of 32% from the same time the previous year.
162,000 study permit extension applications were received in 2020 up to the end of September, which is in line with the volume received during the same period in 2019.
From January to September 2020, approximately 128,800 initial study permit applications were processed. This is a 59% decrease compared to just under 317,100 applications processed during the same time in 2019.
For study permit extensions, 183,000 have been processed this year up to the end of September. This is 18% higher than the study permit extension output during the same period in 2019.
Processing times for initial Study Permits for the 8 week period ending on September 30 2020 rose to 144 days, from 49 days in the previous year. This resulted in meeting 54% of the service standard adherence.
Study permit extension processing times were 131 days for the 8 week period ending on September 30 2020, from 43 days in 2019, resulting in achieving 76% service standard adherence.
Permanent Resident (PR) Cards
PR Card processing was paused at the beginning of the pandemic and resumed as part of business resumption in August 2020.
The current processing time for permanent resident cards (October 2019 – September 2020) is 54Footnote * days for new permanent resident cards and 126Footnote * days for renewal/replacement cards.
In 2019, processing time for permanent resident cards for the same period (October 2018 – September 2019) was 51Footnote * days for new permanent resident cards and 66Footnote * days for renewal/replacement cards.
Exemptions for Immediate and Extended Family
From October 8 to November 11, 2020 (inclusive), the Department has received nearly 38,000 emails that include written authorization requests and inquiries regarding travel restriction exemptions for immediate and extended family members of Canadians, persons registered under Canada's Indian Act, and Permanent Residents.
Approximately 30% of the requests received fall under the category of extended family members.
During that period, the Department has adjudicated over 11,000 requests, most of which were processed within the 14 business day service standards when a request containing complete information is received.
Acknowledgements of Receipt (AOR)
Due to reduced operations, IRCC’s processing offices have not been sending AORs to applicants under paper PR lines of business at our regular pace.
Where deemed necessary, modified AORs have been implemented to advise clients that their applications have been received, but have not been accepted for processing yet.
Immigration Medical Examinations (IME)
Our panel physician network is operating at 94% capacity and there are no delays for applicants to complete immigration medical exams. Our Regional Medical Offices are prepared to maintain their service standards.
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