CIMM – Citizenship and Passport – February 15 & 17, 2022
IRCC has innovated significantly over the past 20 months and modernized citizenship and passport processes towards virtual and online services.
Modernization has included the implementation of video citizenship oath ceremonies, the online citizenship knowledge test, the electronic citizenship grant and proof applications and the self-serve citizenship application status tracker, as well as piloting an online passport intake solution for Canadians to securely access passport services online.
Since April 2021, over 122,000 clients have become citizens and more than 188,000 clients have taken the online citizenship test.
Passport Program continues to deliver services throughout the pandemic. We have adapted our services to align with health and safety protocols. From April to October 2021, passport services were delivered 88.2% within service standards.
Citizenship Application Status Tracker
On May 10, 2021, the Department launched a new online tool enabling citizenship clients to check the status of their grant application as it moves through the application process to the citizenship ceremony.
Up to November 30, 2021, over 466,000 citizenship grant applicants have been invited to create an account and IRCC continues to work on enhancements to the tool based on client feedback. To date, more than 416,000 clients have activated Citizenship Tracker accounts, representing an 89% uptake.
Citizenship backlog and processing times
Due to interruptions in processing at the beginning of the pandemic, the grant inventory has grown from around 211,000 pre-pandemic to 456,000 as of November 30, 2021. Processing times have grown from 15 months pre-pandemic to 25 months.
To mitigate backlog growth, the Department has implemented and expanded several measures, including the online test in November 2020, video oath ceremonies in May 2020, and further initiatives to streamline processes. The grant e-application was also expanded on August 11, 2021 to all adult clients applying individually in order to minimize growth of the paper inventory, and facilitate remote processing and work-sharing.
We have made progress, processing more applications and moving people through the system faster. IRCC is now able to invite approximately 5,000 clients per week to complete the online citizenship test, which exceeds pre-COVID-19 in-person testing rates.
Between April 1 and November 30, 2021, more than 104,000 applicants have attended video oath ceremonies. The Department is inviting approximately 3,500 to 5,000 applicants weekly to do the Oath virtually which is comparable to in-person event volumes pre-COVID-19.
The online citizenship test has allowed aspiring Canadians to continue on their path to citizenship despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. As of November 30, 2021, more than 166,000 tests have been completed.
An important aspect of holding online events is the verification of applicants’ identities to maintain the integrity of the program.
In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action 94, Bill C-8 was introduced and received Royal Assent on June 21, 2021. Canada’s Oath of Citizenship now recognizes the rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
Additional citizenship innovations
The Department formally launched online Proof of Citizenship and Search of Records e-applications on November 5, 2021, after a soft launch before the pandemic. The Department is also in the process of developing an electronic Citizenship Certificate solution.
Online passport application
The first stage of a small-scale controlled pilot has begun for online applications and is open to a select group of passport renewal applicants. The pilot tests the solution with a small known client group to perfect it before expanding to a wider audience.
Application processing will continue to be done in the departmental passport issuance system where all existing checks and verifications are conducted on a client’s eligibility, identity and entitlement to a Canadian passport. The privacy of Canadians and the security of their personal information is a top priority.
In July 2021, passport services resumed at all Service Canada Centres and walk-in services resumed at Passport Office locations (34 Passport Offices and 308 Service Canada Centres), but Omicron has meant that some offices are back to mail-in or by appointment services only since December 2021.
Global Affairs Canada’s network abroad has continued to provide passport and citizenship services throughout the pandemic. However, the availability of in-person services are at times limited due to local public health restrictions. An online appointment booking system helps some offices abroad effectively manage capacity limits while continuing to deliver services.
New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan on passport fee-free extension.
Orders-in-council have been pursued in the past to assist clients affected by very specific circumstances (e.g., emergency situations. However, these measures have all focused on waiving fees for replacement documents with the same expiry date, and not on extending the validity of existing documents. In compliance with the international standards for travel documents, Canada cannot extend passport validity. This requirement is set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The integrity and reputation of the Canadian passport, and its interoperability with international border-control systems, would be put at risk should Canada contravene these standards.
New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan on waiving passport renewal fees.
IRCC’s Passport Program operates on a cost-recovery basis, meaning it is funded entirely by fees charged for passports and other travel document services. Fees are collected under a revolving fund, which allows for the accumulation of revenues from year-to-year to offset future shortfalls, and to enable reinvestment to modernize the Program. Any change to fees, particularly any broad fee waivers, requires a careful consideration of the Program’s ongoing sustainability on the basis of future expenditures and fee revenues. Should the Program not maintain sufficient funds to sustain its operations, the quality of services provided to Canadians will be affected, and could lead to the need to seek appropriations (i.e. funding from taxpayers) or to raise fees to cover Program costs. The Department continues to monitor the financial status of the Program and, in doing so, it remains committed to maintaining the sustainability of the program over the long-term and providing Canadians with efficient, high quality and cost-effective passport services.
Call to Action 17 – replacement citizenship certificates and passports
In response to Call to Action (CTA) 17, since May 30, 2021, the Citizenship and Passport Programs allow clients to obtain a free replacement of an existing citizenship certificate and/or passport in order to reclaim their Indigenous name. As of October 31, 2021, approximately 30 passports have been replaced through this initiative. As of October 8th, 2021, there have not been any requests for replacement citizenship certificates in response to CTA 17.