CIMM — Inventories and Processing Times – February 15 & 17, 2022
[Redacted] appears where sensitive information has been removed in accordance with the principles of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
- Immigration is the engine of the Canadian economy, helping to address labour shortages and keep our communities thriving. Newcomers have played an essential role in addressing some of our most severe labour shortages throughout the pandemic, including on the front lines.
- However, there remain challenges, including processing delays that have led to frustrations for those trying to come to Canada to work or reunite with their families.
- While Canada welcomed the highest number of permanent residents in a single year in 2021 by finalizing a record number of applications, border restrictions and other pandemic-related factors have led to delays for many applicants, and long waits for application updates. We know these need to be addressed.
- In 2021, Canada made history by welcoming over 405,000 new permanent residents.
- The Department achieved this objective by making over half a million permanent residence final decisions, while focusing on those who were inside Canada and those who applied to reunite with family members in Canada.
- Consequently, many inland permanent resident applicants experienced shorter processing times during the pandemic while some overseas applicants experienced longer processing times due to pandemic-related service disruptions, travel restrictions, and evolving local conditions.
- The Department has modernized its processes to increase digitization of files and offer digital intake for many lines of business which allow for greater remote processing of citizenship and immigration applications despite office closures.
- In the last two years, the Department has faced several challenges due to local restrictions and lockdowns in Canada and around the world, which has forced some visa applications centres and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offices to close periodically, or limit on-site capacity, for the health and safety of clients and staff.
- IRCC continues to depend on service providers to support program and service delivery to numerous clients (biometric enrollment, security screening partners, visa applications centres, and facilitating travel and other assistance for resettlement cases). Since many of these providers operate in other countries, some delays are still observed, particularly in countries heavily impacted by new waves of COVID-19.
- Due to travel restrictions in 2021, many applications from overseas clients could not be finalized. As travel restrictions have eased for permanent residents, the Department has been shifting its focus to reduce existing inventories, particularly in categories with a large share of clients residing overseas, which is necessary to improve wait times in 2022. However, reducing the existing volume of applications is expected to take time, as some are complex or need additional documents and could take additional work to finalize.
- Over the last year, processing times have increased in most of IRCC’s lines of business; this can be attributed to the effect of the pandemic on the Department, the applicants and partners supporting application processing.
- IRCC adapted to the challenges brought on by the pandemic by implementing new processes to receive and process permanent resident (PR) applications across our integrated networks (i.e. digital intake, digitalization and scanning of applications) and by targeting and processing clients residing in Canada or exempt from travel restrictions.
- IRCC continues to adjust operational plans to adapt to current realities, which are fluid and evolving quickly.
- As of December 31, 2021 there were approximately 680,000 persons in the PR processing inventory. This does not include an additional estimate of over 100,000 clients who submitted their application online or by mail and whose applications have not been created in the system yet.
Family Class immigration
- Family reunification remains a departmental priority, and the Department finalized over 111,000 applications under the Family Class category in 2021. The overall approval rate was 92%.
- As of the end of December 2021, the processing time was 20 months for overseas spousal applications and 17 months for domestic applications. Processing times for new spousal applications (outside Quebec) in 2022 are expected to continue to improve and meet the service standard of 12 months.
Economic Class immigration
- In 2021, 62% of PR admissions consisted of clients under the Economic Class. The approval rate for Economic Class was 95% in 2021.
- In 2021, there were 23,881 admissions under the Temporary Resident-to-Permanent Resident Program. This is a new program implemented in 2021.
- As of the end of December 2021, processing times for this category were at seven months.
- As of the end of December 2021, processing times for Provincial and Territorial Nominee Express Entry were around 21 months, while paper applications were being processed within 24 months.
- As of the end of December 2021, the processing times for Quebec Skilled Workers were at 27 months. The size of the inventory and processing times in this category are also dependent on MIFI’s issuance of Certificats de sélection du Québec, which have historically resulted in more applications received than available levels space.
- As of the end of December 2021, processing times for Federal Skilled Worker Program applications were 26 months, due to the effects of public health restrictions. Further, the fact that most of these clients reside abroad and many have been unable to travel for the majority of 2020 and 2021. In 2022, the Department plans to significantly increase output in this line of business to prevent application inventory from growing and ensuring new clients can be finalized within the six month service standard.
- As of the end of December 2021, the processing times for Canadian Experience Class applicants were seven months.
- As of the end of December 2021, almost 6,000 caregiver applicants and their dependents had been processed. Caregiver processing times are dependent on the application stream. As of the end of December, there were 26,400 applications in the inventory, with about 86% from the Home Child Care Provider & Home Support Worker Pilots. Dependent upon the category of caregiver, applications for the Department’s new pilots were finalized within 23 to 27 months in December 2021.
Protected persons, refugees and other
- In the Refugee Class, overall approval rates were 91% in 2021.
- The Government of Canada is committed to resettling 40,000 refugees and vulnerable Afghans to Canada, resettling over 6,000 Afghans in 2021.
- To maximize admissions to Canada with the border closed for much of 2021, production targets for protected persons in Canada almost doubled in 2021. Processing times for protected persons were 22 months in December 2021, down from 24 in December 2020.
- In 2021, there were 5,140 admissions for health care workers (Guardian Angels). This was a temporary program implemented in 2021, and these applications have been finalized quickly, with the majority of the remaining inventory expected to be finalized in 2022.
- Permanent residence levels are a top priority for IRCC and the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on all TR inventories. This included capacity limitations, workability of applications, travel restrictions, as well as lack of IT infrastructure at the beginning of the pandemic. As such, the inventories grew and wait times for many clients lengthened.
- The Department also implemented certain measures to help clients experiencing limited service availability. For example, incomplete applications were not being refused due to non-compliance, which led to a growth in inventories, and additional processing challenges. The processing of older applications can also be more labour intensive, impacting overall processing times (e.g. expired documents, changes in applicants’ circumstances).
- In 2021, IRCC received approximately 556,700 and finalized over 557,500 study permit applications; this represents a 31% increase and a 32% increase when compared to 2019. Processing time at the end of December was above the service standards of 60 days at 77 days.
- The study permit application inventory accumulated until October 20, 2020 when Order-in-Council amendments came into effect for students. Further, announced special measures for applicants in the fall of 2020, winter and spring of 2021 led to an increase intake and complexity in processing.
Work permits and work permit extensions
- In 2021, IRCC received 702,400 work permit (WP) and work permit extension (WP-EXT) applications, and finalized 632,700 WP applications; this represents a 22.8% increase and an 16.2% increase respectively when compared to 2019. Processing times at the end of December were just above the service standard of 60 days at 71 days.
- Regarding WP and WP-Ext, departmental processing efforts have been focused on ensuring that critical occupations are able to enter Canada (e.g. agriculture, health care, other key occupations, Global Skills Strategy) as well as ensuring those within Canada can continue to work.
- The Department experienced a limited processing capacity for non-critical work permit applications in addition to other priority caseloads such as students, and travel-exempt cases, which led to an increase in the overall work permit inventory.
Temporary resident visas
- At the onset of COVID-19, IRCC introduced a temporary pause on TRV processing unless applicants met Orders-in-Council travel exemptions (e.g. family reunification). Although the processing pause was lifted in July 2020, TRV applications were only processed when additional capacity was available. As such, the size of the overall TRV inventory continued to increase.
- On September 7, 2021, travel restrictions were lifted allowing fully vaccinated travelers to come into Canada; [REDACTED] For the post-September 7 applications, processing times were about 34 calendar days.
- Effective March 14, 2020, the evolving pandemic situation effectively suspended citizenship grant processing. As the Citizenship Program was largely paper-based, its ability to fully accept new intake, conduct file reviews and render decisions was impacted and all in-person events, tests, interviews and ceremonies, were cancelled. While digital solutions and modernization efforts allowed for a resumption of service, the Citizenship Program remains constrained by the current paper-based inventory.
- The citizenship grant inventory has grown over the pandemic, due to a traditionally paper-based process. As of December 2021, it stood at 449,000 applications, with a 26-month processing time.
- The Department has modernized its program delivery, offering a digital intake for grants and proofs, and doing online tests and virtual ceremonies. We are currently inviting approximately 5,000 clients a week to do online tests, and about the same to virtual ceremonies, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
- Prior to the pandemic, due to a deliberate push on citizenship grants, citizenship proof processing noticeably decreased. Then, as part of the Department’s overall COVID lines of business prioritization, the Citizenship Program dedicated a significant amount of its attention to citizenship grants, leaving citizenship proofs, with the exception of urgent applications, operating at a markedly reduced capacity.
- As a result, as of December 2021, the citizenship proof inventory is at 56,000 applications and current processing times were at 16 months.
- However, with IRCC resuming full processing of non-urgent proofs, the size of the inventory will decrease and processing times will improve.
- In November 2021, the Department announced a digital intake for citizenship proofs, starting with clients with a straightforward claim to citizenship by descent as described under the Citizenship Act.
Economic and fiscal update 2021
- In response to the pressures caused by the global pandemic on processing operations, the Government proposes to provide $85M in 2022-2023 to IRCC and partners. The funding is geared towards addressing current application inventories for various line of business (i.e. TR, PR cards, and for citizenship applications).
- The Department plans to implement several measures to support post-pandemic economic recovery and address short-term labour shortages, while continuing to improve client services.
- Funding will also be used to continue to introduce digital tools to create processing efficiencies, and to streamline initial processing stages for permanent residence applications.
- IRCC is striving to provide timely, relevant information to clients on processing times. During the pandemic, IRCC started publishing the reception date of the applications it is currently finalizing, for certain lines of business, to complement the processing times published on its website.
- Clients can also look at the status of their application in their MyAccount, or recently through the citizenship application status tracker, for example.
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