CIMM – Opening Remarks for the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada - Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) – February 15, 2022
Backlogs and Processing
February 15, 2022
Good morning/afternoon, Madam Chair.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before the Standing Committee today.
As this is my first appearance, I’d like to take this opportunity to state what a great honour and privilege it is for me to serve as Canada’s Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
Indeed, I wish to assure Committee members today that I endeavor to undertake the responsibilities entrusted to me by the Prime Minister in a spirit of cooperation.
As the Committee is aware, the pandemic caused application processing delays and backlogs. In the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to me, he indicated that one of my priorities is to reduce these processing times and delays brought on by COVID-19.
As I announced on January 31, the Government is implementing a number of measures to improve client experience and modernize the immigration system.
These measures are part of a broader process to address key challenges faced by our clients, and to achieve the more predictable processing times that our clients expect and deserve.
Service Delivery Innovations
Since the start of the pandemic, IRCC worked to improve processing for all permanent residence applications.
The Department introduced new digital tools and online applications, and digitized certain paper files for remote work.
We conducted virtual interviews; used advanced analytics; and launched a new Permanent Resident Digital Intake portal.
We also introduced new ways to grant permanent resident status, including a new Permanent Resident Confirmation Portal. This portal allows clients to submit photos electronically and speeds up the production of permanent resident cards.
Throughout this past year, we continued to prioritize reuniting families, including spouses, and we did so while enabling more families to sponsor their parents and grandparents.
In addition to our measures to help expedite permanent residence applications, we assigned more officers to make decisions on spousal applications.
Our efforts to date have allowed average processing times for spousal sponsorship applicants to return to the service standard of 12 months for new applications.
In addition, earlier this month, we launched a Permanent Residence Family Class Status Tracker for spousal, common law, and dependent clients. This will allow family class applicants to better track their application information online.
IRCC will also continue to offer virtual and online services for our citizenship and passport programs.
Some clients can now also apply electronically for citizenship grants and proofs of citizenship, and track the status of their citizenship application online.
Online tests allow us to invite more applicants to take the test each week, while virtual ceremonies allow participants to take the oath from wherever they are in Canada, from any device, including those in remote locations.
Over the last few months, IRCC hosted approximately 350 virtual ceremonies per month, and more than 170,000 new Canadians have been sworn in since April 1, 2020.
Moving forward, we’re exploring an option for those who wish to self-administer their Oath by signed attestation and celebrate their citizenship at a later date. This is an effort to help shorten the waiting time for those at the final stage of their citizenship process.
Plan to Further Improve Processing Times
As a result of our actions to date, IRCC made over half a million final decisions on PR applications last year.
Thanks to these efforts, in 2021, Canada admitted over 405,000 new permanent residents. This is the highest number of permanent residents ever admitted in a single year in Canadian history.
To support those who wish to live in Canada, we plan to finalize permanent residence applications for at least 147,000 clients in the first quarter of 2022 – doubling what was done during the same period last year.
As part of the 2021 Economic and Fiscal Update, we’ll invest $85 million to build on this progress. We’ll hire additional staff, process more applications, and reduce processing times in key areas affected by the pandemic.
Most importantly, we’ll get back to our processing service standards in various programs by the end of this year, including for study permits, work permits and permanent resident card renewals. We’re also working to reduce processing times for visitor visas and proof of citizenship.
Madam Chair, the Government is committed to ensuring the success of our immigration system. We want it to meet the needs of newcomers and all Canadians.
Canada needs immigration to drive our economy, enrich our society and support our aging population.
Once again, thank you for this invitation today.
I’m happy to answer any of the Committee’s questions.
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