CIMM - Impact on Processing - June 2, 2021
[Redacted] appears where sensitive information has been removed in accordance with the principles of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
- Global migration has been upended by the pandemic, but we’ve come a long way in providing additional resources where they are needed most, streamlining our processes and ramping systems back up.
- We continue to face challenges with local restrictions and lockdowns around the world, including in Canada, which has forced some visa applications centers and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offices to shut down for the health and safety of clients and staff.
- Over the last year, processing time has 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.
- As of April 12, 2021, the Department has returned to pre-COVID-19 processing rules, including deadlines for supporting information, where local conditions allow, so we can make final decisions on applications in progress. Clients, however, can obtain an extension if they provide a reasonable explanation of how a COVID-19 disruption prevents them from obtaining this information.
- While these measures will allow the Department to begin processing applications in progress, the priority remains on those who are exempt from the travel restrictions and coming to Canada for non-discretionary reasons.
Impact on processing times
- On March 18, 2020, travel restrictions were implemented in Canada as part of a national response to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This combined with partial or full lockdowns of different processing centers, as well as physical distancing measures in offices that have since resumed business have had an impact on IRCC’s production to meet the Immigration Levels Plan for 2020 and beyond.
- Ongoing international travel restrictions, border restrictions, limited operational capacity overseas and the inability on the part of clients to obtain documentation due to the effects of COVID-19 have created barriers within the processing continuum. This hinders IRCC’s ability to finalize applications and land clients, creating delays.
- IRCC continues to depend on service providers to support program and service delivery to numerous clients (biometric enrollment, security screening partners, visa applications centers, and facilitating travel and other assistance for resettlement cases). As with any other large scale response, efforts continue to be aligned at all levels of government in Canada and abroad.
- We continue to shift resources to focus on priorities, increase digitization of applications to allow for more remote processing, streamline processes where possible and resume in-person operations while respecting public health and safety guidelines.
- The Department has ended the COVID-19 facilitation measure where request letters for additional information or documents were issued with 90-day extensions. As of April 12, 2021, the Department returned to pre-pandemic processing rules, with some exceptions, whereby final decisions will be taken on applications that are complete and where applicants are exempt from travel restrictions.
- Where an officer had requested additional information and/or documentation, a final request letter will be sent to the client with a 30-day deadline to allow for the submission of the requested information and/or documents, or to allow for a rationale to be provided by the client as to why this information/document cannot be obtained within the specified timeframe.
- IRCC has made significant progress in the remote processing of immigration applications. For example, digitizing files for remote work, virtual interviews, virtual landing and photo submission, and the intake of digitized files. The Department continues to focus effort on processing clients who are inside Canada, or are exempt from the travel restrictions.
- As such, processing times for in Canada clients are expected to be stable or decrease while those for overseas clients are expected to increase, at least for the remainder of 2021.
- IRCC has focused its efforts on supporting remote processing by scanning and digitizing paper applications either within IRCC offices or by third-party service providers for key lines of business.
- For applications that can be finalized, IRCC’s operations continues to catch up to pre-COVID permanent residence application processing levels of final decisions.
- For example, in April 2021, we completed over 29,200 final decisions across all business lines compared to 27,900 in February 2020 – the last full month before COVID restrictions were introduced.
- The travel ban for India and Pakistan, as well as local conditions in those countries (e.g. closure of Visa Application Centres (VACs)) will make it difficult for applicants to provide requested biometrics and Immigration Medical Exam (IME) results. [REDACTED].
- In response to the operational impacts due to the pandemic, IRCC has dedicated more resources to processing spousal applications in order to reduce wait times.
- Between January and April 2021, the Department processed just over 18,300 spouses, partners, and children applications, compared to 17,000 applications, a 7.6% increase from the same time period in 2020.
- Economic permanent residence application processing continues; however, ongoing travel restrictions continues to limit the volume of files that can be finalized. Finalizations for overseas cases of clients who are not exempt from travel restrictions are being metered until it is safer and authorized for these clients to travel.
- Clients who have been issued documents, but who are not exempt from travel restrictions at this time, have faced several challenges as well as anxiety due to the expiration of those documents. This has also led to an increase in processing workload as these files require re-opening and reassessment due to document expiration.
Permanent resident cards
- Permanent resident 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 for the 12‑month period ending on April 30, 2021, is 127 days for new permanent resident cards and 118Footnote * days for renewal/replacement cards.
- IRCC has begun processing most initial permanent resident card applications through the Permanent Residence Confirmation Portal. Which allows clients to submit their photos electronically and is expected to increase processing efficiency. Over the coming months we expect to move all initial permanent resident card requests to this new digital tool.
Immigration medical exam
- As of May 7, 2021, our panel physician network is operating at 97% capacity globally (92% in Canada). We have received recent reports of clients in Canada being unable to obtain appointments to complete their IMEs within our 10-day service standard. Our Regional Medical Office is aware of this issue and currently working with panel physicians in the affected areas to increase capacity.
- Since March 2020, IRCC has been completing reassessments of existing medical files for clients in low-risk countries, thus granting an additional 12 months of medical validity and preventing clients from completing additional IMEs when not required. Clients who have remained in Canada have also been granted a second 12-month reassessment where eligible, further reducing the need for new IMEs. 51,236 reassessments have been completed since January 2021.
- 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 and the client’s ability to travel to Canada at this time.
- Since April 2020, Ministerial Instructions are in effect requiring applicants to submit online applications for temporary resident visas, work permits and study permits until September 30, 2021, which may be extended (exceptions exist, including for those with disabilities).
- The Department has shifted capacity toward the processing of applications that are currently exempt from travel restrictions and who are travelling to Canada for non-discretionary reasons.
- In May 2021, IRCC returned to meeting study permit processing time service standards, however, as we finalize new designated learning institutions and older applications, processing times may go back up.
- Varying country conditions will impact processing due to the client’s inability to provide complete applications. For instance, the travel ban for India and Pakistan as well as local conditions those countries (closure of VACs, postponement in Grade 12 exams) will make it difficult for applicants to provide evidence of high school completion, biometrics, medicals, and for IRCC to print the permits.
- The cancellation of citizenship events as a result of the global pandemic has extended the wait time for citizenship grants to 20 months as of April 30, 2021.
- IRCC’s operations has implemented a number of innovative tools to enable the delivery of the citizenship program during the global pandemic from virtual citizenship ceremonies to an online knowledge test and piloting a citizenship grant e-application.
- In light of the impacts of the pandemic, the Department has prioritized urgent proof applications.
- As of April 30th, 2021, proof processing times have increased to 15 months, as a result of the global pandemic. While this business line has been affected by COVID-19, in the month of April 2021, over 3,000 proofs of citizenship were issued.
- Since the pandemic began, IRCC has been receiving refugee claims (from persons in Canada) electronically.
- Office closures and capacity limitations have greatly limited the ability to complete the in-person components of refugee intake (e.g. biometrics collection), which has led to a backlog of almost 10,000 claims pending finalization and an eligibility decision.
- IRCC is reducing this inventory by scheduling many biometrics appointments and running a pilot wherein interviews are conducted virtually (using Microsoft Teams). These measures are expected to significantly reduce the backlog by August, 2021.
- Moreover, as of February 2021, biometric collection and MDR/eligibility interviews are being conducted to facilitate the processing of work permits for asylum claimants. They were also conducted for a brief period in the fall of 2020.
- As part of this resumption of service, claimants have received work permits and 80% of biometrics collected for claimants in the last year has occurred in the last two months.
- IRCC quickly adapted to COVID-related office closures by establishing an electronic claims process via ePost, followed by the re-opening of in-Canada offices opening to collect biometrics as a critical service, to alleviate the backlog of refugee protection claims awaiting referral to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
- Since the launch of the public policy, IRCC has received over 3,600 applications (cases) for the Guardian Angels public policy, representing over 8,400 persons (excluding non-accompanying dependents). To date, 347 individuals have been granted permanent residence under this public policy.
- Processing of refugee resettlement applications has been greatly affected by ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions, especially given that only resettled refugees who are exempt from Canada’s border restriction measures can travel to Canada at this time. Additionally, numerous factors have had an impact on the availability of travel for refugees approved for resettlement to Canada, including: conditions/restrictions in the refugee’s country of residence/asylum, the availability of flights, and the ability of foreign governments to issue exit permits.
- The Department continues to prioritize the processing of refugees in need of urgent protection, including issuing National Interest Exemption letters to the most vulnerable refugees, as identified by our officers and partners. For example, in April 2021, IRCC issued over 2,000 National Interest Exemption letters to refugees in need of urgent protection, thus enabling them to travel to Canada once travel arrangements and reception capacity upon arrival are confirmed.
- We are working with our partners to protect the health and safety of resettled refugees both prior to and after their arrival in Canada, in compliance with Canada’s COVID-19 guidelines.
- While various initiatives have been implemented to support resettlement processing for refugees where travel to Canada can be facilitated, until such time that all restrictions are eased, processing times for resettled refugees will continue to increase.
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