Automation to help process privately sponsored refugee applications

Ottawa, December 16, 2022—Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is processing privately sponsored refugee applications more efficiently by expanding the use of proven automation technologies. A new automated tool will now be used to help sort and process all privately sponsored refugee applications, using rules, developed with IRCC officers, that have been assessed for potential bias or discrimination.

Automated tools are part of IRCC’s commitment to leveraging technology responsibly to build a stronger immigration system for the benefit of all of our clients. IRCC officers will continue to make the final decision on all privately sponsored refugee applications. Only an IRCC officer can refuse an application; the automated tool never refuses or recommends refusing applications.

An application to resettle a privately sponsored refugee has 2 parts, the sponsorship portion and the refugee application portion. Both parts must be reviewed before the refugee can be approved for resettlement.

Reviewing the sponsorship part of the application

When reviewing an application, the automated tool first assesses the sponsorship part of the application to identify routine cases that can be automatically approved. This may include, for example, applications submitted by sponsors who have successfully sponsored refugees in the past. All applications for which the sponsorship parts are not automatically approved by the tool go through the existing manual officer review process. Automated approvals for sponsors allow officers to focus more attention on remaining sponsorship cases, so they can be processed more quickly.

Reviewing the refugee applicant file to sort and assign applications to officers

For the second part of the application, which refers to the refugee applicant file, the tool sorts applications to be assigned to officers at migration offices overseas based on office capabilities and officer expertise. This maximizes IRCC’s global network of immigration officers and helps to standardize processing times across immigration offices. Decisions on refugee files are not automated. All decisions on the refugee part of the application are made by an IRCC officer based on their thorough assessment of the application.

IRCC is working to responsibly develop and deploy data-driven technologies in line with privacy requirements and human rights protections. As part of our compliance with Canada’s Treasury Board Directive on Automated Decision Making, an algorithmic impact assessment (AIA) has been completed to assess the tool used for privately sponsored refugee applications. The AIA categorized the impact level of the system as moderate, and numerous measures are in place to mitigate possible risks. These measures include an extensive review process for potential discriminatory impacts, privacy and security elements built into the design of the system, and the ability of officers to overturn the decision of the system.

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