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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

Artificial intelligence

and Family Class sponsorships

by Michael Scott

We are becoming more and more familiar with artificial intelligence or AI in the world of today. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has not been forthcoming in terms of their use of AI in processing application submissions. We need to be aware that artificial intelligence has been used for some time by IRCC and that usage will only increase over time. The public is becoming more familiar with the application of AI through a series of Access to Information Act as well as records from the appeals submitted to the Federal Court of Canada.

It is important to know that since 2015 most visa exempt foreign nationals had to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) before they could travel to Canada. These applications were for the most part automated applications. The ease of submitting these applications is a tribute to automation and anyone who has applied for an ETA will attest to the ease of the application process

In 2017 IRCC successfully conducted a pilot based on automated systems of predicative outcomes to measure low-risk online submissions from China. Visa applications were sorted into tiers, the lowest risk for auto-approval, with medium and high risk assigned to officers for review. The triage model was applied to all applications from China in 2018 and in the same year the pilot was extended to submissions from India. The goal for AI was to automatically approve low-risk applications, with officers manually assessing submissions flagged as medium to high risk.

The use of AI is now being applied to Family Class Immigration. On May 30, 2024, IRCC announced its intention to use advanced analytics and automated technology to process all spousal and partner applications under the family class. IRCC will be developing automated evaluations to increase processing efficiency. The question we need to ask is what will these changes apply to?

The departmental announcement included the use of AI in two parts. The first part of the family stream sponsorship is an examination of the Canadian sponsor. The question to be met is whether the Canadian sponsor meets eligibility requirements. The second part of the process concerns the applicant and whether they are admissible to Canada. IRCC will use automation tools to identify cases that can be automatically approved with the intention of reducing processing times. Applications that require more examination will be sent to an IRCC officer for manual review.

The IRCC model has the potential to examine all submissions at the first stage (sponsor eligibility) or second stage (applicant admissibility) or a combination of both. At either stage, challenging submissions will be assigned to an IRCC officer to be manual reviewed. AI is not intended to replace officers but to complement their assessment and reduce backlogs. The final approval on all submissions will still rest with the reviewing immigration officer.

The expansion of AI is intended to improve processing. IRCC has affirmed its commitment to deploy “data driven technologies” in line with privacy requirements and human rights. The department assures users that they have measured the algorithmic impact assessment (AIA) of these new tools on processing. IRCC states that the anticipated impact of AIA is “moderate,” with the department committed to additional measures to soften the implementation or “mitigate possible risks.”

The former minister Sean Fraser assured immigration program users that the departmental pilot used with TRVs etc. has demonstrated the positive aspects of AI in dealing with low-risk submissions. Minister Fraser reported that AI used for TRV applications had resulted in 98 per cent of applications being processed in just 30 days. Hopefully the same results will be realized with family class sponsorships.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: mscott.ici@gmail.com.