Improvement in immigration
processing times promised
by Michael Scott
A new immigration minister and a new promise to eliminate the backlog and improve immigration processing. This situation is not new, and the current backlog is reaching depths we did not imagine before. It is 1.3 million or 1.8 million. It is however positive that Minister Fraser is focused on the problem. He is asking for a budget of $83 million to normalize processing standards by the end of 2022. His words are encouraging but what about his plans?
In the 2021 budget, Canada allocated the $85 million dollar figure to reduce processing times. In 2021 IRCC made decisions on over 500,000 applications and have a stated intent to improve on this number. Minister Fraser has set 147,000 final decisions for the first quarter of the current operational year. This target is double what was accomplished last year. The department will also introduce a new Permanent Residence Application Tracker in February for the sponsorship of spouses and dependents, to allow applicants to see more detailed application information and status online. The department appears to be moving beyond the simple statement about applications in process.
Internal IRCC documents have revealed that the department’s actual processing times for economic immigrant applicants is much longer than previously reported. Remember the statements about six months beyond the submission of a completed application under Express Entry? IRCC is falling short of meeting this ambitious target. The department is intent on improving the online tracking so reasonable processing times are closer to reality. If you cannot meet the unrealistic promises, the next best thing is to provide users with up-to-date estimates. It is always better to use straight talk and straight numbers.
The current reality for Express Entry is that even in the most favoured stream, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the processing times are closer to eight months than the promised six months. A leaked memo also spoke about a potential stoppage on the FSWP and FSTP, but this is something that most users were already aware of. If the best case was eight months, small wonder that critics quickly jumped on FSWP and FSTP programs, which take considerably longer, or accuse the department of a moratorium on their processing.
Minister Fraser has expressed concerns about first keeping foreign workers inside the country from going home. This explains the emphasis his department places on the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). These workers are here and working, and we should endeavour to provide them with security and assurances on their status.
“I know that processing delays have been incredibly frustrating for many individuals. Helping clients come to Canada quickly, with predicable processing times and efficient communication with IRCC, remains a top priority for me,” Fraser said in a recent media release. He wants to let immigration applicants know that Canada is addressing their needs, “to ensure that we stay competitive,” with the introduction of “concrete measures to make sure those who want to come to Canada have the client experience they deserve.”
IRCC has taken several steps to improved processing. The department has increased its work force by 500 new staff, digitized applications, and relocated work among the IRCC offices worldwide. More staff, more technology and efficient allocation of resources all sound like steps in the right direction. There has been an increase in online application submissions to become fully operationalized by the late spring or summer of 2022. IRCC is targeting spousal sponsorships to return to the old standard of roughly 12 months for new application submissions. The department will continue to finalize the process and issue permanent residence cards without any in-person interactions. From June 2021 to December 2021, 225,000 permanent residents have been processed under this system.
IRCC is using advanced data analytics to speed up Temporary Residence Visas. This change-over, which was introduced in 2018, has resulted in an 87 per cent increase in processing times according to IRCC. We will all see the effects of the changes over time, but we should remain patient and hopeful that change is coming and improvements will soon become more apparent. Did you know that citizenship applications can also be submitted online rather than by paper alone? The department has launched virtual citizenship ceremonies, so things are changing in the entire process.
We should be vigilant about immigration processing and, yes, government, like private business, must set and keep reasonable standards. Applicants pay dearly for the services of governments, and they are not unreasonable in expecting good service. Minister Fraser, like his predecessors, is promising to improve things and we applaud his efforts. Now let’s wait for the actual numbers and processing times to go down.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.