According to the recent data released by IRCC’s Client Services Centre (CSC), it is notable that IRCC is struggling with a noteworthy surge in the rate of inquiries over the past five years. In the 2021/2022 fiscal year, IRCC received over 8 million inquiries.
Also, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat disclosed that the IRCC is grappling to meet the number of ATIP requests it receives. The agency hasn’t managed to close more ATIP requests than it receives since the 2012/2013 fiscal year.
The updated OAG report highlighted the recommendations made in the original 2019 report to improve client service for the IRCC, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), and Veterans Affairs. Two key recommendations were mentioned.
The first recommendation proposed that the ESDC and IRCC should review their call management systems to enhance access to agents. Additionally, both agencies should consider allowing callers to choose between waiting, utilizing self-service options, or requesting a call-back from the call center.
The second recommendation suggested that the ESDC, IRCC, and Veterans Affairs should establish relevant call center service standards based on client feedback, following the guidelines provided by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Moreover, these agencies should publish their service standards and performance results transparently and consistently, ensuring their accuracy.
Changes have been implemented in client services since 2019. Shortly after the initial audit, the IRCC witnessed an increased demand for personalized support due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises. The updated report indicated a decline in the number of calls that reached an agent since the original audit. However, the volume of incoming calls and inquiries across all channels has surged by 100% since 2017-2018.
Despite the lower rate of answered calls and longer email response times, the IRCC has successfully implemented measures to enhance client service, as recommended. For example, the number of calls requesting an agent increased from 3.25 million in 2017/2018 to 5.42 million in 2021/2022. Likewise, the number of emails more than tripled during the same period.
In order to fight the increased demand resulting from political unrest, IRCC also introduced dedicated phone lines to support individuals affected by the crisis in Afghanistan and Ukraine.
IRCC Support for MPs and Senators
Apart from general inquiries, the IRCC provides dedicated support to Members of Parliament and Senators through the Ministerial Centre for Members of Parliament and Senators (MCMPS). In 2022, this support accounted for a total of 272,000 inquiries. A November 2022 IRCC report highlighted that the MCMPS offers approximately 1,000 hours of support to MP/Senator offices on a weekly basis. This assistance enables MPs, Senators, and their staff to receive consistent, predictable, and reliable support from the IRCC, facilitating better service to constituents.
The report also mentioned that the IRCC has been modernizing MCMPS services by implementing an online appointment-based system for MP and Senator offices. As of the report’s publication, the online appointment system provided 200 hours of available appointments each day, with its launch occurring in October 2022.
IRCC’s Initiative for Crisis Support
Regarding the CSC’s dedicated crisis support channels for Afghanistan and Ukraine, the November report revealed their high-performance rates between April and October 2022. The Afghanistan crisis line recorded 172,000 telephone inquiries and 123,000 email inquiries, while the Ukraine crisis line received 66% and 77% call answer rates, respectively.
Looking ahead, the report predicts that the CSC will receive 11.5 million inquiries in the 2022/2023 fiscal year, with a call answer rate of more than 20%.
IRCC is Overloaded with Access to Information Requests
The IRCC has been overwhelmed by the number of Access to Information requests it receives. The Access to Information and Privacy Statistical Report for 2021-2022 indicated that the IRCC accounted for 79.7% of all access to information requests received during that period. Furthermore, there was a notable increase in personal information requests, with the IRCC receiving 89.1% of such requests, compared to only 45.4% in 2012/2013.
While the service standard for Access to Information Requests is set at 30 days, the report revealed that over 109,000 requests were closed beyond the legislated timelines in 2021/2022. Out of these, the IRCC accounted for 89.1% and cited “Workload” as the primary reason for the delays. The number of ATIP requests submitted to the IRCC spiked from over 107,000 in 2020/2021 to 177,473 in 2021/2022. As a result, 49,392 requests were carried over to 2022/2023.
Improvement Measures Taken by IRCC
To enhance client service, the IRCC has focused on modernizing and digitizing Canada’s immigration system, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, they introduced a Permanent Residence Application Status Tracker in February 2022, which allows applicants in the family class spousal, common law, and dependent categories to track their application status without contacting an IRCC representative. Additionally, budget funding has been allocated to hire more full-time employees since 2019, with an additional 107 incremental full-time employees planned for recruitment through Budget 2022.