In response to the evolving challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has devised a strategic plan titled “An Immigration System for Canada’s Future.” This initiative aims to address the backlog in application processing times for key programs and streamline the entire immigration system.
Aligning Application Intake with Admission Spaces
A pivotal component of the strategy involves realigning application intake with available admission spaces. This alignment is expected to curtail prolonged waiting times that applicants often endure when the demand for a specific program surpasses the available spaces. The strategic approach emphasizes efficient admissions intake management to allow applicants and their support networks to plan their arrival systematically, thereby facilitating smoother settlement and integration into Canada.
Challenges in the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP)
The Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) has encountered a significant backlog spanning three years since the onset of the pandemic. Remarkably, IRCC continued to accept applications for the PGP throughout the challenging period of border closures, travel restrictions, and temporary office closures. This persistence has led to a substantial inventory of nearly 100,000 persons as of 2023, with IRCC actively addressing applications from the 2020 pool.
Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026
Aligned with the broader strategy, IRCC establishes immigration targets for up to three years through its annual Immigration Levels Plan. The most recent plan, released on November 1st, sets ambitious targets for the admission of permanent residents, aiming to admit 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in both 2025 and 2026. These targets, formulated to strengthen Canada’s economy and workforce through sustainable population growth, further underscore the importance of effective application intake management.
Diverse Programs and Application Caps:
While most permanent resident programs, such as the PGP or the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), impose caps on application numbers, temporary resident programs like work or study permits and visitor visas lack such limitations. This absence of a cap can contribute to a backlog of applications and slower processing. Addressing this issue is crucial to achieving the goals outlined in the Immigration Levels Plan.
Response to the Auditor General Report:
The strategy responds to a recent report by Canada’s Auditor General (OAG), which highlighted prolonged processing times and recommended the establishment of achievable and reliable service standards for all permanent residency programs. In addition, the OAG report called for the evaluation and prioritization of backlogged applications. IRCC’s strategy aims to embrace digital tools, adjust workload distribution in regional offices, and increase the use of Advanced Analytics to streamline the processing of routine cases.
Utilizing Advanced Analytics for Efficiency:
In September, IRCC announced plans to increase the use of Advanced Analytics, particularly in processing Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) and Work Permit Extensions. These tools are designed to automate clerical and repetitive tasks involved in sorting applications by priority. By leveraging these technologies, IRCC aims to simplify application intake, providing immigration officers more time to focus on urgent or complex cases.
Addressing the Current Backlog
IRCC aspires to process 80% of all applications within service standards, which vary based on the type of application. While Express Entry applications should take no more than six months, family class sponsorship applications can take up to a year. As of September 30, the data reveals an inventory of 2,194,900 applications, with 928,000 categorized as a backlog. This indicates a slight decrease from the August figures, with the highest number of backlogged applications in September pertaining to temporary residence visas.
IRCC’s strategic approach signifies a crucial step toward enhancing the efficiency of Canada’s immigration system. By addressing backlogs, aligning application intake, and leveraging advanced technologies, IRCC aims to create a more responsive and predictable immigration process, contributing to the overarching goals outlined in the Immigration Levels Plan. This strategic shift promises a more streamlined and applicant-friendly immigration experience in the years to come.