The number of applications processed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has fallen nearly half a million since August. This is almost double the number of applications processed in 2021.
IRCC is on track to admit 431,000 new permanent residents to Canada by the end of 2022, a record.
Between April and November, Canada welcomed approximately 251,000 new citizens. Work permits and study permits accounted for the largest number of applications processed by IRCC.
Despite the pandemic backlog being reduced by nearly half a million this year, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said, “Our actions ensure we can continue to welcome and support newcomers to Canada to work, study, visit, or settle. As a result of the dedication and hard work of immigration officials and our willingness to modernize and adapt, we are able to maintain Canada’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive country.”
The Backlog Continues to Decline
As of December 2, this year, IRCC had 2.2 million applications in inventory. As of November 30, just over 50% of all applications were backlogged or were not processed within service standards. There were 2.4 million applications in inventory on November 3, but that number is down significantly from September’s 2.6 million.
New spousal sponsorship applications are now processed within 12 months of the pre-pandemic service standard and Express Entry applications within 6 months, thanks to efforts to modernize services. By 99%, IRCC has reduced its backlog of permanent resident card renewal applications.
Modernizing and Streamlining IRCC
Travel restrictions and office closures related to COVID-19 have caused IRCC to face a massive backlog of applications. IRCC has implemented changes to correct operational inefficiencies, such as digitizing applications. Citizenship applications, for example, are now 100% digital, and only 28% of 318,000 are considered backlogged. By the end of the year, the department will hire 1,250 new staff to streamline application processing.
Levels of Service
In a backlog, an application hasn’t been processed within service standards. The service standard sets forth the expected timeline, or goal, for how long an application should take to be processed. However, IRCC’s actual processing time differs from the service standard.
Service standards vary depending on the type of application. IRCC aims to process 80% of applications within service standards across all lines of business. The Express Entry program has a six-month standard for permanent residence applications. Other economic class lines of business require longer service standards. For spousal and child family sponsorship, IRCC states a 12-month service standard is required.
A temporary residence application may take between 60 and 120 days to process depending on the type of application (work or study) and whether it was submitted from Canada or abroad.
A Record Number of Immigrants are Coming to Canada
By the end of 2025, the Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 aims to welcome over 500,000 new permanent residents. It is expected that up to 9 million Canadians will reach retirement age by 2030, and there will not be enough natural-born Canadians to fill the resulting job vacancies.
To increase immigration to Canada, IRCC has implemented several measures over the past year. IRCC has lifted the 20-hour work cap for international students and extended work permits to spouses and dependents of temporary foreign workers.
Additionally, the Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) which became permanent earlier this year, as well as the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Program have been expanded.
Healthcare has also been provided with sector-specific initiatives, including the removal of barriers for physicians already in Canada on temporary work visas and the introduction of the Foreign Credential Recognition Program, which aims to support skilled newcomers’ integration into the healthcare sector.