The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) recently published a study focused on the application backlogs and processing times for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Comprising 12 members of Canadian Parliament Committee Calls, the CIMM was established to oversee federal immigration and multiculturalism policies, as well as to press the government on urgent matters related to these policies.
In 2022, nearly 2.7 million immigration applications amassed in IRCC’s inventory, mainly due to restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the CIMM decided on February 1, 2022, to investigate application backlogs and processing times across all immigration streams at IRCC. The study delves into the ongoing efforts to reduce these backlogs, ways in which vulnerable immigrants’ applications can be prioritized, and strategies for modernizing Canada’s immigration system.
Titled “In Demand Yet Unprocessed: Endemic Immigration Backlogs,” the report was released on December 14 and offers several recommendations to help IRCC improve Canada’s overall immigration system. Many of these suggestions directly address the backlog issue.
Addressing Accurate and Equitable Processing Times:
A key aspect of solving this problem is establishing accurate and equitable processing times. The CIMM advises IRCC to set a deadline for clearing the backlog and implement measures ensuring that all applications, including older ones, meet specified deadlines.
The report highlights that older applications are sometimes overlooked in order to maintain processing standards and create an appearance of improved processing times. However, this practice is deemed inequitable by the CIMM, which calls for a deadline explicitly assigned for handling older backlog applications. Additionally, it recommends that IRCC should update its online platform with accurate processing times.
Enhancing Transparency in the Immigration Process
The recent CIMM report highlights the need for increased transparency in the immigration process. It suggests the establishment of an ombudsperson to oversee program improvements and guarantee that changes are implemented and enforced. The report emphasizes that while problem areas may be identified during discussions between IRCC and stakeholders, there is no present requirement to address these issues by law or in practice.
Keeping Applicants Informed
Throughout the CIMM report, it is noted that IRCC should take measures to ensure applicants are informed about their application status and how final decisions are made. For example, the report recommends giving applicants access to immigration officer notes detailing their final decision to help resolve any issues that could lead to a negative outcome.
At present, applicants must file an Access to Information and Privacy Request to obtain officer notes. This not only slows down clients’ application processes but also adds to IRCC’s workload.
Misallocation of Resources: A Key Challenge
To tackle issues like misallocation of resources, the CIMM report advises hiring more staff and reevaluating how resources are allocated and trained within IRCC. Former immigration minister Sean Fraser acknowledges the challenges of hiring, training, and getting new staff up to speed but remains optimistic that investing time and resources will eventually enable IRCC to attain its goals.
The backlog of IRCC applications accumulated during and following the COVID-19 pandemic has led to extensive research in this area. For instance, a recent Auditor General of Canada’s report concluded that misallocation of resources and large workloads at ill-equipped regional offices contributed significantly to the backlog in 2022. Offices in Dakar and New Delhi were specifically overwhelmed with temporary resident visa requests.
Addressing Service Standards and Backlog
An application is considered as part of the backlog if it has not been processed within service standards – the expected processing time for a specific type of application. For example, Express Entry applications should be processed within six months, while family class sponsorship applications should take no more than 12 months. IRCC aims to process 80% of all applications within these service standards.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller responded to the release of the OAG report, stating the 2022 findings do not represent the current backlog situation. He claims that many application processes have now returned or are close to being back within service standards.
Government’s Next Steps
The government is now obliged to respond to the CIMM report within 120 days. However, the form and nature of this response can be decided by the government. Response options include presenting a recommendation-by-recommendation report, a general letter, or an interim response based on federal government guidelines.
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, exclusively written and published by IntraSource. The published information is sourced from various trusted platforms, such as news agencies and online media, mainly the Government of Canada and Canadian online media/websites, and should not be considered as legal or professional advice. IRCC’s requirements may change, so consult a lawyer/s and receive professional advice before making decisions or applications.