As part of the recently released strategy of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC): An Immigration System for Canada’s Future Immigration Plans, the IRCC plans to reevaluate application processing times for key programs to ensure they meet service standards. One aspect of this will be to coordinate the submission of applications with the number of available admission spots.

The strategy proposes aligning application intake with available admissions spaces to prevent years-long waits for applicants. Reducing wait times during admissions intake management will aid in better planning for arrival, easing settlement, and facilitating integration in Canada for applicants and their support networks.


IRCC is realigning its application intake

There are too many applications for certain programs.


The Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) deals with a backlog of applications that date back three years to the onset of the pandemic. During the pandemic, IRCC accepted PGP applications despite border closures, travel restrictions, and temporary office closures affecting application processing.

Despite the limited number of visas granted through the program each year, the Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) has accumulated an inventory of almost 100,000 applicants, as per a recent memo from the IRCC. Moreover, the IRCC is still processing applications from the 2020 pool of candidates as of 2023.

The Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) enables Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their family members and bring them to Canada.



Immigration Levels Plan 2024–2026

The IRCC’s annual Immigration Levels Plan sets targets for up to three years. Canada released the recent plan on November 1st, assigning targets for the number of permanent residents it intends to admit in 2024 (485,000) and in 2025 and 2026 (500,000 in both years). 

Canada’s immigration minister, Marc Miller, aims to bolster the economy and workforce through sustainable population growth. This is a factor in application intake. In most permanent residency programs, the Levels Plan targets reflect a cap on the number of applications that can be submitted to IRCC.

Temporary resident programs, such as visitor visas or work or study permits, do not have a limit on the number of applications that can be submitted each year. This can result in a backlog of applications and slower processing times.  About a limit on the number of study permits issued, the minister has said that he does not favor caps on the number of international students in Canada.



Auditor General Report

One of the components of IRCC’s strategy to enhance processing times is to adjust the application intake process. Canada’s Auditor General (OAG) based this measure on a recent report, investigating IRCC processing times and discovering that they were frequently excessive. The report suggests that the IRCC should develop realistic and dependable service standards for all permanent residency programs.

The OAG report has recommended that IRCC evaluate its backlogged applications to identify and address any processing delays under its control. It further suggests that the department should prioritize the processing of older, backlogged applications. Additionally, the report notes that IRCC plans to adopt digital tools that will allow its officers to process requests more efficiently from global offices. Finally, the OAG report recommends adjusting the workload in regional offices to reflect their capacity better.

Additionally, the strategy explains that IRCC intends to embrace digital tools that authorize officers to process requests from global offices more effectively. The OAG report implies that accommodating the workload in regional offices to reflect capacity will also play a part.

The IRCC Strategy aims to use advanced analytics for automating routine determinations while ensuring that there is no built-in bias. This part of the strategy has already started, and in September, IRCC announced that it would employ advanced analytics to process post-graduation work permits (PGWPs) and work permit extensions.

Immigration officers deal with many applications, and sorting them by priority can be time-consuming and repetitive. The new tools are designed to help with this task so that officers can focus on more complex applications that need their attention. The hope is that these tools will make the application intake process more efficient and effective.



Current backlog

IRCC’s goal is to handle 80% of all applications within the department’s estimated processing time, known as the service standard. The processing time varies based on the application type. For instance, Authorities should process Express Entry applications within six months, while family class sponsorship applications may take up to one year.

The latest data from IRCC shows that as of September 30th, there were 2,194,900 applications in inventory, with 928,000 backlogged, meaning they were unprocessed within the service standards. 

At the end of September, 2,082,000 applications were waiting to be processed, slightly lower than August’s. The majority of the backlog (585,700 applications) was for temporary residence visas, including work permits, study visas, and visitor visas. This number represents an increase of 18% compared to August.


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