Over the last few years, the landscape of Canadian immigration has changed immensely. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted immigration in an unprecedented way and its effects are still being felt. Although the Government had planned to increase the number of immigrants accepted each year, immigration largely stopped and created a large backlog, which at one point stood at over 1.8 million applications.
In a recent report from the Auditor General to Canada’s Parliament, Canada’s immigration application and processing times were highlighted. In the report, the Auditor General found that processing times have improved in most streams, when compared with the heights seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, backlogs have continued to exceed the set service standards for most immigration applications. Currently, refugee applications wait in processing for an average of 15 to 20 months after the application has been submitted, and privately sponsored refugees wait approximately 30 months for a decision.
This report shows that the Canadian Government has recognized that processing times are a problem that needs to be solved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Recently, there have been some new solutions developed and implemented in order to reduce the backlog and process increased numbers of immigration applications. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada continues to develop new ways to help reduce processing times, including using new technologies.
To account for the projections calling for increased immigration as well as mitigating the existing immigration backlog, Canada has been modernizing its immigration system in various ways, including the use of automation tools to assist with processing certain types of applications.
The use of automation tools has been expanded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in order to assist with processing work permit extension applications and Post-Graduation Work Permit Program applications. These tools will allow for immigration applications to be processed more efficiently, meaning that some applicants will receive a decision on their application sooner.
These automation tools also make processing immigration applications more efficient by assessing the complexity of the application before it is seen by an officer. If the automation tools determine that a file is routine and that the applicant would be eligible for a work permit extension, or that they would be eligible as part of the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, the file is sent to an officer who then determines if the applicant is still admissible to Canada. The officer then makes a final decision on the application. It is important to note that applications that are not approved by the automation tools may still be manually approved after they are reviewed by an officer.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada anticipated that many people would be worried about the use of automation tools. There are valid concerns with automation, such as whether the tools work correctly, and if the process is automated, whether or not some people will be rejected by the automation tools without having the benefit of a human reviewing their application. As such, they provided helpful information that should alleviate some of these concerns.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have made it clear that the automation tools are reviewed routinely in order to ensure that they are working correctly. To this end, an assessment of the tools has determined that the impact level of the automation tools is moderate and there are measures in place to mitigate possible risks like discriminatory impacts, privacy and security impacts, and the ability of an officer to overturn a decision made by the tools.
Importantly, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has confirmed that the decisions on applications that have been reviewed by automation tools will be consistent with applications that receive a full review by a human. To that end, they have guaranteed that only an officer who works for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada can refuse an application, as the automated tools in use do not refuse or recommend refusing immigration applications.
In November 2023, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada released a report called An Immigration System for Canada’s Future. The report provides details on many facets of Canada’s immigration system, including immigration application processing and admission. The report stressed the need to reduce immigration waiting times through better intake management.
In addition to automation, the report from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada details that the Government has been exploring and implementing new digital solutions, adding processing resources, and streamlining the way that immigrants can access immigration services.
With the 2024-2026 Immigration Levels Plan calling for increased immigration to Canada over the next few years, further changes will be required in order to bring immigration processing within reasonable levels. If Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is to reach its goal of processing 80% of immigration applications within service standard times, further innovation and implementation of new processing methods will need to be developed in the near future.
The knowledgable team of immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law exclusively practice immigration law and regularly advise their clients on a variety of legal matters, including permanent and temporary residence, citizenship applications, and inadmissibility issues. We will guide you through the overwhelming immigration process and work to find effective solutions tailored to your individual immigration needs. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us online or call us at 416-321-2860.
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