As part of their 2021 election platform, the Liberal Party of Canada included policy promises related to immigration, as immigration was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, part of the Liberal Party platform indicated that if re-elected, the Liberal Party would reduce immigration processing times that had been impacted by COVID-19 to under 12 months.
Following the 2021 election, immigration delays continued largely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In late 2021, the immigration backlog stood at 1.8 million applications. Some permanent residency applicants have been waiting for a response from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for more than two years with no word on the status of their applications. Now, after a long period of relative inaction, the Canadian government has acknowledged that there are problems in the immigration system and has outlined how some of the problems will be addressed in the near future.
In late 2021, the Federal Government recognized that there is an issue with the immigration backlogs and committed to solving the problem. The Government’s solution firstly entailed allocating $85 million as an investment to help process permanent residence and temporary residence applications to Canada in 2022. At the time, it was unclear as to how exactly the money would be allocated and some called for a more permanent solution to immigration efficiency issues, rather than a one-time investment.
In a press conference at the end of January, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser addressed concerns about the immigration backlog that Canada is currently experiencing. In the press conference, Immigration Minister Fraser indicated that the $85 million that is to be allocated to immigration will be used to hire more staff, which should allow for a greater volume of immigration applications, including study permits, work permits, permanent resident applications, visitor visas, and proof of citizenship applications to be processed. The extra help in processing applications is being provided with the goal of bringing application processing times to a standard one year processing time. Extra resources will not be spent on family unification applications, as the processing time already meets the one year processing time standard.
Although these changes should improve processing times, Immigration Minister Fraser cautioned those with waiting applications to temper their expectations:
I should point out that these will not solve all of the problems with Canada’s immigration capacity overnight, but they will start to make a difference. And some will start to make a difference very quickly.
Accordingly, the difference will be felt by many who are waiting on a decision on their application, as there will be more accurate processing times available on the Canadian government website soon in order to alleviate some of the stress of those who are waiting to provide them with a more definite date for when their application will be processed. Further promising news is that the government intends to clear the backlog of permanent residence applications by the end of 2022 and begin processing new applications more quickly in the near future.
Beyond the temporary measures that have been enacted in order to clear the immigration backlog caused by difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is looking at making permanent changes to the immigration system that should increase efficiency and reduce processing times for potential applicants.
There are plans for Canada to allow more foreign health care workers to move to Canada. Processing applications for health care workers will continue to be prioritized, as it has been during the pandemic. Health care worker applicants can expect lower than usual processing times, however how much lower than usual is unclear as of now.
The government is planning to expand a pilot project that allows 10-20 percent of permanent resident applicants to file their applications online. Later in 2022, all permanent resident applications will be digitized, eliminating the need for paper forms, and speeding up the process for those involved. As part of the digitization effort, there will be confirmation that an application has been submitted, which should give some peace of mind to applicants.
Another tool that will make the application process easier is an applicant tracking tool for spouses, partners, and dependants. This will allow those given access to the application to track the application in real-time, which was not possible under the previous paper based system. The digitization efforts will allow the government to roll out this additional tool to help streamline the application process.
The government may also expand the number of virtual citizenship ceremonies and introduce an electronic oath of citizenship so that people who are approved to become a Canadian citizen can become a citizen faster. It is unclear as to whether these measures will continue following the COVID-19 pandemic, but the government is weighing its options. Currently, 600,000 people have been approved for citizenship and are awaiting a ceremony. Having ceremonies online would certainly decrease the time between approval and citizenship for many applicants. There needs to be a balancing between those who want an official ceremony and those who are accepting of a digital ceremony, as gaining citizenship is a momentous occasion for many people so the government is remaining cognizant of providing a formal ceremony with the want from some for increased efficiency.
Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We successfully guide clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of COVID-19. We will work to find an effective solution for your individual immigration needs and ensure you are positioned for success with respect to your application.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law continue to help potential immigrants to Canada prepare their applications in spite of the rapidly changing regulations. If you have any questions about preparing an immigration application to Canada during these uncertain times, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.