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Canada Has An Immigration Application Backlog Of More Than 2.1M

The backlog of permanent and temporary residency and citizenship applications waiting to be processed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) stood at more than 2.1 million at the start of this month – and the government is blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for it.

“While Canada welcomed the highest number of permanent residents in a single year in 2021 by processing a record number of applications, border restrictions and other pandemic-related factors have led to delays for many applicants and long waits for application updates,” wrote IRCC spokesperson Nancy Caron in an e-mail response to Immigration.ca.

“We know these need to be addressed.”


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During the pandemic, the travel restrictions and local public health measures tied the hands of the organizations with which the IRCC works and hampered the processing of applications to come to Canada.

$85M Investment To Cut Through Backlog

“Measures taken to protect the health and safety of employees and Canadians have also affected IRCC’s ability to process paper applications and lengthened processing times for some,” wrote Caron.

“IRCC has taken action and come a long way since the onset of the pandemic, providing additional resources where they are needed most and streamlining our processes.”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the steps Canada is taking to meet this challenge in December last year, including an $85-million investment to both process more applications and reduce processing times in key areas affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


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“This will help to ensure Canada’s immigration system is well-positioned to help meet Canada’s economic and labor force goals,” Freeland said in statement.

The finance minister also spoke of the importance of immigration when it comes to attracting top global talent, meeting the needs of employers, and addressing labor shortages.

“Immigrants and temporary foreign workers help Canada meet long- and short-term labor market needs, respectively, and international students and visitors are vital to the institutions and businesses they support,” said Freeland.

“They are not only essential to Canada’s economy but also bring fresh perspectives and connect Canada to the world.”

Among the steps Ottawa has already taken to clear its existing backlog of applications with that $85 million is the hiring of 500 additional employees.

CUAET Workload Offset By Extra Investment In Processing

They were hired to help the country bring immigration application processing times – and the time to approve study permits, work permits and permanent resident card renewals back in line with its service standards by the end of this year.

Canada is also making more use of advanced data analytics to pre-sort visitor visa applications, cutting the time needed to process them by 87 per cent.

On social media, many applicants and their families have often expressed frustration at the Ukrainian refugees’ fast track to Canada while their own applications languish in that backlog. But Caron noted Ottawa has invested additional funds to take handle the extra workload due to the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET).

“IRCC has the resources and capacity to deal with multiple initiatives at once,” wrote Caron. “To that end, the government of Canada is investing an additional $117 million to implement Canada’s new immigration measures to welcome those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

“This three-year funding investment will help fund new immigration pathways, including the CUAET, expedite the processing of applications and provide support to newcomers once they arrive in Canada. This funding will allow IRCC to procure additional resources, including the hiring of additional staff at the client support centre, to support Ukrainians while continuing to deliver on important priorities and processing commitments for other immigration programs.”

More Half a Million Still Waiting For Permanent Resident Application Decisions

In the backlog, there were 530,269 people waiting for their applications for permanent residence to be approved as of Apr. 29 and 1,200,791 people with applications for temporary residence at that time. That was on the last Friday in April. By the following Monday, May 2, IRCC still had 399,325 citizenship applications in its inventory.

That’s a total of 2,130,385 applications.

The majority, or 235,793, of those hoping to obtain their permanent residence had at that time applied under economic immigration programs. Refugees and protected persons accounted for another 157,428 of the applications, and family sponsorships for 108,863.

Processing Inventory of Permanent Residence Applications, Broken Down by Immigration Category: as of April 29, 2022 (in Persons)
Immigration Category Total
Economy Canadian Experience Class 7,522
Caregiver Program 22,181
Federal Business 5,118
Federal Skilled Workers 32,883
Ministerial Instruction Economic Programs 5,861
Provincial/Territorial Nominees 72,194
quebec business 12,971
Quebec Skilled Workers 32,130
Skilled Trades 484
TR to PR 44,449
Total 235,793
Family Class FCH-Family relations – H&C 3,283
Parents and Grandparents 38,478
Spouses, Partners & Children 67,102
Total 108,863
Humanitarian & Compassionate / Public Policy Humanitarian & Compassionate 24,981
public-policy 3,180
Total 28,161
Permit Holders Class Permit Holders Class 24
Total 24
Protected Persons Blended Visa Office-Referred 310
Government-assisted Refugees 38,377
Privately Sponsored Refugees 71,939
Protected Persons Landed In Canada & Dependents Abroad 46,802
Total 157,428
Total 530,269

Inventory of Temporary Residence Applications, Broken Down by Line of Business: as of April 29, 2022 (in Persons)
ApplicationType Total
Study Permits 132,280
Study Permits Extensions 36,310
Temporary Resident Visas 621,451
Visitor Record 76,847
Work Permits 189,061
Work Permits Extensions 144,842
Total 1,200,791

Among those hoping to come to Canada with temporary visas, 168,590 were looking for study permits or study permit extensions and 333,903 were hoping to get work permits or extensions to existing work permits.

Despite a large number of applications still in the pipeline, Caron said IRCC’s continued priority is to provide timely service to clients by moving towards a more integrated, modernized and centralized working environment in order to help speed up application processing

In April, more than 300,000 people took the oath of citizenship in almost 14,000 ceremonies using a virtual platform and IRCC is inviting on average about 3,000 applicants per week to participate in citizenship ceremonies.

IRCC Makes 156,000 Final Decisions on Permanent Residence Applications

During the first quarter of this year, IRCC made 156,000 final decisions on permanent resident applications or 9,000 more than the department’s target of 147,000. That’s effectively double the number of final decisions the IRCC made in the first quarter of last year.

In the first three months of 2022, Canada welcomed more than 113,000 new permanent resident admissions.

“In addition, Canada has exceeded its citizenship goals for 2021 – 2022, with over 217,000 new Canadian citizens,” Caron wrote.

“IRCC is modernizing and increasing its services for people who want to Canadian becomes, including offering online testing, virtual citizenship ceremonies, and an online application tracker to stay updated on their files.”

Ottawa is hoping to welcome 431,645 permanent residents this year, 447,055 next year, and 451,000 in 2024.

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