The Government of Canada announced on 29 March 2012 a plan to reduce the backlog of Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) applications by returning all applications and government fees submitted prior to 27 February 2008. This will amount to a total of almost 300,000 returned applications, as well as approximately $130 million in refunded government processing fees.
Approximately 160,000 FSW applications, submitted after 28 February 2008, will remain in queue for processing.
This statement has been issued as part of the larger Federal Budget for 2012, which was released on 29 March. The budget includes information for reducing national deficit and creating more fiscally efficient government infrastructure, an integral part of which is tied to immigration policy and processing times. As part of this plan, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), is expected to reduce its operating costs by $179 million over the next three years.
The budget mentions that “Canada risks losing the global talent competition for the world’s best and brightest as potential immigrants choose to take their skills to other countries with more responsive immigration systems rather than remain in the queue to have their applications process in Canada”.
With this in mind, the decision was reached to not only return the approximately 300,000 applications, but to focus on creating a system that would streamline processing and “reduce duplication and overlap” in the overall structure.
The applications being returned are currently only from the FSW program. No additional plans have yet been announced to address backlogs in other immigration categories.
CIC hopes that reducing application numbers will allow it to streamline its programs in a way that will eliminate overhead costs currently incurred by dealing with the backlog. For instance, some visa offices devote significant amounts of time and money to processing pre-2008 applications. With these out of the way, visa officers will be free to devote time and energy to processing applications that have a higher likelihood of approval under current government standards.
The decision is also part of a larger effort by CIC to “transition to a faster and more flexible economic immigration system”. This new system will be aimed at more accurately addressing Canadian labour market needs as well as better serving those applicants still in line to be processed. Currently, Canada is facing severe labour shortages, specifically in Western provinces where skilled tradespeople are in great demand.
It is important to note that, despite widespread austerity measures being imposed on most government departments, CIC is one of only five that are being asked to reduce operating costs by less than six percent. In fact, proposed upgrades to the Canadian immigration system are likely to cost over $25 million in upcoming years.
Advice for Returned Applicants
The promise of new, streamlined immigration systems is no comfort for the thousands of individuals and their families who have now seen their hopes for Canadian immigration come to an end.
“This is such awful news for the people who have been waiting patiently in line,” says Attorney David Cohen, “Of course, they are free to submit a new application, but that will be of little solace at this time. I truly feel badly for them”.
Applicants who will see their files returned but are still keen to come to Canada are by no means excluded from re-submitting an application, either through the FSW program or one of the over 60 other available Canadian immigration programs. As the government more thoroughly outlines its plans for immigration in the future, prospective applicants should make sure to keep abreast of new developments that may be of benefit to themselves and their unique skill sets.
To find out if you are eligible for the over 60 Canadian immigration programs, please fill out our free online assessment.