IRCC’s application backlog grows beyond 2.1 million people

Kareem El-Assal, Shelby Thevenot
Published: May 10, 2022

Canada's immigration backlog has grown beyond 2.1 million across all lines of business as of April 29, according to the latest Canadian government data obtained via email by CIC News.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)'s backlog has progressed as follows since last summer:

The number of persons in IRCC's inventory has grown by 98,796 in the 18 days between April 11 and April 29. This increase is largely driven by the temporary residence inventory. Over this same period, the permanent residence backlog increased by 638 persons. Between April 12 and May 2, IRCC reduced its citizenship backlog by 258 people.

IRCC Backlog: April 11 - May 2

Line of BusinessPersons as of Apr. 11- Apr. 12Persons as of Apr. 30 - May 2

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The evolution of the backlog since the start of the pandemic

The following table displays IRCC's inventory growth since the start of the pandemic. CIC News has submitted a data request to IRCC on Canada's temporary residence inventory as of April 2020. The table shows that over the past two years, the permanent residence inventory has grown from 410,000 people to 530,000 people. The temporary residence inventory has doubled since last April. The citizenship inventory has grown from 240,000 people to 400,000 people. IRCC has struggled to manage its inventory during the pandemic, for a variety of reasons, such as the social distancing and travel restrictions put in place at the start of the pandemic.

Backlog in persons by IRCC line of business

Line of BusinessApr. 2020Apr. 2021Apr./May 2022

Improvements in Express Entry as all-program draws resume in early July

Despite the slight overall increase in the permanent residence inventory, IRCC has reduced its Express Entry backlog by 4,292 persons since mid-April.

Express Entry ProgramPersons as of April 11Persons as of April 29
Canadian Experience Class8,3637,522
Federal Skilled Worker Program36,28132,883
Federal Skilled Trades Program537484

The reduction in the Express Entry backlog will allow IRCC to resume all-program draws in early July. Candidates from the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) have not been invited to apply for immigration since December 2020. Before the pandemic, the FSWP was the main Express Entry pathway. Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates who have not been drawn since September 2021 are also set to receive Invitations to Apply (ITAs) again.

IRCC had been holding off on inviting these candidates, as the backlog had driven up processing times in excess of the six-month standard for Express Entry-managed programs. Starting in July, the vast majority of new Express Entry applications will be processed within the six-month service standard, according to IRCC.

Improvements to the permanent residence inventory were offset by gains among other immigration categories, such as the Temporary Residents to Permanent Residence (TR2PR) Program that briefly existed in 2021. Meanwhile, there were slight increases across the board for Canada's Family Class, Humanitarian and Compassionate, and Protected Persons permanent residence categories.

The backlog increased across all temporary residence categories between April 11 and April 29.

IRCC had previously said in an email to CIC News the inventory for temporary resident visas and work permits has increased with the introduction of the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET). The CUAET is a program that allows IRCC to bring Ukrainians to Canada by leveraging existing temporary resident visa processes. The CUAET is not a refugee stream.

As of May 6, IRCC has received 204,227 CUAET applications and approved 91,482. Between January 1 and May 1, a total of 24,645 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada, according to the IRCC website

Temporary residence inventory: April 11 - 29

Application typePersons as of April 11Persons as of April 29
Study Permits122,145132,280
Study Permit Extensions34,24236,310
Temporary Resident Visas558,498621,451
Visitor Records73,45076,847
Work Permits172,796189,061
Work Permit Extensions141,244144,842

The Canadian government recognizes the challenges IRCC's growing inventory has caused over the past two years. In late January, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced a host of measures aimed at tackling the backlog, including adopting new technology and hiring more processing staff.

Last Thursday, the Canadian Parliament's Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) began a study evaluating IRCC's backlogs that will culminate in a written report available to the public containing recommendations on how to improve IRCC's application processing.

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