Sean Fraser provides update on Canada’s immigration system

Edana Robitaille, Kareem El-Assal
Published: August 24, 2022

Canada’s Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, spoke in Vancouver on August 24 about Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's (IRCC) ongoing work to reduce application backlogs, improve client experience and address labour shortages.

As an immediate measure, IRCC has announced that it will have hired up to 1,250 new employees by late fall in order to speed up processing capacity and reduce the backlog, while also making efforts to make the system more efficient in the long term. IRCC says the new hires will decrease application wait times and allow new applications to be processed at pre-pandemic levels, including the service standard of six months for Express Entry programs.

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Record numbers processed between January to July 2022

IRCC welcomed 405,0000 new permanent residents to Canada in 2021, with a 2022 target of 431,000 based on the Immigration Levels Plan. So far in 2022, 275,000 new permanent residents have arrived between January 1 to July 31. In the same period, 349,000 new work permits have been issued, including 220,000 open work permits (OWP). An OWP, will allow permit holders to work anywhere in Canada in most occupations.

There was also an increase in study permit applications as well, with 360,000 permits finalized so far in 2022. This is up 31 per cent from the total number of study permits issued over the same period in 2021.

IRCC to publish backlog data monthly

IRCC says that processing delays have been exacerbated due to Canada's response to humanitarian crises and updating aging technology to meet current demand. They report that at the end of July, roughly 54 per cent of applications in the system have been there longer than the service standard, over all lines of business. IRCC says it is currently aiming to process 80 per cent of new applications within their service standards.

In acknowledgement of the backlog, IRCC announced that it will publish monthly data on their website and share more information in the coming weeks on additional measures being undertaken to improve the current system.

Overview of the immigration backlog 

IRCC’s backlog has nearly tripled during the pandemic. The latest IRCC data obtained by CIC News indicates the backlog stood at nearly 2.7 million applicants in mid-July. However more recent data released by IRCC today indicates the backlog declined to some 2.4 million applicants as of July 31. 

IRCC has also provided an update on how the department defines a backlog. Its website notes that applications processed within its service standards are not considered to be part of the backlog. However, applications that are not processed within its service standards count towards the backlog. 

IRCC’s service standards are the benchmarks the department sets for each line of business. For instance, Express Entry has a service standard of permanent residence applications being processed within six months.  

According to the new IRCC webpage, 47 per cent of the current 639,500 permanent residence applications it is processing are within its service standards. 

Meanwhile, 41 per cent of the some 1.4 million temporary residence applications are within its service standards. 

Some 65 per cent of the some 379,000 citizenship applications being processed are within IRCC’s service standards. 

As noted, the department aims to process 80 per cent of applications within its service standards. Its new webpage contains projections on when the department expects to be able to achieve this goal across its various lines of business. For instance, it expects to achieve this goal for Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program, and the Spouses, Partners, and Children's Program by the end of this year.

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