On June 25, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of a task force to evaluate service standards for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), passport applications and Canada’s airports.
This task force was in response to what he deemed to be “unacceptable” backlogs in these services.
At the time, IRCC had a backlog of 2.4 million people waiting for their applications to be processed.
In an email response to CIC News, a representative from the Office of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, has confirmed that since June the task force, made of a large group of federal ministers, has met weekly to identify service gaps and areas for improvement.
IRCC backlog is up to 2.7 million people
IRCC’s backlog of applicants grew significantly during the pandemic and processing times have slowed.
To give applicants a realistic idea of how long it will take for their application to be processed, the updated IRCC processing time tool shows how long it will take for applications to be processed in each IRCC line of business. IRCC continues to lag most of its service standards.
However, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told CIC News in June 2022 that with more staff and more investment in technology and digitization, he is optimistic that most service standards will be achievable by the end of 2022.
“My sense is by the end of this calendar year, new applications coming in will have the kind of certainty that we’ll be able to meet our service standard and people will be dealing with 60 days or 6 months or 12 months, not an undetermined period of time.”
Service Canada is currently facing an unprecedented swell in passport applications as pandemic-related travel restrictions have eased. Canadians have been forced to wait in hours-long lines and processing times have been uncertain. As a result, the task force has introduced several new measures that are currently in effect, or will be soon.
One of these measures is the introduction of four new passport pick up offices. The government recently announced that new passport pickup locations will be opening in Trois-Rivières, Quebec; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; Charlottetown, PEI.; and Red Deer, Alberta.
According to the spokesperson, the task force recommends opening approximately 20 new application and pick-up locations in total. Minister Karina Gould says these locations will process passports in nine or ten business days. Each new passport pick-up will be within 50 kilometers of most Canadians, which may alleviate some of the long lines in other locations and many will have extended service hours.
The government also invested $85 million in the 2021 Fiscal and Economic Update to help minimize the backlog of applications and long wait times. Much of this budget has gone towards hiring an additional 500 new passport officers as well as 319 Citizen Services Officers. Additionally, the government is retraining existing staff from other federal agencies to process passports.
Canadians who are renewing a passport may be eligible to take advantage of a simplified renewal process in which those with passports that have been expired or less than 15 years, or have had their passports lost, stolen or damaged, may only have to submit two photos, two references, the application form, and fees, rather than mailing in proof of citizenship or finding a guarantor.
In the long term, the task force will be exploring options that will allow people to submit applications online as well as enable over 300 Service Canada centers to process passport applications. However, there is no timeline given for these initiatives to take effect.
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