IRCC aims to grant citizenship to 300,000 people this fiscal year
CIC News has obtained an internal IRCC memo that outlines targets for the number of new citizens Canada will welcome for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
The memo, drafted by the Operations, Planning and Performance division of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for a senior official, recommends that IRCC process a total of 285,000 decisions and 300,000 new citizens by March 31, 2023. A decision is a review of an application which is then approved, denied, or marked as incomplete. The citizenship target means that 300,000 approved applicants must take the oath of citizenship, either in person or virtually.
This is a significant increase over the 2021-2022 fiscal year and even exceeds the pre-pandemic targets of 2019-2020, when 253,000 citizenship applications were processed.
In 2021-2022, IRCC succeeded in welcoming 217,000 new citizens. So far in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, Canada has welcomed 116,000 new citizens and is well on track to hit target. By comparison, over the same period in 2021, Canada had only sworn in 35,000 people.
The memo also outlines the current challenges involved in processing applications as well as ensuring all positive decisions can take the oath of a citizenship within a reasonable timeframe.
IRCC moving away from paper applications
In March 2020, IRCC became unable to process most applications due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was because the department was only able to process paper applications that were mailed to a central location. As all in-person events were also cancelled, this meant that IRCC was unable to conduct interviews with candidates and there could not be any oath swearing at citizenship ceremonies.
These constraints led a shift towards making the citizenship application process entirely digital, for some applicants, beginning in November 2020. This has expanded to all those who apply who are over the age of 18. However, while this may streamline the process for new applicants, a large backlog of paper applications remains.
The memo recommends that IRCC continue with its current system of first-in-first-out for all applications, meaning maintaining focus on older, paper applications while also making room to prioritize a small number of digital applications to prevent backlog growth.
In 2021, IRCC had a goal of 5,000 digital applications for the fiscal year out of a targeted 245,000 decisions. As a larger number of applications are now digital, the report says that for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, there will need to be an increase in the number of digital applications processed.
Processing times over 20 months
Processing times in a subsequent report published in May stood at 27 months. The memo says this is to be expected due to increased online applications in addition to the backlog of paper applications. As of last June, there were 413,000 applications in the grant inventory.
IRCC says it has taken steps towards clearing the backlog, and processing 80% of all new applications within service standards. To do this, over 1,000 new staff have been hired and there are plans to expand access to the citizenship application status tracker to representatives. Additionally, minors under the age of 18 will be eligible to apply for citizenship online by the end of the year.
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