Annual immigration report highlights IRCC’s pandemic recovery effort

Edana Robitaille
Published: November 8, 2022

The government of Canada has released its Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration for 2022.

The report summarizes the previous years' worth of developments in Canada’s immigration sector across all lines of business.

It is released along with Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan, the official immigration targets that will act as a guideline for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) over the next three years. The 2021 data shows IRCC making efforts to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report goes beyond the numbers and offers insights into how IRCC has progressed over the past year and how it anticipates things will continue in future, particularly now with the highest targets ever for new permanent residents per year by 2025.

Here are a few of the highlights from the report.

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Record breaking admission in all classes in 2021

The Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 had targets of over 451,000 new permanent residents by the end of 2024 and nearly 432,000 for 2022.

These targets were built on the record-breaking admissions in 2021. Throughout 2021, IRCC shifted focus to granting permanent residence to candidates who already lived in Canada due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included many candidates through the Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs) as well as the Canadian Experience Class until draws for the program were paused in September 2021.

Data shows that of the 405,000 people who became new permanent resident that year, 62%, or 252,971 including spouses and dependents of the principal applicants, were economic class immigrants.

Canada places emphasis on its economic class immigration programs to continue its economic growth in the face of the current shortage of skilled workers in combination with the high number of job vacancies around the country. Canada’s rate of unemployment currently stands at 5.2%. Immigration accounts for as much as 90% of labour force growth in Canada and approximately 75% of population growth.

Family class immigration also saw elevated levels of immigration in 2021 with 81,423 newcomers being admitted through family class sponsorship. Of these, over 69,000 arrived through spouse or partner sponsorship.

A large section of the overall report highlights Canada’s commitment to taking in a substantial number of refugees and asylum claimants. In 2021, Canada committed to admitting 40,000 refugees fleeing Afghanistan by the end of 2024. To date, 22,915 Afghans have arrived in Canada. The majority came from government-assisted refugee and privately sponsored refugee programs.

Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence pathways

In 2021, IRCC also introduced a one-time pathway from temporary to permanent residence. Under this pathway, 191,338 temporary residents were able to obtain permanent residency.

The program was aimed at international students and those working in essential services such as healthcare. There were also dedicated streams for French-speaking and bilingual temporary residents, with no cap on applications. Through these streams, Canada admitted nearly 24,000 new permanent residents, with an additional 18,000 by the end of March 2022.

Under the international graduate stream, IRCC invited 40,000 candidates to apply for permanent residency, allowing them to bypass the traditional route of a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The window to apply ran between May and November 2021 and is now closed.

There was a similar stream for health care and other essential workers of all skill levels. Temporary residents who met the eligibility criteria could apply for permanent residency. This also applied to skilled refugees.

The backlog

In the report, IRCC acknowledges that there has been a backlog in applications across all lines of business. It currently stands at 2.6 million applications in inventory, of which 1.1 million, or fewer than half, are being processed within service standards. A service standard is the goal IRCC establishes to process the average application for a given immigration program.

IRCC says the backlog reached this number due to unprecedented demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in combination with international travel restrictions and operational pressures such as staff being unable to process paper applications while offices were closed.

To get back on track IRCC says they are working towards becoming 100% digital, with accommodations made for those who are unable to apply online. This transition also includes citizenship applications, which are now 100% online for all applicants over the age of 18. IRCC is aiming to make all citizenships applications digital by the end of this year, including those for minors under 18.

The department has invested $85 million in hiring and training over 1,200 new staff to deal with processing backlogs. The 2022 budget also provides IRCC with $187.3 million over the next five years in addition to $37.2 million to increase capacity within the Client Support Centre and invest in the technology and tools required to better support people using its services.

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