IRCC has processed all-time high 4.8 million applications in 2022

Edana Robitaille
Published: December 20, 2022

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reports an overall reduction of nearly half a million applications since August this year. This is almost double the number of applications processed over the same period in 2021 when the department processed 2.5 million.

The progress comes as IRCC is on track to admit a record breaking 431,000 new permanent residents to Canada by the end of 2022.

The largest number of applications processed falls under the temporary residence category. IRCC processed nearly 700,000 work permits and 670,000 study permits in 2022. Canada also welcomed approximately 251,000 new citizens between April and November.

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“Our government has reduced its pandemic backlogs by nearly half a million, while also processing a record-breaking number of immigration applications this year,” says Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, “Our actions are ensuring that we can continue to welcome and support newcomers who come to Canada to work, study, visit, or settle here. It is through the dedication and hard work of those who administer our immigration system, and our willingness to modernize and adapt, that we are able to uphold Canada’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive country.”

The backlog continues to decline

As of December 2, this year, IRCC had 2.2 million applications in inventory. IRCC data from November 30 shows that 1.09 million applications, just over 50% of all applications, are considered to be backlog, or not processed within service standards. The latest data is an improvement on the November 3 data, when there were 2.4 million applications in inventory, and is down significantly from 2.6 million in September.

IRCC says that due to efforts to modernize services, all new spousal sponsorship applications are now processed within the pre-pandemic service standard of 12 months and new Express Entry applications within 6 months. IRCC has also reduced its pandemic backlog of applications for permanent resident card renewals by 99%.

IRCC’s efforts to modernize and streamline

Throughout the year, IRCC has been coping with a massive backlog of applications caused by travel restrictions and office closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, IRCC has implemented changes to correct operational inefficiencies such as the digitization of applications. For example, citizenship applications are now 100% digital for anyone over the age of 18 and of 318,000 citizenship applications in inventory, only 28% are considered backlog.

Additionally, the department announced in August that it would hire 1,250 new staff by the end of the year to help streamline application processing.

Service standards

An application in backlog means it has not been processed within service standards. These standards provide the expected timeline, or goal, for how long it should take to process an application. The service standard is different from the actual amount of time that IRCC takes to process applications.

IRCC aims to process 80% of applications across all lines of business within service standards. The service standard varies depending on the type of application. For example, a permanent residence application through an Express Entry program has a standard of six months. It is longer for other economic class lines of business. IRCC states its service standard for spousal and child family class sponsorship is 12 months.

Temporary residence applications have service standards that range between 60-120 days depending on the type of application (work or study) and if it was submitted within Canada or from abroad. IRCC says they are now processing most new study permits within service standards.

Canada plans to welcome the highest-ever number of immigrants

The Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 aims to invite admit over 500,000 new permanent residents to Canada each year by the end of 2025.

The high target comes as the country is seeking to fill urgent gaps in the labour force. It is expected that up to nine million Canadians will reach retirement age by 2030 and there are not enough natural-born Canadians to fill the resulting job vacancies.

Over the past year, IRCC has introduced several measures to increase the number of immigrants arriving in Canada. For example, IRCC has extended work permits to the spouses and working-age dependents of temporary foreign workers and lifted the 20 hours-per-week work cap for international students.

There have also been expansions to the Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP), which became permanent earlier this year, and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot. Additionally, the Economic Mobility Pilot Program has received additional funding to support 2,000 skilled refugees.

Sector-specific initiatives have also been introduced, most notably in health care with the removal of barriers for physicians who are already in Canada on temporary work visas, as well as the introduction of the Foreign Credential Recognition Program, which has a focus on supporting labour market integration of skilled newcomers into the health sector.

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