IRCC to introduce new automated tools for faster PGWP and work permit extension processing

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: September 28, 2023

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced the introduction of new automated tools to assist processing of Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) and work permit extensions.

Currently, not much is known about the new automation tools apart from the fact that they will take on two important tasks usually handled by IRCC officers: triage (a first assessment to determine the urgency of applications) and the eligibility assessment of applications.

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How will these new tools be used?

The triage function of the new automated tools takes on “clerical and repetitive tasks” related to the sorting of applications by priority—in theory allowing immigration officers more time to focus on more demanding functions like making approval decisions on applications.

According to IRCC, some examples of an application in need of urgent processing could be: a foreign medical doctor involved in the treatment of patients or a foreign worker travelling urgently for business, or due to a death in the family.

In addition, the new tools will be used to help determine the eligibility of applications. According to the department, automated tools will help assess whether a case is routine or not and can further determine whether an applicant is eligible for a PGWP or work permit extension using criteria developed by immigration officers. This will allow IRCC officers to automate the eligibility assessment of these applications.

The criteria to determine both the urgency and eligibility of applications are incorporated into IRCC’s new automated tools. According to the department, this criterion is based on “legislative and regulatory” frameworks for the PGWP and work permit extension programs. New tools will be routinely assessed to determine whether their decisions are consistent with both the IRCC criteria and with decisions made by IRCC officers.

Can these tools refuse applications, and are human officers still involved?

Importantly, these new tools do have limits to their oversight. For example, while automated measures can automatically approve the eligibility of an applicant, they cannot refuse, nor recommend the refusal of an application. Applications that have not had their eligibility automatically approved may still receive manual approval from an IRCC officer.

This leads to the most important fail-stop of IRCC’s new automation: an immigration officer is still required to assess admissibility and make the final decision of approval or denial. Additionally, officers also have the ability to overturn decisions made by automated tools. This is an important measure and key to the immigration department’s commitment to using technology responsibly for the benefit of immigration clients.

Further to this, the new automation of PGWP and work permit extension applications is subject to several reviews. Automated systems had to undergo an algorithmic impact assessment to assess the impact of tools on application processing—these were determined to be moderate. Additional reviews are set to take place routinely, including for potential discriminatory impacts, as well as privacy and security functioning.

How will these tools impact application processing?

While it is hoped that these new immigration tools will aid IRCC in processing applications in a timelier manner, it remains too early to conclude this definitively.

In a press conference earlier this year, former Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Sean Fraser, spoke to the widespread use of artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, and automated tools within the immigration department. Maintaining that a human being was still responsible for final decision making, Minister Fraser cited massive gains in both productivity and a higher approval rate for applicants—north of 98%.

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