Ottawa introduces new measures to speed up immigration processing times

Trudeau gov’t hopes to stimulate economic recovery, while changing ministry practices

Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser has announced new measures, which should help speed up immigration to Canada.

Fraser said during a webcast press conference last Monday that the government will be getting back on track by the end of 2022, after COVID-19 caused a major backlog over the past two years in the processing of immigration applicants.

“These measures are part of a broader process to address key challenges faced by our clients, and achieve the more predictable processing times that our clients expect and deserve,” Fraser’s ministry said in a statement.

More staff to be hired

Last year, the Trudeau government announced it would spend $85 million to deal with the backlogged immigration department applications. Fraser said on Monday that the sums will be used primarily to hire additional staff.

He said the new immigration workers will assist the government in getting back to normal processing times for study and work permits, permanent resident renewals, visitor visas and proof of citizenship applications. However, not on the list of priorities is family unification applications. According to Fraser, they already meet the ministry’s standards for processing time.

Process delays frustrating

“I know that processing delays have been incredibly frustrating for many individuals,” Fraser said. “Helping clients come to Canada quickly, with predictable processing times and efficient communication with IRCC, remains a top priority for me.

Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser announced changes to the country’s immigration policies in Ottawa last Monday, designed to speed up processing which had been slowed during the Covid pandemic.

“Many people are choosing Canada as the place to visit and build their future,” he added. “And to ensure that we stay competitive, we have introduced concrete measures to make sure those who want to come to Canada have the client experience they deserve.”

Dealing with labour shortages

According to Fraser’s ministry, immigration is playing an essential role in helping to address some of the most severe labour shortages brought on by the pandemic. However, the remaining challenges continue to include the processing delays, as well as postponements for applicants hoping to come to Canada to work or to reunite with their families.

While the ministry says Canada welcomed the highest number of permanent residents in a single year in 2021 by processing a record number of applications, border restrictions and other pandemic-related factors led to delays for many applicants.

Applications from outside

The ministry says it has already hired approximately 500 new processing staff, taken measures to digitize applications and reallocated work to ministry offices around the world. To help accelerate the processing work, they are expanding the use of advanced data analytics in helping officers sort and process visitor visa applications submitted from outside Canada.

The federal Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is introducing new methods to speed up processing times. (Photo: Courtesy of Canadian International Council)

“We understand that clients want easier access to status updates on their case files,” the ministry says in its press release. “That is why we will also introduce a new Permanent Residence Application Tracker in February 2022 for spouses and dependents, to allow clients to easily access their application information and status online.”

Virtual citizenship ceremonies

For citizenship applicants, IRCC has also introduced online testing, developed an online application tracker and launched virtual citizenship ceremonies. Over the last few months, they have hosted approximately 350 virtual ceremonies per month, and more than 170,000 new Canadians have been sworn in since April 2020.

They are continuing to expand the use of virtual ceremonies. Moving forward, they are exploring an option for those who wish to self-administer the oath of citizenship by signed attestation and celebrate their citizenship at a later date.