Ottawa issues immigration progress report for 2022, highlights speedier backlog processing

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (December 20, 2022, 1:12 PM EST) -- Canada is on pace to set a record in 2022 for processing study permits for foreigners, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says in its latest progress report on fixing the delays and backlogs bedeviling the department.

In a Dec. 19, overview of immigration processing in 2022, IRCC said that as of Nov. 30, it had processed more than 670,000 study permits, compared to more than 500,000 during the same time period last year. Most new study permits are now being processed within the 60-day service standard, IRCC said.

The immigration department said the processing of work permits for foreign nationals “also saw vast improvements.”

IRCC processed almost 700,000 work permits by Nov. 30, 2022, compared to about 223,000 during the same period in 2019, i.e. before the pandemic, the department said.

IRCC said it is now processing more visitor visa applications, on a monthly basis, than it did prior to the pandemic.

The immigration department said it is continuing to reduce backlogs, and process visitor visas, more quickly to respond to the growing number of people who want to visit Canada. In the month of November alone, more than 260,000 visitor visas were processed, as compared to the pre-pandemic monthly average in 2019 of about 180,000 applications.

The government called 2022 a “record year for processing.”

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser

“Our government has reduced its pandemic backlogs by nearly half a million, while also processing a record-breaking number of immigration applications this year,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a statement. “Our actions are ensuring that we can continue to welcome and support newcomers who come to Canada to work, study, visit, or settle here.”

Since August, IRCC has reduced its overall inventory by nearly half a million applications, the department said.

At the end of November, IRCC had processed approximately 4.8million applications — nearly twice the 2.5 million processed during the same period in 2021.

The government said it has strengthened Canada’s immigration system by digitizing applications, hiring and training new employees, streamlining processes and harnessing automation technologies “to increase processing efficiency while protecting the safety and security of Canadians.”

IRCC said it “remains on track to meet its goal to process 80 per cent of new applications within its service standards “for most programs, and continues to make strides in improving processing, resulting in shorter wait times for our clients.”

The government said Canada is also on track to reach its target of more than 431,000 new permanent residents in 2022 — surpassing the record set in 2021 of 405,000 new permanent residents.

In aid of permanent residents, the government said all new spousal sponsorship applications are now processed within the pre-pandemic service standard of 12 months, and new “express entry” applications are processed within six months.

“Permanent residents can also expect shorter wait times when renewing their permanent resident cards as IRCC has reduced its pandemic backlog of applications for card renewals by 99 per cent,” the government said.

The government noted it is “proud to have one of the highest naturalization rates in the world and encourages all newcomers to complete their journey by becoming Canadian citizens.”

IRCC is expecting a record number of new Canadian citizens in 2022-2023, with approximately 251,000 new citizens welcomed from April to November 2022, the government said.

This surpasses the total number of new Canadian citizens for 2021-2022 fiscal year.

More than 70 per cent of applications in the citizenship inventory are now within service standards, IRCC said.

Canada is using immigration to address labour shortages, including to recruit skilled workers in such key sectors as health care, skilled trades, manufacturing, transportation and technology, the government said.

IRCC said measures that are helping to “harness the full labour market potential of temporary and permanent newcomers to Canada,” include:
  •  Extending work permits to spouses and working-age dependents of temporary foreign workers, at all skill levels. “Expanding the eligibility for work permits to family members accompanying the principal applicant to Canada will help address labour shortages by assisting employers in finding the workers they need.”
  • Temporarily lifting the 20-hour-per-week cap on the number of hours that eligible post-secondary students are allowed to work off-campus while class is in session. “With more than 640,000 international students already in Canada available to potentially work additional hours, this temporary change reflects the important role international students can play in addressing our labour needs, while continuing to pursue their studies,” the government said.
  • Implementing measures to allow foreign nationals whose post-graduation work permit expired, or will expire, between Sept. 20, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2022, the opportunity to work in Canada for an additional 18 months, by either extending their work permit or applying for a new one.
  • Pioneering the development of “economic pathways,” in addition to traditional resettlement, for refugees and their families to find a safe and permanent solution. IRCC said it provided more funding to expand Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot to more skilled refugees, and it is rolling out “a new and more flexible process with trusted partners” to make it easier for qualified applicants to apply.
  • Shortening the wait time for those seeking asylum in Canada to obtain a work permit, from 20 months to one month.
  • Leveraging economic immigration programs to help bring workers to regions of Canada that need them most, including through a new permanent Atlantic Immigration Program, an expanded Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, and a new work permit stream for Quebec-selected skilled workers.
  • Exempting physicians who work in a fee-for-service model with public health authorities from current requirements, thereby making it easier for foreign-born physicians to remain in Canada, so they can continue to practise here and bolster Canada’s health-care system.
  • Allocating more funding in the 2022 federal budget of $115 million over five years, starting in 2022-2023, and $30 million in ongoing funding, to expand the Foreign Credential Recognition Program, with a focus on supporting labour market integration of skilled newcomers into the health sector.
  • Implementing the national occupational classification 2021 for immigration programs managed under the Express Entry system, such that 16 additional occupations are now eligible.
  • Changing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act by selecting immigrants “based on key attributes that support identified economic priorities, such as educational credentials, work experience or official language knowledge.” The government said it expects to launch by spring 2023 the Express Entry’s new “category-based selection authorities.”

The government said it will continue to provide a monthly progress report on its efforts to reduce IRCC’s backlogs and on the steps it is taking “improve client experience, reunite families and address labour shortages in Canada. We know there is still more work to do, and we are focused on building an immigration system that works well for newcomers, visitors, our businesses, and all Canadians.”

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