Global migration has been upended by the pandemic. Widespread travel restrictions, local public health measures, and constraints on our settlement partners have all had a significant impact on our clients’ ability to provide complete applications or travel. Measures taken to protect the health and safety of employees and Canadians have also affected IRCC’s ability to process paper applications and lengthened processing times for some. IRCC has taken action and come a long way since the onset of the pandemic—providing additional resources where they are needed most and streamlining our processes.
Prior to the pandemic, IRCC was undergoing transformation of its operations, leveraging technology to develop tools and new practices to make our immigration system more agile, efficient and client-focused. COVID-19 has accelerated the need for transformation, spurring the department to leap into new areas. IRCC has also been moving toward a more integrated, modernized working environment that will help speed up application processing around the world.
The Government of Canada has prioritized reducing wait times and improving client experience and transparency. In his mandate letter, the Minister is charged with reducing application processing times, including addressing delays that have been impacted by COVID-19. To deliver on this commitment, the Government of Canada proposed $85 million in new funding to reduce application inventories and welcome people who can help address Canada’s labour shortages and support our recovery.
We have already taken steps in achieving these goals. The measures below will also contribute to delivering on these priorities, with a view to fostering a strong post-pandemic economic recovery.
The Government of Canada made over half a million decisions and welcomed over 405,000 new permanent residents in 2021—the greatest number of newcomers in a year in Canadian history—and remains committed to providing the best experience possible for people who see their future in Canada.
To offer more online options to our clients, IRCC has soft-launched a permanent residence (PR) digital intake portal that enables some PR applicants to apply online for the following permanent immigration programs:
Provincial nominee program (non-Express Entry)
Rural and northern immigration pilot
Atlantic immigration program
Self-employed people (federal and Quebec)
Quebec-selected skilled workers, entrepreneurs and investors
Sponsoring a spouse, partner, dependent child or other family
Sponsoring a parent or grandparent
Adopting a child through the immigration process
Protected persons and convention refugees in Canada
Humanitarian and compassionate grounds
Temporary resident permit holders applying for permanent residence
Home Support Worker Pilot
Home Child Care Provider Pilot
While applicants still have the option to apply on paper, the online option gives some PR applicants more flexibility to apply from their devices and avoid any further COVID-19-related mailing delays. The portal also allows clients to receive immediate confirmation that they have successfully submitted their application. The department expects to expand the portal to more clients in these permanent residence programs in Summer 2022.
IRCC also developed a separate portal to allow PR applicants who are in Canada to finalize their PR process and get their PR card without any in-person interaction. Through this online portal, clients can self-declare that they are physically in Canada, provide their Canadian postal address, and upload a photo from their computer or mobile device so IRCC can finalize their landing and send them their PR card. From June to December 2021, 225,000 permanent residents have used this portal.
IRCC is working to reduce temporary residence applications in the inventory, including students and workers, with the aim of meeting service standards.
Following a record year for study permits in 2019, IRCC increased our output by 32% during the pandemic by finalizing almost 560,000 study permit applications.
We continue to prioritize study and work permit processing, and have started to handle new visitor visa applications, now that vaccinated visitors can enter Canada. To address its accumulated inventory of visitor visa applications, IRCC is expanding the use of advanced data analytics in helping IRCC officers sort and process visitor visa applications submitted from outside Canada.
Advanced data analytics has been used since 2018 to help sort and process temporary resident visa applications from countries where there is a high volume of applications. During this time, it has been shown that routine files can be assessed 87% faster using the system. This results in some applicants receiving decisions more quickly while program integrity is maintained. In addition, the technology assumes a significant portion of clerical and repetitive tasks related to sorting applications, which allows IRCC officers to focus their attention on assessing applications and making final decisions.
IRCC officers make the final decision on all visitor visa applications, and only an IRCC officer can refuse an application. The system never refuses or recommends refusing applications. The use of advanced data analytics is part of IRCC’s commitment to finding new ways to improve our client service and processes. It will assist in managing IRCC’s increasing volume of visitor visa applications going forward.
IRCC has expanded the use of virtual citizenship ceremonies, and is working to increase the number of candidates participating in ceremonies. Since April 1, 2020, over 170,000 applicants have become citizens through video oath ceremonies. The department is hosting 350 virtual ceremonies a month and inviting approximately 3,500 to 5,000 applicants weekly to deliver the Oath virtually. Moving forward, we are exploring an option for those who wish to self-administer their Oath by signed attestation, and celebrate their citizenship at a later date. This would shorten the waiting time for those at the final stage of their citizenship process.
On November 26, 2020, we became one of the first countries in the world to offer citizenship testing online with the launch of a new platform. Since then, IRCC has administered approximately 247,000 citizenship tests and is now able to invite approximately 5,000 applicants per week to complete the test, exceeding pre-COVID-19 testing rates.
IRCC has launched online application processes for some clients looking to apply for citizenship, get straightforward proof of citizenship, or search citizenship records. We also created a new online citizenship application tracker to help clients stay up-to-date on the status of their application and any required next steps.
Modernizing Canada’s immigration system to support economic recovery and improve client experience (PDF, 872 KB)