Canada is taking big steps to reduce immigration processing times, with a hiring ramp-up and additional tools to get newcomers settled in Canada more quickly.
On August 24, the Canadian government released an important update on processing times for Canadian immigration applications in 2022. Over the past two years, Canada has accumulated an inventory of 2.4 million immigration applications, resulting in extreme processing delays.
In the August 24 update, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released updated processing data alongside measures for how the immigration department will reduce processing times and projected processing times for the rest of the year.
Let’s dive into the latest numbers.
How many Canadian immigration applications are waiting to be processed?
There are 2.4 million total applications in all IRCC inventories. These numbers are accurate as of July 31, 2022.
It is normal for Canada to have a high number of applications in its inventories at any given time. In fact, 1.1 million of the applications in the current inventory are still within IRCC’s service standards. The department strives to process 80 percent of applications within the service standards. Having more than 1 million applications awaiting processing is to be expected.
However, there are presently more than 1.3 million applications in the inventory—54 percent of applications—that have exceeded IRCC’s service standards. Applications that exceed the service standard are considered “backlogged.” This means IRCC is falling far short of its processing goals.
Does IRCC have a plan to speed up immigration application processing?
Yes. IRCC is implementing several measures to work through its backlog of immigration applications. By the end of the fall, IRCC will have hired up to 1,250 new employees in order to increase their processing capacity and work through the backlog of applications.
IRCC is also implementing changes to keep processing times low over the long term. After receiving additional funding of $85 million from Canada’s Economic and Fiscal Update 2021, IRCC has digitized applications for more programs and implemented technology-based solutions to support faster processing times over the long term.
IRCC has also committed to publishing monthly data on their website to keep applicants informed of anticipated processing times. In their August 24 announcement, IRCC published data from the month of July, providing detailed figures about current and projected processing times for different types of immigration applicants.
How long will it take to process my Canadian immigration application?
IRCC has released new figures, updated for July 2022, outlining current processing times for different applications alongside projected processing time objectives for the rest of 2022.
Permanent residence applications: Processing Times
As of July 31, 2022, Canada had a total of 639,500 permanent residence applications awaiting processing. Of these applications, 303,300 (47 percent) were within IRCC’s service standards for processing times. IRCC provided a breakdown of backlog projections by different PR category:
Federal High Skilled (includes Express Entry)
By the end of the year, IRCC expects to meet its stated goal of processing 80 percent of Express Entry applications within six months of submission.
Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)
By the end of the year, IRCC plans to process 80 percent of PNP applications within its service standards (service standards vary for different types of PNPs).
Spouses, partners, and children
By the end of the year, IRCC plans to process 80 percent of spouse, partner, and child sponsorship applications within 12 months of submission.
Processing times for Canadian citizenship applications
As of July 31, 2022, Canada had a total of 379,000 citizenship applications awaiting processing. Of those, 246,000 (65 percent) were within IRCC’s service standards for processing.
By the end of 2022, IRCC projects it will be processing 75 percent of applications within 12 months of receipt.
Processing times for temporary residence applications
As of July 31, 2022, Canada had a total of 1,400,000 temporary residence applications awaiting processing. This includes applications for visitor visas, work permits, and study permits. Of those applications, 580,000 (41 percent) were within IRCC’s service standards for processing. IRCC provided a breakdown of backlog projections by different temporary residence category:
Work Permit processing times
By the end of the year, IRCC projects that its backlog of work permit applications will grow from approximately 30 percent of applications to approximately 60 percent. However, IRCC anticipates a significant decrease in 2023, with the backlog falling back to 30 percent by March.
Canada aims to process 80 percent of work permit applications submitted outside Canada within 60 days. IEC work permits have a slightly faster service standard of 56 days.
This year, Canada has received hundreds of thousands of applications through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel. This program was not anticipated prior to the war in Ukraine and has greatly increased the inventory of Canada’s work permit applications.
Study Permit processing times
Through the late summer and early fall, IRCC projects that its backlog of study permit applications will grow from approximately 31 percent to approximately 42 percent. This is when many international students will begin their studies, thus a seasonal increase in applications is expected.
However, IRCC anticipates a significant decrease in 2023, with the backlog falling to 23 percent by March. Canada aims to process 80 percent of study permit applications submitted outside Canada within 60 days and those submitted inside Canada within 120 days.
Visitor visas processing times
Many visitor visa applicants are experiencing delays with processing. As of July 31, 67 percent of visitor visa applications were not processed within service standards. IRCC anticipates making slow progress on this issue, reducing that percentage to 58 percent by March 2023.
How many immigration applications will Canada process in 2022?
2022 has been a frustrating year for many Canadian immigration applicants who have been waiting far longer than expected for their applications to be processed. One of the reasons processing times are so high is because Canada is processing record-high quantities of applications across many different categories.
In 2022, IRCC aims to admit the highest number of new permanent residents on record — 431,000. That’s up significantly from 2021 when 405,000 new permanent residents were admitted, and nearly double the annual immigration rates we saw earlier in the 21st century.
Last year, IRCC processed 199,000 work permit applications. By July 31 of this year, IRCC had already eclipsed that number, issuing more than 349,000 work permits. That number will continue to grow in the coming months.
IRCC is also on track to finalize the highest number of study permits in a single year. Nearly 560,000 study permit applications were finalized in 2021, and IRCC is currently outpacing that figure for 2022.
In addition, IRCC has remained flexible in order to accommodate those in need. The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) has received hundreds of thousands of applications this year, providing support to Ukrainians fleeing the war. Although this has placed unexpected pressure on the immigration system, it’s a pressure the Canadian government was willing to accept when launching the program.
Canadian immigration processing times have been unpredictably slow over the past few years. With Canada’s upgrades to the immigration department’s processing capacity and commitment to more frequently publish transparent processing data, there are reasons to be optimistic about improvements in the months ahead. However, only time will tell if the government has taken adequate steps to get processing times under control and keep them there.
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