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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, 2022 the Canadian government released an important update on processing times for Canadian immigration applications in 2022 which continues to have an impact in 2023. Canada has accumulated an inventory of 2.2 million immigration applications, resulting in extreme processing delays. However, this number is down from the 2022 backlog of 2.4 million.

In the August 24, 2022 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 2023 numbers.

How many Canadian immigration applications are waiting to be processed?

There are 2.2 million total applications in all IRCC inventories. These numbers are accurate as of November 3rd, 2023.

It is normal for Canada to have a high number of applications in its inventories at any given time. In fact, 1.26 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 923,500 million applications in the inventory—42 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 including hiring more processing personal, utilizing AI technology and streamlining run of the mill 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. Since August 2022, IRCC have maintained reporting on processing delays. 

How long will it take to process my Canadian immigration application?

IRCC aim to offer processing within service standards to 80% of applications. Latest numbers from IRCC state the following service standards per application:

Work permit
Work permit applications submitted outside Canada: All programs (excluding International Experience Canada)
IRCC service standard: process applications within 60 days
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 71% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for work permits (as of November 14th 2023): This really depends on the country responsible for processing files. Examples include India at 11 weeks, Nigeria at 12 weeks, Philippines at 19 weeks, UK at 31 weeks and the USA at 11 weeks.

Work permit extensions submitted in Canada
IRCC service standard: process applications within 120 days
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 75% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for work permit extensions (as of November 14th 2023): 137 days

Work permit applications under International Experience Canada
IRCC service standard: process applications within 56 days or less
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 78% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for IEC work permits (as of November 14th 2023): 4 weeks

New study permit applications submitted outside Canada
IRCC service standard: process applications within 60 days
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 64% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for study permits (as of November 14th 2023): 11 weeks

Study permit (new permit and extension) applications submitted in Canada
IRCC service standard: process applications within 120 days
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 94% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for study permits in Canada (as of November 14th 2023): 4 weeks for new applications and 139 days for extensions.

Visitor visa and electronic travel authorization (eTA)
IRCC service standard: process applications within 14 days
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 36% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for Visitor visas and ETA’s (as of November 14th 2023): For visitor visa’s this really depends on the country responsible for processing files. Examples include India at 29 days, Nigeria at 512 days, Philippines at 32 days, UK at 271 days and the USA at 21 days. ETA’s are currently being processed in 5 minutes.

Canadian Experience Class (CEC)  (via Express Entry)
IRCC service standard: process electronic applications within 180 days
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 71% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for Canadian Experience Class applications (as of November 14th 2023): 5 months

Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program (via Express Entry)
IRCC service standard: process electronic applications within 180 days
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 0% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for Federal Skilled Worker Program applications (as of November 14th 2023): 5 months

Federal Skilled Trades Program (via Express Entry)
IRCC service standard: process electronic applications within 180 days (which doesn’t include the province or territory’s processing time)
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 0% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for Federal Skilled Trade (FST) Program applications (as of November 14th 2023): Not enough information. This is because FST applicants do not fair well within the Express Entry pool due to the equivalency of their trade education. For FST applicants to receive an invitation to apply, there needs to be more FST specific Express Entry draws.

Provincial Nominee Program (paper applications)
IRCC service standard: process all paper applications within 11 months (which doesn’t include the province or territory’s processing time)
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 19% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for PNP non Express Entry applications (as of November 14th 2023): 15 months

Provincial Nominee Program (via Express Entry)
IRCC service standard: process electronic applications within 180 days (which doesn’t include the province or territory’s processing time)
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 20% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for PNP non Express Entry applications (as of November 14th 2023): 8 months

Quebec-selected skilled worker program
IRCC service standard: process applications within 11 months (which doesn’t include the province’s processing time)
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 5% of applications within the standard.
Current IRCC processing times for Quebec Skilled Worker Program applications (as of November 14th 2023): 13 months

Family sponsorship
Family Class Priority (Overseas – spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners and dependent children)
IRCC service standard: process applications within 12 months
IRCC performance according to latest data: processed 53% of applications within the standard
Current IRCC processing times for sponsorship application (as of November 14th 2023): For spousal sponsorship applications, processing times ranges from 10 to  months 13 months. If the province of Quebec is involved in the application, the processing delays are substantially more.

Permanent Residence applications: Processing Times

As of November 3, 2023, Canada had a total of 646,900 permanent residence applications awaiting processing. Of these applications, 362,300 (56 percent) were within IRCC’s service standards for processing times. This shows an improvement of almost 10 percent when looking at 2022 numbers.  

Processing times for Canadian citizenship applications

As of November 3, 2023, Canada had a total of 274,600 citizenship applications awaiting processing. Of those, 216,400 (79 percent) were within IRCC’s service standards for processing. This shows an improvement of 14 percent compared to 2022 numbers. 

Processing times for temporary residence applications

As of November 3, 2023, Canada had a total of 1,273,000 temporary residence applications awaiting processing. This includes applications for visitor visas, work permits, and study permits. Of those applications, 687,000 (54 percent) were within IRCC’s service standards for processing. This shows an improvement of 13 percent compared to 2022 numbers. 

How many immigration applications will Canada process in 2023/2024?

2023 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. However data shows that IRCC are now processing applications faster than before. 

In 2024, IRCC aims to admit the highest number of new permanent residents on record — 485,000. That’s up significantly from 2023 when 465,000 new permanent residents were admitted, and nearly double the annual immigration rates we saw earlier in the 21st century.

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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