Skip to content
Rate article
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
Be the first to rate
Share article

This article was updated more than 6 months ago. Some information may be outdated.

Although Canada’s immigration system has been plagued by backlogs, the country has managed to pull off a record-breaking year for processing immigration applications. As of the end of November, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) had processed 4.8 million applications—nearly twice the 2.5 million processed during the same period in 2021.

Despite the record-high number of applications processed, Canada still has an inventory of 2.1 million immigration applications that have yet to be finalized. 1.09 million of these applications have exceeded IRCC’s service standards for processing times, meaning they are considered “backlogged.”

Earlier this year, IRCC published an aggressive plan to bring processing times for most categories of immigration application back within regular service standards by May 2023. The latest data suggests that IRCC is progressing towards that goal, but with more than 1 million applications still backlogged, the department’s ability to meet its objectives remains uncertain.

How did IRCC improve processing capacity in 2022?

IRCC deployed several strategies to improve its capacity to process Canadian immigration applications in 2022.

“IRCC has digitized applications, hired and trained new employees, streamlined processes, and harnessed automation technologies to increase processing efficiency while protecting the safety and security of Canadians.”

Although improvements have been made, the department has been heavily criticized for its inefficiency this year. Only last week, several Canadian news outlets reported that thousands of immigration applications had been assigned to former IRCC employees who were no longer working at the department.

An update temporary residence immigration applications

Temporary residence applications include those made for study permits, work permits, and visitor visas.

As of November 30, IRCC had processed more than 670,000 study permit applications, compared to approximately 500,000 during the same period the year prior. The most recent data suggests that 27 percent of study permit applications currently exceed normal processing times.

Work permit processing capacity also increased year-over-year with nearly 700,000 processed by November 30, compared to approximately 223,000 during the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. As of November, 28 percent of work permit applications currently exceed normal processing times.

By November, Canada was able to ramp up the processing of visitor visas to more than 260,000 in that month alone. In 2019, the monthly average of visitor visas processed was approximately 180,000. Despite IRCC’s recent ramping up of visitor visas, 70 percent of visitor visa applications currently exceed normal processing times.

Notably, approximately 17 percent of visitor visa applications in the current inventory have been submitted through the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel. This is a special and unanticipated program designed to help Ukrainians fleeing the war in their country.

An update on permanent residence immigration applications

Canada remains on track to meet its ambitious target of admitting more than 431,000 new permanent residents in 2022. Last year, the country welcomed more than 405,000 new permanent residents.

In their recent update on processing times, IRCC stated that “all new spousal sponsorship applications are now processed within the pre-pandemic service standard of 12 months and new Express Entry applications within 6 months.”

It is important to note, however, that it is only new applicants whose applications are meeting IRCC’s processing standards. Many prior applicants continue to face delays in their application processing.

As of November, more than 40 percent of provincial nominees who applied through Express Entry are waiting more than 6 months for application processing. Meanwhile, 31 percent of regular Express Entry applicants and 24 percent of family sponsorship applications are also exceeding regular processing times.

73 percent of Canadian citizenship applications are within service standards

Canada has one of the highest rates of naturalization in the world. IRCC welcomed approximately 251,000 new Canadian citizens from April to November of 2022.

As of November, 73 percent of citizenship applications were being processed within service standards. This is a stark increase from earlier in the year. In January, only 54 percent of citizenship applications were processed within IRCC’s service standards.

Canada’s immigration targets for 2023

In 2023, Canada aims to welcome 465,000 new permanent residents, with a target of 500,000 annually by 2025. These figures don’t include the hundreds of thousands of applications submitted for work permits, study permits, and visitor visas.

As Canada relies more and more on immigration to address labour shortages and the impacts of an aging population, IRCC’s ability to process the high number of applications received will be a vital indicator of the health of the immigration system.

While IRCC’s processing capacity appears to be improving, many applications continue to face processing times that exceed IRCC’s own service standards. The next few months will be critical in determining if IRCC’s efforts at optimization have been successful.

For the latest updates on processing times and other Canadian immigration news, register for a free Moving2Canada account and sign up for our newsletter.

About the author

Dane Stewart

Dane Stewart

Canadian Immigration Writer
Dane is an award-winning digital storyteller with experience in writing, audio, and video. He has more than 7 years’ experience covering Canadian immigration news.
Read more about Dane Stewart
Citation "Canada processed a record-high number of immigration applications so far in 2022." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation


  • Canada Abroad team

    Canada Abroad

    Canada Abroad is a transparent Canadian immigration consultancy with advice you can trust. Led by Deanne Acres-Lans (RCIC #508363), the team delivers professional, regulated, and efficient service.

  • The Doherty Fultz Immigration team staff members

    Doherty Fultz Immigration

    Led by Anthony Doherty (RCIC #510956) and Cassandra Fultz (#514356), the Doherty Fultz team uses their 40+ years of experience to empower you towards settling in Canada.

  • Perez McKenzie team 6

    Perez McKenzie Immigration

    Led by Jenny Perez (RCIC #423103), Perez McKenzie Immigration is a Canadian immigration consultancy based in British Columbia, with offices in Vancouver and Whistler.

Our Partners

Get your immigration questions answered by an expert

Speak with a regulated Canadian immigration consultant to help plan your immigration. Moving2Canada is happy to recommend a handful of exceptional consultants.
  • Smiling young woman at a laptop

    Find the best immigration program for you

    Take our free immigration quiz and we'll tell you the best immigration programs for you!

  • Chef at restaurant spooning vegetables

    Get matched to job opportunities

    Get matched to job opportunities from Canadian employers who are seeking to hire people with your skills.

  • Access our immigration roadmaps

    Our immigration roadmaps will teach you the basics of Express Entry, study permits, and more! Take control of your own immigration process.


Unlock exclusive resources with a free account.

Create a Moving2Canada account to get the resources you need, tailored to your profile. Get matched with the best immigration programs & job offers, and access exclusive events & resources.