Auditor General’s Report Highlights Canada’s Inability To Process Immigration Applications

Canada Takes ‘Step In Right Direction’ By Maintaining Immigration Levels
Canada immigration free assessment

The mismanagement and changing priorities of immigration officials has caused an inventory backlog and resultant extension of waiting times, Canada’s Auditor General has reported.

“Most of the delays were really being caused by inefficient management practices around applications and managing the inventory,” said Karen Hogan at the release of her audit of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.

“There’s a backlog of inventory that, at times, is greater than the immigration level for a given year.

“The department has the ability to improve how they process applications, but also to be more transparent with the applications about what their wait time might actually be.”

With Canada’s record immigration levels targets for the upcoming years, at 465,000 this year, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025, the Auditor General’s findings hint at a systemic incapacity to handle the additional workload.

Read More Canada Immigration News

Canada Still Considering Use Of Virtual Citizenship Ceremonies 
Canada Will Raise Francophone Immigration Targets, Marc Miller Says
Increase In Canada International Students Becoming Permanent Residents

The audit was conducted to establish IRCC’s efficiency – or lack thereof – in processing permanent residence applications.

Eight permanent residence programs were focused on under the economic, family, and refugee and humanitarian classes.

All of those programs remained backlogged at the end of the previous year.

“On average, privately sponsored refugees waited 30 months for a decision while overseas spouses or common-law partners waited 15 months to be reunited with their partners in Canada,” Hogan says. “While processing times improved in most of the programs we examined, they continued to exceed the department’s service standards for most applications in 2022.”

Moreover, the Auditor General reported that some applications waited in the queue for longer periods of time after they were initially submitted by applicants. This was most common with refugee applications, which waited an average of 15 to 20 months before receiving an initial assessment.


Differences in size and age of application backlogs by country of citizenship existed in seven of the eight permanent resident programs examined by the Auditor General.

While improvements have been made, the report said that the length of time some applications spent in the system is increasing, especially for refugee and spousal sponsorship applications from overseas.

In response to the audit, IRCC Minister Marc Miller said that his department has continued reducing backlogs by digitizing applications, hiring and training new staff, and relying on automation to increase processing capacity and efficiency.

“Immigration is critical to Canada’s long-term success, and we recognize the importance of ensuring that our systems operate efficiently,” he said.

“I am optimistic, considering the progress made by IRCC despite all the challenges it faced over the past few years.”

The report said that by the end of 2022, 99,000 refugees were still waiting their applications to be processed.

The processing time for refugee applications is 3 years on average, and many applicants spend years waiting on a decision.

Privately sponsored refugees waited 30 months on average for a decision, while overseas spouses or common-law partners waited an average 15 months to be reunited with their partners in Canada, compared to the 12-month service standards.

PNP Processing Time Increases

In the family class, upwards of 21,000 applications were finalized within six months of being received – ahead of at least 25,000 older applications that were in the backlog at the end of 2022.

In the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), the backlog time increased from 12 to 20 months from January to December of 2022.

The age of applications for in-Canada spousal sponsorships increased from 27 to 47 months.

The report further demonstrated that backlogs vary by country in seven out of eight audited programs, especially for government-assisted refugees, federal skilled workers, and sponsored spouses who applied from out of country.

In the government-assisted refugees program, for example, more than half of the applications submitted by Somalian citizens and the Congolese citizens were backlogged.

In comparison, only one-third of Syrian applications were in backlog.

While these three countries have the most applications for government-assisted refugee sponsorships, their visa offices are also the most under-resourced.

“The department continued to assign application workloads to offices without assessing whether they had enough resources to process them,” said the audit.

The report’s overall point – Canada is taking more applications than it can handle under the current immigration targets the government has set.

Another contributing factor is the failure of the Immigration Minister to exercise his authority to “apply intake controls” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Auditor General’s Recommendations: 

  • To provide applicants with clear expectations about timelines for a decision, IRCC should establish “achievable and reliable” service standards for PR application processing. This includes refugee applications. Additionally, online information on expected processing times should be provided for all permanent resident applications and consider the volume and age of applications in its inventories.
  • IRCC should take steps to identify and address the differential wait times to support timely processing in all PR programs, as it works within the annual admission targets set by the Immigration Levels Plan. Moreover, it should develop and implement a plan to collect race-based and ethnocultural information from applicants directly to address any racial disparities in wait times.
  • IRCC should examine backlogged applications to identify and action processing delays within its control, including waiting for officer actions or follow-up. Older backlogged applications should also be prioritized while working to achieve the annual admission targets set by the Immigration Levels Plan.
  • To improve consistency of application processing times across its offices, IRCC should match assigned workloads with available resources, and it should support these decisions with reliable information on the available capacity within its offices. Immediate action needs to be taken by it to address application backlogs that have accumulated in certain offices with limited capacity.
  • To support timely processing for all applicants, IRCC should examine differential outcomes in processing times related to the implementation of automated decision-making tools and reduce these disparities to the extent possible, including by reallocating sufficient resources to the applications directed to the manual processing.
  • IRCC should implement – without further delay – online application portals for its refugee programs, while also working to complete its Digital Platform Modernization Initiative.
Canada immigration free assessment
Previous articleConference Board Of Canada Says More Immigration Needed To Resolve Housing Crisis
Next articleCanada Pulling Out Personnel From India To Cause Drop In Immigration
Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.