Canada immigration news: Canada does not know when regular Express Entry draws will resume for federal economic programs, as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) sets about tackling a large application backlog, says Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.
Fraser was responding to questions about an IRCC memo from November 2021 that said high-skilled immigration numbers could have to be cut in half in 2022 while the backlog is dealt with.
He refused to confirm hard numbers, saying his immigration levels plan would be delivered before parliament in February.
Instead, the minister said there would be no shortage of economic immigrants arriving in Canada this year across a variety of streams, including the Provincial Nominee Program, the newly-permanent Atlantic Immigration Program and other economic pilots.
“I know that processing delays have been incredibly frustrating for many individuals, Fraser said.
“Helping clients come to Canada quickly, with predictable processing times and efficient communication with IRCC, remains a top priority for me.”
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He also had good news for work permit processing, including through the Global Talent Stream, saying processing times would return to the service standard by the end of this year, maybe sooner.
Fraser said he was confident Canada was “winning the global competition for talent”.
“We are the best in the world at welcoming large numbers of economic migrants to fill jobs in our communities,” he said.
“But we need to do more. We need to be the best we can be. We need to continue to grow immigration levels.”
Study Permits, Visitor Visas and Spousal Reunification
Fraser touched on a number of immigration priorities during the call.
In addition to work permit processing, he also committed to returning study permit processing to the service standard by the end of this year, noting there had been a 32 percent increase in the number of applications processed compared to before COVID-19, to almost 560,000.
He also said extra resources would be aimed at processing requests for visitor visas in a bid to assist the tourism industry.
Spousal reunification applications meanwhile have already been returned to the 12-month service standard for processing, Fraser said.
The additional resources come from Ottawa’s promise in the fall economic statement to spend $85 million on reducing backlogs in 2022 and 2023.
Permanent Resident Processing
Fraser said Canada planned to make final decisions on 147,000 permanent residence applications in the first quarter of 2022, doubling the 2021 figure, saying officers were working to expand the use of the online application portal. By summer, he said, every permanent residence application would be directed towards the online portal, compared to the current 15 percent. However, the paper-based application option would still be maintained, he added.
Furthermore, IRCC will launch a Permanent Residence Application Tracker in February to allow spousal and dependent family reunification applicants to track the process of their applications. Fraser said the system would be rolled out for other immigration classes in the future.
On citizenship, Fraser said IRCC is working to expand participation in virtual ceremonies, with up to 5,000 applicants a week currently delivering the oath.
He also said a plan was being worked on for candidates to self-administer their oath by signed attestation as a tool to shorten processing times.
Online citizenship testing, launched in November 2020, had also been a success, Fraser said, with 5,000 applicants per week completing the test online.