Changes made by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) starting this week mean applicants for permanent residence in Canada no longer need to complete their medical exams up front under the Express Entry system.
“As of Oct. 1, 2023, upfront medical examinations are no longer required at the time of application for Express Entry,” notes Canada’s immigration department.
“Clients are being asked to wait for our instructions before going for a medical examination. Instructions have been updated with information for processing offices on when a medical examination should be requested, if required.”
The latest move by the IRCC on medical exams comes almost exactly a year after Canada began to exempt medical exams for certain immigrants in its bid to speed up application processing.
Canadian immigration officials, though, are still swamped with applications with the latest data showing there were 2,198,700 applications to be processed in all the IRCC’s inventories as of the end of August this year – with 62.4 per cent of those applications, or 844,700 of them, in what the immigration department considers its backlog.
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Those are applications that have already taken longer to process than the Canadian immigration department’s own service standard.
Among the applications for temporary residence in Canada, people awaiting work permits and study permits, 39 per cent of the 1,264,000 applications in the IRCC’s inventory on Aug. 31 were considered part of the backlog.
The immigration department also has 646,000 applications for permanent residence and 45 per cent of those are part of the backlog while only 21 per cent of the 288,700 applications for citizenship are considered to be a part of that backlog.
”We’re taking action to reduce the backlogs of applications within our inventories,” notes the IRCC on its website.
“Our goal is to process 80 per cent of applications within our service standards. This allows for expected delays in some very complex cases or when we need more information from our clients before we can finalize their files.”
Exemptions granted to candidates for immigration starting in October last year were given to those considered low-risk, who were already in Canada and had previously completed a medical exam that had since expired.
When that Temporary Public Policy was signed by then-Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on Oct. 5 last year, the IRCC explained the move was to tackle a massive backlog of applications that built up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Implemented on Oct. 12 by IRCC, that public policy was to remain in place for two years, until Oct. 6 2024.
“This supports faster processing of applications to help eligible foreign nationals quickly obtain temporary or permanent resident status,” IRCC said.
Medical Exam Exemption Last Year Touted As Way To Slash IRCC Backlogs
The exemption put in place last year – and still in place – are for those who have:
- a new or pending application for permanent or temporary residence or a permanent resident visa, made from within Canada;
- completed an immigration medical exam within the last five years and posed no risk to public health or safety, or reported to public health authorities for monitoring, as required.
To qualify, candidates must also know the unique number of their previous exams.
“Applicants who are not eligible under this temporary public policy are required to undergo an immigration medical exam as per usual health screening procedures. IRCC will contact individuals who are not eligible for the exemption to discuss next steps.”
In announcing the implementation of the public policy, IRCC said it was seeing “unprecedented interest in Canada from applicants all over the world”.
“This temporary public policy helps streamline processing for low-risk applicants, aims to provide better client service and supports faster processing of applications, while effectively managing public health risks,” IRCC said.
That public policy followed two similar policies implemented between May 2021 and March 2022.
IRCC said the first two policies benefited 85,000 immigration applicants, and the one implemented in October last year was expected to benefit 180,000 candidates.