The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) conducted an audit of the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) system. In the audit conducted by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), the processing and backlogs in Canada’s immigration system were examined closely.
The primary objective was to identify existing issues and recommend solutions to enhance the efficiency of the immigration system.
A recent audit by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) found that there are still long delays in processing applications for permanent residency in Canada, despite efforts to speed up the process. Even though some improvements were seen in 2022, most applications still took longer than the expected time.
The report showed that people applying for refugee programs faced the longest delays. For instance, spouses or partners living abroad had to wait around 15 months to join their loved ones in Canada.
Privately sponsored refugees had to wait even longer, enduring a wait of 30 months for a decision.
To address these issues and improve the processing of permanent resident applications, the report offered the following recommendations:
Programs Under Review
The audit covered eight major immigration programs that account for a significant portion of permanent resident applications finalized each year.
Here’s a breakdown of these programs and the number of applications finalized in 2022:
|Program||Number Finalized in 2022|
|Total Economic Class Applications||331,217|
|– Federal Skilled Worker Program (Express Entry)||56,232|
|– Quebec-Selected Skilled Worker Program||48,652|
|– Provincial Nominee Program (Non-Express Entry)||60,383|
|– Provincial Nominee Program (Express Entry)||63,805|
|Total Family Class Applications||125,700|
|– Overseas Sponsored Spouse or Common-Law Partner Program||44,239|
|– Sponsored Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Program||37,618|
|Total Refugee and Humanitarian Class Applications||110,245|
|– Government-Assisted Refugees Program||16,354|
|– Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program||31,494|
Audit Completion Date
The audit, led by Principal Carol McCalla, was completed on September 1, 2023. It covered the period from January 1 to December 31, 2022.
Additionally, the auditor’s team examined certain matters outside of these dates, including strategies implemented in 2020 and 2021, as well as processing work conducted into 2023 on specific files.
Findings and Recommendations
The audit revealed several key findings, and the OAG made specific recommendations to address the issues identified in the immigration system.
Let’s break down these findings and recommendations for a clear understanding.
Set Achievable and Reliable Service Standards
The audit found that there was a lack of clear and attainable service standards for processing permanent residence applications, especially in refugee programs. Many applicants were unaware of the expected timeframes for a decision.
- Establish clear and attainable service standards for processing applications for permanent residence, with a specific focus on refugee programs.
- Provide online information to applicants about expected processing times, taking into account the quantity and age of applications already in the system.
Addressing Differential Wait Times
The audit highlighted the existence of unequal wait times across different permanent residence programs. This inconsistency raised concerns and adversely affected applicants.
- Identify and rectify discrepancies in wait times across various permanent residence programs.
- Develop a strategy to gather racial and ethnocultural data from applicants to address any discrepancies based on race.
Priority Processing of Old Backlogged Applications
The audit identified the presence of backlog applications, with some delays being within the control of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. Older applications were often delayed, causing frustration for applicants.
- Give priority to processing older backlogged applications to reduce delays.
- Address processing delays under the control of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.
Uniform Allocation of Workloads
Workloads in different offices of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada were not adequately matched with available resources, leading to inconsistency in application processing timeframes. Some offices faced significant backlogs due to limited capacity.
- Match allocated workloads with available resources to ensure uniform processing timeframes across different offices.
- Provide accurate information about available capacity within offices to support decision-making.
- Take urgent action to clear application backlogs that have built up in offices with limited capacity.
Assess Automation Tools Processing Time Discrepancies
Discrepancies in processing times were noted, often resulting from the use of automated decision-making tools. This inconsistency raised concerns about the effectiveness of automation.
- Assess any discrepancies in processing times resulting from the use of automated decision-making tools.
- Take steps to minimize these differences, which may include reallocating resources to applications requiring manual processing.
Online Portals for Refugee Programs
The absence of online application portals for IRCC’s refugee programs was identified as a barrier to efficient processing.
- Implement online application portals for IRCC’s refugee programs to streamline the application process.
- Complete the Digital Platform Modernization project for enhanced efficiency.
Response from Immigration Minister Marc Miller
Commitment to Efficiency
Minister Marc Miller emphasized that immigration is critical to Canada’s long-term success and acknowledged the significance of an efficient immigration system. He mentioned that IRCC has prioritized improving processing times and client service to build a stronger immigration system.
Minister Miller reported the progress made in reducing backlogs, including measures such as digitization, staff recruitment, and automation technologies. He noted that many lines of business are back to or close to service standards.
For instance, as of September 2023, more than 80% of federal high-skilled applications received since July 2022 have been processed within service standards.
Similarly, over 80% of spouses, partners, and children (except for Quebec) applications received since April 2022 have also been processed within service standards.
“IRCC is on track to open up the online Permanent Residence Portal to private refugee sponsor groups and some of our government-assisted refugee referral partners later this fall. The portal will be a secure and convenient way for these groups to submit their applications and referrals. These actions directly respond to some of the areas of concern in the report.”
This portal aims to provide a secure and convenient way for these groups to submit their applications and referrals, addressing some of the concerns raised in the audit.
Minister Miller expressed optimism about the progress made by IRCC despite the challenges faced in recent years. He recognized the dedication of IRCC’s employees in the application processing and emphasized the government’s responsibility to deliver on promises and ensure Canada remains a welcoming and inclusive destination for those seeking to build a new life.
Latest Canada Immigration Backlog Update
As of September 26, 2023, the immigration backlog in Canada stood at 844,700. The overall processing inventory for citizenship, permanent residency, and temporary residency applications was 2,198,700.
The breakdown of the overall processing inventory as of August 31, 2023, is as follows:
|Application Type||Overall Processing Inventory As of August 31|
The audit conducted by the Office of the Auditor General shed light on the challenges within Canada’s immigration system. While there are issues to address, the government, through IRCC, is actively working to streamline processes, reduce backlogs, and enhance overall efficiency.
The commitment to setting clear standards, addressing discrepancies, and embracing technology is evident in the steps taken by IRCC.
As Canada continues its journey toward a more efficient and responsive immigration process, applicants can expect improvements in processing times and a more streamlined application experience.
Stay tuned for further updates as the nation strives to maintain its reputation as a welcoming and inclusive destination for individuals and families seeking a new beginning.