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More Than 1.3 Million Immigration Applications Still In Backlog As Minister Sean Fraser Provides Update Immigration System

The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today highlighted ongoing work to strengthen Canada’s immigration system and reduce application backlogs, with a focus on addressing labour shortages, improving client experience, and reuniting families. As part of this plan, the Minister announced that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will have hired up to 1,250 new employees by the end of the fall to increase our processing capacity and tackle the backlogs in the short term, while we take action to make our system more sustainable in the long term.

These new hires, as well as support provided through the $85 million from the Economic and Fiscal Update 2021, have allowed us to reduce wait times and return to pre-pandemic service standards for new clients in critical areas, including the six-month service standard for the Express Entry permanent residence pathway, the 12-month service standard for family reunification through spousal sponsorship, and permanent resident cards. 

With unprecedented interest in Canada from applicants all over the world, IRCC continues to set the bar higher for immigration processing. In 2021, we set a historic record by admitting more than 405,000 new permanent residents to Canada. Our target for 2022 is to welcome 431,000 permanent residents, and we are well on our way to achieving it, with approximately 275,000 admissions from January 1 to July 31—a number reached faster than in any previous year.

IRCC was able to issue more than 199,000 work permits in 2021. This year, we issued over 349,000 new work permits from January 1 to July 31, compared to approximately 112,000 issued during the same period in 2021. These include over 220,000 open work permits, which allow permit holders to work anywhere in Canada in almost any occupation. These work permits mean up to 1,700 new people every day are able to come work in Canada and help grow our economy.

Canada is also a top destination for international students. In 2021, IRCC finalized almost 560,000 study permit applications, surpassing our previous record from 2019 by 31%. IRCC is already outpacing that number in 2022, with almost 360,000 study permits finalized between January 1 and July 31, 2022, compared to about 306,000 finalized in the same period in 2021.

However, responding to humanitarian crises and updating aging technology to meet demands have led to processing delays and longer wait times. Our focus is on reducing existing backlogs, which are the applications that have been in our inventories longer than our service standards. At the end of July, about 54% of applications in our inventories were considered in backlog. We are aiming to process 80% of all new applications within these standards, accounting for expected delays in complex cases.  

Continuing to improve Canada’s immigration system will increase our ability to attract top talent from around the world, and help solve key labour shortages in sectors like tourism, health care, agriculture, transportation, and the skilled trades. To keep Canadians up to date on our progress toward reducing the backlogs, IRCC will publish monthly data on our website. We will share more information in the coming weeks and months on additional measures that will help get workers into the economy, reunite families, and ensure that our immigration system works for everyone.

Quick facts

  • Supported by additional funding of $85 million from the Economic and Fiscal Update 2021, IRCC has taken a number of measures to reduce wait times. We have hired new processing staff, digitized applications and implemented technology-based solutions.
  • At any given time, IRCC is managing over 1 million applications from our inventories. In 2021, we finalized 1.7 million applications across all lines of business.
  • On April 22, 2022, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced measures to address labour shortages in Canada, including
    • the resumption of Express Entry draws in July 2022
    • new temporary policy that will give recent international graduates with expiring temporary status the opportunity to stay in Canada longer
    • extending a temporary public policy that allows foreign nationals in Canada as visitors to apply for an employer-specific work permit without having to leave Canada until the end of February 2023
    • policy changes benefitting those who applied for permanent residence via the temporary resident to permanent resident pathway in 2021
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