Canada’s immigration minister now predicts that it will take only a few months longer than expected to get application wait times back on track, even though the crisis in Ukraine and other “external” events have aggravated the arrears.
In January, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser pledged to eliminate backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by the end of the year. This was before Canada launched a major response to the refugee crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and allowed hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and their families to temporarily come to Canada to escape the war.
Those efforts, combined with updates to aging government technology, have resulted in longer waits for people who want to come to Canada, Fraser said.
By the end of July, around 1.3 million immigration applications in the system had taken longer to process than government service standards require. This represents approximately 54% of all pending requests in the system.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Fraser said the department may need a few more months before all immigration flows return to normal processing times.
“Based on what we are reviewing right now, we shouldn’t be too, too far off from projecting a return to service standards for work and study permits by the end of this year. , and I expect that within a few months from there, visitor visas will be back to service standards,” Fraser said.
That is unless there are further international disasters, he said.
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the minister’s optimism is little comfort to people who have spent months, if not years, languishing in the system.
“I find it amazing that the minister speaks enthusiastically about the work he is doing, when there are so many people who are struggling, who are suffering because of immigration processing delays,” Kwan said in an interview.
She wrote a joint letter with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing their concerns about “utter chaos” at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Fraser said Canada’s immigration system is experiencing unprecedented demand, in addition to humanitarian crises.
As of July 31, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada had issued more than 349,000 new work permits this year, compared to 199,000 for all of 2021.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Fraser announced that the Immigration Department was in the midst of a hiring spree to recruit 1,250 new employees by the end of fall to tackle the massive backlogs in processing applications and increasing demand.
Fraser said the new hires have so far helped the government get wait times back on track for new applicants to the Express Entry permanent residency program, the main economic stream for new permanent residents to Canada.
“In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be releasing a series of new measures that will help get workers here faster, make it easier for families to reunite with loved ones, and hold accountable by being transparent,” he said. said Fraser at the press conference outside the Vancouver Convention Center.
Backlogs have been a growing concern since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when health restrictions made borders harder to cross and immigration slowed dramatically.
At the end of last year, the government allocated $85 million to reduce wait times. An additional $187.3 million has been set aside for the next five years in Budget 2022.
In June, the Prime Minister announced that ministers would form a task force to deal with growing backlogs in immigration applications and other government services.
Conservative immigration critic Jasraj Singh Hallan said he did not believe the extra resources would translate into meaningful change.
“It’s the Liberal model, throwing more money at a problem, creating a bloated public service that costs taxpayers more and getting no results,” Hallan said in a statement.
“Newcomers, Canadians and businesses deserve better than the backlogs created by the Liberals and more empty promises.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 24, 2022.