The government is still accepting new immigration applications but a growing backlog runs the risk of derailing Canada’s historic plan to welcome 1.2 million newcomers.
New data shows that immigration approvals were down nearly three-quarters during the start of the pandemic when compared to the months prior. Back in August, ITC News reported that immigration was down 67%, but this new data shows the deficit was even higher.
Approvals down, backlogs growing
Between January and March 15, 81,963 people had temporary or permanent resident applications approved. Between March 16 and Aug. 31—a period twice as long—that number fell to 38,652.
The report demonstrates that there is a growing backlog of immigration applications at IRCC. In January of this year, IRCC had an inventory of 405,375 cases. By the end of August, that number rose to 439,526.
The data was compiled in response to a request from the House of Commons, led by MP Jenny Kwan, the NDP immigration critic.
Number of extensions granted skyrockets
Kwan also took issue with the increase in the number of extensions being granted to international students and temporary residents during the pandemic. Kwan does not take issue with granting extensions to study permit holders. Kwan’s issue is the logic of allocating so many resources on the task.
The report found that between January and March 15, the months preceding the pandemic, 20,080 study permits were given extensions. In the following months, 111,595 extensions were approved.
In Kwan’s opinion, these approvals could be automatic. This would free up IRCC resources to address the growing backlog of immigration applications.
“I’m calling on the minister and strongly urging the minister to bring in a special COVID measure that will provide extensions, without further requirements from the applicants to have to renew,” she said.
What happens next?
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going anyway anytime soon. Although there are promising vaccines in development, vaccinating enough people to return to normal operations is a long way off. So how does IRCC address the growing backlog while also welcoming more newcomers than ever before?
It’s likely that IRCC will need additional funding for staff and resources. But training new staff
and increasing capacity is time-consuming and difficult during the best of times, let alone a global pandemic.
Redirecting existing resources is much easier. If IRCC chose to adopt measures like Kwan’s suggestion to automate renewals, more time can be spent addressing the backlog.
Technology might play a role as Canada moves to modernize its immigration system.
Time will tell how well any of this works. One thing that is certain—Canada needs immigrants. How long they wait to get here is the lingering question on the minds of many.