Since the pandemic hit, IRCC applications have been slowly moving to digital platforms. In the 2021 budget, the federal government allocated significant funds ($428.9 million over five years) to modernize the IRCC’s platform. The funds will be used to develop a “secure, stable, and flexible enterprise-wide digital platform that protects people’s information will improve application processing and help Canada remain a destination of choice.”
Which IRCC applications are going digital?
In line with the IRCC’s commitment to modernize application processes, in April 2021, they announced select paper-based economic class permanent residence applications will move to digital platforms. This included the following programs:
- Non-Express Entry (base) Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)
- Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot
- Agri-Food Pilot
- Atlantic Immigration Pilot
- Quebec’s Selected Investor Program, Entrepreneur Program, and Self-Employed Persons Program
These applications were previously paper based, meaning candidates had to print and prepare all documents to send to the corresponding office by mail. The IRCC is currently selecting random nominees to test a new online application portal for non-Express Entry PNP Permanent Residence applications.
Why IRCC’s move to digital applications is good news
Paper-based applications have caused many headaches for applicants and immigration practitioners alike. The government forms change often; due to the time it takes to ship an application, the forms may be outdated by the time they arrive to the processing office. This could result in the IRCC returning the application and and the applicant losing time. This is especially challenging if the applicant is applying from overseas and the application takes a long time to ship. For this reason, it is also harder to meet the deadline, as shipping time needs to be accounted for. It also takes much longer for the IRCC to issue the acknowledgment of receipt (AOR) for paper-based applications. This means that if the IRCC returns the application for any reason, the applicant can face 3-6 months of delays.
Recent online application processes
We also saw a glimpse of what the IRCC’s enterprise-wide portal could look like when the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident (TR to PR Pathway) first opened. The IRCC created a new portal in partnership with Amazon especially for this pathway. The pathway needed a new portal with a high bandwidth to handle the high volume of first applications submitted. The user-friendly portal was a pleasant surprise and created a seamless experience for applicants.
Following the recent announcement of permanent residence pathways for Hong Kongers in Canada, the IRCC has instructed applicants to submit their documents via epost. Epost is Canada Post’s online delivery service that allows for applicants or immigration practitioners to securely submit electronic documents. The IRCC has previously used this system for PRRA applications and for some refugee claimants to submit documents to the IRB. As this service requires a Canadian or U.S. mailing address to register, it can only be used for inland applications.
The IRCC has not been confirmed what the future enterprise-wide portal will look like. However, the range of online options they are testing is sure to assist in creating a more streamlined final platform.