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What is Causing Canadian Immigration Backlog?

After many months of processing delays due to travel restrictions and reduced staff, a major backlog continues to slow the issuance of visas and PR cards.

The pile-up of permanent residence applications has dramatically increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. As of July 6th, 2021, permanent residence application backlog has increased by 70% since February 2020.

Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has attributed this backlog to the travel restrictions in place during the pandemic,

“The growth of the inventory or what is described as backlogs is very much a function of the pandemic. There (was), quite literally, in the case of new permanent residents, no place for them to come to as a result of the travel restrictions,”

Marco Mendicino
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada

Percentage of IRCC staff on leave

Throughout the pandemic, applicants were becoming increasingly frustrated with communication regarding their applications. Nearly every request for information was met with a templatized message that IRCC offices were “operating with reduced or critical staff only”. For many, application processing times seem to drag on forever.

Though Mendicino attributes much of the backlog to travel restrictions, numbers from April 2020 shed additional light on the matter. Data from an IRCC HR status report reveal the percentage of staff on leave at Canada’s major visa processing centers; the numbers are astonishing.

Visa Processing CenterPercentage of staff on leave
Sydney  84%

Expired COPR holders left in limbo

Although travellers with valid Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) visas are exempt from travel restrictions as of June 21, 2021, those unable to travel before the expiry of their COPR documents are left in limbo.

Exasperation grows as holders of expired COPRs are instructed not to contact IRCC and instead must wait until they are contacted by IRCC for next steps. Many expired COPR holders quit their jobs and sold their possessions in anticipation for their move to Canada.

MP Jenny Kwan criticized the government’s approach to this process,

“To this day, it is a mystery to me why the government has insisted on contacting each individual with an expired or expiring permanent resident visa to see if they still wanted to come to Canada, instead of just automatically renewing it,”

NDP MP, Jenny Kwan

Permanent Resident card delays

The delays do not end for those who have become landed permanent residents. Permanent residents within Canada are also suffering from the unreasonable processing times. Many permanent residents have been waiting months to receive their PR cards. For those who are unable to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD), this means being unable to travel and see family in their home country.

IRCC blames the increased processing time for PR cards on the pandemic as “not all staff have access to the offices”. Officials are hopeful that the implementation of new virtual tools and the introduction of a new Permanent Resident Portal will speed up processing times.

Applicants whose processing time have exceeded the average processing time are asked to contact the Client Support Centre to help find out the reason for the delay.

Rebecca Major

Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and Director of Operations at Canadim Law Firm. She has spent the last 11 years of her career helping thousands of people immigrate to Canada.

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