Today, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Honourable Sean Fraser, visited an IRCC application processing centre in New Waterford, Nova Scotia, to announce new online services across the Canadian immigration system, with the goal of improving client experience and reducing the immigration backlog.
Reducing Canadian immigration processing wait times
To help further reduce wait times, and building on the hiring of 1,250 new employees to tackle the backlogs and increase processing capacity, the Minister will exempt permanent and temporary residence applicants who are already in Canada and meet certain criteria from the immigration medical examination requirement. Simplifying this process in the coming weeks will impact approximately 180,000 clients by helping them save time and money on the medical examination process and reducing wait times on their applications.
To quickly process family reunification applications during the pandemic, IRCC began conducting telephone and video interviews with sponsors and applicants. Despite public health challenges, by pivoting quickly, the department was able to welcome more than 69,000 spouses, partners and children in 2021. Spousal sponsorship applications processing times have now returned to 12 months for all new applications.
IRCC has also resumed in-person interviews at Canadian and international offices. The department will as well continue to offer virtual interviews to applicants where possible. The work is on the way to expand the availability of virtual interviews at IRCC’s overseas offices.
Expanding online applications for permanent residence
IRCC is also taking measures to modernize the delivery of services to applicants for permanent residence programs. Today, the Minister announced that, as committed in January 2022, access to the online application portal for applicants has now been expanded to the majority of permanent residence applicants. IRCC will begin transitioning to 100% digital applications for most of permanent residence programs on September 23.
Providing better information to clients
Earlier this year, IRCC also launched a new application status tracker that allowed permanent residence applicants, sponsors and their representatives in the spouse, partner and dependent child categories to more easily check their application status online. By spring 2023, this application status tracker will have expanded to include 7 more permanent residence and temporary residence programs.
Starting this fall, IRCC will publish forward-looking estimates of how long it will take to process an application, increasing predictability for applicants.
Modernizing the citizenship program
Since the onset of the pandemic, IRCC has been pivoting to offer more online service options for citizenship applicants, including virtual ceremonies and online citizenship tests. In August 2021, IRCC launched a new tool that allows most citizenship applications to be submitted online. The tool is open to applicants age 18 and over, and has now expanded to allow groups of adults to apply together. IRCC intends to expand this tool to offer online applications for minors under the age of 18 by the end of 2022.
IRCC will continue to invest in its digital footprint and will look for opportunities to modernize and digitalize Canadian immigration system, giving the applicants the experience they expect in today’s digital world.