December 2, 2023

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Immigration Canada’s backlog grows to 1.84 million

5 min read

IRCC reports there are 1.84 million people waiting on decisions in its inventory as of mid-March.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provided its latest inventory data to CIC News through a media request. The inventory comprises applications submitted by future Canadian citizenspermanent residentsinternational studentstemporary workers, and visitors.

The backlog has progressed as follows since the summer:

  • March 15 and 17, 2022: 1,844,424 persons
  • February 1, 2022: 1,815,628 persons
  • December 15, 2021: 1,813,144 persons
  • October 27, 2021: 1,792,404 persons
  • July 6, 2021: 1,447,474 persons

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Note on data reporting

The data represents the number of persons currently awaiting processing by IRCC.

CIC News is reporting the data exactly how IRCC provided it. Permanent residence inventory data is from March 15 and temporary residence inventory data is from March 17. The reason for the difference is when IRCC provided the March 15 temporary residence data initially, the “visitor record” data was missing. As IRCC does not keep snapshots of their inventory, except when requested, it was not possible for the media representatives to verify the March 15 visitor record data. The March 17 temporary residence data was provided when requested.

The comparison data from February 1 matches what IRCC provided at that time. In some cases, marked “N/A,” IRCC did not offer the information.

Where has IRCC made progress since last month?

Significant progress is being made on Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) applications. There are just 10,400 CEC persons left to be processed, which suggests IRCC could wind down this backlog by the spring. Meanwhile, tremendous progress is being made on FSWP applications. In the last two weeks, IRCC has processed more FSWP applicants than it did over a seven-month period in 2021. The department processed 4,000 FSWP persons between February 28 and March 15. At this current rate, the department could also wind down the FSWP backlog in the second half of this year.

Express Entry inventory

Immigration category Persons as of Mar. 15 Persons as of Feb. 1 Difference
Federal Skilled Worker Program (EE) 41,336 49,751 -8,415
Canadian Experience Class (EE) 10,388 15,139 -4,751
Provincial/Territorial Nominees (EE) 36,590 (EE) + 34,621 (No EE) 68,682 (EE + No EE) +2,529
Federal Skilled Trades Program (EE) 589 805 -216
Grand total 123,524 134,337 -10,813

The family class inventory has shown some progress in the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP), as well as the humanitarian and compassionate category. Although there was some growth in the spouses, partners, children and other categories, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has said that processing standards for new applications are back to the 12-month standard. The government offers a tool for spousal sponsorship applicants to monitor their application status.

Family class immigration

Immigration category Persons as of Mar. 15 Persons as of Feb. 1 Difference
FCH-Family relations – H&C 3,320 3,350 -30
Parents and Grandparents 35,324 36,046 -722
Spouses, partners, children, other family 55,301 (spouses) + 9,166 (children and other) 62,826 +1,641
Total Family Class 103,112 102,222 +890

Where has the backlog grown since February?

As of the end of February 2022, the citizenship inventory is 453,265. This figure includes all prospective, mailroom estimates and unopened electronic applications.

IRCC previously reported the backlog for citizenship applicants was standing at about 448,000 on December 31, 2021.

There were about 5,000 more citizenship applications in the inventory at the end of February, compared to the end of December.

The Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence (TR2PR) pathway also saw an increase of about 5,400 applicants. Even though IRCC received all applications for this program between May 6 and November 5, 2021, these applications were saved in a cloud environment and not yet considered part of the inventory, an IRCC spokesperson said in an email to CIC News. The applications were then transferred to the Global Case Management System and counted in the inventory. IRCC received about 91,000 applications in total for the TR2PR program. As of March 15, 35,341 persons were reported in the inventory.

Other permanent residency program inventories that saw significant increases include the paper-based Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), the Caring for Children Program, and the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.

Permanent residence

Immigration category Persons as of Mar. 15 Persons as of Feb. 1 Difference
Economic Class 230,767 230,573 +194
Family Class 103,112 102,222 +890
Humanitarian and Compassionate/Public Policy 27,218 27,436 -218
Permit Holders Class 18 21 -3
Protected Persons 157,552 158,778 -1,226
Grand total 518,667 519,030 -363

Economic class immigration

Immigration category Persons as of Mar. 15 Persons as of Feb. 28 Persons as of Feb. 1 Difference
Agri-Food Pilot Program 649 653 N/A -4
Atlantic Immigration Pilot Programs 2,672 2,577 N/A +95
Canadian Experience Class (EE) 10,388 12,088 15,139 -4,751
Canadian Experience Class (No EE) 107 84 N/A +23
Caring For Children Program 17,585 16,316 16,085 +1,500
Federal Self Employed 5,263 5,181 5,396 -133
Federal Skilled Workers (C-50) 190 197 N/A -7
Federal Skilled Workers (EE) 41,336 45,437 49,751 -8,415
Federal Skilled Workers (Pre C-50) 23 23 N/A 0
High Medical Needs Program 16 15 N/a +1
Live-in Caregiver Program 1,268 1,328 N/A -60
Provincial/Territorial Nominees (EE) 36,590 37,484 68,682 (EE + No EE) -894
Provincial/Territorial Nominees (No EE) 34,621 32,106 N/A +2,515
Quebec Entrepreneur 408 416 N/A -8
Quebec Investor 14,309 13,845 14,117 +464
Quebec Self Employed 121 89 N/A +32
Quebec Skilled Workers 26,997 26,217 25,263 +1,734
Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot 870 897 N/A -27
Skilled Trades (EE) 589 632 723 -134
Skilled Trades (No EE) 3 3 N/A 0
Start-up Business 1,421 1,295 N/A +126
TR to PR 35,341 34,304 29,864 +5,477
Ministerial Instruction Economic Programs N/A N/A 5,553 N/A
Total Economic Class 230,767 231,187 230,573 +194

There were also a number of increases in temporary residence applications. Work permits saw the largest increase up by about 14,700 between February 1 and March 17. Extensions for both work and study permits as well as visitor records were also on the rise.

Temporary residence

TR category Persons as of Mar. 17 Persons as of Feb. 1 Difference
Study Permit 111,192 112,185 -993
Study Permit Extension 30,533 26,479 +4,054
Temporary Resident Visa 419,243 420,097 -854
Visitor Record 68,528 65,093 +3,435
Work Permit 100,205 85,526 +14,679
Work Permit Extension 142,791 139,218 +3,573
Grand total 872,492 848,598 +23,894

Major changes since autumn 2021

IRCC has stopped holding Express Entry draws for CEC candidates since the fall of 2021, and for FSWP candidates since December 2020. The reason was to clear the large inventory of applications that caused processing times to increase. Pausing Express Entry draws for these programs means no new applications are coming in for them, allowing officers to process the backlog. IRCC has, however, been holding PNP draws biweekly in record numbers.

Public IRCC records suggest that Express Entry draws for FSWP and CEC candidates will resume in 2022, once the backlogs are reduced and the six-month processing standard can resume.

In the 2021 Budget, Canada allocated $85 million to reduce processing times across all IRCC lines of business. Minister Fraser has said this budget will allow Canada to return to processing service standards for study permits, work permits, and permanent resident card renewals by the end of the year. The temporary reduction in Express Entry admissions is so IRCC can wind down the processing of its TR2PR program.

Canada released the 2022-2024 Immigration Levels Plan in February. The government plans to admit record numbers of newcomers every year for the next three years. The Express Entry targets are significantly reduced for 2022 and 2023 but return to over 110,000 immigrants in 2024.

Canada has also introduced the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET), an accelerated temporary residence pathway for Ukrainians fleeing war. IRCC has said these special measures for Ukrainians will not impact the processing of refugee applications.

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