The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) acknowledges the recent report by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada highlighting the continued backlog in processing applications. CILA is deeply concerned about the negative impact of prolonged and differential delays globally and wishes to express our position on this critical issue.
Addressing Added Uncertainty and Stress for Applicants
The current backlog in processing applications has resulted in extended wait times for certain cohorts of applicants, leading to added uncertainty and stress.
Immediate Action Required
CILA calls for immediate action to clear the backlog and regularize processing times in the most impacted regions and lines of business. Lengthy waiting times impose a substantial burden on these individuals and their families, causing undue distress and frustration. Swift and targeted measures are necessary to address this situation, as these delays often impact the well-being of those separated from their loved ones. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has both the human and technology resources to expedite the processing of its aging inventory.
Recognizing the Challenges Faced by IRCC
While we acknowledge that IRCC faces substantial challenges, including an increased inventory, the management of numerous immigration streams, and the integration of new technology and workforce, it is imperative that these challenges are met with concrete and measurable solutions that prioritize the welfare of applicants. The creation of an internal crisis response team should now allow the Department to devote resources to applications most impacted by disparities in processing capacity.
The Role of Regular and Meaningful Communication
CILA emphasizes that while processing times may be longer than desired, effective communication with applicants and stakeholders begins with publishing accurate processing times in real time based on existing and new inventories. Transparent processing times that are published weekly or bi-weekly that are tied to application completion and intake should be adopted to manage the expectations of applicants and mitigate the stress and uncertainty associated with processing delays. We urge IRCC to offer accurate, consistent, and meaningful communications about processing times and publish intake levels against the targets set in the annual levels plan. This will allow applicants and stakeholders to remain well-informed about the time it will take the Department to process applications. Clear and transparent communications can alleviate anxiety and reduce demands placed on governmental and external resources that revolve around securing accurate processing times.
Streamlining the Process to Reduce Demand on IRCC Resources
The delays in processing also create the need for more applications to be filed and processed by IRCC and more time needed to update mandatory application documents. Applicants impacted by backlogs are forced to update medical examinations, police clearances, biometrics and file extensions of status to maintain temporary status in Canada. They may also need to renew their Temporary Resident Visas to facilitate travel. CILA suggests the adoption of more efficient processes that minimize the need for multiple applications and document updates to alleviate the workload on processing officers and applicants alike.
Mitigating Unnecessary Back-and-Forth
The current state of processing applications creates a circle of back-and-forth communication between applicants and IRCC and often time MPs. This cycle is exacerbated by unhelpful and often confusing communication from the Department. CILA calls for improvements in the quality and clarity of communications, including client portal updates, to minimize the stress and uncertainty experienced by applicants.
In conclusion, CILA underscores the urgent need to address the backlog in processing applications through Canada’s overseas refugee programs and in other categories processed abroad. It is essential for IRCC to proactively manage inventories, processing capacities at visa offices, and devote adequate resources to processing applications throughout the international network. Applicants deserve parity in processing regardless of the region in which their applications are processed. IRCC must at all times adhere to the first-in-first-out method of processing applications across all lines of business to ensure fairness to all applicants. It is our position that immediate action is required to reduce processing times, enhance lines of communication, and streamline the application process to better serve the interests of applicants. We look forward to working collaboratively with IRCC and other stakeholders to achieve these goals and ensure that the Canadian immigration system continues to reflect the values of fairness, compassion, and family reunification that have defined it for generations.