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18 things the Canadian government can do to increase the immigration system’s efficiency

By CILA on mars 21, 2022

This guest article was co-authored by Lou Janssen Dangzalan, and Carmelo Ramos, LJD Law Professional Corporation.

Canada currently faces a historic immigration backlog of over 1.8 million applications, leaving hundreds of thousands of applicants languishing in limbo as they are kept from moving on to the next phase of their lives.

To address this problem, Minister Sean Fraser, underscored measures to improve Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) processing times with the infusion of $85 million, as announced by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. These measures include hiring hundreds of new processing staff and digitizing IRCC’s intake and processing systems. However, IRCC confirmed in the House of Commons, that this budget allocation was to achieve “60 day [processing times] for study permits and work permits, and 61 days for permanent resident cards” by “the end of the year.”

A recent article from CIC news revealed that there have been slight improvements on the government’s efforts to reduce the backlog. Between October and December 2021, the backlog grew by 1 percent. In contrast, the backlog grew by just 0.1 percent between December 2021 and February 2022. This signifies that the backlog growth is beginning to slow down as the department’s capacity catches up.

CILA aims to suggest find quick fixes that can help IRCC further reduce the backlog growth and improve efficiency while we wait for IRCC’s substantial long-term backlog reduction programs to come online. The following are some suggestions that can be implemented quickly:

1) When approving visa-required study/work permit extension applications from inside Canada, Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) processing should be automatically included

  • This will allow visa officers to issue the applicant’s work/study permit and visa all in one go. This removes two (2) extra steps on the part of IRCC:
    • An applicant having to submit a second application to IRCC for a TRV from inside Canada;
    • IRCC having to process a second temporary application

2) Allow travel for those on Maintained Status without a resulting loss of authorization to study or to work, upon their return to Canada

  • This is already permitted for PGWP applicants

3) Accord automatic maintained status as visitors (if no work or study permit application submitted) for those submitting in-Canada PR applications

 4) Continue the public policy allowing visitors in Canada to have their study or work permit issued from inside Canada.

  • This public policy reduces flagpoling, and therefore removes unnecessary strain on Canadian border services

 5) Introduce another temporary Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) extension public policy for PGWP holders.

  • This will help keep a Canadian educated and experienced talent pool in Canada.
  • This will also help address labour shortages in Canada and prevent potentially thousands of temporary residents from falling out of status

6) ESDC can temporarily exempt employers of recent International graduates and post-graduation work permit from the advertising and prevailing wage requirements for LMIAs

  • This advertising exemption for International Graduates existed prior to the 2014 changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
  • This will help keep a Canadian educated and experienced talent pool in Canada.
  • This will also help address labour shortages in Canada and prevent potentially thousands of temporary residents from falling out of status

7) Revisit allowing work permit applicants, including those requiring restoration, to work while their work permit applications are pending

  • IRCC did this early in the pandemic, and they should do it again – this will help Canada in addressing the immediate labour shortage.

 8) Harmonize digital signature policies across all lines of business.

  • Permit the use of electronic signatures on forms requiring signatures.
  • A temporary policy that covers all lines of business should reduce the back-and-forth between IRCC and its clients as well as with representatives.
  • IRCC can look to the recent guidelines published by Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General for clues on implementation.

 9) Allow Open Work Permit Applications to be uploaded together with In-Canada Spouse/Common-Law Sponsorship Applications within the IRCC online PR Portal

  • This will provide applicants for permanent residence under the Family Class, to have maintained status.
  • This will also prevent the need for these applicants to submit first an application to extend their status as visitors, and then, following issuance of the Acknowledgement of Receipt, an application to extend their status as workers.
  • This will save IRCC substantial time, and reduce the number of applications that need to be processed.

10) Deputize Global Affairs Canada officers to process proof of citizenship applications for Canadians born outside Canada who have Canadian parentage.

  • IRCC can delegate simple proof of citizenship applications for Canadians born outside Canada to Global Affairs Canada.

11) Clarify the procedure for, and make standard, the ability to apply for a new passport along with an application for proof of citizenship

  • Canadian citizens born abroad require a passport to travel to Canada, and they require proof of citizenship in order to apply for the passport, as such it makes sense for the two applications to easily be processed together.

12) Permit permanent residents and Canadian citizens born abroad to travel to Canada with expired Permanent Residence (PR) cards, Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPRs), or proof of pending application for proof of citizenship, while the IRCC backlog is being addressed

  • CBSA can make the determination if they are eligible for entry on arrival.
  • This will permit permanent residents and Canadian citizens to travel to Canada without having to wait months/years for their applications to be processed.
  • It will also prevent the need for additional applications for PR Travel Documents, which only increases the IRCC backlog.

13) Permit new PRs to travel to Canada with just their COPRs

  • CBSA can make the determination if they are eligible for entry on arrival.
  • This will permit permanent residents to travel to Canada without having to wait months/years for their initial PR Cards to be processed
  • It will also prevent the need for additional applications for PR Travel Documents, which only increases the IRCC backlog.

14) Provide clear statements on the IRCC website that the COPR is proof of a person’s status, and that new PRs can use their eCOPRs in Canada as they would a PR card, to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN), driver’s license. Communicate this message across Government of Canada and provincial departments

  • New PRs are being refused SIN and provincial health insurance and driver’s licenses because they are waiting up to a year for their initial PR cards.

15) Extend language test validity by another 1 year until things start to normalize

  • Currently, language test results are only valid for two (2) years.
  • Owing to the pandemic, there has been a reduction in language test availability.
  • Many candidates in the Express Entry pool have language test results that will expire owing to the failure of IRCC to conduct recent draws.
  • Many of these candidates are in Canada, and are valued members of the Canadian labour force.
  • Extending the validity period of language tests will allow candidates to remain eligible for Express Entry, and will remove the burden of additional costs from candidates who are already disillusioned with the system and facing substantial stress.

16) Temporarily accept the academic version of language tests for Express Entry

  • Owing to the pandemic, there has been a reduction in language test availability.

17) Implement a dedicated channel for reconsideration requests for in-Canada work permit applications

  • Many applications are erroneously refused, and the IRCC Webform is taking up to 4 months to respond, if at all.
  • If erroneous refusals could be easily addressed, it would prevent the need for additional applications for restoration and new work permits.
  • It would also ensure that foreign workers are able to continue to work in Canada without loss of status.

18) Increase work permit duration to 3-years for high wage workers on approved LMIAs

  • Prior to the 2014 TFWP changes, LMIAs were issued in support of 3 year work permits
  • Permitting LMIAs to support work permits of longer duration, would prevent the need for additional LMIAs and work permits every two years, reducing the burden on ESDC and IRCC.
  • This would also allow skilled workers additional time to apply for permanent residence in Canada.

Members of CILA are at the frontlines of the current immigration backlog. Collectively, CILA members have institutional knowledge that can help the Canada meet its immigration and refugee goals.

Credits: The writers wish to thank Tamara Mosher-Kuczer, Alexandra Callinan, and Andrew Koltun for their valuable input.

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