Immigration-processing delays leave many in limbo in Canada and overseas

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says it has experienced processing delays amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But nearly two years into it, most of the department’s in-person offices remain closed. And many applicants say they feel stuck in limbo, with no clear way to check on their files.

According to data received from IRCC, Canada had a backlog of nearly 1.8 million immigration applications as of Oct. 27, including:

  • 548,195 permanent residence applications, including 112,392 refugee applications.
  • 775,741 temporary residence applications (study permits, work permits, temporary resident visas and visitor extensions).
  • 468,000 Canadian citizenship applications.

Before the pandemic, processing times for PR applications averaged six months.

In May, the Information Commissioner of Canada released a report that found IRCC was inundated with access-to-information requests from applicants simply seeking information about their immigration files, because they felt they had no other means to receive direct updates.

In the 2019-20 fiscal year, IRCC received 116,928 access requests — an increase of 42 per cent over the previous year — with 98.9 per cent of those requests being around immigration application files.

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