2023 Reports 5 to 9 of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada—People applying for permanent residency still facing long waits for decisions

2023 Reports 5 to 9 of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of CanadaPeople applying for permanent residency still facing long waits for decisions

Ottawa, 19 October 2023—A report from Auditor General Karen Hogan tabled today in the House of Commons found that most people applying for permanent residency waited a long time for a decision, despite recent efforts by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to improve processing times and reduce backlogs that worsened during the pandemic.

The audit focused on 8 programs that receive applications in economic, family, and refugee and humanitarian classes and found that refugees waited the longest for a decision from the department. On average, privately sponsored refugees waited 30 months for a decision while overseas spouses or common-law partners waited an average of 15 months to be reunited with their partners in Canada. The department’s ability to reduce backlogs is limited in part by the number of admissions allowed each year under the Immigration Levels Plan.

The audit found that large backlogs of applications remained across all 8 programs at the end of 2022 and that the age of backlogged applications had also increased, meaning that newer applications were often finalized ahead of older ones. There were differences in the size and age of application backlogs by country of citizenship in 7 of the 8 permanent resident programs, and offices with large backlogs of refugee applications have been under‑resourced for many years. The audit also found that the department assigned application workloads to offices without assessing whether they had enough resources to process the volume of applications being routed to them, which further contributed to delays and backlogs.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada prioritized the processing of backlogged applications in some programs and introduced a new digital assessment tool and online application portals to receive and more quickly assess applications in others. However, online portals were not available to most people applying for refugee programs, and the department did not monitor the implementation of its new automated eligibility-assessment tool to determine whether the tool was reducing overall processing times or to identify and resolve any unintended differential outcomes for applicants.

“At the end of 2022, about 99,000 refugees were still waiting for a decision on their application, and in the current processing environment, many will be waiting years,” said Ms. Hogan. “Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada needs to analyze its backlogs to understand the root causes of differential outcomes, ensure that the tools it implements are not contributing to these differences, and match workloads to available resources in its offices to improve processing times.”

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The 2023 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada, Report 9—Processing Applications for Permanent Residence—Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada website.

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