OTTAWA – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser acknowledged Wednesday that his administration is prioritizing visa applications submitted after easing travel restrictions in September 2021.
“What we have done is to prioritize requests received after (September 7, 2021) to make sure that we focus our efforts on people who intend to come to Canada, because that is good for the Canadian economy and for Canadian communities when people come to visit us,” he said at a news conference in Vancouver.
A few minutes ago, before being questioned by the press, Minister Fraser nonetheless said that his department does not allow some people to “cut the line”.
According to Mr Fraser, the “vast majority” of the “huge” backlog of 170,000 applications were linked to events that never happened, such as a wedding or a show that was canceled because gatherings were banned.
Applications from individuals exempt from the then current COVID-19 travel restrictions, such as family members of Canadians and essential workers, were given priority by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) between March 2020 and September 6, 2021. Other applications have been placed in Waiting list for non-urgent processing.
Minister Fraser said that people who applied before September 7, 2021 and still wish to come into the country can expect a “relatively higher priority for processing” if they reapply.
In an email to The Canadian Press, his office explained that it recommends filing a new application if the situation changes, but that there is no “money-back guarantee” for a previous application.
Currently, the federal government takes up to five months to process applications from certain countries, according to data compiled by Le Devoir.
Weapons and Transparency
Mr. Fraser summoned the press to announce that IRCC will hire 1,250 new employees by the end of the fall to increase processing capacity and address the backlog.
He also said that his department will publish monthly “real-time” statistics on applications submitted, processed and those that do not meet service standards.
“I think it is very important when we communicate with the world that we want people to come and (…) have an idea of how long it will take to get here,” the minister said.
To date, 54% of the applications received do not meet the service criteria. “We can do better,” said Mr. Fraser.
Mr. Fraser emphasized that the situation was already improving. The Express Entry program – intended for skilled immigrants wishing to settle in the country – and the family reunification program now meet their service criteria of six and twelve months, respectively, for new applications.
Ottawa estimates that it is generally approaching “peak” timelines and expects significant reductions by the end of the year or, in the case of tourist visas, early 2023.
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