January 13, 2024

IRCC’s Efforts to Streamline Application Intake

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced a series of measures aimed at addressing the backlog of applications and improving processing times for key immigration programs. These measures are part of the department's broader strategy, "An Immigration System for Canada's Future," which outlines a vision for a more responsive and efficient immigration system.

Aligning Application Intake with Available Admission Spaces

A central component of IRCC's strategy is to align application intake with available admission spaces. This means that the department will strive to match the number of applications received for a particular program with the number of spaces available under that program's admissions cap. This approach is intended to prevent lengthy processing delays caused by an overabundance of applications for certain programs.

One program that has been particularly affected by application backlogs is the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP). The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the PGP backlog, as border closures and travel restrictions hindered the processing of applications. IRCC is currently working through the 2020 pool of PGP applicants and has implemented measures to reduce processing times for this program.

Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026

IRCC sets annual immigration targets through its Immigration Levels Plan. The most recent plan, released in November 2023, establishes targets for the number of permanent residents Canada plans to admit from 2024 to 2026. These targets are set in consideration of factors such as Canada's economic and labor needs, as well as the capacity of the immigration system to process applications.

Temporary resident programs, such as work and study permits and visitor visas, do not have a limit on the number of applications that can be submitted each year. This can lead to backlogs and slower processing times for these programs. However, IRCC has indicated that it is not in favor of imposing caps on the number of international students in Canada.

Addressing Backlogs and Improving Processing Times

IRCC's strategy to address application backlogs and improve processing times encompasses several key areas:

  1. Creating Achievable and Reliable Service Standards: IRCC is committed to establishing clear and realistic service standards for all permanent residency programs. These standards will outline the expected processing timelines for different types of applications.
  2. Evaluating Backlogged Applications: IRCC will prioritize the finalization of older backlogged applications to reduce the overall backlog and expedite processing times.
  3. Embracing Digital Tools: IRCC plans to leverage advanced analytics and automation tools to streamline application processing and reduce the burden on immigration officers. This includes using these tools to prioritize applications, automate routine tasks, and free up officers' time for more complex cases.
  4. Increasing Processing Capacity: IRCC is committed to increasing its processing capacity to handle the growing volume of applications. This includes hiring additional staff, streamlining internal processes, and improving infrastructure.

Current Backlog and Processing Times

Despite the challenges, IRCC has made progress in reducing application processing times. As of September 30, 2023, the department had an inventory of 2,194,900 applications, with 928,000 considered to be backlog. This represents a slight decrease from the previous month.

IRCC aims to process 80% of all applications within service standards, which vary depending on the type of application. For instance, Express Entry applications should be processed within six months, while family class sponsorship applications may take up to a year.


IRCC's efforts to address application backlogs and improve processing times are critical to ensuring that Canada's immigration system remains efficient and responsive to the needs of applicants. By aligning application intake with available admission spaces, embracing digital tools, and increasing processing capacity, IRCC is working to reduce processing delays and provide a more positive experience for immigrants and their families.

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