Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help process immigration applications more efficiently after the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a shift to a digital system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help process immigration applications more efficiently after the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a shift to a digital system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

The federal government pledged in the 2021 budget to spend $428.9 million over the next five years to deliver the platform

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process immigration applications more quickly after the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a new system.

The federal government pledged in the 2021 budget to spend $428.9 million over the next five years to deliver the platform that would gradually replace the existing case management system.

The new platform will launch in 2023 to improve application processing and provide more support for applicants, the government said.

Alexander Cohen, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said the new system is part of a wider shift towards digital platforms across the department and government.

“(This new) platform will ensure that our immigration system can efficiently handle the increasing number of cases,” he said. “It will reduce the use of paper applications and be simpler and easier for applicants.”

Robert Falconer, a researcher at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, said the processing rate of permanent residency applications has been declining over the last six years.

Falconer said an analysis of government data shows that the number of received permanent residency applications was 34 per cent higher than the number of finalized applications last year.

In 2019, he said, that figure was 21 per cent.

Cohen said intake of applications has significantly increased over the past few years.

“There are just more applications than ever before and so we’re only going to process as many applications as there are spaces for in the (immigration) plan.”

The department has launched an online application portal that allows some permanent residency applicants to apply digitally, Cohen said.

While the portal will eventually expand to all permanent residency programs, it is now available to a random selection of applicants in seven programs, he said.

Falconer said there are around 120 immigration programs in Canada and close to half of them require applicants to fill out paper-based applications.

COVID-19 restrictions probably made it more challenging for immigration officers to process applications, especially paper-based applications, he said.

He said officers would have to travel to a central receiving location to pick up the applications or find a way to have them mailed securely to their homes.

Falconer added the government has recently created several new programs under the economic immigration class, including one to allow Hong Kong residents to immigrate to Canada and another to enable temporary residents including international students to apply for permanent status.

“Using the economic class as a catch-all, when there’s already a lot of paper-based applicants, I think, can put a lot more stress and confusion and complexity on economic class immigration officers,” he said.

“Each new public policy, there are going to be specific requirements there, and the more requirements we have for officers, the slower it means the applications will (be processed).”

Improving the integration between the federal immigration system with the provincial nomination systems should also be a priority, Falconer said.

“We have 10 different provinces, each with their own paper-based application processes or electronic systems,” he said.

“Alberta for a long time — my home province here — their provincial nomination system was purely paper-based. But then, in the past couple years, they decided to integrate their provincial nominee system with the Canadian federal government system.”

He said almost half of all immigrants who arrive in Canada under economic class programs come through sub-provincial programs.

“The actual larger issue here, I would say, is actually federalism, and maybe to align the provincial and federal governments on the issue of immigration,” he said.

Andrew Griffith, a former director of citizenship and multiculturalism at the Immigration Department, said it has tried to simplify the process recently by allowing more online transmission of documents.

“These changes are not that easy to implement overnight,” he said.

Griffith said Ottawa’s promise to spend close to a half billion dollars to put in place a new immigration application processing system will be an interesting one to watch because implementing big IT projects presents challenges for the government.

The department should find ways to get rid of any duplication and overlap that may exist in the current immigration system, he said.

“Do we need all those steps? Can some of these steps be automated? Can we use (artificial intelligence) to make determinations?”

Cohen said the immigration department launched in 2018 two pilot projects using computer analytics to help immigration officers triage some online visa applications.

“This computer analytics technology analyzes data and recognizes patterns in applications to help identify routine and complex cases,” he said.

“The goal is to help officers to identify applications that are routine and straightforward for thorough but faster processing, and to triage files that are more complex for a more extensive review.”

He said all decisions on every application are made by a visa officer in all cases and the department’s artificial intelligence tools are not used to render decisions.

“We’re always looking to leverage technology to improve the process for Canadians and those who wish to come here.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Immigration

Just Posted

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

.
Princeton’s Spotlight wins two provincial awards for excellence

Publisher takes first place for investigative reporting

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

The COVID-19 cases reported over the week of May 30 to June 5. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees second straight week of 17 new COVID-19 cases

Summerland, Keremeos and Princeton all recorded no new cases

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read