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

According to Langley’s Larry Worledge, Brydon Park is a hidden gem in downtown Langley City. It offers a short walking trail, and is home to many birds and even turtles, like this on spotted sunbathing on a log in the lagoon. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
SHARE: Sun worshipping in Brydon Lagoon

Send us your photo showing how you view Langley, and it could be featured in a future edition

Aldergrove Business Association member Karen Long shops at the Aldergrove Save-On-Foods in May as part of a shop local challenge. (File photo)
Save-On-Foods annual campaign for Langley food bank starts Thursday

50 per cent of net proceeds from Western Family brand to be donated

Hearts for Hospice fundraiser happens Sunday, June 20, 2021 at Fort Langley Community Hall from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Langley Hospice/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Sunday: Hearts for Hospice fundraiser at Fort Langley Community Hall

Society is hosting event in support of new 15-bed residence project

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley’s John Kromhoff has more than 1,000 birthday cards and letters – so far

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Homicide investigators say the disappearance of a 33-year-old Burnaby man is linked to ongoing gang warfare in the Lower Mainland. (IHIT)
Disappearance of Burnaby man no accident, foul play suspected: IHIT

Parminder Paul Rai, 33, is known to police for his connection to drug and gang activity, says Sgt. Frank Jang

Stock photo by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay
Drop-in vaccination clinics slated for construction workers in Lower Mainland

Sites in Abbosford, Burnaby and Vancouver holding no-appointment clinics in June and July

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves petition application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (Screenshot from Sebastian Sajda YouTube video)
VIDEO: Surrey mayor unceremoniously cuts off 22 speakers during public hearing

Speakers plead with Doug McCallum not to be disconnected but mayor reminds them to stay on topic

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits he failed to supervise his staff and find or report the shortages

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Most Read