Between September and October 2022, Canada began to fully digitalize applications for most permanent immigration programs. Before then, online applications were accepted only for programs such as Spousal sponsorship. In March 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) began accepting online applications for spousal and common-law sponsorship through the Permanent Residence portal.
For programs with a digitized application process, IRCC will only accept online applications. Applicants unable to use the online application feature must contact IRCC for an alternative format; otherwise, IRCC may reject unauthorized non-digital applications.
Program-Specific Application Digitization Launch Date
- September 23, 2022: family sponsorship including a dependent child, spouse or partner, eligible relative, an orphaned sibling, nephew, niece or grandchild. Also, Canadians who wish to adopt a child using the immigration process can apply online, as well as Quebec-selected skilled workers and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot programs.
- October 7, 2022: Self-employed individuals applying to Quebec and Quebec –selected investors and entrepreneurs.
- October 14, 2022: Start-up Visa, Agri-food pilot and Temporary Resident Permit holders applying for Permanent Residency
- October 21, 2022: Applications on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, Self-employed applicants under the Federal program and the Home Child Care Provider Pilot.
- October 28, 2022: Applicants under the Atlantic Immigration Program.
In an email conversation with Immigrant Muse, Peter Liang, IRCC’s Communications Advisor, stated that the department had initiated several measures to accelerate spousal sponsorship applications. These include: “file digitization, electronic applications, remote processing, conducting remote interviews, the use of advanced analytics, and the introduction of an online application portal and tools to facilitate the processing of these files.” He adds that modernizing services has made it possible to return to the “pre-pandemic service standard of 12 months for new spousal sponsorship applications.”
According to IRCC, there are 2.1 million inventories currently. While 1.02 million applications are within the service standard timeframe, 1.09 million have exceeded the service standard and are in backlog. Current applications under the Permanent Residence category are 609,400, and 1,184,000 under the Temporary Residence program. IRCC’s goal is to process 80 per cent of applications within the service standard timeframe.
Liang adds that the “Government of Canada proposed to provide $85 million in 2022–23 so it can process more permanent and temporary residence applications and reduce processing times in key areas affected by the pandemic. In addition to this, and to further address the ongoing application backlogs, and the need for skilled newcomers to fill critical labour gaps faster, the government has committed an additional $50 million in the 2022 Fall Economic statement.”