Citizenship Statistics January-June 2016: 64 Percent Drop in Applications

The release of IRCC citizenship and other statistics for the first half of the year provides an indication of what the overall 2016 numbers of permanent residents and new citizens will likely be.

citizenship-data-slides-2015-008The chart above, year-to-year comparison, shows the expected drop (41 percent) in the number of new citizens following IRCC’s success in 2014 and 2015 in eliminating the backlog (from a high of  323,000 in 2012 to 59,000 on 30 June 2016).

The more significant news is the dramatic drop in the number of people applying for citizenship (63.9 percent), mainly reflecting the sharp increase in citizenship fees from $100 (plus $100 right of citizenship fee) before February 2014  to $530 in 2015 (the right of citizenship fee remained unchanged).

To a lessor extent, some of the 2014 changes to the Citizenship Act in C-24, such as the extension of language and knowledge testing to 55 to 64 year olds, also played a role.

If this trend continues, there will only be about 70,000 applications in 2016, compared to about 130,000 in 2015.

Of concern is that IRCC did not appear to have seriously considered the possible impact of this increase in fees when advocating successfully for an exemption to the User Fees Act and its requirements for full public consultations.

In the Canada Gazette announcement announcing the increase to $530 (Regulations Amending the Citizenship Regulations P.C. 2014-1453 December 12, 2014), IRCC stated:

“An important assumption made in the monetized analysis is that the fee increases are not anticipated to affect the demand for citizenship. The last census (2006) reports that 85% of eligible immigrants received Canadian citizenship, or approximately 228,000 individuals. The CBA assumes that the fee increase will not impact the naturalization rate as the value placed on obtaining citizenship is very high and the benefits associated with obtaining citizenship far outweigh the fee increases. Thus, the number of applications expected per year is not anticipated to fall following an increase in the fees.”

Hard to believe that such a categorical assumption could be made, in contravention of basic economics and the realities of many low-income and refugee immigrants. Pure assertion, no real evidence. It mischaracterizes the Census number, which includes all the foreign-born (about six million), not just recent immigrants whose naturalization rate is significantly less.

Approval rates increased slightly to 92.1 percent from 91.4 percent.

Processing time continues to decline from 21 months during FY 2015-16 to 18 months in the latest quarter (April-June 2016), helped by the declining number of applications.

A cynic might suggest that the previous government, in addition to implementing many of the administrative changes and business process simplification needed to reduce future backlogs, put into place a number of measures that effectively reduced demand for citizenship as part of the their objective of making citizenship “harder to get and easier to lose.”

The increase in the number of new permanent residents reflects the increase in levels for 2016.

The datasets used are from Opendata: Citizenship Application ProcessingImmigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Overview.

One minor irritation with the datasets of Opendata: for citizenship, IRCC has moved from calendar to fiscal year reporting unlike for permanent and temporary residents, where it remains on a calendar year basis.

While it is possible to correlate the calendar and fiscal years, IRCC should be consistent for all its data sets. While I prefer the calendar year basis given that it allows to track longer term trends consistently, I can also understand the rationale for fiscal years, given the linkage to planning, budgeting, and reporting.

But please pick one or the other and stick to it!

Note: Revisions to application numbers can occur given incomplete applications are returned to the applicant without being entered into the database. When these are subsequently resubmitted with the missing information, they are dated and counted from the date of the original application. It is unlikely, however, that any revisions will alter significantly this trend.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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