Canada has a backlog of nearly 1.8 million immigration applications

Striking. One of the disadvantages of IRCC’s shift to monthly stats was the elimination of regular reports on backlogs, and in the case of citizenship, application data. So having this information fills a needed gap in understanding IRCC’s operational challenges.

For citizenship, highest previous backlog was 323,000 in 2012, impact of Discover Canada study guide and related knowledge test, along with cutbacks in citizenship processing capacity in a government-wide program review exercise:

IRCC’s backlog stands at almost 1.8 million immigration applications.

CIC News has received data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) showing the following number of applications in IRCC’s inventory as of October 27, 2021 (figures are rounded):

  • 548,000 permanent residence applications (economicfamily, refugee, and humanitarian class applicants)
  • 776,000 temporary residence applications (applications for study permitswork permits, temporary resident visas, and visitor extensions)
  • 468,000 Canadian citizenship applications (as of October 26)
  • 1,792,000 total applications in inventory

IRCC’s figures indicate their backlog has grown by nearly 350,000 applications since July.

In August, a report by Nicholas Keung of the Toronto Star showed that the backlog as of July 6, 2021 stood at about:

  • 375,000 permanent residence applications 
  • 703,000 temporary residence applications 
  • 370,000 Canadian citizenship applications. The Star reported that this figure did not include Canadian citizenship applications sitting in IRCC’s mailrooms that have yet to be processed.
  • 1,448,000 total applications in inventory

In an email to CIC News, an IRCC spokesperson explained “Ongoing international travel restrictions, border restrictions, limited operational capacity overseas and the inability on the part of clients to obtain documentation due to the effects of COVID-19 have created barriers within the processing continuum. This hinders IRCC’s ability to finalize applications, creating delays that are outside IRCC’s control.”

At the same time, the spokesperson acknowledged the challenges that applicants are facing, noting “Despite our efforts, we know that some applicants have experienced considerable wait times with the processing of their applications, and we continue to work as hard as possible to reduce processing times. We thank them for their patience and understanding at this moment, and we look forward to welcoming them to Canada.”

IRCC also shared data on the number of applications it has processed during the pandemic:

  • 337,000 permanent residence applications processed between January and September 2021. It processed some 214,000 applications in 2020.
  • 1,500,000 temporary residence applications processed between January and September 2021. This compares to nearly 1,700,000 applications in 2020.
  • 134,000 Canadian citizenship applications processed between January and September 2021. This compares to about 80,000 applications processed in 2020.


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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