Visa Crunch

Canada: Sean Fraser Claims On Dealing With 1.8 Million Application Backlog By Digitizing Operations

Amid mounting concerns that skilled immigrants would choose other nations over Canada, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says he is focusing his “whole concentration” on reducing backlogs and establishing a “nimbler” system.

“It will take resources and some time, but we are not sitting on our hands”, Fraser said at a Canadian Club Toronto panel discussion on February 16, Wednesday, where attendees from the business community, academia, and immigrant services raised concerns about the harm done to Canada’s global competitiveness by backlogs and long wait times.

“We are in a race for global talent. But there’s also no question in my mind that we are winning the race for global talent”, said the immigration minister.

Previously this week, the Liberal administration unveiled its 2022-24 immigration levels plan, which calls for the country to accept more than 1.3 million new permanent residents over the next three years in order to help the economy recover from COVID-19 and promote potential development.

People have questioned the government’s capability to handle the enormous volume of applications while dealing with a record backlog of 1.8 million applications for permanent and temporary residence, as well as citizenship.

“We have to recognize what’s got us here. That system needs to be updated. It needs to be modernized,” warned Goldy Hyder, president, and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, who shared the stage with Fraser on Zoom.

“We need resources allocated to this because that’s the lowest hanging fruit. These are people who have applied or are eligible to come here and we can’t get them here fast enough. We need them desperately.”

According to Fraser, one of the reasons Canada is increasing its immigrant intake to 431,645 in 2022, 447,055 in 2023, and 451,000 in 2024 is to allow more people in the queue to become permanent citizens. The immigration minister is optimistic that his agency will be able to handle the influx of applications after devoting $85 million to hire more people and improve processing, and another $827 million to digitize its operations.

The minister also identified “bottlenecks” in the processing of work permits, student permits, temporary residency visas, proof of citizenship, and permanent-resident cards. Even though the immigration office is reducing the new permanent-resident quota for high-skilled employees by half this year, from 111,000 to 55,900, to accommodate other priorities such as Afghan refugees, Fraser says the number of seats will return to normal after that.

“I can reassure you, we’re looking at resuming draws in the near term on the Canadian experience class” — skilled workers with Canadian work experience — “and all skilled workers,” he said.

“The balance is shifting back and by year three, there will be a record number of federal skilled workers,” Fraser added, going on to deny “that there has been any kind of an abandonment of what I would argue is one of the most successful immigration programs anywhere in the world.”

Despite 107% of employment lost during the pandemic regained, a labour force participation rate approaching an all-time high, and 900,000 job vacancies, Fraser says Canada can’t afford to fall behind in the international hunt for skilled migrants.

The immigration minister stated that he is looking into ways to strengthen the skilled-immigrant selection system, which assigns points to candidates based on personal characteristics like age, educational achievement, work experience, and language fluency.

Some of the features under discussion would give more weight to those destined for smaller rural towns with the capacity to integrate newcomers, target sectors with the highest need for workers, and draw applicants from a specific location that trains people needed by Canada.

“Building this flexibility in the express entry (management) system is something that I’m personally digging into right now because I think it’s going to enable us to respond in a more nimble way when we do see the pace of transformation is increasing,” he noted.

In answer to audience queries about Canada’s readiness to welcome a record number of residents in terms of housing, health care, and community services, Fraser stated that cutting immigration numbers would cost Canadians even more.

However, in an age of polarization, populism, and an urban-rural divide, Hyder warns that Canada must maintain its historical public support for immigration.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only.

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