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With 2 million applications in IRCC's inventory: Canada is falling back on its service standards

With 2 million applications in IRCC’s inventory: Canada is falling back on its service standards

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According to statistics released by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the total number of pending applications across all departments is currently just over 800,000.

The data presented here is up to date as of 30 April. In total, we have 2,006,000,000,000 applications available.

Applications that have not yet been processed are what IRCC considers part of its inventory. The government claims that it processed over 5.2 million applications for final approval in 2022, an increase of over 100% from 2021.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) strike lasted for 12 days, from April 19 to May 1, 2023, which is not included in the most recent inventory statistics.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told reporters during the strike’s final week that the strike delayed the processing of about 100,000 applications that would have been processed otherwise but that the IRCC would be back to normal processing speeds very soon.

Qualifications for providing a service

80% of all applications received across all business lines are processed within IRCC’s service requirements.

When it comes to how long it should take IRCC to process an application, the department has established service standards as a benchmark. The actual time it takes IRCC to process applications varies from the service standard.

When an application falls short of the expected service level for its category, it is placed in the backlog.

The quality expectations of a service can change with each distinct use case. Temporary residency applications, such as work or study permits, can take anywhere from 60 days to 120 days, whereas Express Entry program applications have a standard processing time of six months.


As of April 30th, there were 632,000 active permanent residency applications. Of these, 51%, or 322,000, were deemed to be backlogged, or to be falling short of acceptable service levels.

The data further dissects the situation by application type and compares IRCC’s predicted backlogs to actual backlogs.

IRCC has exceeded its aim of processing 80% of applications within service standards, with a 17% backlog in Federal High Skilled Workers (Express Entry) applications.

As of the month of April, 28% of Express Entry applications submitted by those seeking permanent residence under the Provincial Nominee Program have not been handled within the established service level goals.

The backlog for permanent residency applicants’ dependents, including wives, partners, and children, was 23% as of March 2018.


Of the 294,000 citizenship applications now on hand, IRCC reports that 221,000 (or 75% of the total) have been processed within service standards.

Statistics from August 2022 show that 30% of citizenship applications did not satisfy service requirements; since April 2023, IRCC has been working to narrow this gap, and now just 25% of applications do not meet criteria.

Temporary residency

There are currently 1,080,000 pending applications for temporary residency, with a backlog of 414,000 (or 38%).

Half of all visitor visas (temporary residents) are not being processed within the established time frame, according to the available data. It may take longer than the government had estimated to process all visitor visas, according to Minister Fraser, who has noted that this is one area that was affected by the strike.

82% of study permit applications were completed on time, exceeding the service criteria. The percentage of non-compliant work permits increased from March (below 20%) to April (22%).

In the spring and summer, many more people apply for and receive temporary residence permits. Warmer weather brings a rise in international visitors to Canada, and applications from prospective international students are being submitted in anticipation of the fall term.

In addition, there is often an increase in the number of seasonal employees in Canada requiring work permits at this time of year.

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