Posted Aug 9, 2022 8:00 a.m. EDT



Canadian businesses, educational institutions and government-funded organizations accessing immigration are negatively impacted by delays at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC), a non-profit organization with a particular interest in labor mobility issues, conducted a survey during the month of June 2022. A total of 33 organizations that regularly access the International Mobility Program (IMP) responded to the survey. This is the second edition of a comparable survey from January 2021.

Between June and July, the overall backlog of applicants to IRCC increased from 2.4 million to 2.7 million, an increase of 12%. During the same period, the backlog of temporary foreign workers increased by 21%, from 408,733 to 493,746 applications. The backlog increases processing times well beyond IRCC service standards.

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Of the employers participating in the survey, 97% hire international talent through work permit programs and 53% access economic immigration. Most, 90%, of participating organizations employ more than 2,000 workers and 31% employ more than 10,000 workers.

When asked about the importance of international talent to business, 100% agree with the statement: “The contributions of international talent are important to our business”.

Yet processing delays at IRCC negatively impact 97% of respondents’ transactions over the next year. About 94% of organizations have canceled or delayed projects due to processing delays. For 55% of organizations, delays lead to lost revenue. Several Canadian universities participated in the survey, with 29% reporting the cancellation or postponement of teaching programs, as well as delays in research projects.

The CERC survey indicates that the need for Canadian employers to quickly access international talent will be vitally important to rebuilding the Canadian economy in a post-pandemic world. Experts also agree that immigration will be a key strategy for surviving a possible recession.

The survey also notes that as vaccination rates increase and serious COVID-19 infections decline, mobility and travel increase and Canada’s ability to handle the increased rates of travel visa applications will be essential for the Canadian economy.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s mandate letter calls on him to reduce application processing times, including to address delays that have been impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, work with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to establish a trusted employer system for Canadian companies hiring temporary foreign workers. Also, simplify work permit renewals, meet the two-week Global Talent Stream processing time, and establish an employer helpline.

Fraser said processing times should return to normal by the end of the calendar year. IRCC has worked to improve wait times for applicants by adding about 500 more staff to its 11,000 staff, as well as modernizing the immigration system. There is also an $827 million budget to digitize the current immigration system, as well as an additional $85 million to speed up the processing of certain business areas, such as study permits, work permits and PR card renewals.

Fraser told CIC News during a June 21 interview that thanks to these efforts, IRCC has welcomed 200,000 new permanent residents and work permits have increased by nearly 250% compared to 2021.

Despite the changes to the system, CERC says there is still a lot of work to be done and progress has been slow, particularly in reducing delays and establishing a trusted employer system.

“Reallocating resources, modernizing systems through better use of technology, and considering accelerated processing channels, such as a trusted employer program, are measures that should be adopted urgently. “, says the survey.

Discussions about developing a trusted employer program have been ongoing for many years, says CERC. Additionally, 73% of survey respondents said they would be willing to pay 10% to 25% more in additional fees for expedited processing. The fee would cover additional government costs to expedite processing.

Survey participants were also asked to share their recommendations for improving processing times. Five key themes emerged from this question. Namely, that the Canadian government should provide employers with efficient and predictable processing times. Employers also want to see a program that offers Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exemptions and fast-tracks applicants into high-demand occupations. Respondents also called on IRCC to hire and train more staff to modernize the outdated processing systems currently in place. Finally, they called on the government to implement a trusted employer program that meets the needs of employers hiring international talent.

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