Citizenship and Immigration Canada/Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada (“CIC”) has just recently changed the way it displays processing times.
Previously, processing times were displayed in a table allowing an applicant to compare and contrast processing times based on visa offices. While it is still possible to find visa specific processing times for temporary resident applications (such as study and work permits), the ability to compare processing times across visa offices has been removed. Also, for spousal sponsorship applications which previously provided processing times by stage (sponsor assessment and applicant assessment), the number now shown is a bulk figure that presumably takes into account the entire process.
There has been some speculation that this may be a move towards a global one-queue processing time, I think that it is very premature to assume that this is the reason for the change.
A global one-queue processing system doesn’t appear to align with the goals of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protections Act (IRPA) to attract a diversity of spouses. Policy-wise, it makes sense that countries that historically supply Canada with more eligible applicants will have to wait a little longer vis-a-vis a country that produces less immigrants. That being said, not having a global one-queue system does not justify why applicants in certain countries in the Middle East and Africa are taking many years to process vis-a-vis countries in the Western world. Greater parity in actual processing times is desperately needed.
That being said, the new processing time display system certainly comes with a few positives. Like with Express Entry, it is certainly more applicant friendly then having to read a larger chart. It provides better updated processing across a category of applications – including economic immigration via Express Entry.
The cons of the new processing times display is that it is currently not as transparent as it can be. There are several examples of where this may kick in and have negative consequences:
- Applicants who have legal resident status in a third country can apply through that visa office for permanent residency in Canada and ask to be processed through a visa-office in that country. Without knowledge of visa-specific processing times, this becomes a bit of a crapshoot;
- If CIC’s policy continues to be the call centre not updating applicants on where applications when they are in “regular processing times”, this chart creates complications. Does an Applicant who has not received first-stage approval have the right to access information from the call centre regarding their application?
- Applicants may be dissuaded from from applying for permanent residency in Canada thinking it will take 18 months to sponsor outside of Canada and 26 months to sponsor inside Canada (a difference of only 8 months).
- Also, because of the open work permit pilot that allows a spouse to obtain a work permit within 4-6 months of processing for in-status applicants, showing averages instead of actual processing times may create a incentive towards applying in Canada without properly advising as to the possible drawbacks. Particularly in several European visa offices where processing times are currently under a year, you may see applicants mistakenly apply in Canada thinking it is more beneficial process. I note that CIC’s own materials don’t clearly lay out the negatives of applying in Canada (longer processing times, loss of appeal rights, possibility of being denied re-entry and having to start from scratch with an outside Canada application).
Overall, there is clearly a need to let applicants known how long it theoretically will take for processing. Many potential immigrants plan their entire lives around processing times, whether to accept academic offers, whether to continue with their current employment, even whether to have kids before or after immigrating.
In my mind, while simplicity and clarity are important factors (which the new CIC processing times display delivers), so to is transparency (which I believe the new CIC processing times display compromises).
Overall, I do not see any utility in providing the applicant who in reality has to wait three years that it will only take 26 months. I also don’t see any utility in telling the applicant that will only take 12 months that it will take 18 months to process their application.
It is my hope that either some sort of online global queue system for permanent residence is adopted as legislated policy OR CIC puts up the exact processing times and remains transparent through their process.