On June 25, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of a task force to assess Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) service standards, passport applications and Canada’s airports.
This task force was in response to what it considered to be “unacceptable” delays in these services.
At the time, IRCC had a backlog of 2.4 million people waiting for their applications to be processed.
In an email response to CIC News, a representative from the Office of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, confirmed that since June, the working group, comprised of a large group of federal ministers, has met weekly to identify service gaps and areas for to improve.
IRCC backlog reaches 2.7 million people
IRCC’s backlog of applications has increased significantly during the pandemic and processing times have slowed.
To give applicants a realistic idea of how long it will take for their application to be processed, IRCC’s updated processing time tool shows how long it will take for applications to be processed in each area of IRCC activity. IRCC continues to lag behind on most of its service standards.
However, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said CIC News in June 2022 that with more staff and more investment in technology and digitization, he is optimistic that most service standards will be achievable by the end of 2022.
“My feeling is that by the end of this calendar year, new applications that come in will have the kind of certainty that we will be able to meet our service standard and people will be dealing with 60 days or 6 months or 12 months , not an indefinite term.
Opening of new passport collection offices
Service Canada is currently facing an unprecedented surge in passport applications as pandemic-related travel restrictions have eased. Canadians have been forced to wait for hours and processing times are uncertain. As a result, the Task Force has introduced several new measures that are currently in effect or will soon be in effect.
One of these measures is the introduction of four new passport collection offices. The government recently announced the opening of new passport collection points in Trois-Rivières, Quebec; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; Charlottetown, PEI ; and Red Deer, Alberta.
According to the spokesperson, the task force recommends the opening of approximately 20 new request and pickup locations in total. Minister Karina Gould says these locations will process passports in nine or ten working days. Each new passport collection will be within 50 kilometers of most Canadians, which may alleviate some of the long lines at other locations and many will have extended hours of service.
The government also invested $85 million in the 2021 Fiscal and Economic Update to help reduce the backlog of applications and long wait times. Much of this budget was spent on hiring an additional 500 new passport officers as well as 319 citizen service officers. In addition, the government is retraining existing staff from other federal agencies to process passports.
Canadians renewing a passport may be eligible to take advantage of a simplified renewal process in which those whose passport is expired or less than 15 years old, or whose passport has been lost, stolen or damaged, may not have submit two photos, two references, the application form and fees, rather than mailing in proof of citizenship or finding a guarantor.
In the long term, the task force will explore options that will allow people to submit applications online and enable more than 300 Service Canada centers to process passport applications. However, there is no given timeline for these initiatives to come into effect.
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