Legislating Away the Immigration Backlog

Meurrens LawImmigration Trends

On March 7, 2012, Jason Kenney delivered a speech to the Economic Club of Canada which has generated considerable attention.  He implied that the Government of Canada was considering legislating an end to Canada’s immigration backlog.

His statements were:

New Zealandlegislated an end to its backlog in 2003 and put in place a system where prospective applicants can be selected from a pool made up of all persons who have applied. Rather than wasting time and energy processing old applications, their resources can now be put towards actively matching the best qualified applicants to current jobs and economic needs.

Now, in recent months, Prime Minister Harper has spoken about doing more in the economy of the future than just passively accepting applications. He has talked about the need to actively recruit people to come to Canadato fill specific skill shortages.

There are exciting possibilities before us when it comes to the future of immigration toCanada. But of course, the first step is to eliminate this huge unfair backlog as soon as we can. Again, we’re open to creative suggestions and we will continue to consult with Canadians about the best way forward in immigration reform.

Canada’s immigration backlog is not small.  According to a report by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration titled Cutting the Queue: Reducing Canada’s Immigration Backlogs and Wait Times, as of July 1, 2011, the backlog was:



Number of People

Federal Skilled Workers 482,117
QuebecSkilled Workers 33,167
Federal Business (Investors and Entrepreneurs) 94,271
QuebecBusiness 10,518
Provincial/Territorial Nominees 39,076
Canadian Experience Class 6,002
Live-in Caregiver 15,416
Spouses, Partners, and Children 42,238
Parents and Grandparents 168,530
Government-sponsored Refugees 9,917
Privately-sponsored refugees 23,212

This backlog translates into some very high processing times.  For example, as of writing, applicants from Asia to the Federal Skilled Worker Program face the following processing times.

Asia and Pacific

Visa Office

Processing Times IN MONTHS
(based on a complete application package)

Applications received BEFORE February 27, 2008

Applications received BETWEEN November 28, 2008 and June 25, 2010

Beijing – China



Colombo – Sri Lanka



Hong Kong – China



Islamabad – Pakistan



Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia



Manila – Philippines



New Delhi – India



Seoul – South Korea



Singapore – Singapore



Sydney – Australia



Tokyo – Japan



The Federal Skilled Worker Program is based on the idea of attracting people with certain skills thatCanadadeems desirable.  What it has deemed desirable has changed substantially over the years, and the employability of people who applied prior to 2008 is often viewed as questionable.

As noted by Jason Kenney, legislating away a backlog is not unprecedented.  In 2003, New Zealandintroduced the Immigration Amendment Act 2003 No 30.  Amongst other things, it provided for the following:

  • That all applications for residence visas or permits made before 20 November 2002 that had not yet been decided were treated as being lapsed except in specified circumstances.  Some of the specified reasons included crossing a points threshold or having a job offer.
  • That the affect of an application lapsing was not no further processing of the application would occur.
  • That the government would refund any application fees paid.
  • That except for the application fee there would be no refund for mailing fees, the cost of obtaining documents, or any other costs.

In New Zealand, only about 20,000 applications, or 46,000 people, were affected.

Depending on how Jason Kenney proceeds, the scale of what Canada would do could be over 10 times greater.

Stay tuned.