Officials in Canada have pledged to eliminate the backlog in the country’s economic immigration programme to make the system faster and more flexible.

The aim is also to improve the system to create jobs and promote Canada’s long term prosperity, said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturism minister Jason Kenney.
‘The Federal Skilled Worker Programme backlog is a major roadblock to Canada’s ability to respond to rapidly changing labour market needs,’ he explained.

‘Having to process applications that are as many as eight years out of date reduces our ability to focus on new applicants with skills and talents that our economy needs today,’ he added.
As announced in the Economic Action Plan 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is planning to refund fees and return stale applications from nearly all those applicants who applied under the dated criteria in existence before February 27, 2008.

CIC is transforming its suite of economic immigration programmes to create a just in time system that recruits people with the right skills to meet Canada’s labour market needs, fast tracks their immigration, and gets them working in a period of months, not years.

Kenney pointed out that eliminating the longstanding backlog of FSW applications will allow the Department to focus resources on facilitating the arrival of skilled immigrants who apply under the current eligibility criteria.

Under proposed legislation, CIC will close the files of FSW applicants who applied before February 27, 2008, and for whom an immigration officer has not made a decision based on selection criteria by March 29, 2012.

This is expected to affect around 280,000 applicants, including their dependants. CIC will begin the process of returning the full amount of fees paid to the department by these affected FSW applicants. For those who have passed the selection criteria stage, estimated at approximately 20,000 people, CIC will continue processing their applications until they are approved for entry into Canada or not.

Over the last decade, the number of FSW applications received has greatly exceeded the space available within the Immigration Levels Plan each year, resulting in long processing times and an increasing inventory.

Under the 2008 Action Plan for Faster Immigration, CIC began to limit intake to priority occupations. The department added caps to the number of new applications in 2010. As a result of these efforts, CIC has reduced the pre-2008 backlog by more than 50% and the overall FSW inventory by over 25%. However, without further action, some FSW applicants might have to wait until 2017 for a decision.
‘It’s unreasonable to keep applicants waiting for another five years. It’s also a far cry from the nimble and responsive immigration system Canada needs to remain a destination of choice,’ he added.