It is common knowledge that the first six months of the global pandemic adversely impacted the immigration processing capacity of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). A new report by the Conference Board of Canada revealed that the immigration processing capacity for March to December 2020, was almost 56% less than the same time in 2019.
The processing times for refugee and family class sponsorship applications were hardly hit as there was a 72% and 63% reduction in processing times of these applications, respectively. However, by the end of 2020, immigration admissions recovered to pre-pandemic levels for these immigration programs.
How Were the Immigration Levels Impacted Due to the Pandemic?
According to the new report, due to IRCC’s shift in focus to the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program for the regular Express Entry draws, this will increase the share of immigrants with Canadian work experience in 2021. The share of immigrants having prior residence or study experience in Canada has also grown 10% more compared to 2019.
During the initial months of the pandemic, the IRCC remained focused on the CEC and the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) for Express Entry draws. However, by the second half of 2020, the IRCC eventually started considering applicants from the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).
Since the start of 2021, the IRCC has again shifted its focus to the CEC and PNP applicants to encourage more temporary residents to transition to permanent resident status. This is being done to ensure that Canada meets its target of inviting over 401,000 new immigrants in 2021 despite the travel and border restrictions imposed to control the spread of the pandemic.
A fall in immigration levels last year due to the pandemic did not affect provinces like Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec at all since most CEC and PNP applicants tend to be residing in these provinces. While temporary foreign worker admissions were down by 33%, the Canadian government had already taken steps to ensure that there was no shortage of agricultural workers. Comparatively, agricultural workers' admissions were affected only by 8%.