Canada Immigration Eliminating Application Backlog

By James Metcalfe | April 12, 2012

 James Metcalfe – Pace Law Firm: The recent Federal budget included a line item for the repayment of processing fees made by Skilled Worker applicants who applied for permanent residence in Canada prior to February 2008. Subsequently, the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration announced that he will be moving amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. These amendments will allow him to unilaterally cancel all applications affected, and refund all processing fees paid.

Why has this been done? Successive ministers and departmental staff have been asleep at the switch and did not take any action to stop the growth of a backlog of applications in process. You have to trace the problem back to June, 2002, when the new immigration act and selection criteria were introduced.

At the time, any skilled worker who could accumulate 75 points on the selection grid could qualify for permanent residence in Canada in the Federal Skilled Worker program. In actuality, the past mark was probably a little higher than what was required and not a lot of people were applying for permanent residence Canada.

Rather than taking the pre-2008 macroeconomic approach to immigration, the Minister decided to micromanage the movement to Canada.

In 2004, under the  leadership of the Liberal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the past mark was lowered to 67 points. Unfortunately, this opened the floodgates for applicants. Almost anybody between the ages of 19 and 49, who possessed a postsecondary degree or diploma, 4 years of work experience in a skilled occupation, and who could pass an English or French language test at a high level, could qualify.

In 2008, the Minister realized there was a problem and introduced new selection criteria and a much shorter list of occupations under what are called Ministerial Instructions. This placed a cap on the number of occupations and the number of persons who could qualify. Rather than taking the pre-2008 macro economic approach to immigration, the Minister decided to micromanage the movement to Canada.

While the Minister has stated his intentions to “cancel” all the old applications in the queue, he is not yet in a position to do so legally. The changes he proposes will require a change in the immigration legislation and will have to be passed by Parliament.  When this will take place is not clear, but it will likely happen before Parliament rises for the summer recess. The government has a solid majority and the bill should pass quickly and be given assent by July1st, Canada Day.

There are already rumblings of lawsuits. However, none have been filed to our knowledge. I believe the changes will inevitably go into effect, and a significant number of people will have their dreams and desires frustrated.