Auditor General’s report on Permanent Resident programs 

Auditor General’s report

Karen Hogan, the Auditor General of Canada, recently released audit reports of Canada’s federal public services, including Immigration. The Audit focused on the IRCC’s performance and capacity to process applications efficiently in 8 permanent resident programs across three classes- the refugee and humanitarian, economic and family classes. It also examines the IRCC’s management of its inventories and handling of processing delays, its processing capacity and its ongoing transition to online processing. 

Data from the Auditor General’s report 

The following data shows the average processing times of the 8 programs audited, showing their average processing times in 2022, their servicing standards set by the IRCC and the percentage of applications that were processed within this timeline. 

Economic Class 
Class and program Number of applications finalized and average processing time Service standards Percentage of applications processed within service standards 
Federal Skilled Worker Program 56,232—22 months 6 months 3% 
Quebec-Selected Skilled Worker Program 48,652—21 months 11 months 30% 
Provincial Nominee Program (Non-Express Entry) 60,383—19 months 11 months 14% 
Provincial Nominee Program (Express Entry) 63,805—11 months 6 months 44% 
Family Class 
Class and program Number of applications finalized and average processing time Service standards Percentage of applications processed within service standards 
Overseas Sponsored Spouse or CommonLaw Partner Program 44,239—15 months 12 months 56% 
Sponsored Spouse or CommonLaw Partner in Canada Program 37,618—11 months 12 months 71% 
Refugee and Humanitarian Class 
Class and program Number of applications finalized and average processing time Service standards Percentage of applications processed within service standards 
Government-Assisted Refugees Program 16,354—26 months 12 months 26% 
Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program 31,494—30 months 12 months 5% 

Findings and Recommendations of the report 

Processing times have improved, but not for all applicants 

  • Applicants in the IRCC’s Economic class experienced the biggest improvement in processing times. 
  • The Family class also witnessed improved processing times, with new applicants making up the majority of the applications processed. 
  • The Refugee and Humanitarian programs had long processing times, with three-year waiting periods for a decision in 2022. 

Despite improving processing times, the IRCC did not meet its service standards for most applications in 2022, as evident in the tables above. 

The Audit found that the IRCC did not consistently adhere to its first-in-first-out operation, leading to more than 21,000 new applications being finalized ahead of 25,000 older applications in the family class inventory. 


The Audit called for the IRCC to provide applications with clear expectations of their processing timelines. It called for the IRCC to establish achievable and reliable service standards along with transparent online information on expected processing times for all permanent resident applications. 


The IRCC has a goal of processing 80% of all applications within their servicing standards. While it managed to significantly reduce its backlog in 2022, many applications to its permanent resident programs still remain backlogged.  

Applicants to the Refugee class were the most affected, facing the longest average wait times and had 99,000 applicants still waiting to be processed by the end of 2022. 

The IRCC’s ability to reduce backlogs is also limited by the planned refugee program admissions set under the Immigration Levels Plan. 


The Audit recommended immediate steps to identify and address the disparity in wait times and ensure timely processing of applications across all permanent resident programs. 

Stalled applications and processing delays  

The Audit found that most delays were caused by the IRCC’s management practices, with each delay stalling the application by up to 4 months or a year. Some practices identified by the report include: 

  • Applications being queued before the start of initial processing caused the longest delays, with some applications remaining untouched for 15-20 months on average. 
  • Officers were also found to be slower in requesting required information from applicants and assessing the submitted information. 
  • Officers being reassigned to other programs also resulted in delays for applications. This continued a delay loop where the applicant’s documentation, such as medical exams, would expire before their application was assessed. 
  • Apart from the IRCC, delays also occurred due to failure to provide information from the applicant’s side or through security-related delays. 


The Audit recommended a reexamining of backlogged applications to identify processing delays within the IRCC’s control, along with the prioritization of older backlogged applications when working to achieve the annual admission targets. 

Backlogs related to different processing capacities of different offices 

The Audit found that delays were also caused by the difference in processing times and backlogs across the IRCC’s processing offices. The accumulation of backlogs was more pronounced in offices in Canada and abroad with fewer staff. The system was guilty of assigning high processing volumes to under-resourced offices, leading to the buildup of more backlogged applications. 

The Audit recommended that the IRCC should match assigned workloads with the available resources of its offices. It also recommended immediate action when application backlogs begin to accumulate in certain offices. 

New digital tools did not benefit programs or applicants evenly 

The Audit found that the IRCC’s latest automated eligibility assessment tool was found to direct applicants from certain countries to manual processing at higher rates, leading to discriminatory and longer processing times. However, the extent to which this affects processing times has not been examined. 

The Audit suggests examining the various outcomes in processing times related to the implementation of automated decision-making tools and reducing the disparity faced by applicants from specific countries. 

Access to online portals not available to applicants to refugee programs 

The Audit also found that the expansion of the IRCC’s online application portals has not been uniform across its permanent residency programs in 2021-2022. The IRCC has yet to implement an online portal for the refugee program. The online application portal for the Government-assisted Refugees Program is planned for the end of 2024 under the Digital Platform Modernization Initiative. 

The Audit recommended the quick implementation of the online application portal for refugee programs alongside the completion of the IRCC’s Digital Platform Modernization Initiative. 

What the Audit shows us about the state of Canada’s immigration programs 

The Audit identified many cracks within the IRCC’s processing system but also acknowledged the steps it had taken to improve permanent resident applications in 2022. Of note was the reduction in the volume of backlogged applications accumulated over the pandemic. The IRCC’s agreement with the Audit’s recommendations also showed their commitment to continue to build on their improvements for the coming years. 

Janggoulal Sitlhou

Janggoulal Sitlhou

Janggoulal Sitlhou is a content writer with SettleCanada. He is a Political Sciences graduate and a keen follower of international affairs and contemporary history. He has a background in publishing and regularly dabbles in writing and game development projects. Janggoulal currently writes on issues related to Canadian Immigration.