January 10, 2022
Growing Refusal Rates in Canadian Temporary Residence Applications
It is no secret that Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been refusing temporary residence applications at a growing rate over the last decade. According to a report published by The Globe and Mail, the percentage of Canadian visitor visas refused in 2018 was around 18% whereas 2017 saw an increase of 8% reflected in a refusal rate of 26%. Furthermore, the early months of 2018 were subject to a refusal rate of 30%.
On the other hand, study permit applications and study permit extensions (other forms of temporary residence applications) have also been subject to an increasing refusal rate. These applications have started to be processed by a new Artificial Intelligence system that IRCC has implemented, called Chinook. The tool was first implemented by IRCC in 2018 in an aim to enhance efficiency, consistency and reduce processing times for applications. It focuses on avoiding delays in processing that result from the tedious process of using multiple tabs and screens within the GCMS system. Specifically, in IRCC offices that have limited resources, the loading of multiple screens can create significant delays that can be avoided by using Chinook.  This system works in tandem with GCMS, by streamlining the administrative processes that would normally be done manually if GCMS was to be used alone. Herein, the data that is retrieved from GCMS is presented in the Chinook system for efficient streamlining.
While 2016 and 2017 saw refusal rates of 31 and 33% respectively, the first year of Chinook’s implementation, 2018, saw a jump in the refusal rate to 34%. 2019, the first full year of Chinook’s use was subject to a larger increase in the refusal rate to 40% while the COVID-19 which struck in 2020 witnessed a 53% refusal rate.
Canada assesses all applications using the same criteria but certain factors such as an applicant’s country of citizenship or residence have come to stand out as possible reasons for an individual’s refusal. This specifically pertains to applicants from countries that are less politically or economically stable such as the Middle East and certain African nations. To provide an example, Nigerian study permit applications in 2020 were subject to an 82% refusal rate whereas a more stable country such as Spain had a mere 6% refusal rate in the same year. In general, while the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 resulted in a significantly lower number of applications being processed by IRCC, the refusal rate remained high. The first two months of 2021 saw 7,272 visitor visas refused from a mere 34,046 applications received.
While not all the applications that are received by IRCC are processed using AI yet, those of less complex nature, such as temporary residence applications, have become subject to AI processing. As we have seen with AI systems such as Chinook, there is a fear in some stakeholders that the rising use of AI can create easier grounds for certain individuals to have their applications refused.