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IRCC will deploy advanced analytics and automation to speed up processing for spousal and partner sponsorship.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced that it will use advanced analytics and automated technologies to process all spousal and partner applications for family class immigration.

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In an effort to improve processing efficiency, the department has created two new tools that will be utilized for various aspects of the sponsorship application.

What applications will these changes affect?

According to the notification posted by IRCC, these processing steps will apply to all spousal and partner applications in the family class. Sponsorship applications for spouses, common-law partners, and conjugal partners under family class immigration will be processed using these new technologies.

How will the IRCC implement these new processing tools?

Spousal and partner sponsorship applications are divided into two parts: the sponsorship component (an application by a Canadian permanent resident or citizen to sponsor their spouse or partner) and the principal applicant section.

IRCC will introduce a new tool at each level that will apply rules defined by officers and generated through machine learning based on previous applications.

IRCC will employ the first automation tool to identify cases that "can automatically be approved" in order to reduce processing times at this level. Applications that are not automatically approved at this stage will be referred to an IRCC officer for manual evaluation.

For the major applicant portion, IRCC will use the second tool to conduct a preliminary analysis of application eligibility. When the tool meets typical applications, it is able to evaluate whether a principal applicant is eligible and forward the file to an IRCC official to determine whether an applicant is admitted. If an applicant's eligibility cannot be automatically approved, the tool will route the application to an IRCC officer for human evaluation.

IRCC is clear that automated techniques employed at either step cannot provide final approval for an application; this responsibility remains with a reviewing immigration officer. Furthermore, these technologies cannot decline or recommend declining applications.

How would these tools affect spousal and partner sponsorship processing?

As part of the notice introducing the new capabilities, the IRCC reaffirmed its commitment to appropriately use “data-driven technologies” in accordance with privacy regulations and human rights protections. In accordance with this, the department conducted an algorithmic impact assessment (AIA) to analyze the influence of these new tools on application processing. The AIA rated the impact as "moderate," with the department promising to additional efforts to "mitigate potential risks."

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While it is too early to predict the impact of these new processing procedures, IRCC has committed to earlier applications of technology, including artificial intelligence, in the processing phase, which may provide some clue. Former Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser explained in 2023 that AI was employed in the processing of spouse temporary resident visa (TRV) applications, resulting in a 98% processing rate and a 30-day wait period.


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