On January 31 IRCC released a news release confirming that they are investing $85 million in new funding to help speed up processing times across certain inventories. The investment will add new staff and is supposed help speed up study permits, work permits, and permanent resident card renewals, as well as visitor visas and proof of citizenship applications.

The $85 million allocation is not a new announcement. It was first published in the Economic and Fiscal Update 2021, but today IRCC is reconfirming that those funds will be deployed. IRCC has also publicly announced and admitted what lawyers have know for some time: that IRCC is using basic AI algorithms (some of the them just formulas within a simple Excel spreadsheet!) to speed up the intake and processing of files. While the news release makes it sound that the outcomes of this AI have all been positive, the truth is that we have seen, through Access to Information requests, some serious mistakes made by visa posts who are using this AI, which was apparently created in-house within one of the Consulates. As counsel, due process and procedural fairness are top of mind, and we are concerned that the use of AI will fall short. Specifically, the AI might miss nuanced details that make up an application, or misread critical documents, resulting in the application being inappropriately flagged.

IRCC states that the AI cannot refuse an application and that “an IRCC officer will always make the final decision.” While this sounds comforting, it is actually problematic because the officer’s final decision might be based on the negative bias the AI has presented, i.e. the officer might refuse the file without conducting a proper review of the documents that make up the application, resulting in erroneous and avoidable refusals. We know this has already happened as it has been tested in Federal Court under cross-examination.

The bottom line is that we anticipate that the AI might create significant problems for applicants and result in unreasonable refusals, despite the upside that applications in general will achieve shorter processing timeframes. Unfortunately, it will be up to immigration lawyers to hold IRCC accountable and this process is likely to happen within the slow and expensive Federal Court system.

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