Good morning, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. Thank you for the invitation to appear before you once again on this issue, as you begin to wrap up your study on the backlog of immigration applications.
Joining me again today is Claudette Deschênes, Assistant Deputy Minister for Operations.
When we appeared before this committee a couple of weeks ago, we explained how we ended up with such a large backlog of applications. As the minister has said, the backlog is essentially a problem of math. Every year we receive far more applications than we can process, since our annual levels plan ultimately determines how many people we will admit.
As you know, the minister tabled the levels plans for 2012 since our last appearance. Next year, we will increase the number of parents and grandparents we admit by 60%. We plan to admit 25,000 parents and grandparents, which is significantly higher than the 15,324 we admitted last year. The reason for this increase is to help us begin to tackle the large backlog of parent and grandparent applications.
When we were last here, we discussed the large backlog of 165,000 parents and grandparents. Without any change, new applicants could have expected to wait at least eight years before a decision was reached on their application.
To reduce the backlog and improve wait times, Minister Kenney announced the action plan for faster family reunification last week. The first part of this plan involves increasing the number of parent and grandparent admissions.
As of November 5, we also began a temporary pause of up to 24 months on the acceptance of new sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents. To tackle the backlog of applications, we must prevent it from continuing to grow. This part of the action plan is absolutely critical.
As you know, thanks to similar changes we implemented in 2008, we were able to cut the pre-2008 backlog of 640,000 federal skilled workers by more than 50%. This is because we were able to control and reduce the number of new applicants, while maintaining or increasing the number of people admitted.
While we work on reducing the backlog of parents and grandparents, we want to ensure that Canadians and permanent residents can continue to reunite with their families. To accompany this temporary measure, part of the action plan also involves the creation of a new parent and grandparent super visa.
Starting December 1, parents and grandparents will be able to obtain 10-year multiple-entry visas to Canada within, on average, eight weeks of application. They will be able to stay here for a period of up to two years under those visas without renewing their status.
As you know, parents and grandparents are already eligible for visitor visas that allow them to enter Canada. But these visas need to be renewed frequently and are often not ideal for parents and grandparents who want to spend more time in Canada. Under the new super visa, parents and grandparents will be able to stay with their families for extended periods.
These measures will provide us with the necessary time to tackle the backlog of parents and grandparents and reduce wait times.
I will now turn the floor over to my colleague, Claudette Deschênes, who will speak in more detail about how we plan to do this from an operational standpoint.