Minister Fraser clarifies how IRCC uses artificial intelligence in processing applications

Minister Fraser clarifies how IRCC uses artificial intelligence in processing applications

At a recent press conference in Vancouver, Canadian Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told reporters that by increasing our use of technology, advanced analytics and streamlining our processing we have done a couple of very important things in recent months.

Fraser spoke about Temporary Residency Applications (TRVs) for those pending permanent residency under Family Class Sponsorship programs. However, the increased use of technology and advanced analytics has impacted all lines of business in Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) processing applications.

In the coming years, Canada is on track to welcome the largest number of newcomers ever. In 2022, IRCC made more than five million final decisions on applications across all lines of business, double the number of decisions in 2021.

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IRCC has rapidly moved to digitize and modernize Canada’s immigration system, which includes increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced data analytics to accelerate application processing times. For example, Fraser said this simplification helped process 98 percent of spousal TRV applications, and new applicants can now expect a processing time of just 30 days.

IRCC says digitizing the system and services will better meet the needs of customers and Canada, thanks to new technology capabilities. Additionally, the department says that by leveraging the technology, it can process applications more efficiently and allow officials to focus more on complex applications.

IRCC uses artificial intelligence (information technology that performs tasks that would normally require a human to perform) in some aspects of computing, including:

  • Automate positive eligibility determinations
  • Distribute the questions among the officers according to the characteristics of the question
  • Identify applications that may require further verification
  • Workload distribution
  • Create annotations that summarize basic information about each client to reduce agent searches in our global case management system
  • Triage customer emails to enable faster responses and respond to customer inquiries by providing publicly available information
  • Evaluation of biometrics

There are no algorithms in any tool used by IRCC that will accept or reject an applicant. Applicants are not approved or denied a visa or permit based solely on a computer-generated decision.

What are the concerns?

Many fear that IRCC’s use of AI will lead to bias and a general lack of explanation of how decisions are made in processing applications.

For example, the Treasury Board Directive on Automated Decision-Making, a government-level policy directive, states that basing an algorithm on historical data can amplify race, class, gender, and other inequalities. He mentions that some facial recognition software doesn’t work equally well for all skin colors or genders.

Relying too much on AI can also lead to a lack of clarity in decision making. The directive states that the federal government must be able to explain how administrative decisions are made. Additionally, people who have been denied services or benefits are entitled to a reasonable and understandable explanation from the government, which should go beyond an indication that it was a decision made by a computer.

Concerns have also been raised about the use of Chinook, which the IRCC describes as a Microsoft Excel-based tool to make it easier to visually represent a client’s information. It is used by IRCC officers to evaluate temporary residence visas, study permits and work permit applications. The department says Chinook doesn’t use artificial intelligence (AI) or advanced analytics for decision-making, and there are no built-in decision-making algorithms.

How does IRCC develop algorithms?

In response to concerns, IRCC says it is following a directive in the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to ensure equal rights and prevent discrimination. It says it follows the principles of transparency, accountability, legality and procedural fairness to define how decisions should be made and what explanations should be given to those affected.

Whenever a new algorithm is proposed, it must pass the Algorithmic Impact Assessment (AIA). The AIA is a mandatory risk assessment tool and is part of the Treasury Board’s directive on automated decision-making. The tool measures the areas of risk, mitigation and impact of the proposed algorithms. IRCC claims to have been one of the first government departments to use AIAs.

The department also says it requires algorithm impact assessments, algorithm and data quality assurance measures, and proactive disclosures about how and where algorithms are used.

IRCC says the rules used to support (but not finalize) the decision-making process are regularly reviewed by senior officials, legal experts, policy makers, data scientists, privacy and senior decision makers to ensure they align with the criteria of eligibility outlined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Furthermore, regular monitoring and quality assurance measures are in place to ensure that these models continue to perform as intended and that any unforeseen negative impacts can be identified promptly and mitigated.

Minister Fraser remains optimistic about the IRCC’s use of technology and advanced analytics. He said the technology adopted by the IRCC in recent years allows the department to look at a number of factors on an application for people to help determine the likelihood that they are eligible for permanent residency and place them in a category that is more likely to be official approved. by the IRCC. He says this has led to a huge increase in productivity and went on to emphasize that AI doesn’t make definitive decisions.

At the end of the day our offers still make any determination for eligibility. It is not possible for anyone to be proved wrong through this technological solution.

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