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Digital Identity in Immigration

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4 minute read
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Improving the experience of becoming a new Canadian resident

Digital identity – as applied to visas, permanent residence cards, and citizenship documentation – promises to be a critical element in any such transformation.

Introduction

Canada has a well-earned global reputation as one of the most open countries in the world. Over 200,000 people a year become permanent residents here, and roughly similar numbers each year become full citizens.* This annual intake is set to grow by 50-60%, based on the federal government’s latest plans.** In the current fiscal year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is expected to spend $2.7 billion, 80% of which goes to permanent immigration and related documentation** – and that doesn’t include spending by provincial immigration related programs.

A more efficient and effective immigration system would have benefits not only for the clients that rely on it, but for the Canadian businesses who hire them. Digital identity – as applied to visas, permanent residence cards, and citizenship documentation – promises to be a critical element in any such transformation.

Digital identity would improve the experience for users. The immigration process is necessarily information-intensive, but there’s no need to inscribe all of that information on physical paper and for clients to have to wait weeks or months to receive their certifications in the mail. Nor should their lives have to remain on hold while they wait. Digital identity should allow new permanent residents to open bank accounts and look for work as soon as they’re approved.

It promises greater efficiencies for governments. Information on paper forms has to be keyed into computers (and incorrectly-captured information has to be corrected down the line – a potentially expensive process when back-tracking and verification efforts are factored in); it also has to be filed, archived, and maintained. In addition to reducing such processing overheads, digital identity should create opportunities at border points to speed the flow of travellers. Efficiencies would likely accrue to the wider economy, too: banks, for example, would be able to offer online account opening for immigrants without having to verify their documents in person.

By improving the system’s integrity, governments at all levels would have less to fear from fraud (including health, welfare, and mortgage fraud), and law enforcement would have more confidence in the system and in the data it relies on.

In the following pages we’ll review the five guiding principles that we think should lie at the foundation of any broadly-adopted digital identity system, and we’ll look at a couple of examples of how its capabilities – focused, for the sake of simplicity, on permanent residency – could help create the twenty-first century immigration system we all deserve.

* Source: Statistics Canada

** Source: Government of Canada, IRCC Departmental Plan

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