IRCC officially revealed details on Chinook in the beginning of 2022. It is a tool used by visa officers to process temporary resident visa, study permit, and work permit applications in different visa offices across the globe.
This tool was initially highlighted in public during the hearing in the case of “Abigail Ocran v. the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.“
A lot of criticism was done by immigration pundits after use of Chinook became public. And, it still continues and use of Chinook is still under the gray area since a lot less is known about this.
Anyhow, this article discusses the key revelations made public by IRCC regarding the use of Chinook.
IRCC defines Chinook as “A Microsoft Excel-based tool developed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for temporary resident application processing to increase efficiency and to improve client service by decreasing the impacts of system and broadband latency, thus improving processing times.”
As per IRCC, Chinook was initially introduced as a pilot in processing offices in 2018. Following this, it was officially launched in 2019.
Since then, IRCC officers are using it discretionally, for assessing temporary resident visa, study permit and work permit applications.
Adding to this, IRCC claims that Chinook doesn’t utilize artificial intelligence (AI). Neither it uses advanced analytics for decision-making nor it has any built in decision-making algorithms.
It is designed to just simplify the visual representation of a client’s information.
This Excel based tool extracts information from client’s application and presents it in a user-friendly fashion.
Here are newly updated official IRCC processing times as of January 25, 2023 as well as comparison with last week’s processing times.
As a result, it streamlines the administrative steps and reduces review time per application, increasing the productivity.
A sample study in December 2020 was done to measure performance of Chinook in outside Canada offices.
Result of this sample study revealed that this tool resulted in 18-30% gain in efficiency.
Additionally, IRCC states that all the decision are based on The Immigration Refugee Protection Act and Regulations (IRPA/IRPR). They say, “Chinook does not change the way decisions are made; it is always an officer – not the Chinook spreadsheet – that makes final decisions and provides the rationale for them.”
IRCC’s director of international-network optimization and modernization, Andie Daponte testified in Abigail Ocran case.
He revealed that this tool was originally created without legal oversight and is being used to process applications for study permit, temporary resident visa, and work permit, since March 2018.
The Court dismissed the application for judicial review by Abigail Ocran on February 10, 2022.
However, Andie Daponte revealed (outside court) that he was part of a team of immigration officers with backgrounds in temporary-resident visa applications and in-house technical experts versed in “immigration processing or computer sciences” who created the first version of Chinook using Visual Basic for Applications in Microsoft Excel.
He also added that in some IRCC offices, a web- or cloud-based version of this tool is now in use.
Although, IRCC says Chinook does not make final decision on an application.
But, concerns are that visa officers might be using Chinook to categorize (whether to approve or refuse) applications based on information sorted by this tool.
Chinook was introduced in March 2018 and refusal rates increased significantly. Study visa refusal rate jumped from 34% in 2018 to 40% in 2019.
Furthermore, refusal rate increased from 40% to 53% in 2020. Also, the study permit refusal rate for India increased from 34% in 2018 to 57% in 2020.