Robotic algorithms are expected to make visa decisions for would-be Canadian immigrants and students in the coming months.

Recent reports indicate that the Liberal government plans to greatly expand “automated decision-making” in April of this year.

“There is significant public anxiety over fairness and privacy associated with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence,” said the 2019 Immigration Department report, obtained under an access to information request.

Nevertheless, Ottawa still plans to broaden the automated approval system far beyond the pilot programs it began operating in 2018 to process applicants from India and China.

However, the internal report reveals the concerns about crooked individuals who will no doubt make serious attempts at gaming the system by making false claims about their banking, job, marriage, educational or travel history.

“A system that approves applications without sufficient vetting would raise risks to Canadians, and it is understandable for Canadians to be more concerned about mistakenly approving risky individuals than about mistakenly refusing bona fide candidates,” says the document.

This internal report also flags how having robots stand in for humans will have an impact on thousands of visa officers. The new system “will fundamentally change the day-to-day work of decision-makers.”

Meanwhile critics wonder if this decision to process the large and growing number of visas quickly and economically will create other more serious problems of its own.

The thought of having a machine determine who can and cannot live and work in this country doesn’t sit very well with many Canadians.

The policy report itself acknowledges that the upcoming shift to “hard-wiring” the visa decision-making process “at a tremendous scale” significantly raises legal risks for the Immigration Department, which it says is already “one of the most heavily litigated in the government of Canada.”

The population of Canada jumped by 560,000 people last year, or 1.5 per cent, the fastest rate of increase in three decades. About 470,000 of that total was made up of immigrants or newcomers arriving on 10-year multiple-entry visas, work visas or study visas.

In an effort to mitigate fears of an automated system, the report reiterates the need to make people aware that the logarithm that decides whether an applicant receives a visa is not random. It’s a computer program governed by certain rules regarding what constitutes a valid visa application.

In cases that require a review, a human can then step in.

In the short term, this AI system of determining visa approval or denial will be controversial but in time, it will be accepted like so much else. -CINEWS


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