Thousands of petitioners will be protesting on Parliament Hill on March 1, urging the government for an audit of Citizenship and Immigration Canada which has a backlog of about 10,000 spousal immigration applications.
Petitioners say the long delays are putting their lives on hold, as they have to wait while being unemployed and with no access to health care.
Under the spousal sponsorship program, an application for permanent residency has to go through two phases. In the first phase, the average waiting time can be up to 17 months, while the second phase where medical and background checks are done can take another eight months. CIC has also been criticized for increasing the processing times, which used to be better earlier, and not making an effort to clearly communicate the procedures to the candidates. “CIC change their procedures so frequently that backlogs can appear and disappear out no where. It makes it very difficult to advise people,” says an immigration practitioner.
Last month, CIC launched a pilot project, providing work permits to certain applicants so they could work temporarily during the waiting period. Eduardo has applied for this but has not yet heard back from the immigration department.
The Express Entry program offers another option to spouses in waiting, who can use it to apply for permanent residency, especially if they have an existing job offer. The processing time under Express Entry is under six months and may prove to be a more viable option for certain applicants. However, not all petitioners find this a suitable alternative, with one saying that spouses must not change their immigration status as “most inland families have waited for so long, it makes no sense to scrap spousal sponsorship and try to legalize status as skilled workers.”