In Ottawa it is now going to take double the time than it already does to process immigration applications for foreign spouses already living in Canada. This has driven fear that the “inland sponsorship program” could be eliminated.
Canada allows a foreign national married to a Canadian to apply for sponsorship in the country if they are already there legally. Spouses could also apply from their home countries but most prefer the in-Canada route so that they don’t have to give up their jobs and careers or be separated from their wives or husbands for years while their application is being processed.
A two-step process is applied to both inland and overseas applicants – initial assessment of the sponsor’s eligibility and then an examination of the sponsored spouse, which involves health and criminal clearances.
The waiting period has now been increased from six months to 11 for the in-Canada applicants to get past the first stage.
Such delays in sponsorship processing have caused financial and emotional stress for thousands of Canadian couples.
More than 8,000 new in-Canada applications are processed each year and it is estimated that many more are backlogged.
Kathryn Abercrombie, 41, and James Bordwine, 35, got married in March 2013 and applied in October for James’ sponsorship. The two have lived on Kathryn’s income while Bordwine, a computer network security specialist, is jobless at home. In February, Kathryn got a $50,000 second mortgage to help pay off the bills.
“I could afford a home and scrape by with my single income. It would’ve been so much easier if James could work. It’s not cheap to live in Toronto,” she said. “A few weeks ago, he cut his fingers. Instead of going to the hospital to get stitches, we just had them wrapped.”
Alexis Pavlich, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, blames the former Liberal governments for reducing immigration levels and making huge backlogs that the Conservatives have been “working diligently to fix” since they came into power.
“Family reunification is an integral part of our immigration program. Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world. . . Shamefully, under the Liberals, families had to wait decades to be reunited,” said Pavlich. “Our government is actively working to shorten wait times.”
Adel Karsou, 34, who applied for his Jordanian wife, Rana Shiha, 27, last year, is not convinced. He feels that temporary foreign workers are the real priorities for the government.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the initial assessment of spousal sponsorships filed overseas takes 55 days, compared to 11 months for the in-Canada applicants.
But the second-phase screening can take anywhere from nine months in Beijing to 32 months in Islamabad (compared to the average of eight months for inland applicants), thus bringing the overall processing time for both routes at par with each other.
Even though immigration officials say that applicants are free to decide whether to apply in or outside Canada, a letter from Alexander’s office as obtained by the Star clearly mentioned the government’s preference: “It is always in the client’s best interests to apply abroad.”
The same letter which was addressed to a disgruntled Canadian sponsor further said, “There are distinct disadvantages to applying from within Canada, including noticeably longer processing times, lack of status, inability to work and ineligibility for provincial/territorial health insurance coverage.”
In another case, Justin Laufer, 40, remembers how his American wife, Kirsten Laufer, 33, could not visit her father who was hospitalized for a seizure earlier this year because her sponsorship would be deemed abandoned if she left Canada.
“She’d like nothing more than to see her father,” said Laufer. “These sponsored spouses may be foreigners now, but they are on track to be future citizens. Kirsten is going to be a voter one day and she will remember her treatment by our elected officials.”
Source: The Star