The Canadian federal government has introduced a new 12-month standard processing time for family reunification immigration applications.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has made a concerted effort to reduce processing times since the Liberal government came to power.
After successfully reducing the wait by 15 per cent for in-Canada applicants and 10 per cent for those applying from outside, now the immigration department says it will get most applications processed inside a year, although it admits complex cases will require more time.
“We have listened to Canadians and are delivering results. Bringing families together makes for a stronger Canada,” said Immigration Minister John McCallum.
“Canadians who marry someone from abroad shouldn’t have to wait for years to have them immigrate or be left with uncertainty in terms of their ability to stay. What we’re announcing today is a more efficient, more considerate process to reunite families.”
The government made clear that those applications already in the system will not have to wait another 12 months. They will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
McCallum’s recent announcement on Canada’s 2017 immigration levels targets 64,000 new permanent residents under family reunification, compared to an average of 47,000 per year over the last decade.
Increased demand in recent years pushed up processing times further and further.
In 2015, 70,000 applications were received under family reunification, with only 48,000 spaces allocated. At the start of 2016, waiting times were 26 months for applications from within Canada and 18 months for applications from outside.
The following action has been taken to reduce those waiting periods:
- Increased allocation for spouses, partners and dependents under annual immigration numbers, from an average of 47,000 over the last 10 years to 64,000 in 2017. If the spaces are there, the cases can be processed more quickly.
- Increased funding to tackle backlog and speed up processing. The government allocated an extra $25 million to IRCC to help target the backlog. It doubled the number of cases processed per month and reduce the pre-June 2016 backlog by 26 per cent.
- Simplified application process for immigration candidates. A modified application process simplifies the number of forms and checklists available for family class applications. Also, certain documents such as police check and health check will not be required until later in the process. Communication will also be improved, so the candidate knows exactly which stage their application is at.
- Shortened processing commitment of 12 months. IRCC says it will process 80 per cent of applications currently in the system in the next 12 months, and 80 per cent of all new applications in 12 months from the date they are received. This is regardless of whether the application comes from inside or outside Canada. It is anticipated the other 20 per cent will fall into the more complex category, where more information is required from the applicant. Processing times for these applications will depend on how fast requested information is provided.
IRCC has also moved to extend the Spousal Work Permit Pilot Program which allows a spouse or partner subject to an application to live and work in Canada while it is being processed. The pilot was due to end on December 22, 2016, but will be extended until December 21, 2017.
Marriage Fraud Detection
The government immigration authorities are hoping to strike a balance between maintaining the integrity of the family sponsorship program, while reducing processing times.
“All applications will continue to receive full criminality, security and medical screening,” an IRCC statement says.
“The department takes marriage fraud seriously and has mechanisms in place to detect and address it. IRCC focuses on detecting marriage fraud at the visa application stage and relies on the experience and expertise of its officers to detect possible marriage fraud.
“If evidence is obtained during the sponsorship process that the marriage is one of convenience, the application for permanent residence will be refused.
“In cases where sufficient information is obtained that an individual is involved in a fraudulent marriage after they have obtained permanent resident status, IRCC and the Canada Border Services Agency may investigate, which could result in the loss of permanent resident status for the sponsored individual or the sponsor, if the sponsor is a permanent resident and was a willing participant in the fraud.”
These efforts are part of a broad measure of changes on family reunification the government promised during the 2015 general election.
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