Last Updated on March 22, 2018
The federal government has made several changes to the process of sponsoring a spouse or common law partner for permanent residence in Canada.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has made the changes so that applications can be processed more quickly, following the new commitment to a 12-month turnaround in the majority of cases.
The changes, which came into effect at noon on December 15, 2016, are laid out below:
1. New Application Kit
A universal application kit has been introduced for all spousal applications. Previously, there were two kits depending on whether applicants lived in Canada or outside. Although the government advises all candidates to use the new kit, it will accept applications under the old kit until January 31, 2017
A new ‘Basic Guide’ has been published on the IRCC website to give candidates a step-by-step process on exactly what they need to do. The more detailed ‘Complete Guide’ has also been updated to reflect new changes. Previously, several different guides existed for sponsors and applicants, serving to confuse the process.
3. Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation Form
One form now exists to be filled in by sponsor and applicant to give information on their relationship. Previously, the sponsor had to complete one evaluation form, while the applicant had to fill out up to two additional questionnaires depending on whether they were in or outside Canada.
4. Document Checklists
The previous 14 document checklists have been consolidated into four, depending on who is being sponsored: Spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent child. The checklists outline all forms and documents, plus specific information required in each application. IRCC officers will do an initial check of the application, and if all the required documents are not included, it will be returned to the applicant. This is designed to eliminate time-consuming document requests from IRCC.
IRCC officers say one of the main points of feedback under the old system was long periods of time without contact after the application was submitted. Two changes being made a to tackle this are:
a) All applications linked to an online account
An online account will make it easier for applications to check the status of their application, send and receive information to and from IRCC, check any request for documents and respond within the correct timeframe.
b) Require information later in the process
Under the new system, certain information including the Background/Declaration form, medical examination and police certificates will not be required upfront. Instead they will be requested later in the process. Applicants will have 30 days to submit forms after they are requested, again aimed at speeding up processing times.
The changes in the application process are aimed at simplifying it to assist the new 12-month standard processing time for family reunification immigration applications.
After successfully reducing the wait by 15 per cent for in-Canada applicants and 10 per cent for those applying from outside, now IRCC 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 requiring applicants to provide all documents upfront, with incomplete applications being returned. Previously, items such as police check and medical check could be provided in stages.
- 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
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