Feb 15, 2018 – Canada’s immigration department has successfully met its commitment to cutting processing times under the spousal sponsorship program.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says it has made it faster and easier for Canadians and permanent residents to reunite with their spouses.
IRCC said in December 2016 it would cut processing times for 80 per cent of applicants under the program. At the same time, the application process was made more efficient and easier to navigate.
“Canada is committed to family reunification,” said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen. “We understand how important it is to reunite couples. It also makes for a stronger Canada.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.”
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The government says more than 80 per cent of spousal sponsorship applications in the backlog as of December 7, 2016 have received decisions. The backlog has also been reduced from 75,000 to 15,000 as of December 31, 2017.
Further changes have been made to the guides, checklists and procedures for family reunification as of February 14, 2018.
Changes have been made to the Basic Guide, the Complete Guide and the document checklists.
The order in which documents must be submitted has also changed. The background/declaration form and police certificates must now be submitted as part of the initial application to help reduce processing times further.
IRCC plans to welcome 66,000 spouses and dependants in 2018, well above the average over the past decade of about 47,000. Under the recently announce immigration levels plan, this annual figure will rise to 70,000 by 2020.
Immigration Levels Plan: Spouses, Partners and Children
IRCC has faced criticism for failing to check spousal sponsorship applications thoroughly before returning them marked incomplete.
Several cases have arisen where applications have been returned citing missing documents which in fact were included in packages.
Despite Ottawa streamlining the Family Sponsorship process so that most cases are processed in 12 months, some applicants are frustrated by having their packages returned unnecessarily, meaning they drop to the back of the queue.
Now there are calls for the process to be moved online so as to eliminate the human error related to missing documents. But IRCC says there are no plans to do this.
The problem has been raised specifically by candidates for spousal sponsorship, a process that first involves a Canadian citizen or permanent resident being approved as a sponsor, before his or her spouse or common law partner is approved for permeant residence
The process involves proving the relationship is valid, that the sponsor can support the spouse for three years, plus medical and criminality checks.
Ottawa introduced the new 12-month standard processing time for family reunification immigration applications in December 2016. Increased demand in recent years had pushed up processing times.
Basic Requirements For Family Sponsorship
To be a sponsor:
- You must be 18 years of age or older.
- You and the sponsored relative must sign a sponsorship agreement that commits you to provide financial support for your relative, if necessary. This agreement also requires the person becoming a permanent resident must make every effort to support her or himself.
- You must provide financial support for a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner for three years from the date they become a permanent resident.
- You must provide financial support for a dependent child for 10 years, or until the child turns 25, whichever comes first.
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. These numbers are set to rise to 70,000 by 2020. 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 21, 2017, but will be extended until January 31, 2019.
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