The Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship addresses members of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade in Vancouver, BC. Friday March 18, 2016, Photo by Carmine Marinelli

John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship addresses members of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade in Vancouver, BC. (Photo by Carmine Marinelli)

Shorter wait times for spousal reunification

As part of its commitment to bring families together, the Government of Canada announced a few changes to the Parent and Grandparent Program. From January 3rd, 2017 sponsors will have 30 days to fill out an online application form expressing interest in bringing their parents or grandparents to Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will then randomly select 10,000 individuals who will be invited to send in their complete application package.

IRCC’s efforts in 2016, resulted in 15 per cent shorter processing times for in-Canada applications and just over 10 per cent shorter times for applications from outside Canada. From now on, wait times will be reduced even further – most spousal applications will be processed in 12 months. Some complicated cases, however, may require more time.

John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, says, “We’re listening to what past applicants had to say and making the process fairer for people who want to sponsor their parents or grandparents. We’re ensuring everyone can access the application process by giving them the same chance to have their name chosen.”

Before January 2016, processing times for applicants within Canada were an average of 26 months, and for applicants from outside Canada – 18 months. The main reason for these long wait times was that more Canadians and permanent residents were applying to sponsor their spouses or partners than the number of applicants the Government had decided to admit to Canada for an year. For example, in 2015, almost 70 000 applicants applied through spousal sponsorship and there was only space for 48 000 to be admitted to Canada that year. This resulted in backlog of applications.

To bring down the backlog and reduce the wait times, the Government of Canada increased the number of spaces in the annual immigration levels plan for 2016 and allowed 12 000 more spouses, partners and dependent children to be admitted to Canada compared to 2015. The target for 2017 is 64 000 admissions. This number is well above the average of about 47 000 over the past decade.

“Wait times will be reduced even further – most spousal applications will be processed in 12 months. “

Those applicants who have already filed their applications do not have to wait for 12 more months to have them finalized. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will continue to process applications in the order they have been received. So most families who have been waiting should have the decisions on their sponsorship application no later than the end of December 2017.

Also, about 80 per cent of the new applications will be processed within 12 months from the day they are received by IRCC. This will apply both to the outside Canada family class and to the spouse or common-law partner in-Canada class.

Another improvement of the process is a new spousal sponsorship application kit which will be posted on the IRCC website on December 15, 2016. The new kit is designed to be simpler and easier to understand. Applicants using the kit will have to include all documents listed in the checklist, otherwise they their applications will be returned. In that way, the process will become more straightforward and efficient.

Applicants are encouraged to use the new kit; however, there might be some who have already started filling out their application using the current forms. To respect that, IRCC will continue to accept new applications using the current kit until January 31, 2017. From February 1, 2017, only applications with the new kit will be accepted.

“Bringing families together makes for a stronger Canada,” says Minister 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.”

What will not change is that all applications will continue to receive full criminality, security and medical screening. At the visa application stage, IRCC will continue to rely on experienced officers to detect marriage fraud and prevent such cases from occurring in Canada. If during the application process there is evidence that a marriage is one of convenience, the application for permanent residence will be refused.