The federal government recently announced an increase in processing times for spousal sponsorship applications, causing concern for foreign spouses both within and outside of Canada.
Foreign nationals who marry a Canadian have the opportunity to become a permanent resident in Canada through the spousal sponsorship process, which can be applied for while already temporarily in Canada or from abroad. Most couples choose to apply for spousal sponsorship while both spouses are inside Canada in order to avoid what could be a lengthy time apart awaiting processing from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
What was previously a roughly six month processing time for spousal sponsorship applications from within Canada has almost doubled to 11 months. The processing time for couples outside the country varies depending on the consulate to which they apply, but wait times of two years are common. For applicants who apply to the Canadian consulate in Islamabad, Pakistan, the wait times can exceed 32 months.
While couples who apply while one partner is outside of Canada are forced to endure long periods of time apart while awaiting a decision from CIC, couples who apply using the inland route face a host of other issues.
Couples in this position are often required to live off of one income, as foreign spouses are ineligible for a Canadian work permit while their spousal sponsorship applications are being processed. Similarly, spouses awaiting processing are also not entitled to Canada’s universal health care coverage, requiring them to obtain private insurance. These individuals are also unable to leave Canada to return to their home country, even briefly, as leaving Canada would constitute an abandonment of their sponsorship application.
With the only options being living apart from their husband or wife for a long period of time or living without health care or the ability to work in Canada, foreign nationals are forced to make difficult decisions when planning to apply for spousal sponsorship. CIC clearly prefers outland applications, and said that “it is always in the client’s best interests to apply abroad.” The long wait times and headaches created by the Canadian spousal sponsorship process seem somewhat contradictory to the emphasis that the Canadian immigration system places on family reunification.
For more information on Canada’s spousal sponsorship process, click here.
FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.