Canadian Immigration: Spousal Sponsorship

By Pace Law | March 14, 2011

Andy Semotiuk

The following is a Q&A with immigration attorney Andy Semotiuk. In this segment, Andy talks about spousal sponsorship applications for people who wish to bring their spouse to Canada. 

Dealing with internal Canadian Spousal Sponsorship cases, what is the processing time for cases filed inside Canada?

An application is approved only in principle within 9 to 10 months.This makes it possible for the person to apply for a work permit. However, the total processing time is in fact 18 months, since there are police and medical checks that still must be done before the foreign spouse is finally approved as an immigrant.

Isn’t that long time for processing a case?

Indeed it is. Frankly, I find that length of time to be appalling. How can anyone survive these days without working for 10 months?

I think work permits should be available to the foreign spouse in Canada the moment a couple files a spousal sponsorship, provided they are able to demonstrate that they have filed their case, and can produce a Canadian marriage certificate or a credible foreign marriage certificate.

How can the current policy be changed?

I believe there is a Charter constitutional challenge that can be made to the current policy. Spouses of temporary skilled foreign workers are eligible to obtain work permits, and the spouses of foreign students who came to Canada are eligible to obtain work permits, so it should be the same with spousal sponsorships. It makes good sense.

What about travel outside Canada while the application is being processed?

Unfortunately, this part is tricky. In the United States, a foreign spouse can apply for a travel document as part of an application to gain permanent residence. This means the spouse can travel outside the country while the application is being processed.

In Canada, it’s not so simple. If the foreign spouse wants to travel while the application is being processed, there is a risk of not being able to return. If they are from a country where a visa is required for travel to Canada, the foreign spouse must apply for a multiple entry Temporary Resident Visa at a Consulate outside Canada. This presents great difficulty, since they must show they have roots that guarantee a return back to their country of origin.

The law is that they can have dual intent – the intent to immigrate if approved and the intent to return home if not. Trouble is, a Canadian Border Services agent can reject a returning spouse on the basis that the internal sponsorship application is deemed abandoned by virtue of the departure of the foreign spouse during the process.

Where can people go to get more information?

The CIC website is a good resource. As always, they can contact me at the office, or drop me an email. I’ll get back to them right away.