Klaudios Mustakas – Senior Immigration Advisor: Why does it take so long to process a spousal application in Canada?

Not too long ago, the initial processing for in-Canada spousal cases was 4 to 6 months. It now takes a minimum of 13 months from the time Citizenship and Immigration Canada receives the application for the spouse to get stage one approval. Since it usually take several months to gather all the information required (medicals, background checks, etc), the time frame is actually more like 15 to 17 months.

In my previous life, I was the Manager of Citizenship and Immigration. We had an almost 99% acceptance rate for stage one approval. This means that 13 months is wasted on something that is going to pass, anyway.Frankly, without an actual investigation, it’s almost impossible to determine that a case is a marriage of convenience and should therefore be refused. CIC does not conduct any outside investigations. The Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) is mandated to conduct the investigations. However, it would be so low in their priority list that it would not solve the problem of wait times.

The CIC should have better things to worry about than the possibility that a spouse may fail stage one approval. 

The 13-month waiting period causes countless problems for a family in Canada. 1) The proposed immigrant may be the main bread winner of the family and must wait over a year before he or she is eligible to apply for a work authorization. 2) Families are forced to live on their savings and in some cases must depend on extended family or even social assistance for support. 3) If they go on social assistance, then technically the sponsor is no longer eligible to sponsor their spouse. 4) The foreign spouse is not eligible for provincial health insurance until stage one approval. So what if the spouse is now pregnant or suffers from an illness?
The irony is that if you are a foreign student and you have your spouse with you, he or she can apply for a work authorization immediately upon arrival. These spouses are also covered by provincial health insurance. For their part, refugee claimants are also eligible to work once they make their claim. Immigrant spouses of Canadians are not afforded these same rights.
Immigration Canada should immediately start a program that grants the foreign spouse of Canadian citizens or permanent residents an employment authorization as soon as the application is submitted and medicals are passed. Since spouses are currently given a conditional 2 year landing, what would be the problem in getting a conditional employment authorization to go with it?The CIC should have better things to worry about than the possibility that a spouse may fail stage one approval. These spouses should be allowed to begin their lives as productive Canadian residents as soon as possible.Klaudios Mustakas is a former senior manager with the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). He is now a senior immigration advisor with Pace Law Firm.

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