Spousal Sponsorship Delays Need Fixing Now

By James Metcalfe | December 2, 2015

James Metcalfe - Director of Immigration

James Metcalfe – Director of Immigration

James Metcalfe – Director of Immigration: Spousal sponsorship application are known to be a huge source of delays, with some of the delays causing big problems. This case is no different.

There was a recent story in the press of a New Zealand man who had married a Canadian woman and was applying for permanent residence in Canada. His wife was the sponsor and they had been waiting two years for approval. Tragically, his wife died before the spousal application was completed and his application was subsequently refused.

The kicker in the story was that even though they had a Canadian citizen child, he as the father was going to be told to leave Canada. That’s when the Minister of Immigration, in a rare move, stepped in:

When the Star began making inquiries about the case last week, Mailman received further conflicting information from immigration officials, leaving him confused about his status in Canada and trying to figure out where he stood.

But two phone calls from the immigration department Friday, the first from an official who told him McCallum had used his discretionary powers to intervene, and the second from McCallum himself, left him in no doubt that a celebration was in order.

“I got a warm welcome to Canada by the minister, who expressed his condolences and mentioned that it’s an extremely extenuating circumstance that prompted his decision,” said an ecstatic Mailman.

“I was still in disbelief after the first call. But this is now the real deal with the minister’s call.”

In an email to the Star, immigration department spokesperson Nancy Caron confirmed that McCallum approved Mailman’s application to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Rightly or wrongly, the Minister of Immigration is not supposed to direct his or her officials to grant permanent residence to overcome inadmissibility. However, as I suspected when I first heard the story, the solution to a problem like this was an application under paragraph 25.1 of the immigration act. This is commonly known as a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H and C) application. This was the best course of action in this case, as one of the cited reasons for H and C is “the best interests of any child directly affected.” It looks like McCallum sent his staff in that direction.

Spousal Applications Can Take 3 Years For Approval

All well and good. But cases like this should never get to the point where you need a cabinet minister to throw their weight around to get it approved.

A spousal sponsorship application in Canada currently takes anywhere from 24 to 36 months to process. This time frame is totally unacceptable and unnecessary. A spousal application includes sponsorship forms, medical records and police certificates. The first stage of processing lasts about four months and applicants can be issued a work permit at that time. This appears to be what happened in the case of the New Zealand man, as he had a work permit.

So to review: the man had a Canadian wife, a good medical record, police clearance, a Canadian child, a job, and had been in the country for two years. Then why wasn’t he approved for permanent residence by the time they moved to boot him out?

Gov’t Must Speed Up Application Processing

In the past 10 years, processing times for spousal sponsorship cases both in Canada and abroad have deteriorated to the point that family reunification can take three or four years and nobody but the applicants seem to care. In years prior, processing times were much quicker and were on the order of 6 to 12 months in most countries around the world and in Canada.

I was once told by ministerial staff that people deal with refusals better than delays. No wonder. For one, a refusal means you can get on with your life rather than sit in limbo for three years. For another, a refusal overseas allows for an appeal. You can’t appeal a delay in Canadian cases

Immigration minister John McCallum needs to improve this area of immigration law. It is simply not acceptable to make spouses wait years to have their partners join them in Canada.

Either the department fixes the problem, or McCallum will be spending a lot of time on the telephone.