Unfair Canadian Spousal Sponsorship System Needs A Change

By Klaudios Mustakas | January 10, 2015

Klaudios Mustakas – Senior Immigration Advisor: Why does Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) have two different systems for sponsoring a spouse? Good question.

Under the current immigration system, a Canadian (or Permanent Resident) can sponsor their spouse by 1) submitting a sponsorship application when their spouse is overseas (CIC’s preferred method) or 2) if the spouse is in Canada, they can submit an In-Canada Spousal Application….unless that person isn’t allowed to be in Canada as a proposed spouse in the first place.
The following is real scenario for someone who lives in Canada and is married to someone from Pakistan:
A Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident can sponsor their spouse who lives in Pakistan by submitting an application to the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga. To CIC’s credit, they process the application in about 53 days. Once the application is processed (determining that the sponsor is indeed eligible to be a sponsor) the application is then transferred to the nearest Canadian visa post. In this example, that post is Islamabad, Pakistan.

It’s time to change the Canadian spousal sponsorship system so that it is fair to everyone.

The average length of time to process the spousal application from this point (according to CIC’s own records) takes 33 months, or almost 3 years.
Okay, you might say, then what about a visitor visa during this three year period, so that the spouse can visit their Canadian partner? No dice. The proposed spouse must remain in Pakistan in case the visa post calls them for the spousal application interview. Why can’t they obtain a visitor visa? Well, when the visa officer knows that the individual is now married to a Canadian, it is unlikely that they will issue a visitor visa to them in case they try to remain in Canada with their spouse. So they have to sit and wait. For three years.
This scenario is not unique to citizens of Pakistan. Other examples of unreasonable wait times include Lebanon (24 months) , Singapore (31 months), Guatemala City (29 months), and Jamaica (27 months). In most cases, as with Pakistan, their citizens require a visitor visa just to visit Canada. The significance of this is that the sponsored spouse is not able to visit their Canadian spouse until their spousal application is finalized. How can individuals be asked to accept this as a reasonable processing time? How can the government expect a spouse of a Canadian to wait nearly 3 years to be re-united with their spouse, and in some cases, their young children?
This should be considered totally unacceptable in our society. The separation puts a tremendous strain on any relationship, and has harmful economic and emotional ramifications for the families involved. Unfortunately, CIC just shrugs their shoulders and pretends that the length that it takes is just par for the course.
Remember, if a Canadian citizen is married to a citizen from a country that does not require a visitor visa to enter Canada, their spouses can simply enter the country and apply under the In-Canada Spousal category. In other words, spouses from countries who do not require a visitor visa to enter Canada are treated differently than spouses who require visitor visas.Proposed sponsors also have no voice in getting their case processed any faster. Calling the Call Centre (which is the only available way to contact CIC) does not change anything nor does it speed up the process.
The Canadian immigration department needs to come up with a better system to be more fair to all of its citizens. Canadians who wish to sponsor their spouse and accompanied dependents should be able to apply at the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga. Once Mississauga determines that the sponsor is eligible to sponsor their spouse, they can notify the appropriate visa office overseas. The sponsor and the proposed spouse should then be given the option of entering Canada on a Temporary Resident Permit (Minister’s permit) and have their application processed under the In-Canada Spousal Application scheme.
By being processed under this program, sponsored spouses can eventually be allowed to work, support their family, and contribute to Canadian society. Once they are allowed to work, they will be eligible for provincial heath care (the spouse would already be medically cleared before they would apply) . This would allow all sponsors, and those being sponsored from any country, to be on an even playing field.
It’s time to change the Canadian spousal sponsorship system so that it is fair to everyone.