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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

Ways to speed up the Open Work Permit process

for a sponsored spouse or partner

by Michael Scott

One of the main objectives of the Immigrant, Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) is “to see that families are reunited in Canada” (s. 3(1)(d)). Reunification covers spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners, children, parents etc. After economic immigration, family reunification remains the country’s second most popular way of bringing newcomers to Canada.

The 2023 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shows that the number of spouses, partners and accompanying dependent children has gone up from 67,140 in 2018 to 70,076 in 2022. The processing times for family class sponsorship has also increased over recent years from 13 months in 2019 to 18 months in 2022. IRCC is working to decrease processing times for 80 per cent of all applications within service standards. We can compare the stated service standard of six months for Express Entry compared with Family Class sponsorship, which usually takes up to 12 months.

The 12-month waiting period for family reunification is lengthy and many look for other options to bring family members to the country. We can consider the following ways to reunite family members faster.

Open Work Permits

To be eligible for a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) spouses, common-law partners, and conjugal partners who are being sponsored for permanent residence must be in a genuine relationship with a Canadian sponsor; be included in an application for permanent residence and have an AOR (Acknowledgment of Receipt) document on file confirming their permanent residence application is being processed and be living in Canada. IRCC has a current processing time of 60 days to issue a final decision for all new work permit applications. It is important to note that the application for the SOWP is not automatic and comes after an invitation from IRCC;

Visitor Visa

Family applicants from visa required countries require that the subject is inside Canada and in-status. They must have valid travel documents such as a passport, be in good health, have no criminal or security inadmissibility, and enter Canada with a clear indication that they would return to the home country at the end of their visit. They must also present evidence of finances to ensure they will not become a burden on Canada. The current processing times for a TRV is 14 days and some may require a medical examination or a letter of invitation from an individual in Canada.

Spouses and partners who are approved to visit may apply for an open work permit under certain circumstances. Applicants who have received an AOR letter can apply for an open work permit. Or you can apply for an open work permit if your temporary resident status will expire in two weeks or less and you have applied for permanent residence under the spouse or common law partner in Canada (SCLPC) as a spouse or common-law partner or the family class as a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner (sponsored overseas).

The options for family sponsorship have increased but applicants must ensure that they have the requisite AOR letter and meet other requirements.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: