Public and IRCC response
to family sponsorship processing delays
by Michael Scott
The impact of COVID-19 on Canadian immigration has been significant. It has played no small part in delaying sponsorship applications. I have firsthand experience in representing a number of family class application submissions and sympathize with the Canadian sponsors and applicants alike. Protesters have taken to the streets in several Canadian cities calling on the government to address delays in family sponsorship applications. The government authorities, starting with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship as well as his critics in parliament and concerned Canadian sponsors and the spousal/partners applicants and dependent children, and concerned persons across the land are not satisfied with the current state of affairs and are seeking ways to improve things.
On the one hand there is an online petition with nearly 15,000 signatures requesting action on sponsorship applications stuck in the cue. Immigration critic, Jenny Kwan of the NDP, also gathered another 6,000 signatures calling for special measures, such as the implementation of a special temporary resident visa. If you are not satisfied, let your elected officials know. MP Kwan acknowledges immigration changes in meeting application deadlines due to COVID-19 but points out the limits of this action: “these extensions will ultimately result in longer process times.” She correctly points out that one of the objectives of the immigration Act is to reunite families in Canada and this is now not occurring in a timely fashion.
Minister Medicino, for his part, acknowledges the impact of the virus and the slower processing times. In a recent statement the Minister explained, “We understand that the last few months have not been easy for those who are away from their loved ones in these difficult times. This is why we are accelerating the approval of spousal applications as much as possible. Our government will continue to find new ways to keep families together.”
IRCC has increased the number of staff allocated to review spousal/partner applications and expect to review 66 per cent of submissions in order to reduce wait times and process the applications faster. The department will also implement pilot technology to conduct interviews remotely, as well as facilitative biometrics measures, but did not elaborate on what these are. The departmental initiatives are aimed at accelerating, processing and finalizing 6,000 spousal applications each month through to the end of 2020. These measures are expected to result in decisions on 49,000 applications by the end of the year.
It is hoped that the changes introduced by Minister Mendicino will help IRCC catch up on the numbers identified under their Immigration Levels Plan 2020-2022. The numbers targeted for 2020 included 70,000 spouses, partners, and children to be included among the 341,000 immigrants landed in 2020. These numbers were established prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is possible that the concerns raised by the Minister may be included in the much-anticipated Prime Minister’s mandate letter, expected to follow the recent Speech from the Throne. Sometimes the best advice is to be patient and wait for the resolution of the processing delays. It would appear that all parties, supporters and critics alike, agree that families should be reunited in Canada, if possible, and that this reunification be made possible in reasonable time frames, even amid the global pandemic. Canadians as a group recognize the value of immigration and reunification of families but they need to be both patient and at the same time assertive. Families need Canada to administer the immigration programs in an efficient, caring fashion. Canada continues to need immigrants to address the country’s demographic needs and fuel our economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19. The public protests and government response are things we should expect in a democratic society. Both sides are working for the same goals.
Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: email@example.com.