Punishing Spousal Sponsors
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander recently boasted that “Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world”. Maybe so, but don’t ask Canadian citizens and permanent residents, who are sponsoring their foreign national spouses, to second that opinion, especially those caught in the quagmire of the in-Canada sponsorship process.
The current immigration regulations permit a foreign national spouse to be inside or outside Canada during the sponsorship process, so long as, in the former case, the foreign national is already legally in Canada when the process begins.
In the past year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has doubled the processing time on inland applications and there is feeling among many of the individuals affected that the additional delay has been manufactured. At best, it is seen by some as a deterrent to utilizing the inland option and, at worst, it may be a signal that CIC soon intends to put an end to the in-Canada sponsorship option.
Spousal sponsorship is a two-stage process for both in-Canada and outside-Canada applications. The first stage always occurs in Canada and it involves an assessment of the Canadian sponsor’s eligibility. The second stage is about assessing the foreign national and it includes health and criminal clearances. Last year, the first stage of inland applications was taking six months to complete and it now takes eleven months. To put this in perspective, the first stage of outside Canada applications is being completed in less than two months. There is no difference in the work being done. It’s purely a policy decision.
For in-Canada applicants, completion of the first stage of the process is significant. It is only then that the foreign national spouse is entitled to a work permit and a provincial health card. The longer wait is more than an inconvenience; it causes financial and emotional hardship. It doesn’t have to be this way. Canada grants open work permits to the spouses of international students and many temporary foreign workers, right from the moment they enter Canada. Nobody is saying this is wrong, but what is available to temporary foreign residents with few ties to Canada should also be given to spouses of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. After all, they are residents-in-waiting. Why punish them for doing what the regulations allow?