Couples Continue to Experience Immigration Processing Delays Caused by Pandemic
Despite special IRCC measures in place to help reunite families during the pandemic, international couples are saying it’s not enough and are reaching their limit.
Canadians have been separated from their loved ones living abroad for months, with limited contact or information regarding the status of their application.
The spousal and common-law sponsorship program that existed before the pandemic is now under scrutiny as the coronavirus outbreak has shed some light on its flaws.
Spousal sponsorship applicants from countries that require visas are often denied their Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) because they must prove that if their permanent residence application isn’t finalized, they will exit Canada when they reach the end of their authorized stay.
The pandemic is causing challenges among couples who are trying to reunite, despite the fact that foreign national spouses of Canadians are exempt from travel restrictions.
The problem is that key immigration services, like biometric centres, are not operating or are functioning at limited capacity, resulting in extremely slow processing times. The groups that are feeling the brunt of these delays are those who are not eligible for common-law status, including engaged couples and other couples in long-term, committed conjugal partnerships.
Furthermore, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will not recognize virtual or proxy marriages.
While Canada continues to accept spousal and common-law sponsorship applications, according to sources, many applicants have yet to receive communication on these documents since February 2020.
As a result, protests began over the weekend in an effort to pressure the federal government to take serious action. Cities like Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver participated in these protests, sparking a petition calling for a Special Temporary Resident Visa.
The petition, lead by Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan, has 6,074 signatures and aims to allow spouses and their children to reunite with their Canadian partners.
Since 2017, Kwan, the New Democratic Party’s critic of Canada’s immigration minister, has been vocal about getting more visas like the Special Temporary Resident Visa in place. She has also been pushing Immigration Minister, Marco Mendicino, to make Temporary Resident Visas available to spouses who have been approved in principle for permanent residence.
Mendicino responded, acknowledging that the pandemic has resulted in delays and service disruptions within the government, stating that they are still operating at limited capacity and with reduced resources. He went on to outline the measures the department are taking to accommodate spouses of Canadians and permanent residence who live abroad. Among these measures included extending deadlines for submissions and giving permanent resident applicants more time to extend their stay in Canada.
The Minister also explained that foreign national spouses may be in Canada with temporary residence while they wait for their application for permanent residency to be approved. But applicants must still demonstrate that they will leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay.
Kwan posted the petition on Facebook, stating:
“The current process is clearly insufficient and is preventing spouses from reuniting in a timely manner. This is made evident from the protests that took place in Vancouver and across the country this past weekend, the strong support for the petition that I have sponsored and the countless emails I’ve been receiving from constituents and people from across the country.”