Some good news was announced this week for Canadians waiting to be reunited with family: The processing time for family sponsorship will be reduced to only 12 months, instead of 24 months. This applies to families both inside and outside of Canada.
Whereas the former processing was two-tiered – 18 months for spouses/common-law partners outside Canada and 26 months for inland applications – now everyone will be “in the same boat,” said John McCallum, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
The changes to the family reunification programs are part of the government’s process to make critical changes to immigration policy, a promise that was made by the Liberal Party during their election campaign in 2015. McCallum stated, “Family unification has always been a number one priority of the Liberal government… It is important for children and husbands and wives to be united without any delay.”
To help with the promise to cut processing time in half, the department has received CAD$25 million in funding to hire and train additional staff to handle applications. These faster processing times, however, will not affect the compulsory medical, security, and background checks. The immigration offices will continue to be attentive in detecting fraudulent marriages. As with other immigration programs, medical exams and security screening may cause additional delay to an application processing.
McCallum also confirmed that applications for those coming to Canada will still be processed on a first-in, first-out basis, meaning that priority will be given to applications already in queue prior to the announcement.
Starting December 15, the two different applications for overseas and inland family members will be combined into one single application for all applicants. The former 180-page guide is now only 75 pages, numerous checklists have been reduced to one checklist, and three relationship questionnaires have been converted to one simpler form. The language of all the forms has also been simplified from the previous confusing and complicated language used. Even those whose first language is not English can now understand the guide easily. “You don’t need a PhD degree to understand this guide,” said McCallum about the new and improved guide.
In addition to form and guide simplification, McCallum stated other factors that would help in the reduction of processing times, including no longer requiring medical and criminality documents up front. Applicants will now be able to submit these documents later in the process, once requested.
In 2017, the government of Canada plans to accept 64,000 new permanent residents under spousal, common-law partner, or dependent child sponsorship. The new changes to the family reunification immigration processing will likely be followed by changes to the Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) as well. However, the new 12-month process will not apply to PGP applicants at this time.
Families are meant to be together, and not separated by borders. Canada now eases the process of staying close to loved ones. McCallum said that all Canadians will benefit from the changes since “people are more productive citizens, they do better overall when they are with their families than when they are isolated from their families.”
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