The December 2016 changes to the spousal sponsorship process has (to-date) served as a double-edge sword. While applications for many have sped up, for others, the process has turned into a nightmare. There have been increased cases of applications having be returned back to sender – for failing to meet the strict requirements of a complete application.
Regulation 10 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPR”) governs when an application is complete:
Form and content of application
10(1) Subject to paragraphs 28(b) to (d) and 139(1)(b), an application under these Regulations shall
(a) be made in writing using the form, if any, provided by the Department or, in the case of an application for a declaration of relief under subsection 42.1(1) of the Act, by the Canada Border Services Agency;
(b) be signed by the applicant;
(c) include all information and documents required by these Regulations, as well as any other evidence required by the Act;
(d) be accompanied by evidence of payment of the applicable fee, if any, set out in these Regulations; and
(e) if there is an accompanying spouse or common-law partner, identify who is the principal applicant and who is the accompanying spouse or common-law partner.
IRCC has taken a rather narrower and stricter approach in determining when an application should be sent back. It appears that where documents or content is not in-line with their instructions (regardless of whether defined in IRPR or IRPA there is a good chance the application is being returned.
The consequences of a return are heavy – it could mean loss of status (where one is basing their work permit extension on an in-Canada Spousal). At the best it’s a loss of a few months and at the worst it could lead to enforcement action if no steps are taken in time to remedy the mistakes.
In a sense, after ATIPing to learn one of the impetuses behind the changes I am not surprised. The following are excerpts from some of those ATIPs where directives were provided to IRCC officers at Case Processing Center – Mississauga (the office responsible for intake):
Top Issues Noticed (with Some Input from Immigration and Other Practitioners)
Recently on the Immigration Listserve there has been increasing outrage from representatives (expressed on their on files and on behalf of self-reps) on the return of applications. IRCC has acknowledged that some are returned in error. However, there are some issues that are not errors that will lead to return that should be carefully looked at:
- Providing a document issued by CRA as proof of Sponsor’s employment and if (not available) a letter in lieu – where something is missing or unavailable (for example self-employed) – it is not enough just to write n/a on the checklist and omit.
- Record of solemnization – this is not a legal marriage certificate. neither is any other hand-drafted document (such as a license) – wait for the official/legal certificate;
- Birth Certificate (particularly for dependent children) – while many countries don’t have proper processes or records – this must be explained. In general, a medical certificate must be provided.
- Missing postal codes or North American addresses – be complete, and don’t be sloppy in putting incomplete information
- Missing signatures or improper digital signatures – for spousals original signatures are required. Don’t forget to date and as a rep don’t backdate or future date.
- Explanations hidden in lengthy submission letter – if it is a very important explanation consider adding it in two locations – both where it arises and maybe flagged in the submission letter.
- Incorrect fee payment or missing receipt – double check how much needs to be paid and review instruction guide for this information. Perhaps even flag the fee payment form with a tab in the event it is missed in a thick package;
- Have the rep sign the Use of Rep – if you are paying a representative who is asking you to sign your own forms and pay them money and not disclose them – not only is this possible misrep but you may run against the completeness requirement of 10.2(c.4)
(2) The application shall, unless otherwise provided by these Regulations,
(a) contain the name, birth date, address, nationality and immigration status of the applicant and of all family members of the applicant, whether accompanying or not, and a statement whether the applicant or any of the family members is the spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner of another person;
(b) indicate whether they are applying for a visa, permit or authorization;
(c) indicate the class prescribed by these Regulations for which the application is made;
(c.1) if the applicant is represented in connection with the application, include the name, postal address and telephone number, and fax number and electronic mail address, if any, of any person or entity — or a person acting on its behalf — representing the applicant;
(c.2) if the applicant is represented, for consideration in connection with the application, by a person referred to in any of paragraphs 91(2)(a) to (c) of the Act, include the name of the body of which the person is a member and their membership identification number;
(c.3) if the applicant has been advised, for consideration in connection with the application, by a person referred to in any of paragraphs 91(2)(a) to (c) of the Act, include the information referred to in paragraphs (c.1) and (c.2) with respect to that person;
(c.4) if the applicant has been advised, for consideration in connection with the application, by an entity — or a person acting on its behalf — referred to in subsection 91(4) of the Act, include the information referred to in paragraph (c.1) with respect to that entity or person; and
(d) include a declaration that the information provided is complete and accurate.
A final mistake i see many self-reps make is in trying to present their application too cute: multiple envelopes, binders, staples and paper clips. We keep it very simple here. Generally one rubberband and if required separate rubberbands to separate packages. The more obstacles you give the processing officer at IRCC the more likely they will be frustrated and (1) look for problems and reasons to return; or (2) actually lose a document in the process which may lead the application to be improperly returned.
Finally – scan everything for yourself AND make a physical copy so you can have something to fall-back on.
Hope this helps.