Tag Archives: Spousal Sponsorship

The Little Things that Send Back Spousals – Advice Blog

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
  • (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):

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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:

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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;
  3. 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.
  4. Missing postal codes or North American addresses – be complete, and don’t be sloppy in putting incomplete information
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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;
  8. 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)
Required information

(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.

Can I Lose My Open Work Permit If My In-Canada Spousal Is Refused?

As a relatively new (December 2014) immigration program, the One Year Pilot Project which provides an Open-Work Permit to In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship/Common-Law Applicants raises many interesting factual scenarios – particularly in relation to refused applications.

Under this pilot project, prior to first-stage approval, Applicants who currently are in-status and in Canada are given open work permits allowing them to work anywhere in Canada while their spousal/common-law applications are in processing. I was asked an interesting scenario, one that was brought up by the folks in the Canada Spousal Sponsorship Practitioners Facebook Group.

What if an in-Canada Spousal Application is refused? Can the individual continue to hold and work on their Open-Work Permit.

The relevant Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”)provision states as follows, regarding the circumstances in which temporary status (i.e visitor, student,  worker) may be lost (emphasis added):

Temporary resident

 A foreign national loses temporary resident status

  • (a) at the end of the period for which they are authorized to remain in Canada;

  • (b) on a determination by an officer or the Immigration Division that they have failed to comply with any other requirement of this Act; or

  • (c) on cancellation of their temporary resident permit.

Applying Section 47 of IRPA, there are currently no grounds to require a foreign national holding a open spousal work permit to leave Canada because the Spousal/Common-Law Sponsorship application has been refused.

When does the authorized period to remain in Canada end?

Section 183(4) of IRPA states (emphasis added):

  • Authorized period ends

    (4) The period authorized for a temporary resident’s stay ends on the earliest of

    • (a) the day on which the temporary resident leaves Canada without obtaining prior authorization to re-enter Canada;

    • (b) the day on which their permit becomes invalid, in the case of a temporary resident who has been issued either a work permit or a study permit;

    • (b.1) the day on which the second of their permits becomes invalid, in the case of a temporary resident who has been issued a work permit and a study permit;

    • (c) the day on which any temporary resident permit issued to the temporary resident is no longer valid under section 63; or

    • (d) the day on which the period authorized under subsection (2) ends, if paragraphs (a) to (c) do not apply.

  • Extension of period authorized for stay

    (5) Subject to subsection (5.1), if a temporary resident has applied for an extension of the period authorized for their stay and a decision is not made on the application by the end of the period authorized for their stay, the period is extended until

    • (a) the day on which a decision is made, if the application is refused; or

    • (b) the end of the new period authorized for their stay, if the application is allowed.

  • Non-application

    (5.1) Subsection (5) does not apply in respect of a foreign national who is the subject of a declaration made under subsection 22.1(1) of the Act.

  • Continuation of status and conditions

    (6) If the period authorized for the stay of a temporary resident is extended by operation of paragraph (5)(a) or extended under paragraph (5)(b), the temporary resident retains their status, subject to any other conditions imposed, during the extended period.

It also important to look at when an authorized stay begins.  The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states (emphasis added):

Authorized period begins

(3) The period authorized for the stay of a temporary resident begins on

  • (a) if they are authorized to enter and remain in Canada on a temporary basis, the day on which they first enter Canada after they are so authorized;

  • (a.1) if they have become a temporary resident in accordance with subsection 46(1.1) of the Act, the day on which their application to renounce their permanent resident status is approved; and

  • (b) in any other case, the day on which they enter Canada.

On my reading, as long as the Applicant has a valid temporary resident visa allowing them to re-enter Canada, they cannot lose their open work permit simply by leaving Canada. This is not a case of implied status.

Of course, there may be challenges in obtaining a visa, which is another matter for another post. From my reading of the legislation, if you leave Canada during the duration of your Canada

Note, that there are several conditions by which an individual can apply for a visitor visa within Canada and holding a work permit in Canada is one of them. See: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/cpp-o-apply.asp 

Opportunities Created By an Open Spousal Work Permit

There are several potential opportunities created by a foreign national spouse-applicant who holds an open work permit. There may be several economic options worth pursuing if the required work experience can be obtained.

Also, an Overseas application can be initiated and the ability of the individual to travel back to their home country can facilitate any officer interview conducted overseas.

However, given the current uncertainty with Port of Entry examinations and Officer discretion leaving Canada while holding an Open Spousal Work Permit and a In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship refusal may not be the most desirable choice.

What I Would Do – Issue all Spousal/Common-Law Applicants Open Work Permits

I think Citizenship and Immigration Canada has really shot itself in the foot with making the open work permit option only for In-Canada Spousal Sponsorship applicants. Should this option exist for Overseas applicants as well (who by the way can be in Canada when applying). If there did so there would less of a burden and backlog of the domestic system – currently holding up families for 26 months +.

While well-intentioned, the Open Spousal Work Permit has become an emergency lifeline for Canadian couples with a foreign national spouse/common-law partner. It creates the potential for poorly prepared applications filed to save a relationship. If I were CIC I would encourage more individuals to apply abroad, put more resources abroad to boost those processing times, and encourage more spouses to stay and work in Canada on a dual-intention pending processing of their Sponsorship applications.

 

Sponsoring My Foreign Love – Preliminary Considerations (Part 1)

Recently, likely due to the summer wedding season being in full effect, I have been approached by several individuals considering the spousal sponsorship process.

immigrant-wedding

The increased interest in sponsoring a spouse may also be tied to the increasing difficulty of obtaining permanent residence through other economic streams. Particularly for young international couples  whose study permits, post graduate permits, and International Experience Class work permits are running out, the need to tie the knot in order to stay together becomes a date-ruining dinner time conversation.

As part one of a multi-part series, I will try and cover some of the challenges associated with spousal sponsorship applications.

So what are some considerations to consider prior to embarking on an application to sponsor?

1. Where are the potential Applicant and Sponsor currently residing and what is their legal status there? What is the Applicant’s immigration status in Canada?

This question is important for several reasons. To file an Inside Canada spousal sponsorship application, there is a requirement for the Applicant to actually be in Canada.

For Outside Canada spousal sponsorships, there is also the potential option of selecting the Visa Office that processes the second part of your Application. You can apply to a Visa Office that is not your country of citizenship if you currently hold legal status in that country and have done so for more than one consecutive year. This may be particularly useful for applicants who are citizens in a country such as Pakistan (currently 40 month processing time) but have legal status by virtue of study or work in London, England (currently 28 month processing time).

It is also important to consider their status (if they are in Canada). Do they have temporary resident status in Canada now? When does that status expire?  Are they out of status?

These questions will affect what procedure you ultimately choose in sponsoring.

2. What is the status of your relationship? 

Closely related to the above question of immigration status is the question of relationship status. Under Canadian Immigration Law you can sponsor a spouse or common law partner if:

(1) they are your legal spouse (i.e. you married);

(2) they are your common-law partner (at least 1 year of cohabitation and currently cohabiting in conjugal relationship);

(3) they have been in a conjugal relationship with you for one year (unable to cohabit due to persecution or penal control);

In addition to determining whether you have met the above categories, it is also important to ask yourself whether you have the evidence to show that you have met the above categories. For example for you and your common-law partner: Do you have proof that you have co-rented or co-leased a place to live for over a year? Do you have a joint bank account showing a conjugal (not just roommate) relationship?

These are all very relevant questions in determining common-law status as well as relationship genuineness at a later stage.

3. What are current application processing times?

Currently for Inside Canada spousal sponsorship applications the processing time is 26 months. This time is encapsulated in 17 months to obtain a first-stage approval that the relationship is bona-fide. In an Inside Canada sponsorship all of the processing takes place in Canada at Case Processing Centre Mississauga (CPC-M). Interviews, if necessary, are generally arranged at the local CIC office in the city which you reside and will require attendance by both Applicant and Sponsor.

Currently for an Outside Canada spousal sponsorship application, the processing time varies from 5 to 40 months depending on Visa Office. Note that this in addition to the assessment of the sponsor which currently takes 55 days. In an Outside Canada process, the sponsor assessment occurs at CPC-M before the application is sent to a visa post abroad for assessment of the bona fides. Interviews, if necessary, are arranged outside Canada and will require attendance by both Applicant and Sponsor.

Why is it important whether you have an immigration officer in Pakistan or London assesses your application? Asides from the level of scrutiny that may possibly differ (statistics don’t show too much of a correlation between visa posts), it will definitely affect the time it takes to make a decision.

Here are the processing times accessed from CIC as of 02/06/2015.

Processing times for sponsorship of spouses, common-law or conjugal partners and dependent children applications

The tables below indicate application processing times at Canadian visa offices once Step 1 has been completed. The times are based on how long it took to process 80 percent of all cases between April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015. Processing times are subject to change.

Last quarterly update: May 20, 2015

Africa and Middle East
Visa Office Processing Times IN MONTHS
(based on a complete application package)
Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates 13
Accra – Ghana 16
Amman – Jordan 24
Ankara – Turkey 11
Beirut – Lebanon 16
Cairo – Egypt 18
Dakar – Senegal 21
Nairobi – Kenya 22
Pretoria – South Africa 15
Rabat – Morocco 8
Tel Aviv – Israel 9
Asia and Pacific
Visa Office Processing Times IN MONTHS
(based on a complete application package)
Beijing – China 10
Colombo – Sri Lanka 10
Hong Kong – China 10
Islamabad – Pakistan 40
Manila – Philippines 17
New Delhi – India 16
Singapore – Singapore 28
Sydney – Australia 11
Europe
Visa Office Processing Times IN MONTHS
(based on a complete application package)
Bucharest – Romania 17
Kyiv – Ukraine 12
London – United Kingdom 28
Moscow – Russia 24
Paris – France 8
Rome – Italy 12
Vienna – Austria 16
Warsaw – Poland 12
Americas
Visa Office Processing Times IN MONTHS
(based on a complete application package)
Bogota – Colombia 12
Buenos Aires – Argentina 14
Guatemala City – Guatemala
Havana – Cuba 10
Kingston – Jamaica 23
Lima – Peru 10
Los Angeles – United States 29
Mexico City – Mexico 17
New York – United States 35
Ottawa (Case Processing Centre) – Canada 16
Port-au-Prince – Haiti 23
Port of Spain – Trinidad and Tobago 17
Santiago – Chile 22
Santo Domingo – Dominican Republic 14
Sao Paulo – Brazil 5

Notes

  • You can view your application status online.
  • If it has been longer than the time shown above since you applied and your visa office has not contacted you, you may wish to contact the visa office that is processing your application. The Call Centre does not have information about applications processed outside Canada.
  • (–) indicates that not enough data are available. Processing times are shown only where an office has finalized 10 or more cases in the past 12 months.

SOURCE: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/times/perm/fc-spouses.asp

Returning to our Pakistan and London example, the same application processed in Pakistan will take a calendar year longer.  You can readily see the huge discrepancies between visa posts,

4. Should I choose the Inside Canada or Outside Canada process?

As alluded to earlier, Applicants currently residing in Canada have a choice of applying for an Inside Canada spousal sponsorship (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/spouse.asp)  or, if they have temporary resident status and reside in Canada, an Outside Canada spousal sponsorship (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/fc.asp). Applicants applying from outside Canada can only utilize the Outside of Canada process.

Note with an Outside Canada application you will also need to show that there will be an effort to bring the spouse to Canada to reside permanently upon being granted permanent resident status.

An Inside Canada spousal sponsorship application certainly has its advantages, among which include:

  1. If the Applicant has valid temporary resident status after 4 month processing, there is currently a pilot project for a spousal open work permit which will allow the Applicant to work in Canada for any employer in Canada;
  2. The Applicant can still have their application processed without holding temporary resident status and has the benefit of an administrative deferral of 60 days in most circumstances (in which time the application will be processed) if removal proceedings are issued against the Applicant;
  3. For those who currently have temporary status and apply to extend their temporary status in Canada along with their in-Canada spousal permanent residence application, they can have implied status for the duration of the processing or until they leave Canada;
  4. The entire process occurs in Canada, there is no need to travel abroad for an interview at a foreign visa post;

However, there are also several disadvantages:

  1. The spouse/common-law partner needs to reside and live together in Canada for the duration of processing. Any separation (particularly outside of Canada travel by one party) may effect severance of the common-law relationship;
  2. Any denial of re-entry for the Applicant to return into Canada will lead to refusal of the in-Canada application and will trigger the requirement to reapply (likely using the Outside Canada process);
  3. You have no rights to appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division in the case of your application being refused. Your only recourse is the Federal Court where the visa officer’s decision is reviewed on the difficult to challenge standards of reasonableness and correctness;
  4. There is currently a 26 month processing time for these applications in which time the Applicant will not be a permanent resident of Canada; and
  5. The open spousal work permit is a pilot project and subject to change. Previous to the new pilot program, spousal work permits were only issued after 17 months of processing, meaning many couples had to rely solely on the Sponsor’s income for 17 months;

An Outside Canada spousal sponsorship application also has its advantages:

  1. The Applicant and Sponsor do not need to reside together in Canada and can pursue options either abroad or in Canada;
  2. There is a general right to the Immigration Appeal Division in the event your Spousal Sponsorship application is refused (except in serious criminality, misrepresentation, terrorism,  etc.). At the IAD you will have a second chance in a de novo (new) hearing to prove the genuineness and purpose of your marriage (should that be the ground for refusal).

However, there are also several disadvantages:

  1. There is no right to an open spousal work permit and you will likely have to obtain the ability to work in Canada through under means;
  2. Couples may have some challenges spending immediate time together in Canada where the Applicant is from a country where a TRV is required and prior to the submission of an Outside of Canada spousal sponsorship. However, I have found that several applicants who have applied for Outside Canada spousal sponsorships are able to get TRVs on the basis of a pending spousal (family reunification) as long as they demonstrate dual intent and the ability to effect departure at the end of their authorized stay; 

5. Applying for a Fiancee/Boyfriend/Girlfriend Visa

Having been through this myself, I can tell you that one of the most frustrating challenges is separation from a fiancee, boyfriend, or girlfriend from a country where a TRV is required and who (1) cannot qualify for another category of immigration; and (2) wants to be able to spend time with you in Canada prior to a marriage (or even so a marriage can take place here in Canada);

From my research into these types of TRV applications, there is no magic formula other than to be full and frank with your disclosure of the underlying relationship and to heavily emphasize the ties to the Applicant’s home country.

I have met quite a few individuals whom, for whatever reason, are hesitant of divulging their true “fiancee” status and opt to try and obtain a travel visa instead, without disclosing the relationship as the primary purpose or a purpose for travel.  While a visa may be issued at this stage, down the road, this omission may necessarily create contradictions when you are asked on your spousal application about the details of your relationship.

A signed letter from the Applicant declaring they understand the requirements of Canadian immigration law and understand that even though they may have the intention to reside permanently in Canada in the future, but fully intend to leave Canada when authorized may be useful.

Once you are able to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa, pending sponsorship, you will certainly have more a flexibility to choose where to get married and what process (Inside Canada or Outside Canada) to choose.