Klaudios Mustakas on the Pilot program granting Work Permits to spouses of Canadians

Immigration expert and former CIC director Klaudios Mustakas comments on the pilot program launched by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to grant Open Work Permits to spouses of Canadians awaiting Permanent Residency in Canada under the Spousal spohsorship program.

The program started in December 22, 2014, and is deemed to end this December 22, 2015.

The program excludes spouses out of status in Canada, who are admissible for spousal sponsorship but excluded from the pilot program. 1 out of 5 Canadian families are excluded, meaning over 3,200 families have to struggle with a single income for over 17 months, the time it takes to get first stage approval of their applications.

No ministerial instruction has been issued up to this date to ensure the continuity of this program, which means work permits will stop being issued at that date.

The Canadian Bar Association recommended, in a letter sent to CIC last year, to extend this program to all spouses regardless of their status in Canada, and to make it a permanent policy.

Petition to extend the pilot program

The Canada Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners launched this Monday an email campaign aimed at the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, John McCallum, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Members of Parliament of the ridings where applicants and their Canadian spouses live to ask for the extension of the pilot program, which without a ministerial instruction would end on December 22.

They also requested that the pilot program includes all sponsored spouses, regardless of their status in Canada.

The petition was also extended to the Canadian Bar Association due to the suggestions they made this year regarding the pilot program. The group is requesting the CBA to back their petition.


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Chris Alexander vs. Facts: Is the Canadian immigration system the fastest in the world?

Minister of Immigration and incumbent conservative candidate for parliament in the Ajax-Pickering circunscription, Chris Alexander, was recorded saying during a fundraising event that the Canadian immigration system is probably one of the fastest in the world.

This was in response to the inquiries of a Canadian who is currently sponsoring her spouse to become a Permanent Resident and is facing the delays of 26 months in the process. These delays are unique to Canada, since most developed countries process this kind of application in 6 months or less.

Check out more about these words from Chris Alexander and the current facts in this video:


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Might also interest you: 
Is Family Reunification subsidizing Temporary Foreign Worker applications?
The truth about marriage fraud in family sponsorship applications
Inland Spousal Sponsorship: One of the categories that fell further behind


Is Family Reunification subsidizing Temporary Foreign Worker applications?

We have discussed in previous blog posts how the Spousal Sponsorship category has fallen behind in the last two years of management at Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Minister Chris Alexander claims that the reason for these delays is the increase in marriage fraud and the time and resources it takes to detect it.

However, CIC's 2014–2015 Report on Plans and Priorities (1) points to another direction: Spousal sponsorship applications are generating revenue, while Temporary foreign worker ones are actually causing losses.

Here are some facts shown by this report:

1. Sponsorship applications (and most PR applications) generate significant revenue

When taking the amount spent per year in processing applications to sponsor a spouse, common law partner or dependant children, the minimum and maximum goals of applications processed and the fees paid by the applicants, the results are actually profits.

In the 2014-15 year, CIC's budget for this stream (including inland and outland applicants) was $27.472.071. The goal was to process between 45,000 and 48,000 applications, which means an expense that goes between $572,33 and $610,49 per application (see the numbers).

But applicants are in fact charged with $1,100, according to the CIC website, which means an amount between $489,51 and $527,67 that is charged to these applicants but not invested in processing their applications.

From the 9 Permanent Residency streams shown in the report (except for refugee claimants), 8 streams presented the same situation: the amount of fees charged was considerably superior to the amount of resources invested in their applications.

The leftover category, Federal Skilled Workers, presents a deficit of over 30 million dollars which, according to CIC, responds to return of fees made to applicants whose applications were returned without being processed.

In 2012, CIC returned 300,000 Federal Skilled Worker applications (2) submitted prior to February of 2008 and still not processed in order to reduce backlogs. CIC said they would return the processing fees for all these applications, which costs the Government nearly 150 million dollars.

Where are all these fees going? Here's an idea...

2. Temporary foreign worker applications are heavily subsidized

The Report on Plans and Priorities specifies the amount assigned per year to each immigration stream and the minimum and maximum goals for processed applications that year.

For example, for TFWs, the amount assigned for the 2014-15 year is $23,488,233, and the processing goals are between 15,000 and 30,000 applications. This means that processing each application will cost between $782.94 and $1,565.88.

However, applicants requesting a TFW permit pay only $155, which only covers 10 to 20% of the real cost of processing their application. The remaining 80 to 90% of the cost for processing TFW applications goes from nearly 19 to 21 million dollars (tweet this), which are subsidized by CIC.

Of course, since refugee claimants don't pay fees, people might think profits from Family Reunification and other PR categories are going to fund these applications, and this is in part true. However...

3.  Only half of the profits from other applications are invested in refugee claims

Total expenses for refugee applications and related services go between 44 and 45 million dollars in the 2014-15 period, according to the mentioned report. However, the profits made over 8 out of 9 permanent residency streams go between 80 and 92 million dollars.

While subsidies to the TFW program oscillate between 19 and 21 million dollars, this is not the only temporary stream to be subsidized. So is the International Student program.

Processing fees for International Students are currently $150. Student permits now allow students to work in Canada, inside or outside campus, without any extra requirements. The amount invested by CIC to process these applications and grant these permits goes between $782,94 and $1565,88, between 80 and 90% more of what's charged to applicants.

The deficit to process these applications in the 2014-15 period is around 10 million dollars.

Although we can't establish a link between the profits generated by Family Reunification and the losses for the Temporary Foreign Worker applications since CIC has consistently declined all our interview requests or follow up to our still unanswered questions.

Despite the lack of replies, there's a clear problem: family reunification has experienced an increase in processing times and a higher error rate, while fees have been increased, and half of the fees these families are paying are not being invested in their stream. This while they are told CIC has no resources to improve their stream.

In the meantime, applications for a Temporary Work Permit have considerably faster processing times, between 1 to 13 months depending on the visa office that processes it. Average processing times in the 50 Canadian visa offices abroad processing work permits is 3 months.

The impact of cutting existing resources from one stream and increasing them for other is clearly visible in terms of processing times. However, if Canadian families are in fact paying much more than what's invested in their application, they deserve to know why this is happening and where are their fees going.

And there are still more discouraging facts in this report...

4. Staff and resources decrease for all PR categories and increase for all temporary ones each year

This report shows the amount to be spent and staff assigned to process applications for each stream in the next three years. All permanent residency and refugee categories see a decrease in staff and budget for the next three years, while it's expected that the fees remain the same or, worst case scenario, increase. Application goals are kept the same, which means less money will be invested to process each application, while the same or more fees will be charged to applicants, generating more profits.

The only two categories that see an increase in both staff and budget, while the goals are also the same, are Temporary Foreign Workers and International Students, which means more money will be invested per application.


Family sponsorship is one of the few immigration categories that involves Canadian citizen and permanent residents. Canadians sponsoring their spouses to become permanent residents are charged $1,100 to process these applications.

They have seen processing times for their stream increase from 14 months in 2013 to 25 months in 2015.

They have been told it was due to marriage fraud investigations, but they (and we) learned through CIC's own eCas system that applications remain untouched for 15 months and are then processed in between 2 and 3 weeks. We also learned through expert Klaudios Mustakas that CIC is not mandated to further investigate into a marriage.

They have been told this delay is due to lack of resources, but now this report shows us that half of the fees they are paying to get their applications processed are not being invested in their stream (tweet this) and that, in the meantime, 80% of the costs associated with processing temporary foreign worker permits are being subsidized by CIC.

Now, CIC's new policy doesn't allow Spousal Sponsorship applicants to check the status of their files via call centre until 15 months have passed (tweet this), which means they can't check if documents they sent have been received or if there has been any problem with their file.

We have received reports of documents and entire applications going missing after submitted to CIC (tweet this). It has been documented in the press. The most recent audit made at CPC Vegreville, where Inland Spousal Sponsorship applications were processed until February, 2014, showed a 2/3 error rate (3).

Despite all these facts, Canadians are told they have to wait 25 months. They don't know why the long wait. They don't know why their fees are being invested somewhere else when there are obvious problems in their streams. They don't know why, despite CIC's high error rate and problems with their online monitoring system, they are not allowed to check the status of their applications on the phone.

Please help us find the answers and give this issue the awareness it deserves.


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1. Report on Plans and Priorities 2014-2015. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Published: 2014. Retrieved: June 22, 2015.
2. 300,000 skilled worker applications are being eliminated. Canadian Immigrant. Published: March 29, 2012. Retrieved: June 23, 2015
3. ‘High error rate’ found in Canada’s immigration processing. The Toronto Star. Published: January 5, 2015. Retrieved: June 24, 2015


Marriage fraud: CIC's justification for a two year delay

When the Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander, was asked last May about delays in the Inland Spousal Sponsorship stream during a fundraising campaign of the Conservative Party, he justified the delay by talking about marriage fraud. He said investigation against marriage fraud was one of the big reasons to take more than two years to process applications of Canadians sponsoring their foreign spouses to become permanent residents.

The chief of staff of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Chris Day, has also justified the long delays with the same allegation. What both of them have failed to mention is statistics on the percentage of Inland and Outland Spousal Sponsorship cases per year resulted into marriage fraud. More deeply, how many of the cases that were refused for alleged marriage fraud were also rejected in court appeals, and how many of these applicants were posteriorly prosecuted or deported

Applicants don't even know the exact process CIC uses to assess the legitimacy of their marriages, or how many of the 26 months it currently takes to process an application is actually used to ensure this. None of the promotional pieces CIC has produced to alert about marriage fraud includes statistics about this problem. These numbers can't be found on the CIC website either.

This touching CIC video does not include a single piece of statistics about the incidence of marriage fraud

In a recent article by The Toronto Star (6), Minister Chris Alexander's spokeperson, Kevin Menard, said in response to testimonials published by the journal that “anecdotal accounts are not necessarily more broadly representative or, unfortunately, even factual in some cases”. Unfortunately, the previous video, produced and promoted by CIC, only shows "anecdotal accounts" and not statistics about marriage fraud in Canada.

This is what we know so far, thanks to press, CIC workers and applicants themselves:

 1. Marriage fraud is not as frequent as CIC is selling it 

According to an article by CBC (1), between 2008 and 2010, the Canada Border Services Agency received around 200 leads regarding cases of marriage fraud, and only prosecuted 39 applicants.

Image courtesy: Canada Inland Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners

This article by the Toronto Star (2) goes deeper in cases from 2010: from the 46,300 spousal sponsorship applications, 7,400 (16%) were denied. 3,000 were appealed and 1,200 won the appeal in court. That gives a total of 6,200 applications (13%) that didn't go through.

2. CIC already has measures against marriage fraud that shouldn't impact processing times

Due to the findings previously quoted, CIC ammended the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (3) starting October 25, 2012, to include a new rule: sponsored spouses who have been in a relationship of two years or less with their sponsors and have no children in common are subject to a conditional permanent residence status (4). They must cohabit in a legitimate relationship with their sponsor for two years from the moment they receive Permanent Resident status, or this could be revoked. 

Additionally, when a sponsor signs the mandatory form Application to Sponsor, Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking (5), they agree to "provide financial support for spouse or common‑law partner’s basic requirements, and those of his or her dependent children" for three years after the sponsored spouse receives Permanent Residency. Also, if the sponsored spouse ever collected social security assistance during that period, the sponsor must refund it in full.

For those applicants trying to fool the system, penalties are not light: fines of up to $100,000, prison for up to five years and risk of deportation are just some of them. Also, an immigrant who was sponsored by their spouse can't sponsor another spouse for five years after obtaining permanent residency, which limits cases of fraud.

3. CIC does not invest 26 months investigating an application, as they claim

Immigration expert Klaudios Mustakas, who worked at Citizenship and Immigration Canada for 37 years, declared that CIC is not mandated to do further investigation on marriages other than reviewing proof of cohabitation already requested in the initial package. Further investigation into a marriage falls into the jurisdiction of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA)

Additionally, according to CICs own eCas system, the online tool that allows (some) Canadian sponsors and foreigns spouses to monitor the progress of their online applications, their files remain untouched by CIC officers for more than a year, and are actually processed in two to three weeks.

When consulting eCas, applicants find records like this one:

This application remained untouched for 16 months

The applicants who shared this information received a decision about their application at the end of May, which means the real processing of their application, according to the information CIC provided to them, was two weeks. The rest of the 16 months was not used to research the legitimacy of their relationship, since they clearly say that they started processing their application in May 14, 2015.

We have received several screenshots like this one from other applicants, showing that their applications were not touched for nearly 16 months, then solved in two to three weeks.

4. The best solution against marriage fraud is quick processing of sponsorship applications

Imagine there is a fraudster among us. He or she managed to make a Canadian fall in love with them, or paid them to fake a marriage. With the current processing times of 26 months, this fraudster will remain in Canada, undetected, for at least 16 months, but more than two years could pass by without any authority noticing it.

If they run with enough luck, they might be among the 4 out of 5 applicants who do receive a work permit with the one-year pilot program CIC launched. They will be able to work in Canada for 16 to 26 months completely undetected, because CIC won't touch their file until then.

Image courtesy: Canada Inland Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners

If applications were processed in less than 6 months, as it happens in most developed countries, fraudsters wouldn't go undetected for so long. They would be prosecuted and/or deported in no time, and others wouldn't feel encouraged to try this path.

Image courtesy: Canada Inland Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners

While this fraudster is favored by the unprecedent delays in the Inland Spousal Sponsorship category, true couples are living a real nightmare.

For Canadians sponsoring their spouses, processing times of 26 months are an economic and emotional distress. We have already talked about this subject in a previous post, and will go deeper in our documentary.

Our research has shown that slow processing times in this category, instead of fighting marriage fraud, are working against genuine couples and in favor of fraudsters.

Is this what you want?


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1. Marriage fraud targeted by Canada Border Agency. CBC. Published: November 1, 2011. Retrieved: June 4, 2015
2. Marriage fraud: Canadian immigration officials tread thin line. The Toronto Star. Published: April 29, 2013. Retrieved: June 4, 2015
3. Backgrounder — Conditional Permanent Resident Status. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: June 4, 2015
4. Information for Sponsored Spouses or Partners. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: June 4, 2015
5. Application to Sponsor, Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: June 4, 2015
6. Has Canada's immigration system lost its heart? The Toronto Star. Published: May 31, 2015. Retrieved: June 5, 2015


Interviews in progress

First of all, we want to thank you for your support during our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, either contributing or sharing on your social media channels to spread the voice.

We already started conducting the interviews we had planned. We interviewed an affected couple during the Ottawa protest in March and we just interviewed another couple from Ontario this week. We are also planning to interview another couple from Calgary at the end of the week, and immigration expert Klaudios Mustakas next week, among others.

Although we didn't raise our goal throughout the campaign, we adapted our budget to make this project a reality. That included, of course, recording some interviews remotely to save on traveling expenses. However, the results have been wonderful so far: the interviews have been very fluent, open and touching, showing the human side of this conflict.

If you're a couple affected by the Inland Sponsorship delays, you can still get in touch with us via email and share your story with us, either publicly for the documentary, or privately for research purposes.


We need your support! Indiegogo campaign to fund the documentary

As of today, we have launched our Indiegogo campaign to fund the production of this documentary.

If you want to support us and get the struggle of more than 10 thousand Canadians out in the open, please click here and make your contribution today.

We are offering several perks including the documentary on Vimeo On Demand, exclusive content such as posters, full-length interviews and the screenplay, tickets for our exclusive screening and so much more.


Your contribution, small or big, will help bring this story to all Canada and beyond.

If you can't contribute to the campaign, please share it throughout all your social networks so we can get to as many people as possible. Click HERE to tweet about our campaign.


Other links that might interest you:

Inland Spousal Sponsorship: One of the categories that fell further behind
Inland Sponsors' demonstration in Ottawa: Our first day of shooting
Why this affects you as a Canadian


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CIC and our crew: Questions still unanswered

CIC answers to our questions: After sending CIC a list of 17 questions and giving them over a month to reply, this is what we got. The Backlog documentary

As you might already know if you follow our Twitter account, we sent a request to interview the Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander or a spokesperson from CIC who would have the chance to explain the current issues from their point of view and show the human side of this institution. His media office says "he is not available" and "no one is available to do an on-camera interview", but they would be willing to answer questions via email.

Disappointed by the lack of human touch of the whole process, we still decided to go ahead and send a first list of questions that you can review here, together with other email exchanges with CIC.

This is the response we received from CIC at the end of March. This is the exact text we received, only the links were added, for reasons we will explain at the end of the quote:

On the Sponsorship Program

The Government of Canada is committed to reuniting as many spouses and partners as possible, as quickly as possible, while ensuring permanent resident targets are met for all immigrant categories.

Canada already has one of the most generous family class immigration programs in the world (1) (and 2); in 2015, nearly 70,000 people will be admitted to Canada in these streams.

We have maintained the highest levels of family class immigration in recent years (3)

We are working to eliminate backlogs and reduce processing times of all kinds.

You will be pleased to learn that we recently launched a pilot project to allow certain sponsored spouses the chance to work much sooner than before (4).

This pilot program will ensure that, during the processing period, applicants will be able to work, provide for their families and contribute to the Canadian economy.

That has been very well received.

It is precisely because of the importance we and the public place on family class immigration that we will ensure that anything further we may do with respect to this stream will be of immediate help to applicants and their families.

On Parent and Grandparent Program

After a two-year pause, the Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) re-opened, with a cap of 5,000 new applications (5), in January 2014 and again in 2015.

Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world. We admit more parents and family members than most other developed countries.

Had no action been taken, it was predicted that the backlog could have increased to 250,000 persons with wait times of 15 years by 2015. Because of these decisive actions, wait times are now expected to be just one fifth of that time.

Improving the efficiency of the program will inevitably speed up the process of family reunification for sponsors and applicants.

The Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification has been a success (6) as the government is meeting all of the commitments outlined in the plan.

Additional background information

Applications are processed in the order they are received. Processing times depend on many factors including the number of applications received in a given period of time (7), the complexity of the cases, applicant’s response to requests for additional information, and other factors.

There was no fee increase for sponsoring spouses in 2014.

The electronic Client Application Status tool is available for Sponsoring a spouse or common-law partner in Canada applications (8).

CIC annually meets, and even exceeds, the family class targets set in its annual levels immigration plan.

In Budget 2008, the Department received significant funding to modernize the immigration systems. We have modernized our IT system and are now in a maintenance phase which require less funding.

We do not track demonstrations, but you can rest assured that we are in contact with representatives of the inland spousal sponsorship group. 

When we received the email, everything sounded extremely familiar to us.

We have been reading thousands of documents regarding CIC in the last months: press articles, reports, press releases, transcriptions, emails, etc. So, we got to work and this is what we found:

If you click on the links throughout the email quote, you will find the same, or almost the same phrases on the CIC website, on email responses from the office of Chris Alexander, on emails to press replying to inquiries, or in press releases.

Yes, after we gave CIC over a month to answer our questions, we received a copy-paste of several texts previously released by the press department. A very sloppy copy-paste that poorly answered only 4 of our 17 questions.

Of course, we were also invited to request information under the Access to Information Act, which we all know takes months to be released and can be deferred at any time if the responsible office judges that the compilation of the information might interfere with their normal functioning.

It also shows a much better disposition from a public office when they release the information asked because they wish to clarify things, and not because a legal order requires it.

Today, we are sending a follow up email requesting answers to the other 13 questions that remain unanswered, and sending a second list for their consideration.

Dealing with lack of official information

We do have estimations about the numbers that we are requesting CIC. These numbers have been obtained thanks to the organization and massive participation of affected applicants, who have completed extensive databases that give account of number of people awaiting, more accurate processing times and cases of file mismanagement.

Of course, we would feel much better with official numbers from CIC, but given the negative to provide these, we will have to combine facts obtained through Access to Information with testimonials and estimations.

Unfortunately, our attempt to give CIC an opportunity to step up to this issue and show their human side has been unsuccessful. We'll keep trying and, if we are still unsuccessful at the end, it won't be because we didn't try as hard as we could.


Other links that might interest you: 

Inland Spousal Sponsorship: One of the categories that fell further behind
Inland Sponsors' demonstration in Ottawa: Our first day of shooting
Why this affects you as a Canadian


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1. Reuniting families and reducing backlogs in Canada's immigration system. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: March 27, 2015
2. Backgrounder — 2013 Immigration Levels Planning: Public and Stakeholder Consultations. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: March 27, 2015
3. Long immigration process 'tearing us apart', Ottawa couple says. The Ottawa Citizen. Published: February 23, 2015. Retrieved: April 1, 2015
4. News Release: Reuniting More Families. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: March 27, 2015
5. Response from the office of Chris Alexander to several Immigration Councils and organizations requesting a meeting about Family Class. Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. Published: February 13, 2014. Retrieved: April 1, 2015
6. CIC Help Centre: Why do some application processing times change and others do not? Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: March 27, 2015
7. CIC Help Centre: How long will it take to process my application? Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: Retrieved: April 1, 2015
8. Check your application status. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: April 1, 2015


Processing times for Inland Spousal Sponsorship increase again this month

After doing our series of posts about Inland Spousal Sponsorship (1, 2 and 3) we received news this week.

CIC updated their website with the most recent processing times (1) for Inland Spousal Sponsorship. Unfortunately, they added 2 more months to the wait, making it a total of 27 months for the spouse of a Canadian to get Permanent Residency.

This flyer, handed at the March 1st protest in Ottawa, was edited by hand since it already became obsolete

When these news were announced last week, CIC attempted a change of their timetable, which confused applicants.

After a week, CIC decided to restore the old timetable, that explains current processing times in a more clear way.

Due to the increase in processing times, protest are taking place all over Canada. After the first protest in Ottawa, a second one was hosted in Calgary (2) (video: minute 7). Additionally, a new protest will take place in Mississauga this Friday (3) and Montreal will also have a demonstration on April 11th.


Other links that might interest you:

Inland Spousal Sponsorship: One of the categories that fell further behindInland Sponsors' demonstration in Ottawa: Our first day of shooting
Why this affects you as a Canadian


Follow our progress on Twitter
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Processing times. Family Sponsorship. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: March 24th, 2015.
CBC News Alberta. Aired: March 21st, 2015. Retrieved: March 24th, 2014.
Twitter: Inland Sponsorship @inlandsponsor. Retrieved: March 24th, 2014.


Federal discrimination for Quebec in the Inland Sponsorship program

As you might have read in our previous post, one of the streams that captured our attention due to the increase in processing times was Inland Sponsorship.

All the delays and errors described in that post add to an extra complication for Quebec applicants: this province must issue the non-Canadian spouse a Certificate of Selection of Quebec (CSQ), which can only be issued once Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) sends the spouse a letter authorizing the issuance of this document.

The CSQ is absolutely necessary to start the second stage of the process. Until CIC doesn't receive it, the application already approved in first stage can't arrive to a Decision Made (DM) stage.

According to an Operational Bulletin (1) from CIC, this letter should be sent when it's found that the sponsor meets the Federal requirements.

However, before August, 2014, according to records kept by applicants in the Inland Sponsorship category, CIC would send the letter approving the issuance of the CSQ around two months after the Acknowledgement of Receipt (AOR) was issued. This changed during the second half of 2014: now the letter is sent after first stage approval has been achieved (17 months).

Extra two months for Quebec applicants

This means, for Quebec applicants, around two additional months of waiting, on top of the 25 months of estimated processing times.

From the date CIC sends a correspondence to the moment the couple receives it, around a week or week and a half has passed.

The Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) takes a month to issue the CSQ once all the paperwork has been filled, and then it will take another month for CIC to enter the CSQ into their system once received.

CIC mistakenly sent letters

Between February 26th and 27th of 2015, CIC sent letters to Quebec applicants requesting them to apply to Undertaking and CSQ at the MIDI.

Template letter sent to applicants on February 26th/27th, 2015

So far, 20 applicants have reported receiving this letter and applying as indicated in the instructions. After sending the application, these people received a letter on March 13th, indicating that the previous letter was a mistake, and that they should not send an application to the MIDI.

Template letter sent to applicants on March 13th, 2015

Couples reported calling to the CIC call centre and receiving contradictory information. As all correspondence from CIC is signed with initials (see image above), applicants have no knowledge of who is processing their applications, so they can't ask the officer in charge about these changes.

So far, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has not given an official statement about the reasons behind this error, other than what was stated in the letter sent to applicants: "an automated mailing system (...) mistakenly issued you this correspondence."

No healthcare for 17 months

As you might know from our previous post, CIC launched a 1-year pilot program on December 2014 to grant Open Work Permits to sponsored spouses upon Acknowledgement of Receipt (AOR), a program that has reported flaws in its implementation (see previous post for more details)

Unfortunately, even Quebec applicants who receive OWP under the pilot program are still not eligible to receive healthcare, since they also need a CSQ to be granted a Carte d'Assurance Maladie, despite the fact that they are allowed to work and must pay taxes for their income.

Follow us if you want to find answers as much as we do. Either an affected applicant, a journalist or a concerned Canadian, this journey might interest you. Feel free to fill the form to your right to receive exclusive updates and information about our project.


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1. Operational bulletin 295-A: Change in Procedures for Processing Quebec Family Class Applications – Modified. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: March 17, 2015.


Inland Spousal Sponsorship: One of the categories that fell further behind

The first immigration category that caught our attention was the one affecting Canadians marrying non-Canadians already in the country: Inland Spousal Sponsorship.

Officially known as Sponsorship of spouses or common-law partners under the Family Class category, this is one of the immigration streams that has experienced the highest increase in processing times (1), as shown in this table (click to enlarge):

Due to the increase of processing times shown above, applicants for this category organized themselves through the Facebook group Canada Inland Spousal Sponsorship petitioners (2), that gathers almost 2000 members to this date. Among the members, we found affected applicants, journalists and Government officials.

It all started by a petition (3) created in Change.org. Later, all people who signed gathered in this group to organize actions, demonstrations and lobbying.

Lack of online monitoring system

When couples receive an Acknowledgement of Receipt (AOR) of their application, normally around two months after they submit it, they are provided with an application number. According to the document sent by CIC, this number can be used to monitor the application, as shown in this screen capture from an official AOR (click to enlarge):

However, hundreds of applicants have reported through the Facebook group that they are not able to track their progress online because their application is not entered in the system for up to 8 months.

Updated forms posterior to the date of reception

In August, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) changed one of the most important forms (4) of the Sponsorship package, the Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking. This form is the one co-signed by both the Canadian sponsor and the non-Canadian spouse: the first agrees to sponsor the second and becomes responsible for the spouse for three years. They have to remain married or in common-law partnership during this period and the Canadian spouse is financially responsible for the non-Canadian spouse.

The reason for this update was a change of the definition of dependent child (5) made by CIC. When sponsoring a spouse, the applicants must indicate if they have dependent children. The previous definition included children under 22 years, but the new definition reduced the maximum age to 19 years, impacting applicants with children.

By November, all applications sent after August 1st with the old form were returned to the couples, requesting to update this form to the most recent version. It didn't matter that the form was uploaded the same month, after they had already sent their applications.

All applicants, including those who did not have children and the change didn't affect them, had to re-send their packages with the new form. Due to this change, which was not considered an update but a reset for their application, those who saw their packages returned lost three months of processing times due to a technicality.

One of the applications returned due to outdated forms was first received by CIC in November, 2013. This couple lost an entire year due to a form that changed in August 2014.

Loss of status caused by CIC

Many of the non-Canadian spouses awaiting a decision are asked to keep a valid status (3) while they wait, even though out of status spouses are still eligible (6) to become Permanent Residents under this program.

Unfortunately, one of the requirements to extend their valid status in Canada is to submit proofs of financial means (7), which they often can't provide because they can't work, and their Canadian spouse supporting the entire family with a single income often doesn't have enough to show.

For that reason, many couples resort to the Implied Status (8): while they still hold a valid status in Canada, they send their Sponsorship application with an application for an Open Work Permit, which could be granted when the first stage approval is issued (9). Until the work permit application is processed, the valid status held at the moment of submitting the application is automatically extended.

Unfortunately, for those who saw their packages returned in November to update a form that didn't exist when they first applied, this might have meant a loss of status.

Pilot program for Open Work Permits

In 2015, CIC launched a 1-year a pilot program (10) aimed at granting Open Work Permits valid for two years for foreign spouses of Canadians awaiting a decision on their sponsorship. Spouses who have already received AOR and who had valid status in Canada were eligible for the pilot.

When the pilot started, applicants noticed that these permits were not being issued in chronological order, and that many applicants were excluded from the program. Some of them, due to a loss of status caused by CIC as indicated previously.

When inquired about this by leaders of the Canada Inland Spousal Sponsorship Facebook group at the end of January, CIC's chief of staff, Chris Day, explained that "triaging applications and sorting them into the precise order each was received as part of the open work permit pilot program would actually take valuable resources away from processing work permits themselves and, thus, make eligible recipients wait longer. I hope you can appreciate that we chose to focus on processing work permits more quickly over behind the scenes file sorting".

This contradicts the statements made by CIC on their website (11), where they indicate that "applications are processed in the order in which they arrive."

Unfortunately, CIC has not yet clarified why any of these situations happened, or why processing times increased from 14 to 25 months in total. More specifically, applicants wonder why processing times for the first stage went from 6 to 17 months.

This first stage, for spouses who live outside of Canada, entitles the same process. Yet, the current times for the first stage under this stream is less than three months.

When inquired about the delays (12) and the difference of processing times between the outland and the inland stream, by Member of Parliament Nycole Turmel, Minister Chris Alexander said that "contrarily, we have made a lot of progress in all streams since the arrival of this Government, and that includes the Family Sponsorship category (...) applications are processed much faster now".

Requesting an audit

The official Critic for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, MP, requested CIC information (13) on "budget, average wait times and staffing required to process visa applications between 2005 and 2014".

Blanchette-Lamothe didn't receive the information she requested after the 45-day period institutions have to reply to this kind of request. CIC replied that gathering all this information would take time and resources that made a proper reply "unfeasible" in the allotted time.

For thar reason, the MP requested all emails regarding her request through the Access to Information Act. In that document, she found out that the office in charge of gathering the requested information was "'inundated with high-priority requests' related to the Temporary Foreign Worker program".

The emails also unveiled a Ministerial instruction to stop the data gathering and instead give the above mentioned reply to this request.

In a separate effort due to the lack of information about the reasons of the increase in processing times or measures to be taken to correct this issue, affected couples are demanding the office of the Auditor of Canada to audit CIC. (14)

This request (15), made through Change.org, is still awaiting a response.

Neither Blanchette-Lamothe, nor the affected couples, have yet found any clues about the reasons for the increase in processing times for the Inland Spousal Sponsorship program.

Follow us if you want to find answers as much as we do. Either an affected applicant, a journalist or a concerned Canadian, this journey might interest you. Feel free to fill the form to your right to receive exclusive updates and information about our project.


Other links that might interest you:

Inland Sponsors' demonstration in Ottawa: Our first day of shooting
Why this affects you as a Canadian


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1. Processing times: Family Sponsorship. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: February 19, 2015. Previous processing times retrieved with web-archive.org.
2. Facebook group "Canada Inland Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners".
3. Petition: Improve processing time for Inland Spousal Sponsorship and Grant Open Work Permit Upon AOR. Change.org. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
4. Application to Sponsor a Member of the Family Class. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
5. Notice – Changes to the definition of a dependent child. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
6. Guide "Spouse or Common-law partnerin Canada Class". Citizenship and Immigration Canada. October 16, 2006. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
7. Document checklist - Application to change conditions or extend your stay in Canada as a visitor. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
8. Temporary resident : Implied status (extending a stay) Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
9. Work Permits for Spousal Sponsorship Applicants. CIC News. March, 2014. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
10. Program delivery update - December 22, 2014. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
11. Help Centre: Why do some application processing times change and others do not? Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
12. Nycole Turmel : que fait le gouvernement pour les délais de parrainage de plus en plus longs ? Uploaded by Nycole Turmel on YouTube.com. February 4, 2015. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.
13. NDP MP to challenge Chris Alexander over visa data requests. CBC News. January 12, 2015. Retrieved: February 24, 2015.
14. Couples in limbo demand audit of spousal sponsorship program. Toronto Star. January 17, 2015. Retrieved: February 19, 2015.