Read up on recent news and updates that might have an affect on your current or future immigration application (s).
Changes to application intake process for 2017 Parent and Grandparent Program
Between January 3 and February 2, 2017, Canadian citizens and permanent residents who want to apply as sponsors must first complete an online form on the IRCC website to let the Department know they are interested in applying to sponsor their parents or grandparents.
The online form will be available for 30 days, from noon Eastern Standard Time (EST) on January 3, 2017, to noon EST on February 2, 2017.
The form will ask for the individual’s first name, family name, date of birth, country of birth, main home address, postal code and email address. Once the information is successfully submitted through the online form, the individual will get a confirmation number. They should keep this number for their records. They will need to submit only one online form, as duplicate entries will be removed. Completing the form will not mean a person has applied to sponsor under the program.
At the end of the 30 days, IRCC will remove the duplicates, randomly choose 10 000 people and ask them to complete the full application. IRCC will let everyone who completed an online form know whether they were chosen or not. Only those who were randomly chosen will be invited to apply to the Parent and Grandparent Program.
Those who were invited to apply will have 90 days to submit their complete application to IRCC. The 2017 application kit and guide will be available on IRCC’s website on January 9, 2017.
Interested sponsors who are not selected will be able to indicate their interest to apply again in 2018.
Government of Canada takes early action to improve the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
December 13, 2016– Improving access to job opportunities for Canadians and creating the conditions for growth will help families in the middle class and those working hard to join it. That’s why today, the Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and the Honourable MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, announced first steps as part of the Government’s commitment to bring forward a suite of meaningful changes to make the Temporary Foreign Worker Program work for workers, for employers and for the Canadian economy. These initial improvements are being taken now while the Government continues to work on the development of a more comprehensive policy.
In order to prevent unnecessary hardship and instability for both workers and employers, the four-year cumulative duration rule will no longer apply to temporary foreign workers in Canada, effective immediately. The cumulative duration rule, known as the “four-in, four-out” rule, was put in place in April 2011, limiting work for some temporary foreign workers in Canada to four years who then became ineligible to work in Canada for the next four years.
For those temporary foreign workers who do not currently have access, the Government is committed to further developing pathways to permanent residency so that eligible applicants are able to more fully contribute to Canadian society. Work on this issue continues.
As part of our efforts to ensure that Canadians have first access to available job opportunities, the Government will require low-wage employers, where appropriate, to advertise to more than one, and up to four, under-represented groups in the workforce—youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people and newcomers. Employers will be advised when these changes are to come into effect.
The Government will maintain the cap on the proportion of low-wage temporary foreign workers that can be employed at a given worksite at 20 percent for employers who accessed the Program prior to June 20, 2014, and at 10 percent for new users of the Program after that date. The exemption on the cap for seasonal industries seeking temporary foreign workers for up to 180 days during the 2017 calendar year will be extended until December 31, 2017.
These early actions are in line with recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities, which undertook a study of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The Government will table a full response to the Standing Committee’s recommendations in the New Year.
Improvements to spousal sponsorship process: The New Application Kit
December 7, 2016– The Government of Canada is releasing a new spousal sponsorship application kit on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website on December 15, 2016. The new application kit will make it easier and faster to apply through the spousal sponsorship program at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Eastern Standard Time. As part of the new application process, applicants will not have to provide certain information up front, such as medical examination results.
The changes to the kit will include the following:
A new application kit for use by all spousal applicants. Applicants will no longer have to choose between two different kits depending on whether they live in Canada or outside Canada. All applicants will use the same application kit.Since some applicants may have already started filling out their application using the current kit, IRCC will continue to accept new applications using the current kit until January 31, 2017. After this date, only applications using the new kit will be accepted.Applicants are strongly encouraged to begin using the new kit, which is easier to use and understand, as soon as it is available on December 15, 2016.
To help clients through the application process, a brand new “Basic Guide” has been developed. This guide summarizes the applications process and gives clients a clear explanation of what they need to do to apply.If applicants need more detailed information, they can consult the “Complete Guide”, which has been improved. Right now, there are several different application guides for sponsors and applicants. These have been combined into one document that is shorter and easier to understand.
One new Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation form has been developed. Right now, the sponsor must complete a sponsorship evaluation form, and the sponsor and applicant may also complete either one or two additional relationship questionnaires, depending on whether the applicant lives in Canada or outside Canada. These will all be merged into one form to be completed by both the sponsor and the person they are sponsoring and will be the same for all spousal applicants.
To help clients make sure their application is complete, four new document checklists will be available, depending on who is being sponsored. These will replace the current 14 checklists. Applicants will select the appropriate checklist depending on who is being sponsored (i.e., a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent child). The new checklists clearly summarize all the forms and documents that must be included with the application and will help applicants determine what specific information will be needed for their application.All new applications that are received using the new application kit must include all the required documents listed on the checklist. This will ensure more efficient and timely processing by eliminating the additional processing time that results from back-and-forth between IRCC and clients while the Department waits to receive required documents. If an application is received that does not have all the required forms and documents on the checklist, IRCC will not accept it for processing and will return the application to the applicant.
The changes being made will also address one of the main challenges identified by sponsors and applicants: the period of time between when they submit their application and when they receive a decision. During this time, they may face uncertainty about the status of their application, particularly if they are not contacted for more information or to attend an interview. To help with this, IRCC will do the following:
Ask applicants to link their paper application to an online account. This will make it easier for clients to receive information from IRCC, send information back to IRCC and check whether they have been asked to send any additional information or documentation. Clients who receive requests for information will be asked to respond within the time frame provided.
Require certain information later in the process. With the new application kit, IRCC can start processing the application after receiving it with all the required documents on the checklist. The applicant will be asked to provide certain information and documents later in the process rather than upfront as was previously required, namely their Schedule A: Background/Declaration form, medical examination and police certificates. Additional information may be requested as well.
For a general overview of the new process, view this graphic.
For more information on what the Government is doing to reduce processing times and improve client service, see the backgrounder Reuniting more spouses and partners.
Reuniting more spouses and partners
High demand led to longer processing times
Each year, the Government sets how many permanent residents Canada intends to admit through its various immigration categories for the following year. This is done through the immigration levels plan, tabled annually in Parliament.
Over time, more people have applied to sponsor their spouse or partner than there has been room in this category of the immigration levels plan. This resulted in a backlog of applications. In 2015 alone, nearly 70 000 applicants applied through spousal sponsorship but there was only space for 48 000 people to be admitted to Canada that year. This led to a longer wait for applicants and processing times increased.
Spousal applications can be made from outside Canada, as members of the family class, or within Canada, as members of the spouse or common-law partner in-Canada class. At the start of 2016, processing times were an average of 26 months for in-Canada applications, and 18 months for applications made outside Canada. The Government of Canada is committed to bringing down these processing times.
Faster processing times
The Government of Canada has taken a number of steps to help improve processing for spousal sponsorship applicants over the past year:
- Welcoming more spouses, partners and dependent children to Canada;
- Increasing funding to bring down the backlog and reduce processing times;
- Improving the application process for clients; and
- Meeting a shorter processing commitment: 12 months for existing and new applicants.
a) Welcoming more spouses, partners and dependent children to Canada
For 2016, the Government of Canada increased the number of spaces in the annual immigration levels plan. This allows for 12 000 more spouses, partners and dependent children to be admitted to Canada, compared to the previous year, for a target of 60 000 admissions. Historically the levels target was an average of 47 000. The target was increased to 64 000 admissions for 2017. Higher levels means more applications can be approved, bringing down the backlog and processing times and reuniting families faster.
b) Increasing funding to bring down the backlog and reduce processing times
IRCC has been steadily working to reduce the wait for spousal sponsorship.
Through Budget 2016, the Government invested $25 million to allow IRCC to direct and focus resources to help significantly reduce the backlog and processing times.
At the direction of the Minister, the Department began concerted efforts to reduce this backlog this summer. The number of cases processed per month doubled and the pre-June backlog was reduced by more than 26 percent.
c) Improving the application process for clients
IRCC has been working to improve the application process by making it easier to use and understand.
On December 15, 2016, at noon (12:00 p.m.), Eastern Standard Time, a new application kit will be posted on IRCC’s website. A new application kit will replace the current ones.
Also starting December 15, 2016, applicants using the new kit will need to include all the documents required and listed on the checklist. Incomplete applications will be returned. This new requirement will make more efficient and timely processing possible.
For more information on these changes, view the backgrounder:
Improvements to spousal sponsorship process: The New Application Kit
d) Meeting a shorter processing commitment: 12 months for existing and new applications
IRCC will process about 80 percent of applications that are currently in the system within the next 12 months, which means by the end of December 2017. Additionally, approximately 80 percent of new applications will be processed within 12 months from the day they are received by IRCC. This will apply to all applicants, whether they are in the outside Canada family class or the spouse or common-law partner in-Canada class. More than 64 000 applicants will benefit in the first year.
About 20 percent of applications will likely take longer to process than 12 months. Some applications take longer to process for various reasons, such as the time it takes for an applicant to respond to requests for information, the need for criminality, security and medical screening, and the complexity of the application.
The new 12-month processing commitment does not mean that all applicants who are currently in the backlog will have to wait an additional 12 months to have their applications finalized. Files will continue to be processed in the order they were received.
IRCC’s ability to meet this objective depends on the cooperation of clients. Any requests for information from IRCC, whether for an existing applicant or for a new applicant, should be provided within the given timeframe.
Along with the new 12-month processing commitment, IRCC will extend its pilot program which gives open work permits to eligible spouses or partners who are being sponsored and are in Canada, giving them the freedom to work while their applications for permanent residence are being processed. This pilot program ensures applicants are able to work, provide for their families and contribute to the Canadian economy while waiting for their applications to be processed. The pilot, currently slated to end on December 22, 2016, will be extended until December 21, 2017.
Maintaining program integrity and combatting marriage fraud
Maintaining program integrity, balanced with welcoming newcomers, is at the forefront of IRCC’s work. All applications will continue to receive full criminality, security and medical screening.
The Department takes marriage fraud seriously and has mechanisms in place to detect and address it. IRCC focuses on detecting marriage fraud at the visa application stage and relies on the experience and expertise of its officers to detect possible marriage fraud. If evidence is obtained during the sponsorship process that the marriage is one of convenience, the application for permanent residence will be refused.
In cases where sufficient information is obtained that an individual is involved in a fraudulent marriage after they have obtained permanent resident status, IRCC and the Canada Border Services Agency may investigate, which could result in the loss of permanent resident status for the sponsored individual or the sponsor, if the sponsor is a permanent resident and was a willing participant in the fraud.