Misha Pelletier is an advocate for spousal sponsorship and runs the Facebook group Spousal Sponsorship Advocates (SSA).
ITC News spoke to Misha back in July of 2020 about delays in Canadian spousal sponsorship and the implications it has on families. In August, her group, SSA, organized protests across Canada to pressure the government to expedite spousal sponsorship applications.
Following those protests, IRCC committed to allocating more resources to spousal sponsorship applications to reduce processing times. We wanted to get an update from Misha on the impact these changes have had on the sponsorship community.
What’s the status of your husband’s application?
My husband received a decision at the end of December after 17 long months. We received an appointment to drop off his passport at the visa office last week. Considering it’s a pandemic you’d think IRCC would make electronic changes and add visas electronically as they do for foreign workers and students. My colleague Marie-Carmel doesn’t have the same fate. Her spouse is in Nigeria and her file is at 20 months. If you ask me, certain visa offices need to be investigated as they are notoriously reputed for operating at snail speed. To name a few Ghana, New Deli, Cairo… We are submitting forms to access information individually to each notorious visa office, to see how many files they are treating and how much staffing they have.
Is the additional 66% capacity that IRCC added in September making a difference in your community?
We appreciate the efforts made by IRCC to begin reducing the backlog. Our members continue to report sponsorship files taking 12 to 36 months with no news from IRCC in months.
IRCC promised to process 18,000 over the three months from Oct. to Dec. It is still 2,000 apps under the target. The reports shared do not show how many applications are pending decisions or how long they have been in the queue. The report only gives the number of applications for which a decision has been rendered.
When virtually every category of immigration is experiencing backlogs and delayed processing times, and given the added resources allocated to spousal sponsorship, how can IRCC further support spousal sponsorship?
Spousal Sponsorship Advocates (SSA) has provided IRCC with many recommendations to both modernize and facilitate secure and efficient processing of files. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we must be adaptable and have a plan “b”.
We are anxious to see the implementation of digital file submissions, virtual interviews, and more processing of outland files in Canada. To date although some announcements were made we have collected little if any evidence of implementation from our members.
In your message to Canada’s immigration minister, you are calling for the creation of a special visa for spouses of Canadians. How would this help family reunification?
A Special Temporary Residence Visa (STRV) would be a temporary immediate relief for families to be reunited while spousal sponsorship applications are processed.
Should IRCC prioritize applications for sponsorship when the spouse is outside of Canada?
When there is a backlog in processing and extraordinary circumstances are at play, like the current pandemic, prioritization must be attributed to outland files since these families are separated which has both financial and psychological impact on couples and their children. Inland applications are equally important but at this time at least the family unit is intact.
In your opinion, how can IRCC better balance the program integrity of spousal sponsorship with reuniting Canadians with their loved ones?
The processing efforts should be maintained and take precedence over other streams and programs. Our spouses are coming to reunite with us and as such make Canada stronger. Our spouses will: work, study, open businesses and contribute positively to our communities and economy.