Admissions to expand by 25 per cent

 

Ottawa has said “I do” to slashing the lengthy backlog for Canadians trying to sponsor their foreign-born spouses, the Toronto Star reports.

According to the Star, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will expand its annual quota of admissions for foreign spouses married to Canadians by 25 per cent to 62,000 in 2016 in response to complaints of a frustrating backlog and long processing time.

The department also announced this month it would prioritize the so-called “straightforward” cases involving foreign spouses and applicants who are already in Canada that were received before June 13.

It’s welcome news for applicants who now must wait 26 months if they apply from within Canada while overseas applicants face processing times anywhere from a year to 26 months in countries such as Pakistan.

According to the immigration department, as of June 1, the in-Canada spousal sponsorship backlog was estimated to be around 34,000 people, while the overseas backlog was about 48,500.

“Over the past few years, more people have applied to come to Canada in the spousal category than there was space for in previous immigration levels plans. This has created a backlog,” it said in a statement. “This year, the government will reduce this backlog.”

The department will start sending emails or letters to in-land applicants to ask them to provide documentation within a limited timeframe, so they can be processed as quickly as possible.

Based on prescreening, completed applications deemed “straightforward” will then be fast-tracked.

How officials define “straightforward” applications is still unclear, however.

“A straightforward application will be, for the most part, identified as one where there are no potential fraud concerns. In cases where there are potential fraud concerns, issues of concern will be carefully reviewed,” said immigration spokesperson Nancy Caron.

“IRCC is not able to share specific lists of criteria associated with potential fraud in the spousal program, as this would compromise program integrity.”

Caron said the success of the measures to meet the admissions targets and reduce the backlog will depend on the timely co-operation of applicants.