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e-2747 (Citizenship and immigration)

E-petition
Initiated by Allysia Haiste from Edmonton, Alberta

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Whereas:
  • COVID-19 has delayed spousal sponsorship applications, both outland and inland;
  • Outland and inland applications are expected to be complete in 12 months, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC);
  • Many outland application delays have already exceeded the 12-month timeline at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020);
  • Temporary Resident Visas are generally denied for spouses from visa-required countries;
  • Extended periods of separation from loved ones may cause severe emotional distress, anxiety, and situational depression;
  • Children, in particular, suffer greatly from the physical absence of a parental figure;
  • Citizens and permanent residents have the right to obtain government services within a reasonable time frame; and
  • As per IRCC Procedural Fairness policies, “Applicants should not be subject to unnecessary delays.”
We, the undersigned, Canadians and permanent residents, call upon the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to offer the following accommodations to accelerate the reunification of families with ongoing Spousal Sponsorship Applications by:
1) Creating a Special Temporary Resident Visa (STRV), for outland applicants, with reasonable eligibility criteria and conditions;
2) Allowing spouses with their children from visa-required countries to easily apply for the STRV online;
3) Issuing and delivering multi-entry STRVs electronically and expediently;
4) Increasing the processing capacity to handle the backlog of new, delayed, and overdue spousal sponsorship applications;
5) Allocating a specifically designated budget to expedite applications that exceed the 12-month spousal sponsorship timeline;
6) Defining specific completion timeline targets for applications in process for 12 months or more; and
7) Allowing spouses and children to visit Canada for the purpose of reunification and well-being during the sponsorship process.

Response by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Marco Mendicino

The Government of Canada is aware of the serious impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic on families who are separated by international borders and notes that, although COVID-19 has temporarily lengthened processing times for spousal sponsorships and visa applications, family reunification remains a priority.

While the Government has taken measures to close the border to the non-essential movement of persons in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians and Canadian residents, exceptions have been in place since March.  These exemptions were further relaxed on June 8, 2020. As of this date, immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, including spouses, common law partners and dependent children, who hold the required immigration documents and intend to remain in Canada for more than 15 days, can travel to and enter Canada, without need to prove that they’re travelling for a non-discretionary purpose.  On October 8, 2020, the Government broadened the border exemption for extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, including similarly situated foreign nationals who have been in an exclusive dating relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of at least one year.

There is no question that the global COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for applicants abroad and Canada’s immigration system as a whole, requiring new procedures to protect the health and safety of both clients and staff. While the Government has continued to accept and process family sponsorship applications, requirements for immigration and sponsorship applications, such as in-person interviews, paper-based documentation and security screening all face steep challenges in a constantly evolving pandemic situation, with different workplace requirements regionally in Canada and internationally. The Government is consequently moving forward with new and innovative measures to help address processing issues and will communicate these changes to clients as they become available.  

As examples, the Government has introduced a pilot to digitize spousal applications which will facilitate the review of applications, allowing officers in Canada and abroad to process them remotely, and a new public policy effective September 22, 2020, exempts permanent residence applicants from the biometric collection requirement if they have previously provided their biometrics to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada within the last ten years.  The Government has also increased the number of decision makers on spousal applications in Canada by 66%, to process spousal applications more quickly and reduce couples’ wait times.  With these initiatives, IRCC aims to accelerate, prioritize and finalize approximately 6,000 spousal applications each month from October until December 2020. Combined with processing to date, this rate will lead to about 49,000 decisions by the end of this year.

The Government is also processing applications for temporary resident visas where there is an exemption under the current travel restrictions, such as those existing for immediate and extended family members.  Those with permanent resident applications in progress may still apply for a temporary resident visa, as dual intent is not a barrier to visa issuance, however, as with all temporary resident visas, the applicant must satisfy the officer that they would leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for stay. 

Nonetheless, the Government recognizes your concerns and will take the opportunity to review program delivery instructions for immediate family members who apply for a temporary residence visa to rejoin a family member while they have a family reunification permanent residence application in process, to ensure that no applications are refused for reasons beyond their individual merits.

Open for signature
July 17, 2020, at 10:27 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
August 16, 2020, at 10:27 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East)
September 24, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00005)
Government response tabled
November 16, 2020
Photo - Jenny Kwan
Vancouver East
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia
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