The government of Canada has extended its Open Work Permit Pilot Program for spouses and common-law partners applying for Canadian immigration. The pilot program, first launched in December 2014, allows spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are currently being sponsored on an application for permanent residence through the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada (SCLPC) Class to work in Canada during the processing of the application.
On December 7, 2016, the government announced that the pilot program would be extended until December 21, 2017. It was previously set to end on December 22, 2016. This is the second time the popular pilot program, which has assisted many couples and families in Canada, has been extended.
The extension of the pilot program is intended to ensure that spouses and partners who are currently being sponsored from inside Canada may continue to work until a decision is made on their application.
Applications for spousal sponsorship may be made either from outside Canada (Outland Sponsorship) or from inside Canada (Inland Sponsorship). Through the Inland Sponsorship route, sponsored spouses or partners may be able to obtain an Open Work Permit and work anywhere in Canada, for any employer. Individuals who wish to be sponsored through Inland Sponsorship must have valid status in Canada, as either a visitor, temporary worker, or student, when the application for permanent residence is submitted.
In its announcement, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) stated that ‘Family reunification is a core immigration priority for the Government of Canada.’ The news of the extension to the program came on the same day that Immigration Minister John McCallum presented a new plan to halve processing times for Family Class applications — including applications through the SCLPC Class. McCallum projected processing times of 12 months for applications submitted to Family Class immigration programs.
Speaking in Brampton, Ontario, McCallum said, “This will be of benefit to the 64,000 spouses we plan to admit to Canada in the coming year, but it will be of benefit to all Canadians because I think that people are more productive citizens, they do better overall when they are with their families than when they are isolated from their families.”
McCallum also outlined new measures put in place by IRCC to ensure the target processing time of 12 months may be met. These include simplified documentation, and moving applications online. The new online system is expected to be available as of December 15, 2016.
In order to be eligible to obtain an Open Work Permit through this pilot program, the sponsored spouse/common-law partner living in Canada is required to:
Applicants are advised to submit a work permit application at the same time as the application for permanent residence. Applicants who have already submitted an application for permanent residence but have not yet obtained a work permit, may submit a work permit application separately.
IRCC also states that individuals who have a work permit obtained through the pilot program may apply for work permit extension before their current permit expires.
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