Canada’s commitment to reuniting families and keeping them together
Canada recently renewed its commitment to keeping families together, a central goal of the country’s current immigration system.
Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has put into practice new procedures intended to accelerate family reunification, ensuring that dependants and spouses who may not otherwise be eligible to come to Canada, now have a pathway to reunite with their families.
Additional measures were announced by the former Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on the 26th of May, and include:
- Expedited processing times for temporary resident visas (TRV) for spousal applicants, with the introduction of new, dedicated tools specifically designed to process spousal TRV applications;
- The provision of a new open work permit scheme for both spousal and family class applicants; and
- Expanding the eligibility of Open Work Permits (OWPs) to spouses and family members of permanent residents, Canadian citizens, temporary workers, and students (currently in Canada).
Expedited processing times and new tools
These new processing tools and measures aim to increase efficiency, especially where non-complex applications are concerned. These measures have already led to favourable results, with spousal TRV applicants seeing a 98% approval rating (including both spouses and dependents). Much of this efficiency comes down to IRCC’s recent implementation of new analytics in processing applications, which can use a multi-factor analysis of applications to help immigration officers determine whether an applicant is likely to be eligible for Permanent Residence (PR).Thereafter, officers can assign this application into a category where it is more likely to be readily approved (depending on the applicant’s eligibility), greatly streamlining processing times.
New Open Work Permit for spousal and family class applicants
As of January 30th of this year, OWPs were made available for a temporary period of time for the spouses of individuals participating in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and International Mobility Program (IMP). This initiative will continue until 2025. IRCC believes that granting work permits to spouses, dependents, and common-law partners of these workers will help alleviate some of the stress on the workers by improving their financial stability and facilitating family unity and integration into their communities.
The initiative also includes working-age children who are 16 years and older of the main applicants of all skill levels. According to IRCC's estimations, this program will enable over 200,000 families of foreign workers to enter the Canadian workforce, thereby assisting in reducing the national labor shortage and bolstering the economy.
Open Work Permit for Outland Applicants
On May 26th, IRCC also announced an updated family sponsorship policy for outland sponsorships.
The updated policy now renders spouses, partners, and dependents of permanent residents, Canadian citizens, temporary workers, and students (currently in Canada) potentially eligible for an OWP. These family members are defined as spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners, and dependent children over 18 years old.
Previously, OWPs were exclusively available to applicants through inland sponsorship or to individuals already residing in Canada with a TRV. However, the amended measure allows applications from outside of Canada, also known as outland sponsorship applications, to be considered making these individuals eligible for OWPs.
IRCC intends to process all spousal sponsorship applications within a 12-month timeframe under this new policy. Eligibility criteria stipulate that family members who possess a valid temporary resident status, who have maintained their status or who are eligible for and have applied to restore their status, and who share a residential address with their sponsor in Canada at the time of their OWP application, may qualify for an work permit.
According to IRCC public policy, officers can grant OWPs to foreign nationals who satisfy either one of two sets of conditions.
In one instance, the foreign national could be a principal applicant who has applied for permanent residence under the spouse or common law partner category in Canada, or as a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner under the family class category whose application has been accepted by IRCC.
Such applicants should:
- Have also filed a work permit application for a maximum period of two years;
- Should be the subject of a sponsorship application submitted by their Canadian citizen or permanent resident spouse, common law or conjugal partner;
- Share a residential address with their sponsor in Canada at the time of application; and
- Possess valid temporary resident status in Canada or be eligible for and have applied for restoration of status.
In another instance, the foreign national could be a dependent child included as a family member in the application for permanent residence. They should have:
- Submitted a work permit application for a maximum of two years;
- Share the same residential address as the principal applicant and their sponsor in Canada at the time of application; and
- Maintain a valid temporary resident status in Canada or be eligible for and have applied for restoration of status.