Canada's spousal sponsorship needs to improve !! (En anglais et en français)

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I am signing this petition  to bring to your attention the impact this pandemic has had on Permanent Residents (PR), Canadians and their families. The process of sponsoring spouses is stressful and draining as it is. Now that we are under a global crisis it has become a major concern to the mental health and well being of PR's and Canadians nationwide.

Keeping families from visa-required countries apart during this crisis, while allowing families from visa-exempt countries to reunite, is inequitable. We certainly appreciate everything the government has done to keep Canadians safe and understand the effect this pandemic has had on the immigration system. However, considering the special circumstances, we would like you to share some important concerns and introduce special measures to allow the reunification of families undergoing spousal sponsorship.

Mental Health Issues

Our situation has become a double-edged sword. Due to the regular long term and long distance factor, as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has already had debilitating effects - no one knows what the future holds. The main points about the mental health of those in our situation are:

  • Psychological distress of children and teenagers involved, as well as their parents’ struggle to cope with this stressful situation on their own
  • Concerns among sponsors and family members who may be older adults, care providers, and people with underlying health conditions
  • Worries about the health of sponsors and applicants abroad, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness between them
  • Increased stress levels due to isolation, illness, and the closures of borders and airports
  • Risks due to situational depression and high levels of anxiety
    Insomnia induced by a lack of natural oxytocin that can be resolved through closeness with a significant other
  • Overall grief experienced by families who are separated, not by choice, due to COVID-19 and the lengthy sponsorship process going beyond the prescribed 12 months

The long distances across oceans and continents leave couples wondering when they will be able to see each other again. Once again, this is in addition to the stress which is already present in the effects of being away from each other for long unknown periods of time. There are different factors affecting adults (the couple) as well as any children or teenagers who might be affected by the long term distance and unknown future.

In summary, a plethora of mental health disturbances are affecting all sponsors and applicants in the Family Class Spousal Sponsorship Application process, and these circumstances can be greatly improved by the immediate reunification of the families involved.

Quebec Sponsor Concerns

Applicants from Quebec must wait even longer, as there is an extra step in the spousal sponsorship process in this province. Families and couples must apply for a CSQ, or selection certificate. This process will usually take 25 days, in accordance with the government’s mission statement. However, since late 2019, before COVID-19 was an issue, applicants were subjected to delays of several months. COVID-19 has only made the situation much worse. The delays now exceed seven months, in addition to the IRCC processing time.

Application Delays

Currently, the Spousal Sponsorship Application takes around 12 months to complete most of the time. IRCC’s website states 80 percent of applications are completed within the mentioned time which we fear is not true. There are a lot of backlogs in the system, and serious discrepancies between the efficiency of different Visa Office’s (VO). Group members have personally experienced delays between 2-8 years.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRCC closed down all its services and VO’s abroad on March 18th. This means that thousands of Spousal Sponsorship applicants are left not knowing when they will be reunited with their spouses and children. The VO’s abroad are only giving essential services to PR's and Canadian Citizens.

Many medical and police certificates for applicants, valid for 12 months, will be expiring due to these delays. Medicals are very costly and with disruptions caused by COVID-19 many will have to get their medicals repeated.

We are not advocating for open borders. We want to be reunited with our loved ones.

Solution

Our group aims to convince the Government of Canada to expedite the Spousal Sponsorship Applications for both Inland and Outland applicants. As 12 months is lengthy, and often it gets even longer. The Canadian VO’s abroad should consider processing Spousal Immigration as an essential service.

We would like IRCC to take special measures for family members of PR's and Canadian Citizens and create an STRV (Special Temporary Resident Visa) for Spouses and Children of PR's and Canadians while their application is being processed, with reasonable terms and conditions. This would allow the majority of applicants to benefit from it.

Suggestions for redactions

Ties to Canada are a frequent reason for denial, yet an obvious reason for approval for the purpose of family reunification. Please remove this stipulation from the eligibility criteria.

Assets and Property in their home country do make sense for touring visitors, although for families wishing to be together legally for a short visit, or to remain during the application process, these criteria create hardship.

Finances in the applicant’s account to cover a 6-month trip is also an unreasonable request. Many applicants are from countries with a currency that equals pennies in CAD. Often times, the sponsor is more than willing to provide accommodations for their spouse and family without it creating any hardships.

Lack of Travel History has nothing to do with an applicant who wishes to be with family. This is another requirement that only makes sense for tourists. If the applicant is from a visa-required country, it is nearly impossible for them to be approved for travel in the first place.

Electronically Issued Visa to prevent further delays

Suggestions for STRV Eligibility Criteria

  • Sponsor must be approved (SA) for the applicant to be eligible for STRV.
  • STRV applicants must have submitted a police certificate confirming the absence of an adult criminal record, as part of their original spousal sponsorship application
  • Mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival
  • COVID-19 test to be performed upon arrival. A fee of $150 would be prepaid by the applicant to this effect.
  • A letter of invitation and a quarantine plan during COVID-19
  • Valid Passport
  • Additional Risk Reduction
  • Enforce immediate deportation at the cost of the sponsor, if the sponsor cancels the application during the visit period.
     

We are completely supporting reasonable measures to protect Canadians from the effects of COVID-19.

We absolutely agree that policies for infection control are necessary to protect the Canadian population, and quarantine measures should be adhered to.

We ask the Government of Canada to reunite families and spouses affected by the travel restriction on the grounds of compassion while adhering to the national and provincial Public Health guidelines enforced for each of us.

We are asking for a change so that families not only today, during this pandemic are given compassion, but also in the future. The outdated processes creating hardships today, have hurt couples in the past and will do so in the future as well if things aren’t amended.

We are just asking to be together.

Please respond as soon as possible, as the emotional and mental strain has been severe in an already difficult time.