Ensure Equity in Canadian Spousal Processing Times

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The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau and the Honourable Ahmed Hussen,

The processing times between visa offices for spousal visas varies considerably. This seems to be especially true of the Accra Visa Office which appears to lag c behind other visa offices, especially those in developed countries. We believe that additional resources should be assigned to offices such as the Accra Visa Office to ensure that applications are processed efficiently regardless of their location. Processing times for applications should be consistent.

Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights guarantees equal rights. In this case, we believe that equal means that everyone should have a similar experience during the processing of spousal visa applications.   Yet those of us relying on offices such as the Accra Visa Office do not feel that our applications are being treated equally, especially when we consistently witness other visa offices processing applications much faster.  Those of us where applications are going through a visa office in a developing country are not have the same experience as those being processed through a developed country, even though we pay the same amount.

Not only are our applications taking  longer to process, the political climate in many of the countries served by the such visa offices prevents most of us from being with our spouses during the processing time. Visa offices with the faster processing times are also those where the applicants have more freedom to move between countries during the processing period.

Applicants from developed countries are usually freer to enter Canada before an application is submitted, may are able to stay in Canada while their applications are being processed, and may even be able to work.  They are also freer to visit with their spouses during the processing of their applications. But many of the countries that are served by the visa offices in developing countries also have travel warning advisories. That is, our government is warning us not to travel to these particular countries, these countries where those we love are living. 

Those of us sponsoring spouses and children from less developed countries already feel a greater pressure to prove the genuineness of our relationships. Going into the process we already feel that our relationships are seen as being ingenuous and we have to work harder to prove visa officers wrong. The irony is, however, that the genuineness of our relationships may be more difficult to prove simply because of where our spouses reside.

Our inability to travel back and forth as freely as citizens sponsoring spouses in developed countries creates barriers in our abilities to prove that our relationships are genuine.  For some of us, visiting developed countries can be extremely dangerous.  But visa offices have an expectation that proof of a genuine relationship includes extensive or frequent visits with our spouses.

So in what should be the happiest times of our lives and marriages is in fact stressful and full of uncertainty.  We hope for the best, but spend much of our time preparing for the worst.  We lack control over the process especially given the limited information on the progress of our application that we receive.  Also messages in the online applications aren’t kept up-to-date, or are inconsistent.

 And we fear for the safety of our loves ones every day.

We have noticed also that applications aren’t always processed in the same order in which they were submitted.  We have no understanding of why and question what is wrong with our application that someone else was approved even though their application was received weeks or months after ours.

Canadian politicians speak to the importance of family unification.  Yet those who apply under economic streams are often processed faster than those applying under family streams.  This ‘may’ be due to improved application processes.  But the perception is that Canada cares more about the economy than family.  And yet there are so many financial benefits in having families unified quickly.

Newcomers to Canada are expected to abide by the values of Canada, which we believe to be demonstrating fairness, respect, equality and equity. Our expectation is that our government demonstrates the same values when delivering services.

While we do acknowledge and appreciate that considerable work has been achieved to reduce overall processing times of spousal visas, and while we understand that some processes are out of the control of the Canadian government, resources should be in place to ensure fairness, respect, equality and equity in the  processing of applications. We need to not only reduce the processing times, but also reduce the gap in processing times between visa offices to ensure fair treatment of all current and future Canadians.