Canadians once again took to the streets across Canada last weekend, calling on the federal government to look into delays in spousal and family sponsorship applications.
Foreign spouses and common-law partners of Canadians are exempted from COVID-19 travel restrictions, but, many couples are experiencing some difficulties in obtaining a Temporary Resident Visa for their spouse.
Canada’s immigration authority, also known as IRCC oftentimes deny or delay Temporary Resident Visas for people from visa-required countries if they already have family sponsorship applications under processing.
This is because they have to show that they can leave Canada at the end of their authorized visit in order to obtain the Temporary Resident Visa, which conflicts with their intent to immigrate permanently via family sponsorship.
This has led to many couples living apart while their Canadian permanent residence applications are in processing. Some couples lamented the fact that they have been waiting over three years for their application to be approved.
Demonstrations were held across several Canadian cities on Saturday, Sept 19. The events were organized by a group called Spousal Sponsorship Advocate, who emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group is calling for amendments to the present visa requirements and the creation of a new visitor visa that would allow family members to stay in Canada while they wait to obtain their permanent residence.
The group has an online petition with about 15,000 signatures. Immigration critic, Jenny Kwan, from the New Democratic Party, also organized a petition that gathered over 6,000 signatures calling on the government to create a special temporary resident visa.
The petition is expected to go before the parliament sometime after Sept. 23 when sittings resume.
Kwan has been writing open letters to Canada’s immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, lobbying for the special temporary resident visa.
In her latest letter, Kwan said that although Canada is extending immigration application deadlines due to the pandemic, “these extensions may ultimately result in longer processing times.” She said that it does not address people’s calls to reunite with their loved ones in a timely manner.
The minister had previously opined that family sponsorship applicants affected by the present TRV requirements could still be allowed into Canada with the concept of dual intent, that is, “an applicant seeking temporary residence does not prevent them from seeking permanent residence.”
However, Temporary Resident Visa applicants still have to satisfy IRCC that they will meet the temporary residency requirements, which Kwan says works against people who have strong family connections to Canada.
“It sets the expectation much higher for them to show that they will be leaving the country once the TRV is expired,” Jenny Kwan’s open letter read.
Kwan says the special TRVs would offer solutions to the issues that are keeping Canadian families apart, provided they meet basic criteria such as criminality checks.
More Canadians are also saying that the government should prioritize family reunification over other immigration programs. A recent survey found that about thirty-six (36) percent of Canadian respondents called for immigration to focus on family reunification in 2020, up from thirty (30) percent in 2016.