Spousal Sponsorship: How is COVID-19 (Coronavirus) affecting processing times of applications
Given the travel bans introduced by Canada and the preventative measures implemented to deal with COVID-19 (coronavirus), there is a lot of uncertainty around the processing of immigration applications.
Immigration Canada (IRCC) is still accepting and processing spousal sponsorship applications and common-law sponsorship applications, albeit at a reduced pace. Longer than normal processing times should be expected.
Normal processing for the various stages, after received by IRCC at CPC-M are as follows:
AOR (Acknowledgement Of Receipt): 2.5 to 3.5 months after application is received by CPC-M, IRCC will issue an AOR indicating that the application has been received and accepted for processing, and the sponsors is eligible to sponsor. If the application is incomplete (missing signatures or require documents), the application is normally returned to an individual within 2.5 to 3 months.
Open Work Permit: 3.5 to 4 months after the application(s) are received. This is for individuals who are applying for Inland Processing (spouse is living in Canada with their sponsor) who also applied for an Open Work Permit along with their Spousal Sponsorship application.
Medical and bio-metrics: 3.5 to 4 months after the application is received.
Interview: this is not a normal part of the process, unless the original application did not provide sufficient evidence the relationship is genuine. If an interview is requested, it is usually for Outland Sponsorship applications, and only the spouse being sponsored has to attend the interview. Under normal circumstances, an interview request will delay an application by 3 to 4 months. Given COVID-19, the delay should be expected to be 2 to 3 months longer than normal.
Approvals: Inland Sponsorship applications normally take 10 to 12 months. For Outland Sponsorship applications times vary, according to the foreign visa office responsible, generally taking 8 to 12 months. Larger visa offices like USA, France, UK can be as fast as 3.5 to 6 months.
Delays due to COVID-19: Individuals should expect delays to increase processing times by 30%, above the normal processing times mentioned above.
Special Exemptions due to COVID-19
IRCC is allowing a few exemptions given COVID-19:
Marriage Certificate: IRCC will accept the sponsorship application with a Record of Solemnization included, if the applicant had difficulty obtaining an official Marriage Certificate due to government closures of services. An explanation letter must be included in the application.
Police Certificates: IRCC will accept an application without police certificates, provided they are submitted to IRCC at a later date. An explanation letter must be included in the application.
PR Photos: the two required photos do not need to be included in the application, but can be provided at a later date if the applicant cannot get photos taken. An explanation letter must be included in the application.
Applications that are incomplete will not be returned due to unavailable documents, but will be retained in the system and reviewed again in 90 days. Once an application is first received, it takes IRCC 3 months to open and review an application. Including the 90 additional days provided by IRCC to obtain the missing documents, individuals will have 6 months following the receipt of the application to provide the missing documents.
Despite COVID-19 and processing delays, individuals are encouraged to take this time to start the process of preparing their application. Typically, it takes individuals 2 to 3 months to gather all the documents required to dprepare a sponsorship application. It is advise to start preparing your applications now to avoid further delays. Even if an individual does not have a marriage certificate (or a record of solemnization of marriage) or they are not married yet, the application can be prepared in advance. The very last document to include would be the marriage certificate (or a record of solemnization of marriage) . This will ensure the application is ready to be submitted as soon as possible, instead of delaying the process further by another 2 to 3 months by only beginning to prepare the application after obtaining the marriage certificate.
Immigration firms are not as busy right now due to travel restrictions and COVID-19. Use this to your advantage and retain a firm now while they have more time to dedicate to your file. Once the travel bans are lifted and business is back to normal, all immigration law firms will be extremely busy as pent up demand for services will keep the firms busier than normal.
For more information or to get professional help from our firm, please contact us:
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Matkowsky Immigration Law