Undeniably, many commercial and government processes had to pause due to the global pandemic’s disruption on various nations. Besides trade and market conditions shifting in uncharted waters, travel and immigration applications also received the brunt of delays and limited operations.
Spousal sponsorships are among the many Canadian immigration programs that are facing considerable delays due to the pandemic. The combination of reduced operations and traditional processing methods makes it evident that going digital should be a step in the right direction.
Seeing the need for digital immigration processes
Many sectors are hugely affected by the pandemic’s effects, primarily for businesses that engage in face-to-face interactions. This is an issue even for government processes that need to receive, review, and evaluate physical paperwork for official purposes. According to the spokesperson for Spousal Sponsorship Advocates, Misha Pelletier, there are still numerous applicants receiving delays as long as 34 months due to paper-based processing.
Applicants are experiencing different processing times for their applications, revealing a need to streamline current approval processes. There’s a general understanding that the immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) needs to clear its long-overdue backlogs.
Adapting physical transactions to digital
In September 2020, CIC Minister Marco Mendicino revealed an initiative to improve spousal applications and ensure that families can build their lives together in Canada. Amidst the growing difficulties with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the immigration minister vows to accelerate approval processes as much as possible.
Part of the change in infrastructure involved increasing the Canadian immigration department’s staff for manual review of applications. Besides a boost in human resources, the government also pledges to adapt sponsorship applications to embrace digital formats for more efficient screening and submission of paperwork. This initiative streamlines the different requirements for sponsorship, like conducting interviews remotely in adherence to public health policies.
These digitized efforts’ expected result is an improvement in spousal application screening of an average of 6,000 per month from October to December 2020. Unfortunately, the total of processed applications only amounted to 15,999, with 14,816 approved.
Tracing spousal sponsorship backlogs since 2017
It’s important to recognize that the growing dissatisfaction with screening processes dates back to the long-overdue backlogs. These sponsorship applications go back from early 2017 and continue to experience delays due to unforeseen circumstances, most recently due to the extended stay of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s renewed hope that overcoming the pandemic’s struggles will lead to shorter processing times for all immigration program applications once mass vaccinations are underway. Until then, Mendicino is hopeful that Canadian immigration systems will adopt virtual technologies that will make it easier for applicants to accomplish requirements.
Although many citizenship ceremonies are already making the shift to digital, Pelletier notes that spousal sponsorship applications are among the ones lagging behind the digitization of immigration systems. It’s an issue that continues to be a glaring lack of prioritization in light of the government’s attention on COVID-19 health measures.
The initial screening process of immigration documents is still the most crucial step for applicants who want to secure permanent residency in Canada. Extended or shortened processing times won’t make much difference to incomplete or ineligible paperwork. For this reason, applicants must ensure that their submissions go through thorough proofreading from a Canadian immigration agency to avoid receiving a denied application after several months of waiting in line.
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