Changes to the Spousal/Common law Sponsorship program – January 31, 2017

Starting January 31, 2017, the Immigration Department has initiated changes to make spousal sponsorships more expeditious, faster and streamlined. As Operational Bulletin 633 indicates the objective is to “ facilitate faster processing and improve the client experience”.

In general, the summary of changes to the application process include:

1. Simplified and streamlined guides, kits and forms.

2. Requirement that applications be fully documented to be accepted for processing.

3. Encouraging clients to link applications to their online account to facilitate communication.

4. Filing the Schedule “A” background information electronically.

5. Eliminating upfront medicals.

1.Simplified and streamlined guides mean that applicants will now use a single application kit and consolidated guide, regardless of whether the applicant is applying from within Canada or from outside of Canada. There are four new checklists and the 13 overseas region-specific document checklists have now been consolidated into country specific requirements so that individuals can extract from a drop-down list and find out if any additional forms are required when clients submit the documents.

2.Complete applications. Applicants will be required to submit complete and fully documented applications which must include all the completed and signed forms and any country specific forms that are required. As a condition to be accepted for processing, applications must be accompanied by the applicable document checklist and applications that are missing the checklist or any of the documents will be returned. Incomplete applications will not be kept and will be returned and no processing fees charged. Although the old applications are accepted until January 31, new applications will only be accepted after that date.

3.Linking the application. Once the application has been received by immigration, an acknowledgement of receipt is sent. The department will also send a request for principal applicants to create an online account and link their application within seven calendar days. Once the applicant creates an online account, all future communications will be done through the online account. If applicants choose not to link the application, the department will communicate by email or regular mail, but communication may take longer.

3.Schedule “A” The Schedule A Background Declaration is no longer required at the time of application submission. It is now a web form that is electronically submitted. Once the applicant has linked their application to their online account, they will be given 30 days to upload the validated Schedule A which will electronically be entered into the Immigration’s Global Case Management System. If the applicant does not comply with submitting the Schedule electronically (or by paper version) within 30 days, the application will be refused.

4.Medical screening Spouses and common-law partners who apply under this program will not undergo an upfront medical examination as previously required and medical instructions will be issued at the appropriate point after the application is accepted for processing.

The objective of the department in changing these rules was to ensure that all applications are completed within one year. Our experience is that, with the change of government, these applications will now be proceeding much faster than they have in the previous few years.