The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

Delays can be a disincentive to applying for an open work permit

November 28 2018 28 November 2018


Officials at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have made a lot of improvements to the spousal sponsorship process in recent years, but problems remain, particularly in the area of the timeliness of approvals for work permits.

In the case of out of status sponsored spouses applying for work permits, the CBA Immigration Law Section writes in a letter to IRCC, the applicants will either not receive the permit, or will receive it only at the end stage of their permanent residence application. “By this point, the processing time for the work permit will exceed the remaining processing time for the sponsorship application. This creates a disincentive for out of status sponsored spouses to apply for an open work permit due to the perception that it will be a waste of time and money.”

Since most sponsored spouses and common-law partners will eventually obtain permanent residence, it benefits Canada to approve their work permits earlier. Doing so will facilitate their entry into Canadian society, alleviate any financial hardship the family might suffer while it waits for the permit, and give the sponsored spouses some degree of independence from their spouses – which can be important in cases of domestic abuse.

“All sponsored spouses, whether in status or out of status, should be eligible to receive open work permits within six to eight weeks of submission of in-Canada spousal sponsorship applications,” the Section writes. “IRCC should also consider extending the open work permit program to sponsored spouses under Family Class applications (overseas sponsored spouses).”

The Section also takes issue with the fact that applications with minor defects – for example, not submitting the proper fee for an open work permit, or small omissions in evidence – can derail an entire application. The Section says immigration officers should be able to exercise some discretion when faced with minor omissions in otherwise worthy sponsorship applications, and an application should remain active while minor defects are addressed.

Other recurring problems include the frequent updating of paper forms – meaning would-be sponsors might unknowingly submit their applications on outdated forms, which will then be sent back. “This is a waste of time, not only for the applicant, but for the IRCC officers processing the applications,” the Section says, recommending the expiry date should be listed on immigration forms, and expired forms could be given a significant grace period after new forms are published.

The IRCC web forms still have some flaws, the Section notes – for example, applications aren’t always acknowledged, and the IRCC will often issue multiple requests for information that has already been provided through the web form. This is particularly a problem if the IRCC wants to rely on that form as the primary medium for receiving materials from applicants, the Section notes.

The Section makes a total of seven recommendations for improvement, but also praises the IRCC for the changes it has already made: decreased processing times, removing the distinctions between in-Canada and Family Class sponsorship applications, giving more guidance on the type and amount of evidence required, and requiring application material to be provided at the start of the process, rather than asking for various forms and documents at different stages of the process.

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