The COVID-19 pandemic has far-reaching effects on people’s lives. Everywhere, businesses and offices have had their workflows changed because of the measures to slow the spread of the virus. The processing of immigration papers is no different.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or CIC is still accepting applications for spousal sponsorship. However, the expectations for how to immigrate to Canada through this route are drastically different today compared to before the pandemic started.

Expect Stops at All Stages

A normal timeline for citizenship processing will have milestones to expect at predictable intervals. After the applicants have completed and submitted the necessary documents, there is a 2.5 to 3.5-month waiting period for the AOR, or the Acknowledgement of Receipt.

This notifies the applicants that their papers will be processed, and decisions will be reached. Incomplete applications will not receive the AOR; instead, they will receive their application again, with a notation that the documents were incomplete or incorrect.

Shortly after receiving the AOR, applicants will get their Open Work Permit, Medical Requirements, and Biometrics. Work permits can be applied for at the same time as citizenship, but it is not automatically included and must be requested. The work permit, medical, and biometrics requirements normally reach applicants within 3.5 to four months.

Delays with Interviews and Approvals

Furthermore, some applicants may be requested to sit in an interview. This is for special circumstances, where the immigration officials deem it necessary to verify the relationship between the sponsor and the immigrant. A request for an interview normally delays a citizenship process by about three to four months.

The entire process takes at least ten months if the spouse being sponsored is already in Canada. It will reach eight to 12 months if the spouse is still outside the country. For larger embassies with more manpower, like the U.S. or the U.K., it may only take six months at most.

Keep in mind that the process described above is the normal waiting period. This is what to expect when there is no global pandemic. This means that, for ongoing applications, the estimates for each phase will be delayed by about two to three more months or at least 30 percent of the total processing time.

Exemptions Given COVID-19

In light of the developments regarding the novel coronavirus, the CIC has agreed to some concessions regarding sponsorship documents. A couple’s Record of Solemnization, for example, will be enough in lieu of a Marriage Certificate.

This is if the applicant experienced difficulties in obtaining the official government form due to closures and work suspensions. In case the applicants will use this instead of their marriage certificate, they must include with the application a letter explaining the situation. Police certificates and PR photos need not be submitted during the application, provided that these can be submitted at a later date. A letter of explanation must also be included.

All in all, individuals will have six months after the CIC receives their request to provide the missing documents. Upon receipt of an application, the CIC lets it stay in the system for three months. At the three month mark, they will review the application, and give it an additional 90 days in the system in case of deficiencies. Within these six months, applicants will need to have completed their documents, or their application will be forfeited.

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What to Do in the Meantime

Typically, it takes about three months to gather all the documents for a sponsorship application. Even if a marriage certificate or a record of solemnization of marriage is not available, steps can be taken by applicants to get this ready in time for the submission of documents. Other documentary preparations like evidence of the spousal relationship can also be prepared.

If you need legal advice on the timeline for your spousal immigration to Canada, or for assistance in gathering the documents for sponsorship, get in touch with us today. We are immigration lawyers in Toronto who can handle spousal sponsorship, express entry, and more. Contact us today for more information.

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