Many Canadians are reuniting with their foreign spouses in Canada after being separated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Toronto Star.
The pandemic has resulted in a slowdown in the processing of applications for immigration to Canada. In September, however, the federal government announced that it would speed up the processing of spousal sponsorship applications. To this end, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) increased staff responsible for spousal sponsorships by 66 per cent, seeking to process and finalize 6,000 applications every month between October and December 2020.
Canada made considerable progress in making that happen. As reported in the Toronto Star, a total of 15,999 files were finalized throughout that period – 14,816 applications were approved, 837 refused and 346 withdrawn. Two-thirds of the applications were from people outside Canada.
Despite these positive developments, processing times still need to be improved. Prior to the pandemic, average processing times were around 12 months. However, processing times of 17 months for overseas applications and 15 months for domestic applications are currently being reported.
IRCC seeks to address this issue by implementing new technologies through such initiatives as a recently implemented pilot project to digitize paper-based applications. That project’s goal is to enable staff working remotely to quickly process applications. The immigration department also started conducting interviews with applicants remotely. These initiatives are aimed at accelerating, prioritizing and finalizing more applications – something Canada is on course to achieve.