What is the change? The Canadian government said Wednesday that new spousal reunification applications will be processed in 12 months or less in most cases.

What does the change mean? Effective immediately, most spousal reunification applications will be processed in 12 months or less, although complex cases may take longer. The government also said that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will continue to process spousal reunification applications that have already been filed in the order in which they were received and that most “families who have been waiting should have a decision on their sponsorship application no later than the end of December 2017.”

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Who is affected: Canadian citizens or permanent residents sponsoring a spouse or common-law partner for Canadian permanent residence.
  • Impact on processing times: The change would mark a significant improvement over current processing times, which average 22 months for applications in Canada and 16 months for applications outside of Canada in 2016, according to government statistics.
  • Next steps: A new application kit for spousal reunification sponsors will become available Dec. 15. IRCC will continue to accept applications using the current kit through Jan. 31, but after that applicants must use the new kit.

Background: Government data show that spousal reunification processing times have already seen improvements in the last few years, dropping from a high in 2014 of 27 months for applications filed in Canada and 18 months for applications filed outside of Canada. Even with the recent improvements, however, reducing processing times below 12 months would be a significant achievement. The new application kit is expected to ease the process for applications by allowing, among other changes, applicants to submit certain information, such as medical examination results, after submitting an application.

BAL Analysis: The change is welcome news and reflects a commitment by the Canadian government to improve the spousal reunification process.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Canada. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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