Dear Minister John McCallum,
We are reaching out to you as a group of Canadians and immigrants with a vested interest in seeing improvements made in the immigration system, a system we know all too well, is broken.
Our group is called Canada Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners. We are an advocacy and support group of more than 3,000 spousal sponsorship families.
The group began as a response to the painfully slow process of sponsoring a spouse for permanent residency; to campaign for improved processing of inland spousal sponsorship applications.
In parallel, we also provide support via the sharing of information and guidance through what is an intensely difficult process. However, our main goal is to address the difficulties we face at the source, with improved processing times and improved conditions for Inland sponsored spouses.
Program allows families to survive
We would like to bring your attention to the upcoming expiration on Dec. 22, 2015 of the one-year pilot program that allows spouses of Canadians under spousal sponsorship permanent resident applications to apply for open work permits.
Processing times for the first stage of the spousal sponsorship application are currently at an unbearably long 17 months, and no lasting improvements have been seen.
“Those without valid status are often in the most desperate need of a work permit.”
With the continuation of the work permit pilot program, Canadian families will be better able to endure this punitive wait without falling into crippling debt and suffering the lasting damages of great emotional stress.
The Canadian Bar Association, as well as several immigration experts, has raised this issue before. In a letter sent to Mike MacDonald, Director General of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) on May 6, 2015, the Bar expressed the following:
“… [W]hy is the Open Work Permit Pilot Program limited to those with valid temporary status in Canada? Those without valid status are often in the most desperate need of a work permit.”
Also, in an interview for the documentary The Backlog, Life Doesn’t Wait, immigration lawyer and a former senior manager at CIC, Klaudios Mustakas, said:
“If the person is out of status, then give them status because, at the end of the day, whether you do it in four months or whether you do it in 26 months you’re still going to give that person permanent status, so why put the family through the financial hardship that is involved? If the sponsored person is the breadwinner, how is that family supposed to survive? From a humanitarian point of view, we are doing them a disservice by having to wait that long. You’re giving them a two-year conditional visa anyways, so if you’re worried about fraud, you have two years to determine whether that case is fraudulent.”
“If you’re worried about fraud, you have two years to determine whether that case is fraudulent.”
The many benefits for Canada at large
The open work permit pilot program has provided many benefits to Canadian families and to Canadian society:
- Sponsored spouses contribute with their taxes
- Canadian sponsors pay more in taxes, as they no longer receive tax cuts based on the fact that they are the sole income earner for their household
- Sponsored spouses not eligible for provincial health care can afford private insurance, allowing them to seek treatment for illnesses, increasing the general health of the community, as well as ensuring that an accident or serious illness does not financially cripple Canadian families
- Canadian families with decreased stress levels show increased productivity and health
- The economy benefits from the increased activity of a family with two income earners, as they increase their consumption of goods and services
These benefits would be made even greater by the inclusion of all sponsored spouses.
For the aforementioned reasons, we feel that it would be beneficial for sponsorship couples and their communities for the pilot program to not only be continued as a permanent policy, but also extended to include all inland sponsored spouses, regardless of immigration status.
We humbly request that this be done before the expiration on Dec. 22.
Canada Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners
This letter was sent by members of the Canada Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners group to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum, the Parliament Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Arif Virani, and members of Parliament for the ridings where these Canadian families live.
This letter has been edited for clarity and published with permission here.