IMMIGRATION: Our loved ones are number one

Community News & Features Mar 1, 2005 at 4:34 pm

It is Valentine’s Day, a day we pause to ponder the profound meaning and impact that a simple four letter word would have on us, love.  For many it is a day where we pause to remember those that mean so much to us that we have vowed to share our lives with them in a union of love and joining of families.  This union means many different things around the world and as we see in Canada, the meaning is being tested as the debate over same sex marriage continues.

For Citizenship and Immigration the debate over what kinds of relationships are included as relations of first priority are clear.   The family class includes: Spouses (including same sex spouses), common law partners and conjugal partners.  Canada considers these to be relations that deserve first priority.   This first priority translates to faster processing, more streamlined approaches, a variety of processing modalities and generally the most important thing, an application that can be completed within 3 to 6 months.

Spouses, including same sex spouses, can be processed rather quickly either inside or outside of Canada depending on where the applicant is and what status they have in that country.  Most importantly, if the foreign national spouse is in Canada and has valid status, then an application can be made from inside Canada.

If the foreign national does not have status in Canada, then a spousal application has to be made from outside Canada.  If there are special reasons or circumstance as to why the foreign national cannot leave Canada to apply in the normal fashion, then an application for Humanitarian and Compassionate consideration can be made.  However, serious consideration should be given to what those “special” reasons are.  The mere fact that the foreign national is married to a Canadian or Permanent Resident is generally not considered “special” enough.

Finally, if the foreign national is outside Canada then an application under the Family Class should be made and in most cases the spouse can be in Canada within 3 to 6 months.

Immigration was in fact processing same sex relationships even before the governments of various provinces decided to allow same sex marriages.  So Immigration is experienced now with these relationships and handles them quite easily.

When cases get complicates such as when there is a criminal problem, or perhaps some of the documentation is not complete or missing or perhaps in cases where the officers do not believe the nature of the relationship to be genuine, then there become problems.  These cases will not be processed within the 3 to 6 months and not even in the 12 month goal of the department for all spouses.  These cases can drag on for months and sometimes years especially if they have to go to appeal as many do.

The sponsor has a right to an appeal before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) in Canada on the grounds of an error in law or an error in fact (or mixed law and fact) or if there are humanitarian and compassionate considerations on equity.  The IRB will consider all the circumstances of the matter and in light of all the circumstances including any information that has developed since the application or refusal was made, will render a decision either to allow or dismiss the appeal.  If an appeal is allowed then the case usually will proceed from where it was left and most often to a visa being issued.  If the appeal is dismissed, then the only recourse lies to the Federal Court on matters of errors only.

But it is clear that Immigration has dedicated resources to ensuring that these relationships are treated fairly and handled quickly.   We can see the significant rise in the number of cases processed and intended to be processed as given by the Report to Parliament.  The Family Class targets are being met each year and within that target we see that the spouse number is increasing.

But what about my fiancée?  The person I intend to share my life with?  Well, simply, there were not a lot of these applications so when the government of Canada revised the Immigration Act and introduced the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, they dropped this category.  Perhaps these applications were more problematic in that sometimes these people would not get married after arrival.  In such cases, the cost of dealing with this matter probably outweighed the cost recovery fees and the resources dedicated to this small number of cases was deemed not worth it.

And, what about my parents?  Well, this number in the target is decreasing.  The government has stated its intention a number of years in a row that parents are not as important as spouses.  Clearly each year over the last 3 years the government has moved resources (targets) from parents and grandparents to spouses.   Last month the new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration commented that he would look at the Family Class to decrease the times.  I wonder if this includes parents.  Last month the Hon. Joe Volpe was appointed Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.  Mr. Volpe is the Member of Parliament for Eglinton – Lawrence in the heart of Toronto and is no doubt very familiar with the plight of immigrants.  Will this translate to action?

For those who are far from their loved ones on this day of love let us hope that the wait is not too long and that separation does in fact make the heart grow fonder.

Have a question?  Send them to Berto Volpentesta or to the editor.

Berto Volpentesta of Cannex Immigration Specialists has been a practicing consultant in Toronto since 1991 and is a Member, Director and Secretary of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants and a Member of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants.   You can reach him at: (416) 398 8882 or (416) 787 0612 or by email at berto@canneximmigration.com and on the web at www. canneximmigration.com