Operational Bulletin 633 – December 15, 2016

Operational changes to the spousal sponsorship program

Summary

This Operational Bulletin (OB) provides instructions for processing applications to sponsor a spouse, partner or dependent child received on or after December 15, 2016, the launch date of the redesigned application process for spouses, partners and dependent children. These instructions apply to sponsorship and permanent residence applications for spouses (FC1), common-law partners (FCC), conjugal partners (FCE) and dependent children (FC3) under the Family Class and spouses (FC1) and common-law partners (FCC), under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada class (SCLPC), including those processed under the spousal public policy (FCH).

Issue

The purpose of this OB is to provide information relating to changes in the application process for spouses, partners and dependent children.

Background

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is dedicated to reducing overall processing times and improving client service for spouses, partners and dependent children of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. In addition to the ongoing measures to reduce the existing spousal inventories, the Department is introducing changes to the application process which will help contribute to achieving efficiencies in processing. These changes do not affect the substantive, legislative or regulatory, requirements of the program. Applicants will still be required to satisfy an officer that they meet all of the legislative and regulatory requirements to be granted permanent residence; however, the new process will change the manner in which an applicant makes an application in order to facilitate faster processing and improve the client experience.

Summary of changes to the application process:

  • Simplified and streamlined guides, kits and forms
  • Requirement that applications be fully documented to be accepted for processing
  • Encouragement of clients to link their application to their online account to facilitate communication
  • Schedule A requested electronically, following application intake
  • Elimination of up-front medicals
  • Police Certificate Pilot

New process

1. Simplified and streamlined guides, kits and forms

Application guides, kits and forms have been simplified to improve the client experience. Spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners, dependent children and their sponsors will now use a single application kit and consolidated guide, regardless of whether they are applying under the Family Class or under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada class.

There are four new checklists (one for each type of applicant) that take clients through what forms and documents are required in order for their application to be accepted for processing.

The 13 overseas region-specific document checklists have been consolidated into a country specific requirements tool that allows clients to select the country from a drop down list and find out if any additional forms are required or if there are special instructions regarding the documents they will submit as part of their application.

Individuals seeking to sponsor their spouse or partner (whether the sponsored spouse or partner is residing inside or outside Canada) will now be directed to one webpage on the IRCC website that will provide links to the following new forms and tools, in addition to the forms required as part of an application:

2. Fully documented applications

When clients submit the documents necessary for an officer to make a decision it allows for more efficient and timely processing. Under the redesigned process, clients will have to submit complete and fully documented applications.

The first assessment by the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga (CPC-M) will be to confirm completeness as per sections 10 and 11 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). To be complete, applications must include all the applicable completed and signed forms provided by the Department in the application package published on the web site of the Department at the time the application is received by the Department. This includes any country-specific forms that are required based on the applicant’s country of residence. In addition, to be complete, the application must contain proof of payment of correct fees. If any of the above information is missing, the application must be returned as incomplete.

The requirement for fully documented applications is established by Ministerial Instructions that take effect on December 15, 2016. As a condition of being accepted for processing, Ministerial Instructions require that applications be accompanied by the applicable document checklist and the documents required in Part B of the applicable document checklist. Applications that are missing the applicable document checklist or any of the documents listed in Part B of the document checklist must be returned.

When an application is received at CPC-M, staff will verify whether all application forms and supporting documents on the applicable document checklist were completed and submitted:

IRCC will not retain applications to sponsor a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent child that are incomplete or are missing documents required by the checklist; these applications will be returned to the sponsor and no processing fees will be processed.

Despite the requirement for fully documented applications at application intake, officers continue to have the discretion to request additional documentation from the sponsor or applicant at any time during application processing to be satisfied that the applicant meets the legislative and regulatory requirements.

Transition period: The Ministerial Instructions provide for a transition period during which applications made using the old forms and kits will continue to be accepted. This period ends on January 31, 2017. For applications made using the old forms and kits received at CPC-M on or before January 31, 2017, staff receiving the application will review for completeness only. Applications made under the new process (i.e., using the new forms and checklist) must meet the conditions established by the Ministerial Instructions from the date the Instructions take effect (i.e., December 15, 2016).

3. Link My App

Complete and fully documented applications will be put into process. In addition to the acknowledgement of receipt, CPC-M will send a request for principal applicants to create an online account and link their application to their online account within seven calendar days. The applicant will be advised that if they do not create an online account, it may take longer to process their application.

Once the principal applicant creates an online account and links their application to it, all communications with the principal applicant should be done through the online account. This will facilitate communication with applicants. The applicant should no longer receive correspondence via email or mail.

If applicants choose not to link their application, the Department will continue to communicate with them or their representative by email or regular mail.

4. Schedule A

Under the redesigned spousal process, the Schedule A – Background/Declaration [IMM 5669] (PDF, 390.66 KB) is no longer required up front at the time of application submission. The Schedule A (PDF, 390.66 KB) is now a dynamic web form that can be electronically submitted and validated by the applicant.

The request for Schedule A will be queued by CPC-M to be sent automatically when the applicant links their application to their online account. Applicants will be given 30 days to upload their validated Schedule A (PDF, 390.66 KB). This will allow the information on the Schedule A to be electronically entered into the Global Case Management System (GCMS), significantly reducing manual data entry of information on the form.

If the applicant chooses not to create an online account or does not create an online account within seven calendar days, CPC-M will send correspondence (via email or mail) to the applicant requesting a paper copy of the validated Schedule A (PDF, 390.66 KB) within 30 days from the date of the letter.

If the applicant does not comply with submitting the Schedule A (electronic or paper version) within 30 days of the request, CPC-M may refuse the application due to non-compliance and a finding by an officer that they are not satisfied that the applicant is not inadmissible based on the information available.

5. Assessing sponsorship eligibility

The sponsorship eligibility assessment will be conducted as per existing practices and procedures. CPC-M will assess whether the sponsor meets the sponsorship eligibility requirements under section 133 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).

The Sponsorship Evaluation form [IMM 5481] will no longer be used as part of the sponsorship eligibility assessment for applications to sponsor spouses and partners who apply under the Family Class or SCLPC. Section A of the new Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation [IMM 5532] (PDF, 853.05 KB) form contains the information required for the sponsorship evaluation and personal information about the sponsor that can be used to support a determination of whether the sponsor meets the sponsorship eligibility requirements under section 133 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).

The Sponsorship Evaluation form [IMM 5481] (PDF, 742.74 KB) will only continue to be used as part of the sponsorship eligibility assessment for applications to sponsor dependent children (FC3) as principal applicants under the Family Class.

6. Assessing applicant eligibility

The eligibility assessment for spouses, partners and dependent children will be conducted as per existing practices and procedures.

All spousal sponsorship applicants and their sponsors who apply under the SCLPC or the Family Class will be required to submit a new consolidated relationship questionnaire (Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation [IMM 5532] (PDF, 853.05 KB)) up front as part of the application package.

In all cases, a departmental official continues to have the discretion to request that the applicant and/or sponsor provide additional documentation, including proof of relationship, and/or to convoke them for an interview if more information is required to assess the application.

7. Workload management of SCLPC applications

As per current procedures, SCLPC applications may continue to be referred to local offices in the Domestic Network if further review or an interview is required.

8. Assessing admissibility

a. Medical screening

Spouses and common-law partners who apply under the SCLPC and spouses, partners and dependent children who apply under the Family Class will not undergo an up-front medical examination. Medical instructions will be issued during the processing of the application.

IRCC will send a request through the online account (or via mail or email for those who do not create an online account) for the principal applicant (and family members, whether accompanying or not) to complete an immigration medical examination (IME) within 30 days. These medical instructions will be issued at an appropriate point after the application is accepted for processing and applicants must comply within 30 days. Failure to comply with this request within 30 days may result in the refusal of the application on the basis that the officer is not satisfied that the applicant is not medically inadmissible.

It is possible that applicants may have undergone a medical examination prior to the publication of new procedures and application kits, or as part of an application for a visa or permit in another category. As part of the checklist, applicants who completed an IME in the 12 months prior to application submission, are asked to submit a copy of the Information Sheet from the Panel Physician up front with their application package. An IRCC officer may still require the applicant to undergo a new IME depending on the remaining validity period of the medical results.

b. Criminality assessment

Criminality assessments will be conducted using current practices and procedures.

All SCLPC applicants 18 years of age or older continue to be subject to a mandatory criminal background check by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for in-Canada criminality.

Police Certificates Pilot: Applications for permanent residence of a spouse, partner or dependent child will no longer require police certificates to be submitted up-front as part of the application package. Applicants are encouraged to start the process of obtaining police certificate(s) in advance as IRCC will send them a request to submit them shortly after we receive their application.

Once the application is accepted for processing, the principal applicant (and all family members 18 years or older) will be requested to upload into their online account an electronically validated Schedule A – Background/Declaration [IMM 5669] (PDF, 390.66 KB), accompanied by police certificate(s) from the:

  • Current country of residence if the applicant has resided there for six months or more; and
  • Country where the applicant has spent most of their adult life, since the age of 18.

Applicants will have 30 days to comply.

If an applicant is unable to obtain a police certificate due to country conditions (e.g. conflict, war zone, natural disaster), a written explanation from the applicant may be accepted.

Even after the applicant has submitted the above-mentioned police certificates, the officer may still request additional police certificates for any additional countries in which the applicant may have resided.

If the principal applicant indicates that they do not wish to create an online account or does not create one within seven calendar days, CPC-M will send correspondence (via email or mail) to the applicant requesting paper versions of the police certificates.

c. Security screening

Security screening will be conducted as per existing practices and procedures.

d. Examination of overseas family members

All accompanying and non-accompanying family members must be examined for admissibility at the time of the processing of the application for permanent residence to ensure that the principal applicant is admissible.

The procedures established in section 5 of OB 624 regarding the examination of overseas family members of in-Canada spousal applicants remain in effect. Offices in Canada (in the Centralized Network and Domestic Network) will continue to be responsible for completing certain steps that were previously completed by visa offices, as outlined in OB 624.

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