The government of Canada made two significant announcements in December of 2016 regarding Family Class immigration programs.

First, Canada’s federal Immigration Minister announced new targets regarding the time it takes to process the spousal/common-law partner categories of Family Class immigration programs. Currently, this process takes 24 months, on average, and is projected to be reduced to 12 months, with an additional goal of reducing the processing time to six months in the future.

The new processing time targets are to apply to existing applications as well as new applications.

Minister McCallum outlined three factors which enable the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC“) to meet the new Family Class processing time goals while also maintaining the appropriate and current mandatory criminality, security, and medical screening of all sponsored persons:

  1. $25 million of additional funding has been allocated to hiring and training additional staff;
  2. Existing inventory of submitted applications continues to be reduced; and
  3. IRCC has improved its efficiency through drawing upon its experience and resources.

Changes that accompany the reduced processing time include the following:

  • Documentation attesting to medicals and police backgrounds will not be required up front but later in the process;
  • Shorter, more concise program guides (reduced from 180 pages to 75 pages, consisting of less complicated language);
  • Fewer evaluation forms; and
  • Fewer checklists.

Although the new system became operational online on December 15, 2016, IRCC will continue to accept new applications using the previous kit until January 31, 2017.

Secondly, it was announced that the Open Work Permit Pilot Program for spouses and common-law partners applying for Canadian immigration would be extended. The pilot program was first launched in December of 2014 and allows spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are currently sponsored on an application for permanent residence to work in Canada during the processing application.

While the pilot program was originally set to conclude on December 22, 2016, it has been extended to continue to operate until December 21, 2017.