Dual Intent Policy for Spousal Reunification not Leading to Reunification

by Ronalee Carey Law

December 2022

Wedding bands intertwined with a red heart on top.

First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes an interminable wait for IRCC to process a sponsorship application.

Currently, Family Class applications have a processing time of 18 months. That’s a really long time for newlyweds to put their lives on hold.

As described in our previous newsletter, Visitor visas for romantic partners: tough to get, but not impossible; it can be very difficult for the romantic partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to get visas to come to Canada as visitors. For couples wishing to apply for a visitor visa for the sponsored spouse to come to Canada during the processing of the application, IRCC now has a policy applying the ‘dual intent’ section of our immigration legislation:

Spouses and partners

Officers should consider the individual circumstances of a foreign national who is being sponsored for permanent residence as a spouse or common-law partner. Factors to consider include, but are not limited to,

  • whether the sponsorship application has been approved
  • whether the application for permanent residence has received stage one approval
  • to what extent the applicant has retained ties in their home country
  • what the applicant’s plan is, should their application for permanent residence be refused

If a spouse or partner can satisfy an officer on a balance of probabilities that they will, if their permanent residence application is refused, leave Canada at the end of their authorized period of stay in accordance with section R179, officers may issue a temporary resident visa (TRV).

This policy seems helpful, but it can take many months for the sponsorship application to be approved or for the sponsored individual’s application to be approved in principle. Further, most people planning on moving to Canada permanently do not retain many ties to their home country, such as property or employment.

A colleague recently received statistics from IRCC that he shared on Twitter:

From 2019 - 2021 (Oct), the eTA approval rate for applicants with Family Class applications in processing was 93%. For TRVs, it was 48%. In 2020 IRCC introduced guidance to officers supposedly to increase TRV approval rates for these situations. There is no indication that it worked.

If only 7% of Family Class applications are unsuccessful, especially as many will have simply been deficient in terms of the documentation provided, without there being marriage fraud or other nefarious intent, I find it unconscionable that 52% of individuals would be deliberately kept from their Canadian partner by IRCC.