The latest Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data reveals spousal sponsorship helped almost twice as many people gain their permanent residency in Canada in January this year compared to the comparable month last year.
In January, Canada welcomed 10,065 new permanent residents through spousal sponsorship immigration, up 90.1 per cent, or 4,770 people, compared to the 5,295 newcomers who rejoined their loved ones through that program the same month in 2022.
The high level of spousal sponsorships in January this year was up 126.9 per cent over the 4,435 new permanent residents who came to Canada through this program in the comparable month in 2020 before public health and travel restrictions took effect during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Although the first case of COVID-19 in Canada was identified in late January 2020, it was not until mid-March of that year that the Canadian government imposed travel restrictions on foreign nationals coming into the county.
The dramatic drop in immigration levels that year only started once the travel restrictions were in place.
Since then, overall immigration to Canada has more than rebounded, roaring back to life and hitting record levels in both 2021 and 2022.
After falling from 341,175 new permanent residents in 2019 to only 184,590 in the first year of the pandemic, immigration soared to a record 406,045 new permanent residents in 2021. Then, Canada hit a new record of 437,500 new permanent residents last year.
As Canada dealt with the arrival of the coronavirus, the number of people arriving under spousal sponsorships in January also initially dropped, falling 16.8 per cent to 3,690 in 2021, before gradually rising back up by 43.5 per cent to hit 5,295 last year.
At their height prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, spousal sponsorships to Canada allowed 64,775 new permanent residents, or 19 per cent of the total 341,175, to come to Canada in 2019.
In the first year of the pandemic, spousal sponsorships dove by more than 44.2 per cent to 36,120 new permanent residents in 2020 as total immigration to Canada also fell to only 184,590 new permanent residents amid public health and travel restrictions.
Spousal sponsorships then rebounded to almost their pre-pandemic levels in 2021, jumping by more than 78.4 per cent that year to 64,440 before softening a bit in 2022.
Immigration Levels Plan Sets Upper Limit For Spousal Sponsorships At 84,000
In 2015, Canada welcomed 46,350 new permanent residents through spousal sponsorships. The following year, that number swelled by 22.7 per cent to hit 56,855.
Spousal sponsorships, though, are unlikely to remain at the high level in January this year for the rest of 2023 as that would result in 120,780 new permanent residents through this program alone.
In its Immigration Levels Plan 2023 – 2025, Ottawa has already set an upper limit of 84,000 new permanent residents under programs to sponsor spouses, partners and children. The target for this year for that category of immigrants is 78,000 new permanent residents.
When a Canadian citizen or permanent resident chooses to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner to immigrate to Canada, the sponsor must sign an undertaking, promising to give financial support for the sponsored person’s basic needs, including:
- food, clothing, shelter and their needs for everyday living, and;
- dental care, eye care and other health need not covered by public health services.
Sponsoring Spouse Must Honour Commitment Even In Cases Of Divorce
This agreement cannot be cancelled, even if:
- the person sponsored becomes a Canadian citizen;
- the couple divorces, separates or the relationship breaks down;
- either the sponsor or the sponsored spouse or common-law partner moves to another province or country, or;
- the sponsor experiences financial problems.
Maternity, parental and sickness benefits paid under the Employment Insurance Act in Canada are all considered income and contribute to allowing a person to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner but other payments from the government, such as employment insurance and federal training allowances, are not considered income.
On its website, IRCC provides estimates of the current processing times for various types of applications, including spousal sponsorships.
According to that website, the current processing time for sponsorship applications for spouses or common-law partners currently outside the country is now down to 16 months, an improvement over the 20-month processing time last year.
That estimated processing time includes:
- the time needed to provide biometrics;
- the assessment of the sponsor and the person being sponsored, and;
- the time immigration officials need to ensure the sponsor and his or her spouse or common-law partner meet the eligibility requirements.