A backlog in applications for spousal immigration sponsorship is continuing to grow in Canada.
This, coupled with the pandemic, has kept thousands of people across the country from being able to see their loved ones for months.
For Oshawa resident Noor Mahmood and her husband Ibrahim Siddiq, virtual communication is all they have. The couple got married last year, but haven’t had the chance to see one another in nearly six months.
“It’s just really difficult since you keep planning for this life together and there’s just so much uncertainty around when it’s going to start,” Mahmood said.
Her husband currently lives in Saudi Arabia. The couple applied for a Outland Spousal Sponsorship application in July 2019, but they’re still waiting for his application to be processed, despite the government’s immigration website saying it completes most applicants within a year.
“It was a pre-existing problem already,” Mahmood said. “There are several people that have reached out to me saying their process has been over two to three years.”
The two are part of a Facebook group with more than 2,500 members who are facing a similar situation. On top of an existing backlog of applications, the pandemic has forced Canada’s immigration offices to scale back operations, causing additional stress to families.
Misha Pelletier hasn’t been able to see her husband, who lives in Tanzania, for over a year.
She says the distance has taken a devastating toll on both her and her eight-year-old son, Santino.
“We spent Christmas without him, my son’s birthday without him,” Pelletier said.
“Finally I just had to let it all out and explain it to (my son). He cried really hard.”
When asked about the pre-existing backlog of applications and when services would resume to normal, the government told Global News in a statement: “Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada continues to accept and process applications throughout the pandemic, including family sponsorship applications, notwithstanding that our operational capacity remains at a limited capacity both domestically and abroad.”
The government also says immediate family members are still allowed to visit, provided they quarantine and stay for at least 15 days.
Meanwhile, a petition has been put forward to the House of Commons, calling for a special temporary resident visa, which would allow loved ones to stay in Canada while their application is being processed.
More than 5,500 people have signed another petition calling for improvements to the spousal sponsorship process.
NDP MP Jenny Kwan has also written an open letter to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, demanding immediate action be taken.
In addition, thousands of residents are planning rallies in major cities across Canada in early August.