Members of the group Canada Spousal Sponsorship Applicants Affected by COVID-19 protested on Saturday outside the Citizen and Immigration Canada office in downtown Montreal.
They are calling on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to come up with a solution such as a temporary resident visa program, to reunite families that have been separated during the application process.
“It would allow people to come here so spouses and their children to come to Canada while their permanent residence is being processed,” co-organizer Charles Seguin said.
He and his wife, who live in Vietnam, are waiting for their family sponsorship application to be approved. They last saw each other in November.
Seguin said the situation was always bad but COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem
“The entire process is supposed to take about one year, but now people have been waiting well over one year, sometimes years on end,” he said.
On top of the required Federal Permanent Residence permit, Quebecers have the additional task of applying for a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ).
“Usually the delays for the CSQ were 25 days, now that has ballooned all the way up to seven months,” he said.
According to Seguin, the group has sent thousands of letters about the reunification of families to Federal Immigration Minister The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino with no response.
In a statement to Global News, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it continues to accept and process applications throughout the pandemic including family sponsorship applications, despite limited operational capacity both in Canada and abroad.
They added they are looking at ways to help more families stay together.
“They are not visitors in this country, they are our spouses,” said co-organizer Misha Pelletier, who hasn’t seen her husband, who lives in Tunisia, for a year.