Immigrating to Canada as a Spouse: Processing Times and Why They Vary

By Author: Admin | August 26, 2013

The sponsorship of a spouse is a common way to obtain permanent status in a country. In Canada, as in most countries, assuming the bona fides of the relationship are established, then the application to sponsor a spouse to reside permanently would proceed normally as of right. However, at the time of writing, namely August 2013, processing times for spouses being sponsored from certain countries take a disproportionately lengthier time than others.

For example, sponsoring a spouse from Israel takes nine months, whereas in Pakistan and Afghanistan it takes 31 months. The disparate processing times are due in part to additional documentary requirements imposed on certain applicants such as those from Pakistan and Afghanistan. These more specific documents are contained in a government form called “Country Specific Instructions” Pakistani and Afghan foreign nationals seeking to be sponsored by Canadian spouses need to produce, among other things, a “Residency Questionnaire.” This document contains at first glance relatively innocuous questions, and has arguably been designed to capture the fact that a noticeable amount of Pakistani Canadians reside outside of Canada (often times in the Persian Gulf, a reflection of a higher salary available to the Pakistani-Canadian sponsors in the Persian Gulf as opposed to in Canada).

Specifically, the purpose of the “Residency Questionnaire” is to ensure that the Canadian sponsor will reside with the Pakistani applicant once the Pakistani applicant has been granted permanent residency in Canada. The “residency questionnaire” is thus a form of particular  relevance to the usually female Pakistani applicant, but in reality is designed to disclose information about her male Canadian sponsor, specifically to determine whether he is either working in Canada or will give up his usually well-paying job in the Persian Gulf to reside in Canada with the female spouse. By contrast, persons such as most citizens of the EU, the UK and the USA are exempt from such scrutiny despite the fact that they can often enter Canada surreptitiously as visitors (not disclosing any Canadian permanent resident status) and consequently, misstate their location of employment.

The innocuously titled “Supplementary Information Form for Pakistani Nationals” is required to be completed by males aged 15 years or older, as well as females aged 18 years or older. A substantively identical form is required for Afghan nationals. Canadian visa officers asked no other country such details of 15-year-old boys. The age of 15 is no doubt a response to the phenomenon of Omar Khadr, who is a Canadian citizen and was fighting US-backed forces in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15, and was convicted of terrorist offences by a US tribunal in October 2010. This emphasis on the age of 15 for only Afghan and Pakistani males belies the phenomenon of child-soldiers in other countries across Asia and Africa.

Further, and “Details of Military Service” chart contained within the “Supplementary Information Form For Pakistani Nationals” is mandatory requesting in specific detail a person’s rank, duties, name of its commanding officer, nature of military unit, location, number of persons supervised, and specialized training.

For Pakistani and Afghan applicants, significantly more original documentation is required for scrutiny, such as, birth certificates, national ID card, marriage certificate, death certificate, divorce certificate, educational documents. By contrast, other document list for citizens of most other countries seeking a permanent visa as a spouse merely require original birth certificate, police clearance and evidence of the relationship such as photographs.

Similarly, the supplementary information form for Afghan nationals, contained in another version of the “country specific instructions”, crafts questions with such hyper-specificity, (e.g. “Are you or were you ever a member (civilian or uniformed) of a special force, security service (KhAD, WAD), police force (Sarandoy, Ministry of the Enforcement of Virtue and Suppression of Vice)”, and “Are you, or have you ever been, a member of a civilian defense group, a resistance organization or an armed resistance group (includes Mujahideen or any group trained for hostile operations inside or outside the country”, and “If you responded NO to questions 4, 5 and 6, explain how you avoided serving with any side during the conflict in Afghanistan”, and “Were you ever a member of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA)?”, and “Have any members of your family (parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents, sisters/brothers) held a position with a government of Afghanistan,” so as to wonder the relevance of such specific disclosure.

The only other document list that remotely approaches such specificity is the one for Albanian residents which poses questions related to contact with the Albanian or Yugoslavian security or information services.

Citizens other countries, such as the state of Israel, which has recently been involved in conflicts with entities such as Hezbollah, Syria, Lebanon, and the occupied Gaza Strip, by contrast, are not subject to such scrutiny with respect to military service. The consequence is that citizens of Israel who have served in the Israeli military may very well be inadmissible to Canada on grounds of violating human rights, but are not screened with sufficient scrutiny by Canadian visa officer to detect such violations.

Similarly, the requirement for substantively more original documentation from Afghan and Pakistani applicants may lead one to the conclusion that errors in allowing foreign nationals from other countries to enter Canada (due to the more relaxed requirements) is actively encouraged by the Canadian bureaucracy.

Want to learn more about this matter? Call your Toronto Immigration Lawyer today at 416-447-6118!

Source: Pakistan Forms Required –


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