IRCC is working to modernize its operations and has recently introduced the option to apply for Family Sponsorship via a new online process instead of the traditional paper application process. We applaud IRCC’s efforts to modernize and want to do what we can to support their initiatives.
Spouse or Common-Law Partner Sponsorship – Apply online or by paper
Can I submit a sponsorship application online? This is a common question at the moment because IRCC has recently opened a new application portal whereby it’s now possible to apply for sponsorship online, instead of only using the traditional paper pathway. Eventually, only the online option will remain, but while you have a choice, we recommend that you take the simplest option.
Overall, our advice to clients who want to prepare their own application is to do the paper option. While we do want to support IRCC in what they are trying to do, the new online portal process is quite confusing, and we can foresee a lot of frustration for applicants who are doing this process for the first time. Here’s a quick rundown of what kind of adventure you are in for.
How to apply for Spousal Sponsorship Online
When you set up your online PR portal account, one of the first things you will see is a long list of nearly every form that IRCC publishes. It’s up to you to sort out which forms are needed for your particular application process. There is no spousal sponsorship application checklist that automatically populates inside the portal – you need to create a paper document checklist and translate it into your online application by choosing your own forms and setting up your own fields.
What forms are required for Spousal Sponsorship Online?
Some of the required forms are online forms, and you will need to complete your details online. Other forms will need to be downloaded, completed, printed, signed, scanned and then re-uploaded to the application portal. You need to sort out which is which.
What supporting documents would you provide in a Spousal Sponsorship Online?
Once you have the forms sorted out, you will need to choose the appropriate support documents from a drop-down menu, and then add in your own fields to account for any other documents that are required but not listed by IRCC. Essentially, you need to be able to create your own application framework in order to be successful in using the new PR portal that IRCC has developed.
We think this is going to be a problem for most self-represented clients because our office reviews a lot of paper applications for people doing their own work, and it is rare to find an applicant who has perfectly completed their paper application even when the application framework has been clearly laid out for them by means of the paper document checklist. In most cases, it is quite difficult for first-time applicants to follow a paper process that is clearly laid out – we just can’t imagine what clients will do if they have to also define their own process, to begin with. How will you know that you are missing something if you are the one who is making the list of requirements to begin with?
There are a lot of supporting documents to provide in a common-law sponsorship application and it can be difficult for applicants to properly arrange the necessary documents in paper format. I can foresee lots of issues where necessary documents are not provided by self-represented applicants because the online system did not ask for them, and the applicant was unaware that they would be required.
Keep in mind that IRCC will return your application as incomplete (months down the road) if you submit a less than perfect application package. So, the stakes are high.
When does it make sense to submit an online sponsorship application?
In some instances, timing will play a role in deciding whether to submit an online or paper application. This is particularly true if your status inside Canada will expire shortly, and you need to have your PR application submitted rather quickly in order to maintain your ability to work in Canada. One could imagine a scenario where an applicant has a scanned copy of a document but cannot obtain the original document in a short amount of time (like a police clearance). To submit a paper application, you will need the original police clearance, but to submit an online application, you will upload a scanned copy. In a situation such as that, it may make sense to try the online application process and work with the scanned documents that you have available, but I caution you to seek professional help. Anytime an applicant is rushing their process and anytime the process is new, there is an increased risk of error. In the situation just described, we have both of those high-risk situations at the same time.
Please also note, with reference to the scenario described above, that only submitting a sponsorship application does not allow the applicant to continue to work. You need to submit both an application for a spouse or common-law partner sponsorship PLUS an open work permit in order to maintain the ability to work. Only if you submit both applications, can you stay in Canada while waiting for a spouse or common-law sponsorship.
How long does it take to process common-law sponsorship online?
Online versus paper – which application stream will be faster? IRCC has said publicly that there will be no difference in processing time for an online application versus a paper application. Because online applications are submitted and returned electronically, you will save courier time in sending your application and you will be notified faster if your application is rejected as incomplete. But overall, the benefit of this slight time and cost-saving is more than offset by the increased risk of an error in the online application process.
The stakes are high when applying for a spouse or common-law sponsorship to Canada. It’s a common misconception that IRCC will contact you to ask for additional documents after you have submitted your application. Your application needs to be perfect from the time that you submit it. Now that people applying online are expected to create their own application framework, it is harder than ever to ensure your application is perfect before submitting it for processing. Contact our office today if you want your application to be submitted online, but you don’t want the stress of worrying about it yourself.