By TOM GODFREY
A small but vocal group of angry spouses protested outside the Ajax office of Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander, to vent their outrage over the lengthy processing time it takes to sponsor their loved ones to Canada.
The protesters said it can take up to three years to sponsor their spouses to Canada due to lengthy backlogs and the closure of several visa offices abroad.
A tearful Anita Binlac, of Toronto, was ordered to leave Canada on December 5 after waiting for more than 18 months for her spousal application to be processed. Binlac was sponsored by her Canadian husband, Mark Carr, and had been waiting for an interview and approval to remain here.
The mother-of-one arrived here from the Philippines as a caregiver in 2007 and overstayed her status. She got married and her spouse has been trying to sponsor her.
“I have no choice but to leave,” Binlac told Share. “I have a son at home (Philippines) and if I am deported he will not be allowed to travel here.”
She will be leaving behind her husband and many friends she has made over the years.
“It will be very tough on us when she is gone,” a dejected Carr said. “We have a small business together and she helps care for my mother, who is 90.”
Toronto businessman, Gabriel Gomori, has been waiting for more than 17 months to sponsor his wife, Terry Sinacay, from the Philippines.
Sinacay was called for an interview to take place next month in Manila, where it will be determined if she will be granted a visa for Canada.
“I am hoping that the minister will take notice and realize that something is wrong in his department,” said Gomori.
He said he has heard from dozens of Canadians with similar sponsorship problems on his Facebook page.
Immigration consultant, Roy Kellogg, said it can take anywhere from 18 to 35 months for Canadians to sponsor their loved ones depending on the country from which they are applying.
Kellogg said some of the delays stem from a lack of resources that led to the closure of Canadian visa offices in Tokyo, Venezuela, Germany, Malaysia and Bangladesh.
“It all depends on which visa post is processing the case,” he said. “Some countries take a very long time.”
Most of the cases in the Caribbean are processed at Canadian visa posts in Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti or the Dominican Republic.
“There are also lengthy delays there and it is terrible,” said Kellogg. “A lot of families are being hurt and it has a ripple effect all over.”
It now takes 27 months to sponsor a spouse from Jamaica and the office there handles cases from the Bahamas, Cayman Islands and the Turks & Caicos Islands, according to an immigration department website.
It takes about 20 months to get a loved one from Trinidad, and 15 months from Manila, according to the site, as long there is no problems with the paperwork.
Alexander has announced plans to welcome nearly 50,000 sponsored partners, spouses and children this year.
Immigration officials, in their annual target levels report, said 68,000 of the 260,000 spots next year will be reserved for family sponsorship, with 48,000 allocated for spouse and children sponsorships and 20,000 for parents and grandparents.
The department has also changed some of the regulations surrounding spousal sponsorship, particularly in introducing a new conditional residency status requiring partners or spouses to live together for two years upon arrival in Canada before the sponsored partner can obtain permanent residency.
Ottawa will also stop applicants who arrived as sponsored partners to themselves sponsor another partner within a five-year time span.