Operational Bulletin 624 – June 13, 2016

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Processing measures to reduce the in-Canada spousal application inventory


This Operational Bulletin (OB) provides information about the Department’s efforts to reduce its inventory of spousal applications as well as functional guidance for processing spouse or common-law partner in Canada (SCLPC) class applications in the inventory as of June 13, 2016, which have not yet received a stage one eligibility decision. Measures to reduce the SCLPC inventory apply to in-Canada applications processed as FC1 (spouse), FCC (common-law partner) as well as those processed as FCH under provisions of the spousal public policy; and, where applicable, their dependent children. Instructions regarding confirmation of permanent residence and issuance of the permanent residence card will be provided in the near future.


The Department is making efforts to help spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents reunite more quickly. As part of these efforts, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) plans to significantly reduce the existing inventory of SCLPC applications to address pressures which have accumulated due to levels constraints in previous years.

As the majority of cases in the SCLPC inventory are at early stages of processing, the network needs to ensure that applications are advanced to later processing stages in an efficient and effective manner by using the tools and knowledge at our disposal. This includes finding ways to ensure that officer expertise is used in a focused and targeted fashion.

1 Background

Reducing overall processing times and improving client service for spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents is a key priority of the Department and IRCC has therefore introduced measures to significantly reduce the existing spousal inventory.

These inventory reduction efforts will be supported by four factors:

  1. the Department’s renewed focus and priority on reuniting families;
  2. increased levels space in 2016 to facilitate the admission of more spouses and common-law partners for permanent residence to finalize existing cases;
  3. the expectation of sufficient level space levels in 2017 to continue eliminating inventory early in the year and to avoid the accumulation of new processing inventories; and
  4. supplementary funding of $25M to the overall processing network this fiscal year to reduce processing times.

These factors, combined with targeted processing efforts to reduce existing inventory, are expected to help move the Department to a more manageable spousal inventory which will support improved processing times.

Effective file management will be key to ensuring that applications which are well documented, complete, have valid key documents, and which are identified as straightforward are finalized as expeditiously as possible.

2 File management

IRCC will manage the inventory in a manner which minimizes the expiry of key requirements — such as passports and medicals — during processing.

In addition, while considering medical and passport expiry dates, the Department will process applications without missing documentation ahead of incomplete applications (e.g., files missing police certificate or civil documentation). This means that applications of clients who have submitted all of the documentation on the IRCC checklist with their application will be prioritized for processing.

To ensure that all other applicants have an opportunity to update their application with documentation which is still needed to make a decision, the Department will send out an email to each principal applicant in the targeted inventory asking them to submit, within 60 days of the date of the email,

  • any missing civil documentation;
  • any missing police certificates;
  • proof that they hold a passport with at least 6 months of remaining validity;
  • any missing documentation for dependants, including custody documents;
  • if the applicant resides in Quebec, a Quebec Selection Certificate;
  • a copy of the receipt for the right of permanent residence fee, if not already paid.

For applications where items on the Document Checklist are missing, the Centralized Processing Region (CPR) will prioritize applications based on how quickly applicants respond to requests for missing documentation, such as police certificates and outstanding civil documentation.

3 Streamlined processing of straightforward cases

In order to allow for a more effective processing, in-Canada spousal applications already in the inventory will be pre-assessed to identify applications which are straightforward and may be streamlined, and which applications require a closer review.

Processing of the SCLPC applications in the inventory, other than those already referred to local offices for closer review, will be conducted by CPR. Cases already referred to local offices will be processed using usual procedures. In all applications, officers will ensure that an integrated search is performed as per normal procedures, with special attention to potential excluded relationships.

Cases may be referred to local offices if further review or an interview is required, as per section 5.34 of chapter IP 8.

4 Assessing admissibility

4.1 Medical screening

Medical screening will be conducted using existing practices and procedures. Applicants who have never completed an immigration medical examination or who do not qualify for a medical reassessment will be issued new medical instructions by IRCC.

4.2 Criminality assessment

Criminality assessment will be completed using current practices and procedures.

All SCLPC applicants 18 years of age or older continue to be subject to a mandatory criminal background check by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for in-Canada criminality.

As part of the In-Canada Spousal Inventory Reduction Exercise, IRCC will request from all applicants in the SCLPC class inventory all required police certificates not previously submitted as part of their application. Applicants will be given 60 days to respond. To ensure procedural fairness, applicants will be advised that if, following the 60 days, they have not provided the requested document(s) or proof of having made best efforts to fulfill the request, the applicant may be refused for non-compliance.

If an applicant demonstrates that they did not receive an email transmission, the officer should be open to reconsidering the case and providing the applicant with an opportunity to submit the police certificates or proof of best efforts. Refer to OB 265-A for further instructions on email communication with clients.

All applicants who have declared past arrests or convictions, and all cases referred to a local office due to criminality concerns, should continue to undergo comprehensive assessments. For further information, refer to section 3 of chapter ENF 2/OP 18.

4.3 Security screening

All applicants in the in-Canada spousal inventory have already submitted the forms and documents required for security screening, which CPR routinely initiates when the application is created in GCMS. Under the inventory reduction exercise, security clearances will continue to be conducted in accordance with established guidelines.

5 Examination of overseas family members

All dependent children, accompanying and non-accompanying, of SCLPC applicants must be examined for admissibility at the time of the processing of the application for permanent residence to ensure that the principal applicant is admissible.

Visa offices involved in the examination of overseas family members of in-Canada spousal applicants face a number of factors that can cause processing delays. To facilitate timely processing for applications included in this inventory, processing offices in Canada, including CPR and local offices, will assume responsibility for completing certain steps currently completed by visa offices. At the same time, processing offices in Canada will continue to leverage the specialized knowledge that offices overseas can contribute to the decision-making process.

Note: A list of all existing inland applications where a request for overseas examination of a family member has already been sent will be circulated to all visa offices to assist them in focusing their immediate attention on cases where that assessment is outstanding.

5.1 Non-accompanying overseas family members

Visa offices will not be involved in the examination of family members overseas who will not be issued an immigrant visa, unless specialized knowledge is required to evaluate admissibility.

The responsible in-Canada office will

  • send requests for medical examination or missing police certificates directly to the principal applicant;
  • assess admissibility (medical, criminality and security); and
  • only in cases where local knowledge is required, send an email to the visa office to request that they provide input to assist in decision-making.

5.2 Accompanying overseas family members

The responsible in-Canada office will

  • electronically issue medical instructions for overseas dependants via the principal applicant;
  • where necessary, contact the principal applicant to request any missing civil documents or police certificates for overseas dependants;
  • add the responsible visa office as a secondary office in GCMS;
  • scan and upload into GCMS police certificates, birth certificates, adoption orders and other civil documents, including documentation relating to custody and guardianship;
  • upon receipt and upload of all documentation required to conduct an assessment, send an email to the visa office asking them to examine the family members;
  • monitor the status of the overseas review in GCMS to determine if the required assessment has been completed;
  • once the necessary analysis is completed by the visa office, make a final decision about the eligibility and admissibility of the primary applicant and dependent family members;
  • send a “ready for visa” letter, using the appropriate visa office’s letterhead, to the dependant or representative instructing them to submit a passport-sized photograph meeting departmental specifications and (if a visa is required) their passport to the visa office; and
  • in GCMS, for the applicant and accompanying family members, at the same time,
    • enter a final decision, and
    • follow OB 475 instructions for situations in which visas need to be issued at a mission outside of Canada.

The visa office will, on a priority basis,

  • assess the relationship between the dependant and the principal applicant;
  • assess whether the custodial parent or guardian has consented to the child immigrating to Canada;
  • assess whether the dependant meets criminality and security requirements;
  • enter notes to provide their assessment and indicate that they have completed their examination of the dependant.

Note: Visa offices will not be involved in assessing medical results or following up on outstanding documentation — these tasks will be completed by the in-Canada office. In most cases, the visa office should be able to complete its review as soon as it receives a request to do so, given that all of the necessary information should already be in GCMS when the request for examination is initiated.

Once a final decision is made by CPR, the visa office will print the Confirmation of Permanent Residence document for the overseas dependant and, where necessary, a visa and forward these documents to the dependant or representative in accordance with established guidelines found in OB 475.

To support these changes, letters and templates used to communicate with clients will be reviewed and updated.

6 Local offices: processing of complex cases

Local offices will continue to process applications referred from CPR that require further review or an interview as per current guidelines. Local offices may also be involved in the processing of cases included in quality assurance exercises.

7 Finalization of applications

As part of the file management process, CPR will coordinate with regional local offices when finalizing applications to allow local offices to effectively manage the granting of permanent residence status to a significant number of applicants.

7.1 Passport requirement

Foreign nationals seeking to become permanent residents in Canada must have a valid passport from their country of nationality. Only a copy of the passport is required to be submitted with the application, whereas an original and valid passport must be presented in order for permanent residence status to be granted.

8 Program integrity

Ongoing validation and quality assurance activities will take place during the inventory reduction exercise to ensure streamlined processing is effective while maintaining program integrity.

9 Special program code

The special program code below has been created to track SCLPC applications processed during the in-Canada spousal inventory reduction exercise.

Special program code: SIR

10 Additional information

Additional policy and operational guidance on processing applications under the SCLPC class are available in the chapter IP 8.

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