Operational Bulletin 633 (modified) – February 14, 2018

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

Operational changes to the spousal sponsorship program


This Operational Bulletin (OB) provides instructions for processing applications to sponsor a spouse, partner or dependent child received on or after December 15, 2016, the launch date of the redesigned application process for spouses, partners and dependent children. Updates have been made to reflect changes made to application kits and guides on February 14, 2018. These instructions apply to sponsorship and permanent residence applications for spouses (FC1), common-law partners (FCC), conjugal partners (FCE) and dependent children (FC3) under the Family Class and spouses (FC1) and common-law partners (FCC), under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada class (SCLPC), including those processed under the spousal public policy (FCH).


The purpose of this OB is to provide information relating to changes in the application process for spouses, partners and dependent children.


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is dedicated to reducing overall processing times and improving client service for spouses, partners and dependent children of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. In addition to the ongoing measures to reduce the existing spousal inventories, the Department is introducing changes to the application process which will help contribute to achieving efficiencies in processing. These changes do not affect the substantive, legislative or regulatory, requirements of the program. Applicants will still be required to satisfy an officer that they meet all of the legislative and regulatory requirements to be granted permanent residence; however, the new process will change the manner in which an applicant makes an application in order to facilitate faster processing and improve the client experience.

Summary of the December 15, 2016, changes that remain in effect

  • Simplified and streamlined guides, kits and forms
  • Requirement that applications be fully documented to be accepted for processing
  • Encouragement of clients to link their application to their online account to facilitate communication
  • Elimination of up-front medicals
  • Police Certificate Pilot

Summary of the February 14, 2018, amendments

The following documents must be provided with an initial application in order for that application to be accepted for processing:

  • updated document checklists for spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner and dependent child sponsorships and applications
  • a validated “Schedule A – Background/Declaration” form [IMM 5669] for all principal applicants (regardless of age) and for all dependent children (of principal applicants) who are 18 years of age or older
  • the relevant police certificates for all clients included in the application who are 18 years or age or older

Transition period

For modifications made on February 14, 2018, a transition period will be in effect. From February 14, 2018, until March 15, 2018, clients can submit applications using either the previous version of the checklists (with version code 2017-10) or the updated checklists (version 2018-02). Applications submitted using the 2017-10 version of the checklists should continue to be processed using pre-February 14, 2018, processes. All applications received after March 15, 2018, must use the updated checklist and should be processed using the instructions in this updated OB.

New process

1. Simplified and streamlined guides, kits and forms

Application guides, kits and forms have been simplified to improve the client experience. Spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners, dependent children and their sponsors will now use a single application kit and consolidated guide, regardless of whether they are applying under the Family Class or under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada class.

There are four new checklists (one for each type of applicant) that take clients through what forms and documents are required in order for their application to be accepted for processing.

The 13 overseas region-specific document checklists have been consolidated into a country specific requirements tool that allows clients to select the country from a drop down list and find out if any additional forms are required or if there are special instructions regarding the documents they will submit as part of their application.

Individuals seeking to sponsor their spouse or partner (whether the sponsored spouse or partner is residing inside or outside Canada) will now be directed to one webpage on the IRCC website that will provide links to the following new forms and tools, in addition to the forms required as part of an application:

Note: The checklists and guides were updated in June 2017, and again on February 14, 2018.

2. Fully documented applications

When clients submit the documents necessary for an officer to make a decision it allows for more efficient and timely processing. Under the redesigned process, clients will have to submit complete and fully documented applications.

The first assessment by the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga (CPC-M) will be to confirm completeness as per sections 10 and 11 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). To be complete, applications must include all the applicable completed and signed forms provided by the Department in the application package published on the web site of the Department at the time the application is received by the Department. This includes any country-specific forms that are required based on the applicant’s country of residence. In addition, to be complete, the application must contain proof of payment of correct fees. If any of the above information is missing, the application must be returned as incomplete.

The requirement for fully documented applications is established by Ministerial Instructions that took effect on December 15, 2016. As a condition of being accepted for processing, Ministerial Instructions require that applications be accompanied by the applicable document checklist and the documents required in Part B of the applicable document checklist. Applications that are missing the applicable document checklist or any of the documents listed in Part B of the document checklist must be returned.

When an application is received at CPC-M, staff will verify whether all application forms and supporting documents on the applicable document checklist were completed and submitted:

IRCC will not retain applications to sponsor a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent child that are incomplete or are missing documents required by the document checklists; these applications will be returned to the sponsor and no processing fees will be processed.

Despite the requirement for fully documented applications at application intake, officers continue to have the discretion to request additional documentation from the sponsor or applicant at any time during application processing to be satisfied that the applicant meets the legislative and regulatory requirements.

3. Schedule A

As of February 14, 2018, a “Schedule A: Background/Declaration” form [IMM 5669] (PDF, 434.14 KB) is required up front at the time of application submission for each person who is required to provide the form. If all applicants who require the form do not submit one with their application, the CPC-M will return the application as incomplete.

The dynamic version of the Schedule A (PDF, 434.14 KB) form will still be used.

4. Assessing sponsorship eligibility

The sponsorship eligibility assessment will be conducted as per existing practices and procedures. CPC-M will assess whether the sponsor meets the sponsorship eligibility requirements under section 133 of the IRPR.

The Sponsorship Evaluation form [IMM 5481] is not used as part of the sponsorship eligibility assessment for applications to sponsor spouses and partners who apply under the Family Class or SCLPC. Section A of the new Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation [IMM 5532] (PDF, 2.21 MB) form contains the information required for the sponsorship evaluation and personal information about the sponsor that can be used to support a determination of whether the sponsor meets the sponsorship eligibility requirements under section 133 of the IRPR.

The Sponsorship Evaluation form [IMM 5481] (PDF, 742.74 KB) continues to be used as part of the sponsorship eligibility assessment for applications to sponsor dependent children (FC3) as principal applicants under the Family Class.

5. Assessing applicant eligibility

The eligibility assessment for spouses, partners and dependent children will be conducted as per existing practices and procedures.

All spousal sponsorship applicants and their sponsors who apply under the SCLPC or the Family Class will be required to submit a new consolidated relationship questionnaire (Relationship Information and Sponsorship Evaluation [IMM 5532] (PDF, 2.21 MB)) up front as part of the application package.

In all cases, a departmental official continues to have the discretion to request that the applicant and/or sponsor provide additional documentation, including proof of relationship, and/or to convoke them for an interview if more information is required to assess the application.

6. Workload management of SCLPC applications

As per current procedures, SCLPC applications may continue to be referred to local offices in the Domestic Network if further review or an interview is required.

7. Assessing admissibility

a. Medical screening

Spouses and common-law partners who apply under the SCLPC and spouses, partners and dependent children who apply under the Family Class will not undergo an up-front medical examination. Medical instructions will be issued during the processing of the application.

IRCC will send a request through the online account (or via mail or email for those who do not create an online account) for the principal applicant (and family members, whether accompanying or not) to complete an immigration medical examination (IME) within 30 days. These medical instructions will be issued at an appropriate point after the application is accepted for processing and applicants must comply within 30 days. Failure to comply with this request within 30 days may result in the refusal of the application on the basis that the officer is not satisfied that the applicant is not medically inadmissible.

It is possible that applicants may have undergone a medical examination as part of an application for a visa or permit in another category. As part of the checklist, applicants who completed an IME in the 12 months prior to application submission, are asked to submit a copy of the Information Sheet from the Panel Physician up front with their application package. An IRCC officer may still require the applicant to undergo a new IME depending on the remaining validity period of the medical results.

b. Criminality assessment

Criminality assessments will be conducted 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.

With updates to the spousal process implemented on February 14, 2018, police certificates are required at the time of application for all applicants 18 years of age or older, for the following countries:

  • the current country of residence if the applicant has resided there for 6 months or more
  • the country where the applicant has spent most of their adult life, since the age of 18.

An application may still be accepted for processing if the following applies:

  1. An applicant is unable to obtain a police certificate due to country conditions (for instance, a conflict, war zone or natural disaster), and a detailed written explanation has been provided.
  2. A country requires a consent form from IRCC to issue a police certificate. If a consent form is required, the consent form must be submitted to IRCC in place of the police certificate.

The CPC-M will verify whether required police certificate(s) were submitted. Unless a missing police certificate is from a country with a known issue (for instance, a war-torn country) or a consent form is required before a police certificate can be issued, the CPC-M should return the application as incomplete. However, the CPC-M does have the discretion to accept an application for processing when a police certificate has not been provided if the applicant has instead submitted a detailed written explanation of the reason. This may result in longer processing times for the client.

Even after the applicant has submitted the above-mentioned police certificates, an officer may still request additional police certificates for any additional countries in which the applicant may have resided.

c. Security screening

Security screening will be conducted as per existing practices and procedures.

d. Examination of overseas family members

All accompanying and non-accompanying family members 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.

The procedures established in section 5 of OB 624 regarding the examination of overseas family members of in-Canada spousal applicants remain in effect. Offices in Canada (in the Centralized Network and Domestic Network) will continue to be responsible for completing certain steps that were previously completed by visa offices, as outlined in OB 624.

8. Applications linked to an online account

In situations where applicants (or their representatives) have linked an application to an online account, officers must communicate with applicants electronically using this online tool functionality, unless the applicant requests that the application be unlinked. Officers can determine whether an application is linked to an online account by reviewing the “Preferred Correspondence Channel” on the main application screen in GCMS.

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