Processing family class applications: Service standards

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Applications for permanent residence from overseas spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners and dependent children (including children to be adopted) processed under the family class have the highest processing priority. Other members of the family class follow, including: orphaned family members, other relatives, then parents and grandparents. These are operational, not regulatory, priorities.

The Department has a service standard (implemented in April 2010) for permanent residence applications submitted for the high-priority group of spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners and dependent children: to process 80% within 12 months. Learn more about IRCC’s service standards.

Why some cases may not be processed within 12 months

While not exhaustive, the following are some examples of circumstances that may prevent an officer from being able to process an application within 12 months:

  • complex medical, security or criminal issues
  • the applicant was previously removed or excluded from Canada
  • the sponsor is under investigation for violation of IRPA
  • there are outstanding criminal charges against the sponsor
  • uncertainty about whether the sponsor has met residency obligations
  • the relationship between the applicant and sponsor or between the applicant and other family members cannot be substantiated
  • suspected forced marriage
  • sponsor and applicant were married by proxy
  • the sponsor is unable to support themselves and family members
  • a suspected relationship or dissolution of convenience
  • misrepresentation of marital status
  • marital status under suspicion (uncertain legal validity of a foreign marriage or polygamy)
  • custody issues concerning an applicant’s children
  • delays outside of IRCC’s control, such as the applicant’s failure to comply with instructions or provide a change of address, an unreliable postal system
  • addition of a family member to the application

Use GCMS Notes to flag reasons why there may be delays in processing. For example:

  • the requirement to undergo six months of treatment for active tuberculosis, delaying medical results
  • pending criminal charge against a family member, delaying admissibility determination
  • an interview is required but area trips are made to the region only once or twice per year and one has just recently been completed
  • the sponsor is from Quebec, was found ineligible by the Ministère de l’immigration, Diversité et Inclusion (MIDI), and an appeal is pending
  • an investigation in Canada is required to determine if the sponsor is eligible
  • admissibility checks for a new family member required (possibly additional delay if validity of clearances for the principal applicant expire and need to be re-done in the interim)
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